Dune survival MMO had to go to the author's family to get permission to cut "ridiculous" sandwalking and the book's extremely explosive shields

Dune Awakening
(Image credit: Funcom)

Dune Awakening had to make some changes to its source material, and the developers needed express permission to make that happen.

The Dune survival MMO finally came out of hibernation earlier this week, after having been originally unveiled back in 2022. Developer Funcom had been pretty quiet since then, but now that the game is back in the world for all to see, with all-new gameplay details, it turns out Funcom is having to make some changes in its adaptation of Frank Herbert's original  sci-fi world epic.

For one, Dune Awakening won't have the typical 'sandwalking' we see Paul, Jessica, and the Fremen doing to avoid attracting the huge sandworms. In the books, characters walk in deliberately weird patterns, dragging their feet and hopping between spots in irregular movements, so as to not send regular vibrations through the sand on Arrakis and draw the worms to them. 

Awakening's creative director Joel Bylos tells PC Gamer that having sandwalking in Awakening "looked ridiculous," and made players "walk really slowly." I can imagine having dozens of players in one game all sandwalking in odd patterns would also be pretty unintentionally hilarious, which probably isn't the vibe Dune Awakening is going for.

Another huge problem for Dune Awakening comes via the Holtzman shields - the personal shields that troops like the Harkonnen soldiers and the Sardaukar use for protection. The shields are great for protecting against weapons like knives - as Feyd Rautha proves in Dune Part Two - but if they get hit by a lasgun blast, they basically detonate like mini nuclear bombs.

Now imagine MMO players firing lasguns at each other's shields, and you can see the problem. Again, Bylos explains to PC Gamer that Dune Awakening actually changes this little bit of intricate Dune lore for the upcoming game. "In our story there's an incident with a lasgun and a shield that occurred and from that point on, all CHOAM-imported lasguns to the planet now have a safety built in so they cannot target a shield. So if you aim a lasgun at a shield in our game, it just turns the lasgun off automatically," Bylos says.

Dune Awakening's developers had to go to Warner Bros. and the Herbert family themselves to get permission to change this. "We discussed this, we went through it with our partners at Legendary and the Herberts as well, and got their sign-off so we could do it this way," Bylos continues. "We had this prototype which was kind of like Ghostbusters where they cross the stream and everything gets unstable, the lasgun starts to shake and the two players explode in nuclear explosions, but it just felt a little tacky unfortunately."

There's still no release date for Dune Awakening, but the good news if that Funcom's survival MMO is in closed beta right now, so it's at least in a playable state. Read up on our full Dune Awakening preview to see what we made of the new game, and whether it can help make the gap between Part Two and Dune 3 much less painful. 

You can also read up on our guide to the best survival games available right now if you're looking for something to sink your time into. 

Hirun Cryer

Hirun Cryer is a freelance reporter and writer with Gamesradar+ based out of U.K. After earning a degree in American History specializing in journalism, cinema, literature, and history, he stepped into the games writing world, with a focus on shooters, indie games, and RPGs, and has since been the recipient of the MCV 30 Under 30 award for 2021. In his spare time he freelances with other outlets around the industry, practices Japanese, and enjoys contemporary manga and anime.