This past August's announcement from CCP Games of a new title -- DUST 514, a console MMOFPS set in EVE Online's New Eden galaxy -- drew both great interest and intense criticism from gamers. If successful, CCP Games will be the first game company to tie a console FPS in with a separate MMO. (Not entirely separate, however. DUST 514 mercenaries will fight it out on the surface of the same planets seen from space in EVE Online. Their successes and failures will ultimately play a role in the balance of power in EVE.)
Since that first flurry of info about DUST 514, it's been rather quiet on the news front. However, a two-part article published at Edge Online this week focuses on CCP's new game. Edge Online's "Enter Planet Dust" is something of a primer on the core concepts behind the title but is also one of the most comprehensive pieces written about DUST 514 to date. Edge also interviewed some of the key CCP Games staff working on the game in Shanghai -- Kjartan Pierre Emilsson, Managing Director of CCP Asia and Atli Már Sveinsson, Creative Director on DUST 514.
In his talk with Edge Online, Atli addresses something commonly said about EVE -- some people love the concepts behind the game, the stories that come out of New Eden, but aren't quite ready to jump into an MMO as complex as EVE. He says, "There's a lot of EVE fans who love the concept: they love the setting and the art style, but they're maybe not ready to spend this amount of time conquering the learning cliff. We felt that we had to at least explore the possibility of a product that would appeal to them more: a console product."
The new title will reach out to a wider demographic (console gamers/shooter fans) with gameplay far different from what EVE Online offers, which may give CCP the chance to bridge the gap between their hardcore MMO playerbase and gamers with more mainstream tastes.
DUST 514's gameplay will blend FPS combat for your average merc with RTS elements for commanders -- players who will oversee and direct military campaigns. Atli tells Edge Online a bit about the options that will be available to commanders: there will be 10 vehicle classes in total, five of which can be committed to a given battle. Plus there will be 15 installation types, also limited to five per battle. He likens the system to card-based games like Magic: The Gathering where players prepare a deck before the game begins.
DUST 514 will not (likely) support the huge numbers per side that a game like MAG does, so 256 players on a given map isn't a realistic expectation of the game. But on that note, what remains to be seen is how DUST 514 will stack up to other console shooters. What will it offer that successful series of titles like Call of Duty and Halo don't? How will it differ from games that have come before, like Battlefield 2142?
Perhaps what will prove to be an asset for DUST 514 is that it ties into something larger. It's not just going to be about achievements and gamerscore, it's going to tie in with the political landscape of EVE Online. It's going to offer persistence -- something more than racking up points, it's about your successes having long term impact on the game itself. Whether or not CCP's take on a console MMOFPS finds favor among gamers remains to be seen, but they are offering aspects of gameplay that differ from the norm.
For instance, the Edge Online interview also details how the battlefields DUST mercs fight in will actually change over time, as the direct result of player actions. A zone that was once lush and green in one encounter could be scorched by the time a player returns in a later encounter, having been nuked from orbit by other players since that last visit.
The developers acknowledge the risks they're taking with a game like DUST 514, but CCP asserts they have faith in their local Shanghai team and Art Director William Chen. The freedom that's been given to the DUST 514 team is a rarity (if not a first) in Shanghai, CCP says, where typically local talent focuses on pre-defined IPs and sequels to existing games (for Western markets) under the auspices of Western directors and designers. With DUST, the Chinese team really has a chance to create something unique.
Fans of DUST 514 will definitely want to have a look at Edge Online's "Enter Planet Dust" which is written in two parts. The first part focuses on some of the core game mechanics and ideas behind DUST 514. Part two looks at the bigger picture, how CCP envisions the interplay between their two game communities and what each can potentially gain from the other. If you're looking to see glossy new art assets for the game, you could always read the full story in the print version of EDGE as well.