What Dust 514 Means For Virtual Worlds
Since yesterday's announcement that CCP would be launching Dust 514, a new First Person Shooter MMO for consoles, it seems as though nearly everyone has had an opportunity to weigh in, and not all of the user feedback has been positive.
The bulk of the opposition to Dust's announcement seems to be coming from two somewhat related issues:
The first issue is that, as we understand it right now, the new FPS will be available only on the current generation of consoles. This means that the PC, Mac and Linux audiences that have made EVE Online the success that it is today, will be left out in the cold (unless of course they are one of the many, like myself, who own both a PC and a console or two). The second is that Dust's players will actually be able to influence the EVE Online universe through alliances and 0.0 Soveignty meaning that those who are used to EVE players having sole control of their universe now have to share with another crowd.
It is obvious to see how this might ruffle a few feathers, especially given the occasional animosity felt between PC and console gamers and the pride and even protectiveness that EVE players tend to feel about their game.
That being said, and with all due respect, Dust 514 represents a huge leap forward in terms of virtual world gaming and fans of that genre in general should be, at the very least, looking beyond the surface at what it represents.
The huge leap forward comes as players of two different games will have interaction with and be able to influence the world of the other because they are set in the same universe, at the same time. This takes the idea of persistent worlds as we know them and expands them into what might best be described as a persistent universe.
The best way to look at it is to say that while EVE Online is a game about Pod Pilots and their struggles for wealth, power and survival, Dust 514 is about Dust Soldiers and their struggles for... wealth, power and survival. The problem is that the game mechanics required to do both groups full justice require their own separate games.
Now, instead of simply leaving it at that, the CCP developers have chosen to allow the two games to interact and affect one another, creating the illusion of a more vast and complete universe. If EVE were "real life," how often do you think that Pod Pilots would generally interact with Dust Soldiers? Their lives would be almost entirely separate, the things that they do and the ways that they do them would be completely different. Save for the occasional alliance / business arrangement, facilitated in the EVE universe by the game's new social networking programs and perhaps membership in the same corporation, their worlds are different. Why shouldn't their games be?
By giving players the opportunity to interact with the world of another game, the developers are able to greatly expand the scope of their virtual universe, suggesting life and aspirations beyond the cockpit.
If they're smart and they can figure out a way to pull it off, CCP should try to further leverage their often talked about seldom seen ambulation system (walking in stations) to allow players from both games to interact, conduct business, meet as corporations, etc. From there, who knows where the game goes?
As to the aforementioned rivalry between PC and console gamers, this too will feed into the virtual universe. That particular rivalry has always run a bit of a parallel to the way that different branches of the military view one another. While they're all fighting the same war, each division (Army, Air force, Marines, Navy, etc), maintains a certain animosity, whether real or imagined. Who else can picture a bit of a bar brawl between dusters and podders at some station orbiting a contested planet?
In any case, if Dust takes off and is successful, CCP has the potential to be the first company to shape the mould of the way the industry and the players that keep it running, look at virtual worlds.