Why survival MMO Dune: Awakening won't have sandwalking: 'It looked ridiculous and it made you walk really slowly'

A base on a sandy planet
(Image credit: Funcom)

Walking around on the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, is a dicey proposition. Gargantuan sandworms are attracted by the rhythmic tremors caused by footsteps and quickly arrive to gulp down whoever is stomping around on the sandy dunes.

That's where the sandwalk comes in, a method of dune traveling practiced by Arrakis natives known as Fremen. In his novel Dune, Frank Herbert describes the sand walk as making your footsteps "sound like the natural shifting of sand" to avoid alerting the sandworms. "Step… drag… drag… step… step… wait… drag… step…"

PC Gamer editor Wes Fenlon recently interviewed Funcom's Joel Bylos, creative director of upcoming survival MMO Dune: Awakening, and asked if sandwalking would be a part of the game, as it is in the films that Awakening takes heavy visual inspiration from.

"We had it," Bylos said. But it was ultimately cut: "It looked ridiculous, and it made you walk really slowly."

Sandwalking being dropped from the game probably isn't a huge surprise for anyone who watched 2021's Dune: Part One, in which it's shown for all of three seconds. "We'll have to walk like the Fremen do," Paul mumbles sullenly to his mother. "Follow me. Do the same moves." Then they take a few steps, dragging their feet weirdly and awkwardly around in the sand. And that's it. The camera quickly cuts away to spare us having to watch any more of it.

Dune: Part One"

Looking silly and being slow isn't the only reason sandwalking has been yoinked. Bylos also said Dune: Awakening was originally intended to release before Dune: Part One did. To avoid movie spoilers, "They told us not to show any Fremen stuff in the game," Bylos said. "So we kept Fremen out of the development cycle for a long time."

This delay on building the Fremen into Dune: Awakening means they won't appear in the game at launch, either. "They're not the main focus of the game," Bylos said. "Because they're not there at the beginning. It's when you get to the deep desert and later areas you start to interact with them. So the Fremen abilities, they're not really available to players right from the start."

For players who really wanted to see a sandwalking system in action, there's still some hope: Bylos went on to clarify that Funcom hasn't entirely given up on the idea of letting players do some sandwalking. "Is there another way to do it? We haven't actually decided yet, to be honest," he said. "We made an attempt that didn't fly, so we threw it out. We might come back to it."

Sandwalking isn't the only change Funcom has made when it comes to Dune, but they seem incredibly committed to either abiding by the lore, or finding lore-appropriate justifications for where they deviate from Frank Herbert's books. Bylos said they got permission from the Herbert estate to change how Dune's lasguns work, so that they could prevent players from constantly nuking each other.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.

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