DUST 514

[GDC 2013] Restraint Amidst Lawlessness

CCP Games updates us on DUST 514 progress. Would you like to know more?
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 27, 2013
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May 6th, EVE Online will have been online for a decade. That's not a small milestone, and it's something that Icelandic developer CCP Games takes seriously. And why not? With half a million subscribers, they're bucking the free-to-play trend most PC MMOs have adopted and routinely sit back to watch their create-your-own-adventure approach to building a virtual world play out with no small measure of voyeuristic glee. After all, when griefing or player harassment happens in other massively multiplayer online games, the instinct most of the time is to nip things in the bud or at least chastise those that would wreck things for other players.

Thing is, EVE isn't like most MMOs. The spacefaring sim boasts a player-driven economy that lets massive factions do what they will so long as the EULA or Terms of Service aren't violated. In fact, they encourage players to wheel and deal, to backstab, to amass fortunes and then run off with them or to build such an impossibly huge fleet of ships that they can attack a normally "secure" area and raze it to space junk. People talk about online games as the Wild West, but this is well and truly survival of the fittest.

You'll note that we mentioned EVE Online is a PC game, which is probably a little weird for a PlayStation-oriented site, and certainly odd for a preview that's supposed to be about CCP's other MMO, DUST 514, but bear with us here. For a long time, CCP was happy to let the players create a lot of the narrative and experiences -- something that (spreadsheets and nano-managing of supercorporations notwithstanding) has become something that even those uninterested in massively multiplayer online games can at least enjoy from afar.

Now, though, that's changing a little, and for the first time, DUST can be worked into attempts to build up the idea of having an actual set of stories to tell. This was already incorporated into the rather epic Battle of Caldari Prime fight that took place last weekend where the recently-merged EVE and DUST sides of the same universe came together in a massive fight that took down a Titan, a mobile space station that dwarfs most other ships in the EVE. The resulting battle sent the Titan plummeting down to the surface of Caldari Prime which the burning hulk still exists to this day.

This is the kind of linked experience CCP envisions with the EVE/DUST universe, and it's not hard to understand why the devs are so excited as they rattle off the stats that took place during the event: 2000+ ships duking it out above the planet and a whopping twenty thousand mercs slogging it out in DUST 514. Now, of course not all of those players are fighting each other at the same time; though DUST offers battles that take place across a multitude of worlds, they also instance fights even on the same planet, leading to fights with results culled that help the overall effort. This is the unfortunate downside to a free-to-play game with, apparently tens of thousands of players already duking it out.

It's not the ultimate goal, though; CCP laid out plans to deepen the link between EVE capsuleers and corporations and the mercs that have their own games. The two exist on the same servers now; should CCP decide they want to, they could toggle a few lines of code and let the two become intrinsically tied on the deepest levels; player-based economy could be swung on a scale that has happened far more glacially with many, many more players contributing. Instead, they've taken a "baby steps" approach to things, slowly linking the two experiences in a way that doesn't vastly disrupt that whole player-driven universe.
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