Some Assembly Required: The future of Dual Universe’s puzzle events and development


While I may be sad at missing Dual Universe’s first big puzzle event that was just solved (though folks can still follow the clues and solve it themselves!), I am very much looking forward to the next projects planned for the space sandbox. During our recent interview with president and founder of NovaQuark Jean-Christophe Baillie, he emphasized that this puzzle was only the beginning; plans are already underway for more events that focus on exploration, deciphering, and puzzle solving.

In this concluding half of our Some Assembly Required series, we’ll delve into the lessons Novaquark learned from this experiment, the inspiration behind it, and what events are coming in the future. We’ll even throw in some other tidbits about the future of Dual Universe’s development.

Lessons learned

While discussing the event, Baillie told me that the inspiration for it came from a massive treasure hunt in France. A guy hid an item made of gold somewhere in the country and then wrote a book of enigmas that people had to solve for clues to the whereabouts of this treasure. Baillie noted that it was a huge deal and many people took part in this race. He described how the team envisioned DU’s event as a similar solar system-wide treasure hunt with a full-on race to find the goods.

But that isn’t what happened in this first experiment. When the first players realized something was special about the artifacts, they began to hoard the information and keep it secret.

For future events, Baillie wants to make sure that more people are in on the enigma; devs want many people on the trail, not just a few. Steps will be taken to make sure more can get involved, everything from more players to more types of players — including solo players. Additionally, the team wants there to be more cooperation involved. He said,

“The challenge is to make it both cooperative and competitive. Competitive is easy, it naturally occurs because everybody wants the same and there is only one thing. Cooperative in that framework is a challenge”

By cooperative, he means getting to the point that players understand that they benefit from communicating and sharing what they found so they can have a chance to go farther. Baillie admitted that Novaquark hasn’t solved that conundrum quite yet, but that is the goal. After all, it isn’t very fun if the vast majority of players never get to participate in an event, nor is it a good use of company resources to create elaborate content used only by a few. “From the company perspective, it’s not a very good investment if you spend a lot of time designing something, some part of the game, and there’s only 50 people who enjoy it,” he said.

He also explained that not just more players need to be able to participate, but all kinds of players as well, even solo players. As he put it, “Striking a balance so that you have room for even solo players, that’s important for us to address the needs of solo players versus large corporations, large organizations that are going to be battling.”

Baillie also emphasized that Dual Universe¬†life is about the ability to pick what you want to do instead of being shoehorned into a particular type of gameplay. People don’t need to feel forced into play they don’t want. “We try to put a lot of different paths in the game,” he said. If people want to dabble in many things, they can. Or they can specialize and become really great at just one or a few things.

“What we are trying to do with Dual Universe is [have] a game platform; it’s a place where there is all sorts of different entertainment and game activities you can pursue. It’s not a game about PvP. In the sense that there is PvP and it is definitely a game of PvP but that’s not the only thing. You can have a perfectly nice and fulfilling experience in the game staying on your sanctuary moon building awesome stuff and that’s it. It’s not a game where you have to go through every possible gameplay. You choose what you like.”

Next up

At first, Baillie said that the idea is for all content to be player generated, with devs not doing anything. However, that changed: While players most certainly can create massive puzzles and events themselves (and Baillie emphasized they can, as devs didn’t use any tools not available to players), dev puzzle events are meant to just spice things up in the solar system a bit. He did assure that they won’t be anything of “deep significance” that would imbalance the game for players.

“From the company perspective, it’s not a very good investment if you spend a lot of time designing something, some part of the game, and there’s only 50 people who enjoy it.”
Plans for future puzzles and events are already underway. Baillie told me that he’d like the next puzzles to be tied to the story, to weave the lore of this universe together. He’d also like the event to be more cooperative instead of just competitive. (To be fair, the first was cooperative within an organization, but he wants the scale to be game-wide instead.) The hope is to keep that kind of event going for years, with the left items protected from players trying to hide them. Baillie also noted that once the lore is found, it would then be revealed to all and become a part of the common knowledge, so no one need worry about missing out on the lore because someone else discovered it.

The trick is, will players know what it is they found? “I like the idea that some players find a clue and they don’t know what it is they just found something,” Baillie says. “Possibly they don’t even know it is connected to the big puzzle, but at some point they realize what they found.”

Baillie also shared that DU has many opportunities for events. For instance, there can be puzzles that depend on time of the year. They can be on a galactic scale or smaller, involving one planet or many. The possibilities are many! So with so many choices, what will the next dev events going to be? The next events — coming in the next few weeks — are a giant maze in space and then giant shipwrecks buried in the planets. Baillie revealed that about 100 giant shipwrecks with resources will be hidden throughout the planets for players to discover and mine.

However, the devs are using what they have learned from the first event, in that there will be limitations to how players can interact with the wrecks to keep it so no one can hoard the entire thing. For one, Baillie described that there may be a maximum volume that players can extract from any given wreck.  A max could also be applied to organizations. And unlike the artifacts, these shipwrecks will not be visible on radar! A bit will stick out of the ground, and players will have to stumble across the small bit sticking out of the surface to find them.

In keeping with the desire for more to have a chance at them, Baillie told me the idea is that while a player can claim a tile a wreck is on (do you really want to advertise that something valuable is there, though?), there will be a protective bubble around the wreck where players cannot terraform in hopes of hiding it and preventing others from accessing it. Baillie noted that the bubble limitation would go away once the entire wreck is mined out.

A bit farther in the future will be an event that will build on the first one. That event will be a revamp of the castle built on Aerioth, where one of the monolith artifacts was hidden. Baillie described the event as one where players will delve deeper and deeper into the castle, solving puzzles and deciphering codes in order to continue to the next level. Once a player reaches the final solution, they will be gifted a one-time reward — a reward that will be available to all players who reach it, no matter when. He envisions that the castle could become a sort of pilgrimage that every player could embark on. This event, however, is quite the undertaking and will take a while to develop, according to Baillie.

Other odds and ends

When you are sitting and chatting with a dev, you want to learn as much as you can about the future of the game as well. Here are a few other other tidbits Baillie shared about the future of Dual Universe.

  • The team needs to add a new sanctuary moon as the current is pretty full up already.
  • A way to visualize borders of connected groups/oranizations on the map will come for territory warfare.
  • The game doesn’t reward specialization enough yet; it’s too easy to build everything. That will be nerfed for something that favors more specialization.
  • While not in game yet, a duty system will be implemented so you can monetize access to resources on your claim. Imagine renting mining privileges for an hour or by amount!
MMO designers construct thrilling worlds, but MMO players also build some amazing content within them! Some Assembly Required highlights player-generated content, from events to housing to quest-creation systems. There’s creativity galore out there, and MJ Guthrie will travel the MMOverse to find and share it.
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