CCP’s ambition is remarkable. DUST 514 is an online FPS that hooks into and is closely linked to their spaceships fighting MMO, EVE Online. But it’s built on an entirely separate platform (the PS3) with its own economy, gear and players. And it’s all linked in such a way that events in one could have potentially devastating consequences in the other. PCGamesN got hands-on with the DUST 514 beta and met the team at CCP...
DUST 514 is CCP’s vision of what a first person shooter should be. It’s a semi-realistic sci-fi war with guns, deaths, and soldiers - like other high-profile shooters. Rather than providing meaning and long-term satisfaction with XP, unlocks and perks, the victories you accumulate impact on Eve’s warfare. The planets you fight on are the planets you cruise past in your spaceship. ISK you earn is fed back into the Eve economy. The kills you make are players working for a rival corp, with their own goals and strategy.
With the DUST 514 beta now plumbed into EVE Online, CCP’s vision is becoming reality.
DUST 514 raises massive questions for the future of EVE Online: what does the link between DUST 514 and EVE mean for EVE players? What will be in at launch, and what is ‘coming soon’? How do CCP forsee the connections and links playing out?
I spoke to some of EVE Online’s most senior designers, Kristoffer Touborg and Marcus Andrews to try and pin down, exactly, what EVE Players can expect from the arrival of DUST 514.
CCP are being cautious with the DUST-EVE integration kicking off with a closed beta, but eventually, the basic vision is this: DUST 514 mercenaries are more than just cannon fodder, to be thrown away like pawns or indulged as a quaint past time - they matter. Whether it’s Factional Warfare, or Player Owned Warfare, DUST’s mercs have their part to play.
“Our approach is going to be that DUST players are going to take on specific goals for an alliance,” says Kristoffer, “rather than win wars while you sleep. So if you’re trying to take a system and a reinforcement timer is inconvenient, your foot-soldiers can go in and try and adjust it. Maybe you can even send them in to disable a solar system’s local chat (and therefore intel) for a short period, the opportunities are endless. At the end of the day, they should provide tools for big alliances to fix specific problems. Think of them as a Special Forces team that any alliance would benefit from having, by virtue of being the scalpel that supplements the chainsaw in space.”
That could have massive implications for POS (player-owned-station) warfare. It could allow you to shorten the reinforce timer delay allowing you to dismantle POS’s quicker (as you can’t take down a POS all in one go), or prolong it giving you more time to rally your corp to mount a defence… or simply make sure the timer runs out in a more convenient time zones.
And what do DUST players get for their blood and effort? “DUST players will own districts on planets,” says Kristoffer. “If you own the solar system, you will obviously have an interest in making sure the planets there swear fealty to you.”
Factional Warfare & Orbital Strikes
With the initial release of DUST, the day-to-day life of an EVE Online player won’t change that much. The real impact will appear in Factional Warfare, EVE’s PvE portion. DUST mercs will essentially add another layer to the conflict: “[corps] will be able to use DUST 514 players to either reinforce their own system defences or soften up enemy defences.”
This doesn’t mean that EVE and DUST players will remain at arms length. CCP have emphasised how EVE players can get their hands dirty and actively affect battles through orbital strikes and planetary bombardments. Effectively, EVE players will be able to launch strikes at the fighting mercs below. The specifics of how this works are:
- Bombardments require a special type of ammunition, but don’t require any special modules.
- There will be several ‘types’ of bombardments; think of them as the difference between precision strikes and carpet bombing. CCP are aiming for four variants, but there’s unlikely to be more than two at launch.
- The level of damage you can cause, regardless of the ‘type’ of strike you can use, will vary. Some ships will be better suited than others to cause orbital strikes. Initially, CCP will be giving bombardment bonuses to Destroyer-class ships.
In terms of the ‘how’, Kristoffer did have this to say: “Most players are aware of the planetary bombardment, but not exactly how to get to it. If you’re in the militia, we want you to be aware of when your faction is fighting. We want players in space to see where the requests come from so they can go where they are needed at the right time. The UI for letting players in space track battles on the ground etc will be very visible and I think our players will really like it.”
We imagine this will mean that you have to be in orbit around the planet, and a special UI interface will tell you where and when to go. Again, considering this only affects Factional Warfare for the moment, we can’t imagine this affecting your routine that much. Hell, it might actually give you a bit of variety for a change.
