CCP wants to change the universe… of EVE Online anyway. Like a clumsy yet attractive paramour, DUST 514 is both frustrating and exciting. It's a soap bubble lined with all my hopes and dreams, one that I'm terrified will burst if I so much as breathe. For those who don't know, the short version of the story is this: DUST 514 is a stand-alone FPS built within the EVE Online universe. Swaddled in high-tech machinery and peopled by legions of artillery-totting individuals in armor, it's easy to mistake DUST 514 for your average, run-of-the-mill shooter. Pretty, but not that special. However, there is so much more. DUST 514's unique selling point is this: there is a correlation between the DUST 514 and Eve Online, a living connection that exists in real-time, a marriage of two games, an impossibility made real. This was CCP's promise.
Will they deliver? It's still too early to tell just yet but things are looking good. At Gamescom 2012 on Thursday, CCP explained that the game will once again be centered around the idea of immortal soldiers. There's a little bit of a difference this time around - clones are a bit less of a commodity but possibly more interesting overall.
"It is a first-person shooter, after all." Creative Director Atli Sveinsson. "If we were to penalize death the same way we do in Eve Online, it just won't work."
Of course, experience is not gained the same way either. On top of a passive increase, players will also be able to boost their experience points by, well, killing and maiming and doing all the things FPS games are famous for. That said, the two games are definitely intertwined in many ways. First and foremost, players will have access to a variety of armored suits, all of which come in three different sizes and will be subtly flavored by the races that created them.
The personality of New Eden's four factions is definitely present in the aesthetics. During the interview, Atli pointed out the Gallente 'scout' suit, a blue-washed Caldari 'assault', a Minmatar 'logistics' suit and an Amarr heavy. Before you get too concerned about the idea of being coerced into playing a certain races, Atli also reassured us that all of the races will be properly fleshed out with a full stable of suits.
Unfortunately, vehicle production isn't quite up to speed (har-har) just yet. Thus far, it looks like the DUST 514 team have only had the opportunity to work on the Gallente and the Caldari vehicles. "With the Minmatar and the Amarr to follow, of course." Atli added. But, back to the suits. "We have dozens in the variants currently in the beta. By the time we launch, maybe a little bit into the open beta, we plan to have hundreds."
The best part about all of this? There will be no space-bikinis. “If we make a suit that shows a lot of skin, both males and females will be showing a lot of skin.” Atli shrugged. “The armor for females will be the same. The only difference will be that they may be custom-fitted a little to suit the female physique.”
Awesome as the idea of having an entire carnival of suits, regardless of your gender, to choose from might be, it is always best to start with a knowledge of a basics. The assault class, the scouts, and even the 'heavy' was rather self-explanatory. What about the logistics class?
"He has more equipment slots so, when you fit him, you'll essentially be able to deploy with more equipment." I found out later that one of the technical chaps had been experimenting with a supportive, medic-like Logistics suit. It wasn't much to go on but it was certainly food for thought.
"Dust is going to evolve for many, many years." Atli said. "Over time, we'll figure out how to put more stuff in the game and we will do mech-looking things, these suits you can wear and you'll be able to jump on buildings with rocket packs and, maybe, eventually, be able to punch through things and stuff like that."
Though DUST 514's answer to the Titans of EVE Online does not quite exist just yet, a comparison was drawn to the Mobile Command Center present in the beta. While currently manned by A.I forces, it looks like control will be handed over to the player in a sandbox-like game mode called 'Conquest'. "We'll be completely hands off. The players will be in full control of the mechanics - the installation deployment, the mobile command center."
Equipment-wise, it looks like we'll be seeing a lot of the things that made EVE Online work so well. On one hand, players who simply want to pick up a suit and launch headlong into a killing spree will be able to do so. On the other hand, those who enjoy min-maxing things for optimal usage are certain to be delighted. You're going to have to worry about stuff like power modules, the CPU and capacitors, but the latter is only applicable for vehicles.
Clones will be interesting but Atli isn't willing to reveal their exact nature just yet. In fact, we won't be hearing about them for a good long while - he explained that they're most likely reveal more detail at FanFest next year. "There's really cool stuff you can do with clones - the concept of having to upgrade clones to gain more abilities and so on."
Areas in DUST 514 will have the same ratings as those found in EVE. Separated into 'high-sec', 'low-sec', null/zero, these areas will serve different roles and purposes. “High-sec is where you are match-made into battles. Those are the NPC conquests. These are basically where you earn most of your money as a new DUST player. Of course, you can do PvE missions as well.” Atli explained.
“After that, we have low sec and those are for corporations fighting other corporations. However, they're still doing it on the behalf of the NPC corporations because the factions own low-sec. When it comes to null-sec, that's the sandbox.” He grins. “That's where you and your friends and a corporation can own planets. You'll be able to deploy things onto the planet, harvest resources, manufacture things and then, of course, fight over other people's resources and defend your own. That's where the real game is - the meta-game. We're pretty much hands-off here. Any territorial conquests are the players' issue. “
Nonetheless, Atli doesn't discount the important of high-sec areas. “It’s always important to have people that consume the things sold on the market. This is also where you have matchmaking, where you're more likely to find fair and balanced matches. In low sec, that's where corporations prove which one is better, they can challenge each other, accept Contracts and duke it out in battle.”
According to Atli, there'll be some economics-related mechanics that will ensure that the spoils of war will go the victor. “If they lose, they'll lose a lot.”
EVE Online players and DUST 514 players will enjoy a type of symbiosis. “EVE Online players can own a planet but they can't really defend it. They'll need DUST 514 players to defend it. So, they'll either need to issue a Contract, talk to friends or recruit DUST players into their corporation. “
Of course, these things come with their own risks. Though they're working out the logistics (and the rest of the game), the idea of a Titan delivering a several kilometer-long orbital strike is not off the cards.
My only problem with the game? PS3-only. We can't have our cake and eat it too, can we?