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Dual Universe

Paris-based game studio Novaquark has announced today "Dual Universe", a sandbox Sci-Fi MMORPG currently in development for PC, set within a continuous single-shard universe where players can freely edit the world and build any construction they like with no size restrictions, from space ships to cities to giant space stations.
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FEATURES

● Boundless Massively Multiplayer Game: potentially millions of players can share the same universe at the same time. One world, no boundaries, no zones, no instances.
● Rich emergent gameplay mechanisms enable players to create their own societies.
● Fully editable world: dig, deploy, craft, create and shape almost everything.
● Giant player-made ships and constructions can be inhabited and host large crews.
● Immersive first person view in a futuristic sci-fi universe.
● Realistic in-game economy (based on market orders and financial tools).
● Scriptable constructions (ships, buildings, etc) using LUA: players can build their own piloting, AI or factory automation.

Technological Features

● Continuous Single-Shard Cluster: the technology behind the "Boundless" MMO approach.
● Procedurally generated planets, revealed as players explore further and further.
● 25cm precision voxel technology to modify the environment or construct buildings/ships
● Unlimited LOD (Level Of Detail) technology allows planet-sized construction to be built
● 64bit Planetary Engine: Smooth transitions from planet surfaces, through atmosphere and into space with no limits to how far the player can travel or see.

Background

Formed in 2014 by veterans from Ubisoft, Sony, Apple and Aldebaran Robotics, Novaquark now boasts a 25 strong team with an ambition to revitalise the MMO genre through technological innovation.

Novaquark's founder is Jean-Christophe Baillie an expert in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics who also happens to be an avid gamer. Having worked for Sony CSL and as Chief of Science & Technology at Aldebaran Robotics (creators of the Nao robot) he created Novaquark in 2014 to fuse his knowledge of science to the world of games.

J.C. Baillie says: "I am a huge fan of games like Eve Online and Space Engineers. I took inspiration from such games to imagine what could be the future of the MMO experience: a continuous world with planets, huge building possibilities, social and political aspects, but without the boundaries that so often restrict the gameplay. This idea needs a lot of tech and emergent game design that is not so far from AI and other fields I'm familiar with. So, I got a first prototype working back in 2014, and Novaquark was born soon after."

An alpha version demonstrating the unique single hard cluster (CSSC) and planetary engine with a preliminary set of gameplay features is planned to become available at the beginning of 2017. Beyond its initial release, Dual Universe is set to be a long term continuous development project and will grow with regular updates.

GAME CONCEPT

What is Dual Universe?
Dual Universe is a gigantic multi-planet universe where players are free to invent their collective destiny: player-driven events will shape the course of History, civilizations will rise and fall, everything that happens matters in a persistent single-shard universe. We are pushing the limits of what is technically possible today to open the door to what we believe is the next generation of MMO games.

What is the game story?
Earth has been destroyed by a massive cosmic event. Prior to the planet meeting its doom, the United Nations started the "Rebirth program" to send millions of citizens into the far reaches of the cosmos aboard colonial ships - called "Arkships" - to ensure Humanity's survival. You are one of these survivors, waking up from your long cryosleep to rebuild civilization in the new galaxy you find yourself.

Where did the idea come from?
Many gamers dream of a game where they can immerse themselves into a virtual world of endless possibilities where they are free to do anything they like, build anything they imagine, become anyone they want. The original concept and technology prototyping for Dual Universe was started by AI & Robotics expert JC Baillie in early 2010's. Many of the scalable and cloud-based technologies necessary were not yet available to support a project of this size, but we believe that the time has arrived now to make this dream come true.

What is a persistent continuous single shard universe?
We call it a "holistic MMO": a persistent single-shard universe, from the player's perspective, is a single game world where there are no levels, zones or instances. "Continuous" means you can move in it freely and seamlessly. The "persistent" aspect highlights the fact that the game world is evolving over time, changes made by players accumulate and the environment is never the same. From a technical perspective the underlying technology of a single-shard is that all concurrent players are evolving in the same game world.

