At this year’s Game Developer’s Conference, CCP has revealed a console MMOFPS called Dust 514. Console gamers will be able to play as gun-toting marines roaming the EVE universe and buying trucks, guns and equipment as their cash flow improves. It will also be a tie-in to the ongoing EVE Online MMO universe on the PC.
EVE players can hire Dust 514 mercenaries with contracts to secure hostile regions of planets in contested systems. This will result in a boost to sovereignty gain in EVE Online’s current 0.0-security space acquisition warfare. Dust 514 players can then use their gained funds in order to upgrade their equipment and be better prepared for future missions.
The idea of combining these two, very different, communities is mind-boggling. It is a certain innovation in the current MMO gaming space. But will it work?
CCP showed off a trailer to illustrate what the game should look like. As you can see (the trailer is embedded below – courtesy of Golem.de), the graphics look to be outstanding and the first person shooting action looks intense. It definitely seems to have potential as a shooter, and perhaps might even be the first successful console MMOG. It certainly looks the part.
Dust 514 sports futuristic weaponry and both ground-based vehicles and aircraft. But no actual gameplay details were provided. There is no mention of whether all the craft shown can be controlled in the game, nor whether there is any concept of classes, skills, or levels.
More importantly: how is the game world presented? Are console gamers going to be duking it out in simple arena-matches with up-to 32 players, like Huxley? Or is it going to be more open-ended like Planetside, with all-out wars for control over districts and the like?
The main point of interest for us PC (and EVE) gamers is of course the connection to EVE Online’s 0.0 warfare. The intent is that EVE alliances will start incorporating Dust mercenary units and form multi-game (and multi-platform) alliances that could turn the current sovereignty system somewhat less favourable for entrenched defenders.
It certainly sounds great on paper, but it depends entirely on how well the Dust 514 community can connect to the PC-based EVE Online community. It isn’t just a question of different games and different communities, but even of different platforms. Console gamers don’t exactly browse forums, sit in IRC or talk on Ventrilo, which could make communication outside of established game systems quite difficult.
Given the tendency of EVE’s community to do just about everything outside of established game systems, it might even prove to be a bit too restrictive for EVE players to bother hiring console mercs. Just like EVE’s factional warfare system has been largely abandoned after the novelty wore off, mostly due to its uselessness for most players (no gain = no use in EVE) and the rigid game systems it was launched with.
An MMOFPS on Consoles?
Then there is the question of how CCP will make this kind of game work on consoles and with the console FPS crowd. No Massively Multiplayer Online Game has ever succeeded on consoles, but with dozens of companies trying their hand at it, it’s bound to succeed sometime. That is not the prime concern, especially given the fact that (simple) FPS games are very popular on consoles nowadays.
What I’m more concerned about is how CCP will attract Dust 514 players to band together into teams and accept contracts from EVE PC players. The whole abstract system of gaining sovereignty over solar systems in an entirely different MMOG by conquering districts on planets is something that seems very much contrary to the ease-of-use of consoles and popular console games. The same goes for real-time configurable weapons and vehicles, however cool it may sound…
They need to get the presentation and implementation down picture perfect – and manage to develop a good shooter to boot. There need to be proper incentives to accept these contracts in the console game and there needs to be an inter-game connection that will allow Dust 514 mercs to distinguish themselves and make themselves more popular hirelings in the EVE universe.
It also needs to be quick and easy. These are the traits of all popular FPS games on consoles and if Dust 514 turns out any other way it will almost certainly fail. District fights shouldn’t last 2-3 hours (which would be a decent EVE fleet battle), but 10 to 15 minutes at most. The EVE connection should be as simple as clicking two or three buttons to find and accept a contract, and game mechanics should not be much more complex than the basics of FPS and MMOG gameplay: shoot, kill, reload, talk over voice-comm and purchase upgrades.
CCP’s track record (EVE Online) might not inspire much confidence in their ability to create an accessible game of any sort. What, with EVE being the exact opposite of an accessible game. But a different CCP development studio based out of Shanghai is at work on Dust 514, and has been for three years now, so we can’t really base any expectations on CCP Iceland’s previous work.
A Brilliant Idea, or a Disaster Waiting to Happen?
Not a lot has been revealed about this new title yet, but it already sounds like one of the most daring and innovative developments in the MMO gaming scene in years. CCP has a thing for making the impossible work, ranging from the implementation of a fully reworked graphics engine for an existing MMOG as a free update, to making 1000+ player fleet battles with relatively little lag a possibility, and so on.
Their single-server game world hosts over 300.000 subscribers and still boasts fleet battles numbering in at over a thousand participating players, which would’ve been deemed an impossibility 9 years ago when it first saw the light of day. Now they want to integrate a console MMOFPS and a hardcore PC MMORPG into one big universe.
Crazy? Definitely. Brilliant? Possibly. Too ambitious? Almost certainly. A disaster waiting to happen? Likely.
But if any company can make this kind of thing work, it is CCP.
All of that being said: I’m not going to be playing it, just EVE is fine, thank you. Besides, I don’t even own a console.
How about you guys? Interested in hearing more about Dust? Looking forward to the new developments in EVE?