Dust 514 Developer Q&A
by Brice Boembeke
DUST 514 brings intense infantry combat, large-scale warfare, and deep character advancement to a free-to-play massively multiplayer shooter, exclusively on the PlayStation 3. Wage war in the next generation of first-person shooters, where a single victory could prove the crushing blow to a galactic empire of thousands of EVE Online® gamers.
Multiplayer First Person Shooter
Fight, dominate, and hone your skills as an elite mercenary with an unparalleled array of armor, weapons, and vehicles in massive online battles of up to 48 players. Customize every aspect of your gameplay, from your characters’ weapons, equipment, and skills to the vehicles they drive.
Play in the EVE Universe
Wage war in the notorious, persistent universe of EVE Online, where every battle and every action can affect the balance of power among thousands of players. Win battles, acquire territories, amass wealth, and build empires to establish yourself as a major influence in the ongoing conflicts of EVE Online.
Free To Play
Play completely for free, only on PlayStation®3 and the PlayStation®Network. Microtransactions can expand the experience but will not enable pay-to-win.
Game Chronicles goes inside this exciting new cross-platform title with Executive Producer, Brandon Laurino:
1) Dust and EVE are two very different games linked by the same universe. How do you anticipate the introduction of Dust will affect the world of EVE? Conversely, how will the world of EVE impact (no pun intended) the Dust experience?
This goes straight into some very complex subject matter! DUST 514 has been designed as an additive experience to the EVE Universe, with all EVE Online players and all DUST 514 players logged into the same single shard server at once. If you are an EVE Online player and have no interest in the shooter experience DUST 514 provides, you are not forced to interact with or play DUST 514, and you can continue with your internet spaceship business just as you have for the past decade – and vice versa – if you are only interested in the shooter experience of DUST 514, you are not forced to interact with EVE Online players in order to have a satisfying DUST 514 experience, you can just enjoy DUST 514 as an awesome, free shooter for your PS3. That said, if you do interact between DUST 514 and EVE Online, whether with friends across them, or playing them both yourself, or even multiboxing, then, both EVE Online and DUST 514 become even richer experiences, and this is really the ultimate end game play of both.
Of course, we believe that by combining EVE Online and DUST 514, CCP is offering the fullest interactive sci-fi universe ever created, and everything from the social links (Corporations, Mail, Chat, etc) to the economic links to the real-time game play links like Orbital Strikes, provide some of the deepest, most groundbreaking, fun and rewarding gaming experiences ever realized. Of course, by virtue of the single-shard universe, just having more citizens in New Eden means more social opportunities and perils. For one example, if you unknowingly let a saboteur who is a DUST 514 player into your EVE Online Corp that has been around for 10 years, and make them a director, and they take advantage of that privilege, and they betray you and your Corp, this is business as usual just as it would be with EVE Online players for the past decade – there are just more people now, and some of these people have new kinds of motives and allegiances. For another example, there will be some major thematic and player driven EVE Online / DUST 514 events that happen in New Eden which will essentially “scar” the landscape (both in space and on planets) and change it permanently (think the broken statue of the Jita riots last year). Also, as we have detailed, we are working in close collaboration with the community on features that do have an impact across DUST 514 and EVE Online, such as the economic link as well as the benefits and perils of planetary conquest, and we have been phasing this in with a very careful, stepped rollout.
