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DUST 514 designer cites 'absolutely fabulous' relationship with Sony, discusses future of DUST and EVE Online

on 21 October 2013

CCP Games' divisive PS3 shooter DUST 514 released near the end of an era. Boasting lore connections and persistent communication with the overwhelmingly complex EVE Online, DUST 514 is undeniably ambitious, and the company's recent trend of monthly updates and grandiose plans for future expansion leaves us with the promise that DUST 514 will continue to improve. But its official release date of May 14, 2013 fell remarkably close to PS4's impending launch, and given the historic fall to market irrelevance that passing console generations have seen, it's difficult to imagine DUST 514 will maintain high interest and a suitably large player base years from now.

To that end, one would expect a PS4 version of DUST 514 to be in the works. But try as CCP's fan community might to pry an answer, the Icelandic developer isn't giving up any details on the possibility. "We are laser-focused on PS3," said creative director Atli Mar Sveinsson to a curious fan during last weekend's EVE Vegas convention. Given this end-of-story response (preceded by a well-meaning retort referencing the 80 million PS3 units in circulation), I was wary of asking the same question to Kjartan Pierre Emilsson, DUST 514's lead game designer. Instead, I asked Emilsson, who is principally in charge of maintaining the gameplay and lore ties between DUST 514 and EVE Online, how CCP's relationship with Sony is progressing.

It was "a leap of faith in the beginning," Emilsson explains, specifically referencing the beginning of their partnership. "It's been absolutely fabulous working with them, actually, on this. I think they were as intrigued about all of this, and it's been a learning experience for both parties. They've been absolutely, 100-percent supporting us, which is great."

With such strong backing from Sony, it's not hard to imagine that a PS4 port of DUST 514 would be a cinch to arrange; the next-gen console's behemoth hardware would be a boon for the game's oft-criticized visual fidelity and technical performance. But while CCP isn't talking about what platform the next generation of DUST 514 will appear on, we know a good deal how DUST 514 and EVE will evolve alongside each other. Kjartan specifically referenced the removal of NPC proxies as the major drivers of DUST 514's in-game economy and gameplay systems. Mobile command centers that currently only symbolize match progress might be deployed by EVE pilots as warbarges carrying DUST 514 mercenaries to a planet's surface. The current DUST 514 match loading screen could be replaced by merc interaction within this physically moving warbarge, and throughout its travel, the threat of attack by another faction in EVE Online would loom. Loyalty points earned by fighting for a particular faction would be incentive for DUST 514 mercs, and optional resources they mine during a match could funnel back to the EVE pilots that deploy them and offer air support.

Fans of both games have called for this kind of significant interaction on forums and Twitter, and Emilsson underlined the importance of it: "Currently, logistics stuff is handled through NPC, and resources--which are the clones--are artificially bought by the market. These are the things we want to get rid of, and that will include making the logistics more happening on the EVE side with actual players . . . and resources generated come into the actual cycles of EVE." The whole idea is to bridge the gap between DUST 514 and its PC MMO progenitor in such a way that inspires both parties to participate heavily. CCP wants "to make sure that whatever news is made of this new kind of resource is something that is deeply meaningful for EVE players," Emilsson explained. "It so happens that, from an industrial and economical point of view, [these additions are] highly linked to DUST. That's where you get this common-value mechanism that will sort of strengthen the relationship between EVE and DUST players."

Also of note: CCP's earliest inspirations for DUST 514, formerly EVE FPS, were the first-person shooters they enjoyed playing on their own time. Kjartan cited the Battlefield series as among the team's favorites. "We liked shooters, so... why not?" Why not, indeed, though Kjartan was taken aback at my raised possibility of EVE Online coming to PS4 (with keyboard and mouse support), calling it "highly unlikely."