User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Mon Jan 01, 2024 4:53 pm

Back in 2016 I sourced an original boxed copy of Dune II.

At the time I'd really wanted the US-made NTSC version Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty because that's where the game was designed and developed; I wanted the version tuned to my personal Amiga computer collection not really knowing what differences there might even be between the NTSC/PAL regions. The very first version was actually made by Westwood Studios (Las Vegas, NV) in 1992 for DOS before it was later ported to Amiga in 1993 for both NTSC and PAL.

But after looking for over six months I finally gave up looking and bought the PAL port just so I'd have a physical copy. By 1992, the sad truth is the popularity of the Amiga in the US had already begun to shift to DOS/PCs quite dramatically, not to mention Sega and Nintendo completely dominating gaming in living rooms. As such, even though NTSC Amiga games were absolutely still being produced and sold in the US they were starting to swirl down a downward spiral as the market here changed and Commodore floundered.

For whatever reason (I never fully understand why this happens other than simply guessing on an ad hoc basis) the European version's title was changed to Dune II: Battle for Arrakis. There were a few additional superficial changes made as well, which I'll explain in detail.

This is the PAL-version boxed copy I received from England in 2016:
For me personally, put into context of 1992, this image gives me very strong feelings of the US' Desert Shield/Storm conflicts in Iraq from 1990-91. The US box art, reused from the 1992 DOS version, looks like it could have been an artistic cover image from a Frank Herbert paperback novel. The EU's box imagery is quite different indeed and seemingly photographic in nature.

Also, the disks that were created were the typical type found in the EU where oftentimes there are no full-color stickers, but instead use white ink printed labels. In my personal anecdotal experience, if you see a blue disk with white ink labels that's going to be a UK/EU manufactured disk.

Fast-forward seven years and I FINALLY sourced an original US/NTSC version in the summer of 2023.

Is that a choir of angels singing?

As such I was able to do a side-by-side comparison between the US and EU versions once it arrived. It was kind of interesting to see how the two packages were altered. Some of it was probably marketing and some of it was probably simply due to the shops that created the physical editions on each continent.

In summary, the differences include:
  • The box art, both front and back, as well as the overall box construction. The US used a 4-sided slip-cover over a very thick box. The EU used a printed box.
  • Disk appearance: white disks with full-color stickers vs. blue disks with white ink labels.
  • The game's title, of course.
  • This included the updated title screen art as shown during the loading screens.
  • Manuals. In the US, the DOS/Amiga manuals are spiral bound with black covers. The US' graphics are quite high-res and presented larger, while in the EU the manuals are on a stiffer paper with smaller "grittier" graphics. I've no idea why the manuals would have been reformatted as the actual content inside is virtually identical. The ordering of some of the initial pages are different, but otherwise the changes seem superficial. The core differences really are the spiral binding and layout choices.
  • Both the US and EU disks include 3 language options, but there is a tiny 3 byte difference between the English game files likely to account for British vs. US spellings.
The EU manuals also differ in design in terms of fonts used as well as overall layout and page ordering/numbering. The EU manual's graphics are higher contrast yet are more aliased and jagged as a result.

That's pretty much it. The NTSC graphics were all reused in the PAL game verbatim. This is why in a lot of screenshots you see (at least on the internet or on YouTube) the planets all look a bit squashed, as if a large invisible Zeus needed a place to sit for a moment.
Screenshot 2024-01-01 at 2.58.28 PM.jpg
^ typical YouTube example... To see the planet perfectly round, in the Games Library I have a screenshot of the same scene and the planet is circular as you would typically expect.

ANYWAY, I'm talking about all of this again because I was contacted by one of the original development team members, Bob Koon, whom I've become friends with online over the years (he's also a member of our little community here, which is super cool). While he worked on the Amiga port of the game during his time at Westwood Studios he didn't have the original NTSC version on-disk. Last year I made him an ADF of Disk 1, which is what he was after at the time. This year he wanted all 5 disks, so I made the complete set.

As a result, I've updated the Dune II page in the Games Library to reflect the NTSC version of the game. Previously I'd uploaded ADFs of the EU version I'd found (*cough*) somewhere on the internet years ago. They are all now the original ADFs from my own personal disks. And to be honest, the only difference is the intro-screen as well as the shocking potential to find the word "color" instead of "colour" (Maybe?).

I also added the US box art to the page and updated the game's thumbnail and 1st screenshot to use the "building a dynasty" text.

If anyone else is looking for Dune II ADFs in crisp-and-clean-with-no-caffeine NTSC goodness, have at it. This might be the only place they exist. At least, for the moment.

:boing: <3

Note: When I write "EU" I am including the UK. I do it out of explicit laziness and am not trying to imply anything political or otherwise and mean no disrespect to any parties.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Jan 03, 2024 9:20 am

Very cool stuff. I too have a copy of the NTSC Dune II release (and the first Dune, for that matter.) Mine might have a bit more shelf wear on the box than yours, but the contents are complete and close to mint, if you're curious about anything else that is supposed to be in the box. I find it a little disturbing that so many of us sort of assume that what has been imaged and widely spread around the Internet, like in the TOSEC collections, for example, are more or less complete, yet could somehow be missing things like the actual NTSC releases of big NTSC titles. :|

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Jan 03, 2024 10:36 am

Hey @jackphlash! That is super cool you have both the 1st and 2nd Dune games.

The 1st one was made by a French company. Is your version sort of the reverse of Dune II? Is your Dune 1 game NTSC or PAL, if you can tell? I'd be curious to see your box/packaging/disks at some point. I actually have the original CD Soundtrack for that game (labelled Exxos, before it became Cryo) which I believe is really more from the CD/PC version - or possibly tracks composed completely inspired by the book and movie. I'm not really sure. It's completely cool sci-fi electronic music, though, either way.

Does your Dune 1 box look like this?
Dune (1992) for Amiga

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Jan 03, 2024 1:16 pm

As far as I know, it's also the NTSC release (but like you said, maybe the opposite scenario.) My box looks EXACTLY like the one you posted, even down to the Golden Triad sticker.

User avatar
Twickenham , U.K.

Posted Sat Jan 06, 2024 4:26 pm

I have to say, the archiving of our systems and software has been fantastic over the years, but, and this is a big BUT, there has been precious little care when it comes to video standards. I have found this when I have been working on the creative software archives. Language and region has been problematic as well, especially with manuals.

The biggest issue is a lack of understanding of video standards overall. We also have different perspectives on the same thing. For example, I would always define my raster with pixels, but when I spoke to the engineers in the companies I have worked for, it was all about lines and timings.

User avatar
Toronto, Canada

Posted Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:08 pm

A great game ! The FIRST RTS game that I remember anyhow that was ever released <3 :boing: :check:

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