So, as we continue with the Closed Beta test, and the ongoing iterations of both EVE Online and DUST 514, the connection and effect they have on each other becomes more enhanced and more impactful, and we will continue to plan and tune this based on how our player base responds as this intensifies. Another view on this is how we have cordoned these experiences off by Security Status, and this is the general guiding principle in how this is being handled – for example, in High Security (1.0) space, DUST 514 and EVE Online players are not affected by real time game play connections, so, you cannot call in an orbital strike from EVE Online to DUST 514 in Hi Sec space – this means this is a safe place for a DUST 514 player who only wants to play DUST 514 and have that shooter experience without the larger EVE Online connected factors at play, you can have that in Hi Sec space. Currently, to call in an Orbital Strike, you must participate in Low Security space Corp battles, so, as you venture further out, go deeper down the rabbit hole, the danger of being bombed by EVE Online players collaborating with your DUST 514 rivals increases, the stakes are higher as well, on top of these battles having an impact on Faction Warfare in the EVE Universe, and we already see some amazing collaborations between DUST 514 and EVE Online players to turn the tides of those wars. This will increase even more so, both ways between the games, with further iterations and as we open up No Security space (aka Null Sec aka 0.0) game play. This has been the general risk vs reward principle effective in EVE Online for the past ten years, the further down in Security Status you go (from 1.0 to 0.0), the greater the risk and the greater the rewards, and now those risks and rewards will be enhanced by the connection between DUST 514 and EVE Online.
2) Are there plans to incorporate Dust even more into EVE gameplay? In other words, using infantry for boarding parties from ship to ship in order to commandeer other vessels without destroying them?
Absolutely. There is a roadmap for the next year, next two years, next five years, next decade, and beyond. There is no limit to the amazing things we can do between EVE Online and DUST 514 in the EVE Universe, and this includes ideas like the ones you mention.
3) Why is CCP the first developer to have the cojones to link two platforms and essentially two different games into one massive universe? Was it extremely difficult? Are you all just that insane? Or do you think this is the first of many games that will attempt to diversify cross-platform?
The simple answer is that it is really difficult. Of course, every gamer and gaming company has thought of “transgaming” as one of the interactive entertainment “holy grails”, especially as it becomes more possible in this day and age. With the advent of smartphones, the obvious thought is to be able to stay connected to the game worlds you love anytime, anywhere. We’ve started to see handheld/mobile companion apps (and, note, we are doing our own for DUST 514 as well) that let you do more simple asynchronous experiences (for example – using an in game mail system, tuning loadouts) on the go. Where it gets complicated is real time game play, and then beyond that, real time game play across two games on two different platforms, and then beyond that, all as part of one single-shard server – what we are doing with EVE Online and DUST 514. The single-shard server is one big component that allows us to do this, but just as it enables this kind of functionality, it is also much more complicated to develop features, roll them out and maintain a game-as-a-services against a single-shard server infrastructure.
There are no “best practices” for that, as CCP is the only company that really does this, and we are in completely uncharted territory with what we are doing now. Of course, every gaming franchise would love to do this, because it allows you to create different experiences within your IP that appeals to different demographics – so, yes, many have been trying and will try to do “transgaming”/cross-platform franchises. For example, you can be off fighting wars and building empires, while your mom is supporting you by playing a social game, building and maintaining a town within your empire that provides you with resources, and you are incentivized to recruit your mom to play this social game as opposed to a similar competing one, because she’s helping you out in this game you care about. This is a great game play opportunity and business opportunity – it’s just easier said than done. You can see most of the major game makers and platform holders experimenting with stuff like this, Sony with cross-play between the PS3 and Vita, Nintendo with the WiiU, Microsoft with Fable 2 Pub Games, EA/Bioware with Mass Effect Datapad, but, those are constrained by being local or asynchronous – as mentioned, once you get into real-time game play, across different platforms, across genres, on a single shard server, the difficulty and complexity increases by many orders of magnitude.
Are we insane? Some might say so, but, as we have been making this a reality, it certainly becomes less insane and more groundbreaking. Actually, its really quite simple, CCP just wants to do amazing, original things, not just sequels or clones. EVE Online was inspired by Elite, and fulfilling the dream of making a truly living sci-fi universe, inhabited by people, where you could do anything and go anywhere – we have made great progress towards this with the EVE Universe franchise and bringing DUST 514 online, up and running on Tranquility, the same server EVE Online has been running on for a decade.
