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The Firing Line: Can you hate EVE and love DUST?

Jef Reahard

Hoo boy, CCP and EVE Online.

Wait, what? Isn't this Massively's shooter column? Well, yes, yes it is, and if you weren't already aware, CCP has made a shooter called DUST 514 set in the EVE universe. I bring this up for two reasons. One, I'm really looking forward to the game (as I might have mentioned last time). Two, CCP has taken some lumps in the PR department over the past couple of weeks primarily because of its annual alcohol-fueled sausage-fest.

I'm not going to rehash cyber-bully scandals today, but since e-thug players will undoubtedly have some sort of DUST presence, and since DUST shares certain unforgiving gameplay tenets with its sister title, should those of you who love sandbox shooters but hate EVE Online even bother with the game?

DUST 514 - turret gunner
I think you should, both because "sociopaths in space" is an inaccurate description of EVE (and DUST) and because even if it was accurate, the ever-expanding New Eden universe could amount to much more -- with your help.
Financial reasons to try DUST 514
The first and most obvious reason that you shouldn't write off DUST is because of its business model. The client will be free to download via the PlayStation Network, and the entirety of the game world will be freely accessible to you from the beginning. CCP isn't building a (pay)walled garden by sectioning off bits of functionality; rather, the studio is jumping on the convenience item train that allows for faster progression and microtransaction-enabled visual customization.

Financially, then, giving DUST a shot is a no-brainer, provided you already have a PlayStation 3 and a decent internet connection. If the game ends up rubbing you the wrong way, either due to EVE-style design or some other feature, you've lost nothing beyond a few minutes of your time.

DUST 514 - infantry
Is supporting CCP immoral?
Yes, that header does say morality because, believe it or not, there is an element of righteous anger directed at CCP from certain sections of the MMO community. During the fallout of last week's bullying brouhaha, one of my gaming pals asked me why I continue to support CCP via a subscription payment and positive word of mouth. After all, the firm gave the perpetrator an ineffectual slap on the wrist, the development team includes alumni of the offending alliance, and the corporate culture is one of testosterone run amok, my friend said.

He's right on all counts, of course, and each of those things is unfortunate. When you really think about it, though, if we all paid close attention to whether game companies meet our specific moral and ethical standards, would we ever play anything?

Put another way, does my evangelism of a product with an outlaw reputation conflict with the fact that I'm basically a nice guy (IRL and in games, since I make no magic circle distinction)?

Not really, and let me tell you why this is important.

As much as I'm convinced that EVE/DUST is a fun sandbox already, I'm also convinced that it could be the best. Better, even, than sacred cows like Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online. It could, with a more vocal/visible nice-guy community and a coat of PR paint, be the greatest sandbox in the history of sandboxes. And I'm not willing to abandon that potential to a bunch of for-the-lulz man-children who have convinced EVE newbs that they are the majority and that they have any effect on day-to-day gameplay outside of small nullsec slices.

It's convenient and easy for uninvested pundits (and folks who are already lukewarm about sandbox play) to write New Eden off as a haven for undesirables, but in reality that sentiment is simply not true. The foundation of a fantastic sandbox community is already in place, and all it lacks are a few high-profile (and highly dedicated) leaders to make it work in both EVE and DUST.

DUST 514 - user interface
Gameplay reasons to try DUST 514
Finally, we come to the gameplay reasons that DUST might appeal to lovers of shooters and haters of EVE: It's a shooter first and foremost. Duh. One of the primary critiques leveled at EVE is its glacial gameplay pace; there's also the fact that you have to spend weeks researching, planning, and strategizing to get anywhere. My suspicion is that you'll be able to do the same in DUST on some metagame level, but most people will simply pick up a controller (or their USB keyboard/mouse) and frag away.

In fact, that accessibility is the very reason that CCP is investing in DUST. The company believes in its New Eden brand, but it also knows that it needs an infusion of fresh faces apart from the hardcore simmers who pay EVE's bills.

And while the economies of the two titles are one and the same, and CCP is quick to point out that what happens in one game will ripple across the other, the company also makes no bones about the fact that DUST can also be quite a casual experience.

So in the end, I guess what I'm saying is this: Give DUST (and CCP) a chance, even if you're a card-carrying member of EVE Haters-R-Us. The game -- and more importantly, its underlying virtual world -- has a lot going for it, not the least of which is a suite of ambitious sandbox features not normally associated with the shooter genre. And hey, you can't beat the price.

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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