A War on Two Fronts: MMO EVE Online Expands Into the FPS Market

EVE Online, perhaps the most notorious — if not the most popular — MMORPG, is no stranger to drama. Widely reported conflicts — such as one group’s hostile infiltration of corporate assets, or a corporate leader’s expensive defection to a rival player group — have established EVE as a genuine frontier where just about anything goes.But for this reason, and as a high-end reworking of PC classic Elite, it is also one of the least accessible and most intimidating games being played. That may change with the upcoming expansion Dust 514, which is unorthodox in every sense. It’s a first-person shooter that takes place on the planets, and around the planetary installations, of EVE’s New Eden universe — and it’s exclusive to the PlayStation 3. EVE and Dust players will be able to collaborate as ship owners and their hired mercenaries, respectively. The idea, according to CCP, is to open the floodgates to an entirely new audience.

DIG spoke to Tom Farrer, producer at CCP, about the goals and promise of the upcoming game, which is due out next summer. In this first part, Farrer discusses the basics of Dust and the goals CCP has in mind during its development.

DIG: What is the new game about? Do you think of it as an expansion, a parallel game, or both as part of a larger work?

Tom Farrer: One of the mantras that we have is, “One universe, one war.” Dust is a persistent shooter for PlayStation 3, and it’s quite literally set within the universe of the PC MMO EVE Online. They’re not just connected — Dust literally is in that universe of New Eden. That’s the universe that’s already populated with hundreds of thousands of players, and has been alive for seven or eight years now.

If we look at how CCP works as a company, we don’t just fire and forget. It’s about continuous development with continuous support for our player base. If we look at all of the many expansions that we’ve had for EVE Online, we’ll see with the Dominion expansion, we worked with all of the planet shaders and we started to make the planets look more beautiful. You couldn’t do anything with them; they just looked better. After a little while came Tyrannis, and suddenly you could interact with those planets. You could create infrastructure on the surface. That was it — there was no conflict involved. It’s that conflict over the planets that Dust brings to the universe.

DIG: What does the title, Dust 514, refer to?

T.F.: That’s actually something we don’t talk about. That’s a secret. It’s been a lot of fun watching the various posts and discussions that have been going on online.

DIG: What are the main goals of the game for the player?

T.F.: I suppose the player has myriad goals. This isn’t something you pick up and play for a week and then stop. Ultimately you’ll begin in high-security space, where you’re reasonably safe and you can learn the ropes — right up until you can develop your character and your skills that you train, your gear, and your role on the battlefield. You’ll meet friends, form a corporation.

It’s at this point that you’re earning enough currency within the game, ISK, to be able to start looking at planetary domination, trying to get a foothold on a planet. Maybe you’ll start fighting other planets and start developing infrastructure on those planets that you’ll need to protect. You’ll start recruiting people to your corporation. Your corporation grows larger, you start to conquer more territory, but now it’s getting too large. It’s harder to manage, so you become part of an alliance of corporations.

And this is where it starts to get bigger and bigger. Because to gain the maximum benefits from controlling a planet, you’ll also need to have control of the orbit of a planet, so you’ll want to start working with pilots in EVE, being part of the same corporations and the same alliances.

Ultimately the work that you’re doing will impact a mechanic called sovereignty, which means that you can start to not only take control of the planets, but also entire systems within the universe.

Our goal was to create a gaming experience that had more meaning. As players ourselves, we really wanted to play a shooter where it was about more than abstract reward mechanics, just bumping up and down a leaderboard and maybe unlocking some gear.

DIG: What about the decision to go with this particular genre — a first-person shooter?

T.F.: For us, the first-person shooter, when you’re on the surface of planets, provides a very visceral and exciting experience: putting yourself within the body of the mercenary you’re fighting. When you’re not in battle, we actually switch out to third person. When you’re within your mercenary quarters, in your space station or in the war barge orbiting your planet, that’s where you’ll be able to interact with other characters. In the battlefield, we wanted you inside your character’s helmet, really feeling the excitement of the battlefield, and feeling like you were a part of it.