4) EVE is one of few MMO’s that has maintained its monthly subscription business model. Even Dust is free to play. Rumor is that your much anticipated, World of Darkness is going to be free to play, as well. Is there any plan to make EVE free to play in the foreseeable future?
EVE Online has a free trial. The free trial is a way to play EVE Online for free, we will continue to expand on that and enhance those programs. There is also PLEX, which can be earned through game play.
5) What do you see as the biggest thing that separates Dust from other FPS style games like COD, Battlefield, Halo, or even the recent addition to the field, Planetside 2?
Of course, there is the real time connection with EVE Online, that is hugely different. Aside from that, first I want to say, it is very important to us that shooter players feel at home playing DUST 514. We want shooter players to pick up their controller (or plug in their keyboard and mouse, which we also support on PS3), get into battle, generally get the hang of it, and feel good with it. Purely in terms of shooter game play, we are often told we feel like a great blend of the titles you mentioned – Penny Arcade Report called it “Halo of Battlefield Duty” – having the vehicles and large scale maps of Battlefield, some gun feel of CoD, classes like Team Fortress 2, with sci-fi themes and outrageous weaponry like Halo – and in the incredibly competitive shooter space, to be compared favorably to the biggest titles in the biggest genre, for a new studio (Shanghai) and a new team (which has veterans from DICE, by the way), making its first title, this is a huge compliment. That said, we are also very different, we are not making a clone, and we have no desire to.
One way we are very different is with the DUST equivalent of loadouts, what we call fittings, which is the deepest such system ever in a shooter, arguably ever in a video game, except for maybe EVE Online itself, and the way this manifests into very different custom classes, whatever you can imagine, which have a very different feel and effect on the battlefield. We start you out with some pre-made fits, what we call Starter Fittings, that are like the familiar classes from other class based shooters – you’ve got an Assault, which has an Assault Rifle, an Anti-Vehicle with a big weapon, a Sniper and a Medic. However, from there, the similarities end, as you plan and make and progress by leveling up your skills, unlocking more stuff and making your own custom fittings, you can essentially create any class you can dream of. You can use a Scout suit, which moves fast but has less armor, and fit it with modules to make it run super-fast like the Flash, and equip it with knives and specialize in that sort of CQC – or you can buff up its armor and give it a strong weapon. You can take a Heavy suit, and use modules to make it move faster than a usual Heavy, and give it a sniper rifle, becoming a Heavy Sniper.
My favorite example is a combat medic you can make, where you might take a Logistics suit, which specializes in having lots of different equipment, give it stuff like revival and repair tools, but also fit it with a viable weapon, like a mass driver (which is like a grenade launcher), so, unlike other games, you are not just locked into a support role, but you have made a really viable, versatile class. We are amazed with the fittings people come up with, there are billions and billions of possibilities, and each tweak really makes it feel very different – by default a scout suit feels fast and agile but a bit fragile, a heavy feels weighty and powerful but can’t jump as high, and from there, the way you tweak it all has a very tangible impact on the look and feel. Another example is that we are not a pop and drop kind of shooter. These Dropsuits you wear (your armor, that you fit stuff to) have powerful shields and armor and it can take a very prolonged, intense firefight to kill an enemy. Everything in DUST 514 is an actual commodity in the EVE Universe, and every time you die, one copy of what you are using is depleted (when you make fittings, you are usually dealing in mass quantities, like 50 or 100), and you have to fight more to earn more and restock (that said, there are some permanent options too).