Do I have to like sci-fi, rpg, space simulators?
Dual Universe is a Massively Multiplayer Online game that definitely has a Sci-Fi context, where many players will roleplay with each others and/or pilot from tiny (solo) to huge (multi-crew) spaceships, or simply remain grounded on a given planet of your choice. It will be possible to play as a trader, or a political leader, or be a space explorer, or an industrialist, or a pirate, or a miner, or indeed due to the sandbox nature of Dual Universe there are no charcter classes, only self determined roles.

When will it be released?
Dual Universe is an ambitious, long-term project. We aim to have a playable Alpha version open to a limited number of people in the second half of 2016. There will be different ways to be selected, see the forum for details. Typically a game of this size will take 12-24 months from alpha to full launch. You can expect a Beta phase for the second half of 2017 and an official release in 2018. After the release, development will continue as the idea of Dual Universe is to create a lasting game that will evolve with its player base.

Do I need a high spec computer?
It's too early to outline exact specs. We plan to provide high-quality graphics in Dual Universe. To have an editable voxel game with a realistic look (with Physically Based Rendering) will require a medium range nvidia GFX card (or ATI equivalent) to play with basic graphic settings, or, a current high range graphics card for high settings.
Keep in mind the time until release, a current high range graphics card today might well be a medium range graphics card tomorrow. In a nutshell: a high spec computer of today or a medium spec computer of tomorrow should suffice.

What about Oculus Rift?
Oculus Rift was one of the main reason why we decided to go for the "First Person" view. We are looking at all new technologies that will favour immersion. Exciting things are on the way with the increase of interest in virtual worlds and we aim to cater for this market as well as the more traditional technologies. On a side note, we are considering to implement Third Person View as we know a lot of players prefer this view when playing MMO games, but this will be put on the roadmap after all the main gameplay mechanics are implemented and early editions of Dual Universe will be First Person.

Will the game have an age rating?
We expect the game to suit the mature audience as players will roleplay good guys (and gals) as well as bad ones. In this context, players incarnating space pirates will hardly talk and behave like well mannered people (there will be some limits in the EULA: a player playing a baddie will have to keep all the acting in-game. No personal attacks on real life will be tolerated).

Can you play online/offline/singleplayer?
Dual Universe will be exclusively Online and Massively Multiplayer. It will be possible to play the game without interacting with other players. However, expect that some activities requiring huge amounts of resources and play time (like building an orbital station or a stargate) and this will most likely need you to team up!

How much will it cost?
We are still currently looking at several options. One of the ideas we like are game time coupons. You can buy these coupons to extend your game time (more or less like a monthly subscription), or trade them with the in-game currency. Very active players who are able to gather enough in-game money to afford the game coupons will essentially play for free. This is their rewards for contributing to the in-game economy. For more details, you can read this DevBlog post

Who are Novaquark?
Novaquark is the company developing Dual Universe. It's a video game indie studio based in Paris devoted to bring this crazy game to life! The team is experienced and the founder, Jean-Christophe Baillie has already created other companies, in particular those rooted in AI & Robotics. Novaquark is a one game company, the entire team is dedicated to the development and production of Dual Universe.

GAME PLAY

What is the gameplay objective?
There is no single goal, each player may have their own objectives. Dual Universe is a true sandbox game that will have many different game loops and paths of progression depending on the player's choosing. Whatever you choose to do, each step of the way should feel like an achievement.

How big is the Dual Universe?
Thanks to procedural generation algorithms, there is no limit to the number of planets and star systems we can generate. As the game grows, so will the Universe, players will discover planets gradually as their spaceships take them further and further from the Arkships. So to answer the question: the Dual Universe is as big as far as you can travel.
Planets may range from a few hundred to thousands of kilometer in radius, so even exploring the surface of just one planet is a big task and would takle a long time to circumnavigate without the right equipment.

