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Exploring DUST's Design

Previews By Jon Wood on October 13, 2009

Last week, I wrote an article that cleared up some of the issues that potential players had surrounding the announcement of CCP's upcoming console MMOFPS, DUST 514. Today, I wanted to tell you a little bit about how we know that the game works and maybe add my two cents in there as well.

As mentioned in the previous article, DUST is a sci-fi shooter and holds an eerie visual similarity to DICE's Battlefield 2142 not in graphical quality, 2142 is nearly three years old and DUST 514 is cutting-edge, but with the appearance of futuristic landscapes, weapons and vehicles and of course, two giant ships that hover above the map, serving as the battle's objective. In both games, the destruction of what Battlefield calls the Titan and what DUST calls the Mobile Command Center. The similarity, however, stops there. Both the method of destruction and battle purpose differ greatly.

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Whereas Battlefield's titans serve as invadable combat platforms, DUST's Mobile Command Centers, on the other hand, serve as staging craft for each battle's commander. The role of the commander was at least loosely laid out in the presentation at Fan Fest:

There will be various levels of command in the game, individuals, squad leaders and battle commanders. The battle commander is going to have the most unique perspective on the game. It is perhaps best described as playing an RTS with live soldiers. The commander will have access to be able to see various parts of the battle and order his team to the proper locations. He will not, however, have access to the entire map, but rather will have to uncover areas from a fog of war. His goal is to keep his CMC fuelled (which is what makes area control so important for soldiers on the ground), and its shields running while the other team attacks it.

The fun doesn't stop at the commanders. The heart of the game is designed to be, of course, the battle on the ground. FPS games have always been about shooting the other guy in the face, and DUST will be no different. So, with that in mind, here's what we know about the infantry gameplay:

For starters, in true EVE universe style, there are no classes in DUST 514. Unlike in games like Battlefield where players choose to run as the standard array of Support, Assault, Medical, and the like, DUST players will have to equip themselves for whatever role they see as most fitting. Players will not earn skill points in DUST, instead, advancement will be handled through what was described by the developers as an "achievement matrix." The more players accomplish in-game, the more tiers they can unlock. The higher tier the player has unlocked, the better the stuff that they have access to.

This should not, however, be confused with the game's map-specific war point system that unlocks bigger and better equipment in-game. The best example of this is in the vehicles that players have available. As the team builds war points, vehicles that are available to players become more and more powerful.

While nearly every large map FPS (DUST's battle maps are 5km long) makes use of vehicles, the DUST developers are doing things a little bit differently, allowing soldiers to call for a new vehicle at any time they please, and anywhere they happen to be on the map. This is a departure from more traditional stationary vehicles. The vehicle does not spawn automatically, but in short order a vehicle transport will appear and drop off the vehicle that was requested. Vehicles, and some weapons, will also be customizable with thousands of vehicle and weapon modules available.


Vehicle drop ship.

Persistence-wise, we know that DUST 514 will share a living, breathing economy with its sister game, EVE Online. We also know at this point that financial interactions between the two games will run one-way only to start (from EVE to DUST), but that the developers plan to scale this up as time passes.

We also know that there will be a form of player housing, in what the development team is calling "War Barges." These ships will orbit planets and will afford quarters for DUST soldiers (quarters can be upgraded as soldiers become more experienced). Players will be able to gather trophies for their rooms, and will be able to invite friends in and the like.

In other areas of interest, the developers were unable to tell gathered fans and press exactly how many players would be able to be involved in a single battle at any given time. Currently, the team is looking into the best decision and technology, but we were specifically told that the cap would be "no less than 64."

Finally, we are told that the game will, like its predecessor, take place in a single, persistent world with a single shard. What this will look like in the end will have to wait for further information to emerge.

DUST 514 struck me, as an FPS player, as a game that is representative of a familiar genre (FPS), with trappings and gameplay that will be familiar to anyone that's ever played a sci-fi skinned FPS in the past. Still, for all of the game's familiarity, I can't bring myself to call it another generic console shooter. The persistent elements that CCP suggests will be in the game, combined with the living economy and interaction with the larger universe of EVE give it the potential to be something familiar enough to be interesting to masses of players and innovative enough to capture their interest over the long term.

The potential that DUST 514 has as an MMOFPS isn't necessarily all positive for CCP. They have a big job cut out for them, and while if done right, DUST could be a recipe for success, if done wrong in any of a thousand ways, DUST could be a dismal failure. Only time will tell.

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