EVE Evolved title image
When console MMOFPS DUST 514 was first announced, players were cautious of the game's ambitious goals. Developers promised that DUST battles would decide the ownership of planets inside PC MMO EVE Online, and that this would tie into system sovereignty and ultimately ownership of entire regions of space. We expected the two games to have separate communities and economies that would interact only when EVE players hired DUST mercenaries to take over sectors of particular planets, but we couldn't have been more wrong.

Two years later, CCP blew our expectations out of the water with details of how DUST and EVE will be practically joined at the hip. We learned that the two games would share the exact same corporations and that ISK would be transferable between games. We also got a glimpse of the incredible plans for realtime integration, with EVE ships able to deliver air strikes to planets and DUST players able to shoot down ships in orbit with ground cannon. But have those ambitious goals stayed in focus during development, and what can we expect from DUST when it launches early next year?

In this week's EVE Evolved opinion piece, I look through the public information on DUST 514's launch integration with EVE Online and speculate on how the link may evolve after release.

EVE Evolved side imageInitial integration and gameplay

I've seen people comparing DUST 514 to the Battlefield series, which I think is fair as the DUST 514 beta trailer's graphics and gameplay give off a very strong Battlefield 2 vibe. DUST's graphics may not compare favourably to the newest games, but it was always the gameplay and link with EVE that people were interested in. If the graphics have to take a hit in order to display dozens of players and vehicles on a console that's over six years old, I don't think too many people will mind.

I may not be part of DUST 514's console shooter target market, but what makes me interested in the game is how closely it will interact with EVE Online. At E3 2012, however, developers told us that the EVE-DUST link will initially be limited while the shooter elements are polished. The marines will definitely share the same game universe as EVE players, and the Way of the Mercenary video promised orbital strikes from EVE ships, but that may be where the interaction ends for now.

EVE Evolved side imageWhat will we eventually get?

While the interaction between EVE and DUST probably won't be fully fleshed out at launch, the future brings some big plans. DUST players will eventually be able to colonise and defend their own planets, where they'll reportedly build home base infrastructure for manufacturing war supplies and helping with defense. At the same time, planet ownership will likely be made a significant factor in the ownership of solar systems in EVE. These two factors alone would make DUST a huge part of EVE's territorial warfare, and some EVE alliances are already starting to recruit DUST wings to protect their future assets planet-side.

At E3 2011, developers hinted that DUST marines fighting for territorial conquest may have to get EVE players to transport their clones and vehicles to the battlezone. That could add a strategic level to gameplay, but I don't think it would sit well with the instant-action console audience. It's more likely that the DUST marines will load their equipment into a war barge and use a jump drive to get it to the destination system. This would mean EVE players would have to take down any cyno jammers in the system before the battle. The War Barge may even be attackable during or after the match, and ships will probably need to be in proximity to it in order to offer ground support, sparking a simultaneous battle in orbit.



EVE Evolved side imageMeeting on stations

The Way of the Mercenary video showed off an impressive set of mercenary quarters that seem to use the same system as EVE Online's captain's quarters. We know that EVE players will eventually be able to walk around inside multiplayer station environments, and this makes me think that DUST mercs could get the same treatment. DUST players may even be able to meet up with EVE players in social areas, corp offices, and war planning rooms. Since we're sharing the same universe, corporations, and quarters, we should be able to grab a beer in the same bar.

DUST marines also meet in a war room in an orbiting war barge before each match to talk tactics and compare gear. Once EVE's multiplayer environments are implemented, EVE players in the same corporation or alliance might possibly be able to join their ground troops in the war barge for a pre-war briefing. CCP's Future Vision trailer even showed EVE ships docking with Sleeper structures and depositing marines for a mission, giving a glimpse at what might be in store over the coming decade.

Each DUST 514 team will have a Battlefield-style commander who decides where to deploy units during a match and co-ordinates the rest of his team. It's a distinct possibility that this role could be taken over by an EVE player from the war barge, leaving the console players to do what they do best: splatter each other over the ground with tanks and space guns.

EVE Evolved title image
CCP has announced some big plans for DUST 514's integration with EVE Online, but I wouldn't expect too much from it on release. If DUST players can join our corporations and we can deliver air strike support during their matches, that's a good enough start in my books. DUST 514 will undoubtedly be merged more closely with EVE Online as time goes on, but first it has to stand on its own two feet.

Even if DUST ends up being nothing but a Battlefield 2 clone in MMO form at launch, wouldn't that be a pretty damn incredible game? The holy grail of first person shooters is to have massive battles that make a real impact on a persistent game universe and to have a persistent character you can invest in. Add in realtime integration with the world's biggest sandbox MMO and the only thing missing is a sorely needed PC release.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.