If you were watching Sony's E3 presser in 2011 you may recall the announcement from CCP, the Icelandic studio behind the spaceship MMO EVE Online, of a PS3 exclusive called DUST 514. Company CEO Hilmar Pétursson revealed the title as a persistent shooter focused on ground combat and planetary conquest. He also explained that it would be a free-to-play MMOFPS set within the EVE universe.
The idea behind DUST 514 is an extremely ambitious concept and it helps to understand a bit about EVE in order to really appreciate it.
EVE Online is a player driven MMORPG on PC that launched in 2003 and now has over 400,000 subscribers. Players pilot customisable spaceships through a galaxy of over 7,500 star systems and can participate in a variety of professions including mining, manufacturing, trading, exploration and piracy. Users have banded together to create large corporations and alliances all with their own ambitions and agendas.
The universe is divided into three different zones. Each zone has a different degree of response from EVE's NPC law enforcement entity, CONCORD, in the event of players grieving. In "high sec", CONCORD ships will inevitably destroy anyone who makes an unauthorised or unprovoked attack on another player. In "low sec", only turrets will fire at you intermittently. In "null sec" there is zero response from CONCORD, meaning you are fully at the mercy of other pilots. The system is a way of offering a risk vs. reward aspect to the game with more lucrative endeavors being found in the more dangerous and lawless regions, yet giving a safe and secure area for new players to enjoy the game without getting harassed by more experienced veterans.
Since launch, the game has received 16 expansions, all of which were released free of charge. It continues to grow further as CCP works closely with its community to create the kind of experience it wants to convey. In May of 2010, the Tyrannis expansion was released. Its primary focus was to enable corporations to claim planets for their minerals and raw materials and to build infrastructure to harvest and process them. This is where the PS3 comes into play.
In DUST 514, players will be able to form mercenary corporations that can be hired by EVE pilots for the purpose of conquering districts on these resource rich planets. Once a merc corp has claimed a district, they will then have to defend it against further attacks from opposing mercenaries. The eventual goal is to take control of the entire planet for your EVE contractor.
Districts can be developed with defense structures to help fend off opposing troops on the ground and orbital cannons to fend off EVE ships out in space. The laser cannon is the counter measure to the much lauded orbital bombardment that DUST players can request from their contractor out in space. This interaction between EVE and DUST players is perhaps the most dramatic example of the two IPs existing and interacting together as one.
Unlike traditional military shooters, DUST works with an economy. Every suit of armor, gun, grenade, and vehicle you use has to be bought from the market. If you die on the battlefield, you lose one copy of everything you have on you and if your tank gets destroyed, that's one less in your inventory. However, you have an infinite and free supply of the entry level militia weapons, armor and vehicles, so you'll never go to war naked and empty handed.
ISK, the common currency in EVE and DUST, can be used to buy upgraded gear to give you a distinctive edge in battle. This economy adds a unique aspect to gameplay that hasn't been seen in any other FPS experience. Playing more often, aside from speeding up your character development, means you get richer and have more funds to back your future battles with high end gear.
The other currency is called AUR. Purchased via PSN, AUR will allow you to buy vanity gear, advanced communication options and alternate weapon variations among other things. CCP has made it crystal clear on many occasions that DUST will not be pay to win. The best items are all available using the in-game currency, ISK. Items bought with AUR can also be sold on the market place so gamers who don't wish to invest real money can still access these items.
Those who aren't interested in being guns for hire by EVE players can take part in battles for NPC contractors in high sec. This is where you can have your more traditional FPS multiplayer experience in battles that have no bearing at all with the EVE universe. There has also been mention of a PvE survival mode with rogue drones and provisions that allow you to train with your teams outside of ranked matches.
CCP is giving you full control of the game with support for Move and keyboard/mouse as well as full control of your music with custom soundtrack support.
These are just some of the reasons why this PS3 exclusive should be on your radar. The true wonder of this game is in its potential. Though it is now very much in its infancy, it will continue to grow and in the future will only become bigger, better and more in depth.
On a personal note, one of my biggest gripes with investing time into competitive online games is that as soon as the next iteration comes out, all your progress is lost when you move on. In DUST 514 you will have a persistent soldier who will fight and grow through many updates and free expansions as the game grows; even the onset of next gen consoles won't alter that as CCP has said it will make DUST for PS4 as well. Being an experienced soldier with competencies in many battlefield disciplines will make you a more valuable mercenary in a game that's all about killing for money.
CCP is currently focusing on the core gameplay and getting everything to run smoothly within these parameters. However, it was very interested in some of the ideas put forth during a Q&A session at the "Seeding the Universe" EVE FanFest 2012 keynote. Some of these concepts included underwater warfare, adverse weather conditions like snow and torrential rain, mercenaries ability to board EVE stations and pilot's ships for combat and more. Currently in closed beta, it will go into open beta at the end of the year.
If you are interested, look out for a follow up article where we will look at the in depth combat customisation and specialisation options the game has to offer.