Eve Online has been operating on PCs for the past nine years, but Dust 514 will be many mainstream gamers’ first experience in the thriving universe. Unfortunately nobody will be able to get their hands on the game until developer CCP’s Fanfest 2012 event in Iceland March 22 to 24, where the public will be able to engage in huge tournaments. Luckily, I was able to sit down with CCP at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California to get caught up with the game. Here’s what has me excited about the ambitious free-to-play PlayStation 3 shooter.
Persistence: Tons of first person shooters allow players to customize weapons and level up, but Dust 514 presents progression that extends far beyond new skins or bragging rights. Players can tailor and enhance their character’s Drop Suit to create their own soldier class, whether that’s a heavily-armored sniper or a sprite-footed scout with a big gun.
Part of Something Bigger: The Eve universe has a dynamic, long-running economy. During the demonstration of Dust 514, the CCP representatives handed me a daunting 200 page Quarterly Economic Newsletter for Eve Online, filled with stats, graphs, and loads of information detailing the MMO’s complex economy. Battles won and lost on planets’ surfaces in Dust 514 affect the powerful corporations running the galaxy, and knowing that your performance on the battlefield makes a difference adds a new weight to FPS deathmatches. A novel, Eve Templar One by Tony Gonzales is also available for gamers interested in learning more about the buildup to Dust 514. The book details new cloning technology that allows the consciousness of dead mercenaries to be transposed into new bodies, conveniently setting up Dust 514’s progression-based gameplay
Risk and Reward: While your stats and customized Drop Suit persist from death to death, your weapons, items, and vehicles don’t. So you just spent oodles of cash buying a new gun and tweaking your favorite tank only to lose it all to a barrage of orbital artillery in the very next match? Too bad, that’s war. Eve Online has always been about risk, and just because one player has a larger bankroll for buying good gear via microtransactions that another doesn’t mean they’re going to have the advantage forever. In fact, showing up on the battlefield with flashy equipment may make you an even bigger target.
First Free-to-Play Console Shooter: Dust 514 marks a first for the video game industry. The free-to-play shooter market has only existed on PCs until now. PS3 users will be able to download the ambitious shooter free of charge, and can put as much into the game as they like. You’re free to spend your real life cash on weapons upgrades, but if you’re interested in simply acquiring new skills you can do that, too. CCP promises that no sections of the game will be off limits for players uninterested in spending real money. Rather, investing in the game opens up more options for customization. Any way you slice it, free is good.
A New Entry Point into Eve: Playing Warcraft III was the perfect way to get ready for World of Warcraft when the MMO launched in 2004. Unfortunately for gamers curious about the deep, complicated world of Eve Online, the barrier for entry is a bit steeper. If you’re not interested in committing hours and hours of your time familiarizing yourself with the nuances of Eve Online’s intricate intergalactic economy and politics, you can get your start in the game’s universe doing something every gamer knows – shooting people in the face.
Connecting Space and Ground Warfare: Before hitting the frontlines, mercenaries in Dust 514 can accept contracts with player-run corporations in Eve Online. Fueled by genuine human greed, these corporations want to control as many planets as possible so they can acquire more resources. The interactivity between mercs and corporations doesn’t end there, however. On the battlefield soldiers can request orbital barrages, which their allies in Eve Online can permit or deny. On the flipside, Dust 514 players will be able to use planetside weapons to blast into space, dealing damage to enemy spacecraft. CCP eventually wants to eventually a space elevator that will connect spaceships with the surface, allowing items and weapons to be fed directly into the fray.
Something for Everyone: If negotiating with evil intergalactic corporations sounds like a bit too much politics for you, folks with itchy trigger fingers are free jump right into combat. CCP says their largest map is roughly four and a half square miles, perfect for battles up to 24 vs. 24 players. Teamwork-minded gamers can also upgrade their characters and hone their skills by engaging in horde mode-like battles against AI-controlled enemies.