How many people will be in the Dual Universe?
Dual Universe will be a massively multiplayer game. Using our Robotics and AI experience we have developed our own technology to allow hundreds of thousands (even millions) of players to interact within the same game world. This technology is also aimed at making large scale gatherings (for battles or urban activities) of players in the same area at the same time possible.

How is PvP and PvE handled?
In a virtual world like Dual Universe combat becomes an important aspect of risk versus reward gameplay. However, we understand that not everybody likes to get shot or have their work destroyed. We are working to provide a system of safe-zones in the game where players and their work will be protected. These safe-zones will provide infrastructure, commodities and consumables for the players who dare to venture the hostile areas. Meanwhile the players who roam the hostile areas will provide resources, protection, trade and expansion for the safe-zones, so hopefully both PvE and PvP can coexist peacefully (the irony).

How do novice and experienced players balance?
New players will emerge from Arkships into what we call the Arkship Safe Area(ASA), this zone will protect new players as they make their first steps without fear of trouble, as we understand it's never fun to be attacked by experienced players or griefers when you are just discovering the world and learning the game mechanisms.

What if my character dies?
(what follows may be subject to changes during iterative development)
You won't lose any skill point. However, what you had on your character at the time of his death will be partially destroyed and partially dropped on the ground where he died.

How does my character progress in game?
In Dual Universe, unlike many MMORPGs, Player characters don't have a level. Moreover, a novice player will be able to do any basic activities an experienced one can do (mining, building, crafting, building, piloting, etc). Experienced player characters will just be better at doing it. If you want to specialize your character in one skill related to an activity, it will be pretty quick to get experienced: you can expect to get 80% of the bonus given by the skill in 20% of the time necessary to max it (in short, the more you are nearing 100% of the bonus, the more time it takes to reach it).

Can I have more than one character?
Yes. But you will only be able to improve skills on one character at a time.

Will there be NPCs?
There will be animal NPCs to hunt, breed or fight, and probably also space creatures or ships attacking players in the long term game (but these will not be in the alpha). There will also be trading NPCs acting on the in-game markets to help bootstrap the economy, but not to give quests like in "themepark" MMORPGs as we want to favorize social interactions between players.

How will mining/resource scanning work?
(what follows may be subject to changes during iterative development)
Dual Universe players and the civilisations that arise will depend on commodities. The first step to obtaining commodities is the harvesting of raw materials. Every player is equipped with a Nanoformer, this tool enables them to extract material from the game environment and into the players Nanopack. To do this efficiently players should obtain a scanner first and locate where the good sources of resources are. The rarer the resource, the more difficult it is to find and extract. There will be different scanners for differnt material types and scales(in terms of distance), scanning itself will be an artform and be an important game play mechanism.

Can I really build anything? How does that work?
Voxel Technology will enable you to build pretty much anything you want. There are two types of builing; "Planet" and "Construct". Planet is where you modify the surface of a planet, you can deploy and extract materials to shape the environment around you to a sensitivity of around one metre. A Construct is where you build on to a "Core Unit". Core Units are very versatile and can be manipulated to a scale of 25cm, they also allow you to attach "Elements"(eg Engines, Cockpits, Control Units etc) so you can build spaceships, bases or anything you can imagine and make it truly unique.

How will the economy work?
(what follows is described for the purpose of the alpha and due to change as the gamne progresses)
The economy will be a market economy primarily based on buy/sell orders of raw materials and elements. Prices on the market will be determied by supply and demand.
Unique items, such as a well crafted and constructed spaceship will go to auction, we hope players can reward and appreciate builders and architects, whilst those with no desire to build their own crafts can still access sophisticated constructs.
The passion behind Dual Universe is to have an emergent economy with minimun intervention by the developers. The Arkship will have rudimentary market with trading NPCs who will buy and sell various items and resources to provide early stage gameplay and bootstrap the economy. But other than that it will be up to players to build and manage market places. These will inevitably compete against each other ("market PvP") and fuel other aspects of a civilisation; security, logistics, accessability etc.

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