The next step for EVE and DUST will the integration of the markets, with goods and blueprints traded between PC and Playstation. The opportunity to get screwed in EVE will apply to DUST players, and vice versa. “In an ideal world,” says Kristoffer, “both games will be very closely related and relying on each other. Who builds what with which blueprint though, we can’t really say yet.”
How will those goods make their way from the planets into space, or down to the surface? The EVE team are toying with Space Elevators - a long requested feature from EVE players. “Ideally, there is a path from Customs Office all the way up to Space Elevator (which might just have player owned stations in there somewhere!),” says Kristoffer. “But yeah, a new superstructure around planets is definitely on the drawing board (in more than one sense, we drew the prototypes a long time ago).”
Contracts are planned for EVE-to-DUST interaction, but they’re a ways away. Marcus mentions that “at some point” the attack or defence of an area can be contracted out to another corp’s DUST players, but that it’s “not the focus” – meaning they’d prefer you to take care of it in-house. This has the implication that DUST players will be incentivised to join existing EVE corps, or at least have EVE players within their corps, instead of trying to be ‘Merc-only’ affairs:
“We have opted for a tighter bond where players in EVE and DUST are in the same corporation and inherently share the same overall goal” says Kristoffer. “If the corporation wants to take a district so it can become rich, then it will fund and organize its members to go and get it without a specific contract. It’s the same as when EVE players go out and shoot something not because there is a contract but because they just need it done.”
Speaking of Corps…
If you’re running a corp, and want to include DUST players into your Corp, that’s all cool bro. The corps interface might get some tweaks but essentially, you do what you always do, just with more people: “You can participate, run and manage a corporation regardless of what platform you’re on. So if you’re an EVE CEO, then you’ll have to manage the DUST players and EVE players. If you’re a DUST CEO you’ll have to manage your DUST and EVE players too. More members means more management, no matter where though.”
However, having DUST members as part of your corp could, at some stage of the game’s development, mean added logistical concerns, like troop transportation: “For Faction Warfare, you won’t need to [ferry DUST players to planets for fights],” says Kristoffer, “as we assume the militias take responsibility for moving the troops around. For the 0.0 integration, where we move away from a kind of loose coalition structure and into very firm and solid social communities, it’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time but haven’t entirely decided how to approach yet.”
Ultimately, and this is something you might have picked up already, CCP seem to want DUST and EVE players to play together within the same corps for the time being. In Factional Warfare, that’s a bit of an easy thing to manage and probably why a lot of the initial integration is focused there. When they start widening the scope, DUST-only corps may be presented with more opportunity and autonomy, but like EVE itself the experience will change the further out you go.
EVE is all about control – whether it’s being in control of your future through money-making ventures in High-sec (high security space, where killing other players is generally frowned upon and punished), or being in control of your corp’s or alliance’s territory in nul sec (null-security, where anything goes). CCP have never sought to control the player, they’ve only given them tools to try and control each other.
There will be a similar delineation of how DUST players interact in high and nul sec, explains Kristoffer. “High-sec is going to be where DUST players can participate in the more accessible content, with the trade-off of not influencing EVE a lot. It will basically be where the quick matches are etc… From there on, it scales with security, so the stuff you end up doing as a DUST players becomes more and more “meaningful” to the EVE universe the further out in space you get.”
But what you really want to know is “how can I exploit these people”? “In terms of screwing people over,” says Kristoffer, “I’d prefer if the game offered equal opportunity of over-screwing. In practical terms, there needs to be an opportunity for both sides to shoot each other of course and in meta terms, there needs to be the ability to create and break deals. What happens if your guys on the ground throw the match for example? We’ll probably find out fairly quickly.”
I wonder how a console audience will take to the idea of deliberately losing something as competitive as a team deathmatch…
- Factional Warfare is where the brunt of the integration is going to take place between the two games. EVE Players can pound the crap out of DUST players, and DUST players can… er… we don’t actually know right now. Curse Loudly?
- EVE Corps can have DUST players, and DUST corps can have EVE players. CCP seems to be encouraging Corps to make use of both kinds of members to take advantage of the new interaction.
- Market Integration details are very much TBD. We expect at the very least the ability to transfer goods, blueprints and cash from between EVE and DUST though.
- You probably won’t be able to contract DUST corps or operations at launch.
- Eventually, the game will move to Nul-sec integration, which is where the fun really begins.