Monday, November 7, 2011

A Closer Look At DUST 514

I have to admit upfront I am a PC gamer.  Also, I do not play first person shooters (FPS).  So when people started debating the feasibility of CCP making DUST 514 and integrating the game into the New Eden universe, I didn't really have any perspective on whether the move was realistic.  But since Eve Online will start seeing these planet-bound mercs showing up in the next couple of months as the DUST 514 beta starts, I figured I should at least take a closer look at what some are calling SiF (shooting in face).

Why Sony?  Why not Microsoft?
  Like I mentioned at the beginning, I am a PC gamer.  I have no idea which is better, PlayStation Network or Xbox Live.  But from a player who wants CCP to succeed, I prefer Sony because of what happened to the first game that attempted to merge PC and console gamers into a single virtual world.
"CCP has a strong relationship with Microsoft – in fact Eve’s back-end server tech is based on Windows – so [CCP’s VP of business development Thor] Gunnarsson is politely talking around the issue. What he won’t say is that Microsoft had an opportunity, back in 2009, to launch the world’s first console MMO FPS with another studio entirely.

"The game was called Huxley, built by Webzen and intended to feature cross-platform play between PC and Xbox, as well as incorporate a microtransactions model. It was trying to be everything Dust 514 is aiming for. But during its development, Microsoft put a ban on the cross-platform feature. Then it prohibited the microtransactions. Huxley never made it onto Xbox."
The author of the article, Rob Crossley, continued on with a rehash of the stated reason for choosing the PS3 over Xbox.
“'We’re always keen to collaborate with both Microsoft and Sony,” Gunnarsson begins, “but when it came to Dust 514, Sony was in many ways more open to learn with us.'

“'In regards to Xbox and PS3, what we found as we got in conversation with the platform holders is that it became more and more evident to us that we had a difficult decision to make.'

"Launching Dust on both Xbox and PS3 would have resulted in, as Gunnarsson puts it, “two low-common-denominator games”. He doesn’t elaborate, but is likely referring to how both consoles wouldn’t have communicated with each other, and possibly wouldn’t be linked to PC."
And the whole concept behind DUST 514 is to link PC and console players together, which made NOT putting the game on Xbox a no-brainer.

Who is going to play a PS3 exclusive game?  Conventional wisdom on the Eve Online forums is that no one is going to play the game because everyone plays games on an Xbox.  Well, I'm not sure that CCP, whose main game is a niche game (a science fiction, sandbox MMORPG) is really going to worry about not having the biggest audience in the world. 

One other point I think the posters on the Eve-O forums miss is that not just players, but entire player organizations either move from game to game or start playing multiple games.  For Eve Online players, Goonswarm Federation and Test Alliance Please Ignore are the most obvious examples I can think of from larger groups (Something Awful forums and Dreddit), but this occurs throughout the gaming world.  For example, how many guilds made the move from World of Warcraft to Rift because they were dissatisfied with Cataclysm?

The same occurs with console gamers.  I've spent some time searching the interwebs and found that some of the more prominent clans from MAG, a PS3 exclusive game, plan on moving to DUST.  I actually saw a lot of comments comparing DUST with MAG.  But the clans moving over to DUST are not limited to MAG.  An unofficial website already has recruitment forums up with groups from a lot of games looking to enter New Eden.

CCP is going to beta test DUST 514 in Eve?  CCP is not calling it a beta, but it looks like elements of the Eve/DUST interface will be tested live on Tranquility before DUST 514 goes live.  DUST 514 Executive Producer Brandon Laurino explained:
"Just as we have done with EVE Online, we’re going to be telling a story with each of the events that happen in our game. To give a bit of context, in EVE Online you play as the pilot of a spaceship – a capsuleer – and in DUST 514 you play as a mercenary on the ground. It’s going to be a bit weird if, all of a sudden, we release the DUST 514 beta and all these mercenaries suddenly show up in the EVE universe, so the setting is that the first small group of players that get access to the Private Trials will be the first trial of this new mercenary technology in the context of EVE Online. Just as you’re helping to test the game in the real world, in the EVE world you’re taking part in war games organised to test this new mercenary technology.
"With our Private Trials – we’re not calling it a Beta, but Private Trials in both the real world and the EVE fiction – we’re not taking the usual “on / off” method of rolling out a build and then taking it back and tweaking it, then rolling it out again; when we roll out with those first few users we are introducing mercenary technology to EVE, our “game as a service begins”, and the story will continue from there as that technology develops, further empowering the DUST 514 mercenaries from test subjects in war games to ultimately allowing them to take hold of their own future. It’s what we call a thematic rollout."
So what may happen is that during the winter expansion we will hear about these new ground mercenaries and then the DUST players will start affecting events in New Eden with the summer expansion.  Can we still call the release of DUST Soon™ when we now have a rough time estimate of when we will see it released?

I'm sure that players of first person shooters have a lot more questions than this Eve Online carebear has.  After all, playing DUST will require killing other players and I'm the type of pilot who hasn't flown in low-sec in a ship mounting any weapons in over a year.  I actually found a list of 10 reasons why players would like DUST.  Of course, the author of that blog post might be a little more hardcore than the average player.  I really liked reason 6:
6. Total War, Von Clausewitz Style - That's right, the opportunity to totally cripple your enemy is basically a feature in DUST 514. You can destroy their resources, obliterate their reinforcements, leave their War Barge a smoldering husk, render them penniless and then say something like "Remember who did this to you." Wait? What? Where do we sign up?
Sounds like someone that would fit right into New Eden.

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