We don’t just have vehicles lying about all over a battlefield, or ammo materializing out of nowhere – if you want to use your vehicle, you call it in from space, it is brought down to your location by an RDV (Rapid Deployment Vehicle), and that is one copy of that vehicle that you earned and customized, or if you need ammo, someone has to drop a nanohive, that they fit and brought to the battle. This means there is gravity and persistence in every death. You’re going to think more about your actions, be more careful, and if you’ve fit your Dropsuit or vehicle to withstand fire, we want it to feel that way, and we want the pace of engagements to reflect that. It would be lame if you put all this work into a super armored Heavy and he gets popped and dropped by a pistol. That said, of course, there is a counter to that, someone may have a super tank, with super turrets, and nail your heavy in the head, and, yeah, you’re going to go down. That said, your heavy might be carrying an anti-vehicle weapon, and be super leveled up in it, and you may blow that tank away. Or you may get an Orbital Strike called down on you, and yea, you got nuked, you will die (although I’ve seen some super heavies survive an OS on the fringes of the blasts). It’s like a very elaborate game of Rock/Paper/Scissors, and we have spent a lot of time in Closed Beta with the community trying to balance it and get it just right, and overall, we’re very happy with all the dynamics at play, planned and unplanned, and the community overall seems happy too (aside of the usual MMO nerfing / buffing trolling and such). There is a heavy focus on team play and strategy, much more so than pretty much every other shooter. This all helps make DUST 514 a very unique, special shooter experience, while still being comfortable for shooter players in general.
6) EVE is well known for its creative player base and their conniving ways. So far, Dust seems a little more straight-forward. Will there be any chance of covert spies or cloak and dagger things happening in Dust that will have a bigger impact on the EVE universe than we might expect?
Actually, we just had our first reported case of corporate espionage! We are so happy! The tools are there, and it has begun, as we hoped.
7) For people who are interested in Dust, but who don’t own at PS3, are there any plans to port the game to other platforms?
No comment. Just note, like EVE Online, DUST 514 is a game-as-a-service with a one-to-ten-year-plus road map. DUST 514 will constantly evolve. We will constantly upgrade the graphics, add new features, add new content. Release to release, year to year.
8) One of the biggest downfalls of free to play games is the tendency to become “pay to win”. Are you taking steps to prevent this type of reputation from tarnishing the game?
We’ve worked very hard to ensure DUST 514 is not “pay to win”, and, again, we’ve spent a lot of time in Beta tuning this and gotten a lot of great feedback form the community that we’ve done a really good job on that front. The basic principle is that there is no item you can purchase for AUR (the paid currency) that gives you an unfair advantage in battle. You can’t buy some BFG for AUR, you can’t buy Orbital Strikes on demand for AUR, nothing like that. On top of that, all AUR weapons and such have an ISK (the free earned currency) equivalent, so you can earn it all for free, too.
9) For someone who has never played EVE, who steps onto the battlefield of Dust, what would be your biggest piece of advice to them in order to help them have the best possible gaming experience?
The first thing is to just explore, don’t be afraid. Get into battle and get a feel for it. Press Start and open up the Neocom, basically every menu option, everything you need is all right there. There is even a Help section, with Instructions, Tutorials and Movies. The key things are Fitting, Market and Skills – explore those sections, read the instructions and learn how to use them together to progress. The core engagement loop is battles, fitting, market and skills. You go into battle, earn ISK and SP (the EVE Universe version of XP), use the ISK to get new items from the market, use the SP to level up your skills, and then make new fittings from that to bring into battle. The other thing I would say is join a Corporation. There is one in particular called DUST University – the DUST relative of the long running EVE University – that specifically specializes in helping new users. They will answer questions and provide plenty of people willing to join a squad with you.
10) The potential implications of Dust should be very exciting to all gamers. Do you think you’ve started a gaming revolution? If so, may I be the first to say, “Viva la revolucion!”
THANKS! You will definitely see more core (as opposed to casual) free-to-play games, you will see more free-to-play games on console, you will definitely see companies strive towards transgaming. It is an honor for us to blaze these trails, and Sony has been a great partner in doing so. DUST 514 is here now, it is free, it is groundbreaking, and it is awesome! Please join us on this journey!
Thanks to Brandon Laurino for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information on the game and joining the BETA head over to https://dust514.com/, and be sure to check out our hands-on preview for Dust 514.