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The Firing Line: DUST 514 newsplosion edition

Jef Reahard

Oh man, this back and forth between PlanetSide 2 and DUST 514 is going to be the death of me. I feel like I'm cheating on one game every time I get excited about the other, but I just can't help it since both titles are drawing a bead on my personal sweet spot.

This week's Firing Line is all DUST all the time, thanks to the massive info dump at last weekend's Fanfest 2012 event. I didn't get to go to Iceland for the hands-on, unfortunately, but I did log into PlayStation Home for the keynote livestream (which is archived after the cut in case you missed it).

And I'll go ahead and beg your forgiveness for my fanboy breathlessness in advance this week. I've been an EVE Online player for a number of years now, so I'm already enamored of both the DUST universe and CCP's propensity for sandbox mechanics. What I didn't know prior to Fanfest, though, was just how deep the rabbit hole's going to go.

I imagine that there was a bit of eye-rolling in the audience when DUST producer Brandon Laurino took to the stage to announce that the game will feature PvE. The EVE playerbase is notoriously PvP-centric, of course, and besides that, who plays FPS games for any reason other than to frag their friends and neighbors?

True to form, though, CCP has a vision for the game, and it's sticking to it. That vision includes some sort of survival mode that Laurino likened to the zombie-fests commonly found in Call of Duty and its many imitators. Instead of ravenous brain-sucking undead, though, the DUST version will feature ravenous brain-sucking rogue drones straight out of New Eden's extensive mythos.

DUST 514 e-Sports
Laurino went on to announce that DUST will feature competitive e-sports thanks to an "early 2013" expansion; he also hinted at the ability for both EVE and DUST players to view DUST matches from their respective clients and place bets on the outcomes. Details are a little sketchy on this last part, particularly since DUST uses the Unreal 3 engine while EVE uses CCP's own proprietary Carbon tech, but it's nonetheless official and frankly, the only phrase that comes to mind is hell yeah!

DUST 514 keynote
While Laurino's above remarks (which occurred during the CCP Presents panel) were interesting, the real meat and potatoes came during the DUST keynote presentation that you can watch above. The demo action starts around the eight-minute mark. I have to admit to a bit of a fanboy squee on account of the merc quarters that are initially shown. DUST's producers explained that you start off in these digs and that they are actually on a space station in the live EVE game world!

There's also a brief look at DUST's Neocom UI, which is very reminiscent of its EVE counterpart. DUST's skill system is also EVE-like in that it makes use of passive training for a vast multitude of skills (the devs said that current estimates put the total training time at seven years for every skill in the current game build).

Finding battles in DUST is similar to other shooters, with one key difference: You can find conflicts via the same starmap that exists in the EVE client. Prior to each match, there's a war room instance which CCP describes as a shared social space for either hanging out or making last-minute character changes.

Next, we got a quick look at DUST's fitting screen. Both drop-suits and vehicles are configured in much the same manner as an EVE starship. Laurino also mentioned that unlike vehicles in other shooters, the vehicles in DUST don't just litter the battle space but rather exist as assets in the EVE universe that must then be transported to the front line for use in DUST.

DUST's battle mode sports a slick real-time 3-D overview that shows all of this activity as it happens, and CCP hinted at being able to store conflict data and view it later. After a successful engagement on a particular planet, the devs explained, a merc corporation may want to sell its battle data to another player group.

The whole video runs for about 30 minutes, meaning the things I've mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg. I highly recommend watching the whole thing, as there are a lot of interesting little touches like first- and third-person views on vehicles as well as an anecdote on map sizes (the smallest planetary map measures a couple of miles across).

DUST 514 battle roles
As if all that weren't fascinating enough, CCP gave another DUST-centric talk called Role on the Battlefield, which lasered in on character progression, fitting, items, and the role of EVE's ubiquitous galactic market. It becomes apparent very early on in this presentation that DUST is not your typical shooter.

The devs explain how most FPS players have been trained to expect pre-made kits from developers that determine what role their character will fill on the battlefield. In DUST, much like in EVE, players create their own career paths, and it will be possible to play without fighting at all (which has to be a first for a shooter title, amirite?).

While specifics on these non-combat roles aren't available as yet, CCP mentioned both strategic and industrial gameplay; the former playstyle centers around the massive MCC (mobile command center) ships that park themselves over DUST battlefields and serve as objectives, while the latter role focuses on production of equipment and expendables much like industrialists in EVE Online.

CCP also touches on equipment in this presentation, and like EVE, DUST will feature gear loss. You'll never lose your starting kit, but rarer gear that you may acquire (including some that is manufactured by industrialists in EVE) can and will be destroyed.

There's a lot more to see in this lengthy presentation, including fitting on the battlefield, situational objectives, and economic considerations, and as with the keynote, I encourage you watch it in its entirely if you're even slightly interested in DUST 514.

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.

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