Dust 514 Brings MMO EVE Online Into the FPS Market

The upcoming game Dust 514,  an exclusive PlayStation 3 first-person shooter, will dramatically interact with the world of the MMORPG Eve. DIG sat down with producer Tom Farrer  to discuss PlayStation 3 exclusivity and some of the technical challenges of integrating a PS3 game into the PC game experience.

DIG: Why was it decided not to make Dust a PS3 exclusive, instead of bringing it to PC?

T.F.: For us, this was about bringing the universe of EVE to a new market, to a new kind of player. EVE is a fantastic game, but even we’ll admit it is quite complicated and has a very steep learning curve.
We want to be able to offer this incredible universe to people that perhaps don’t have the time to be able to sit down and learn all of these complex mechanics. We often hear a lot of people are very interested in our universe, but they simply don’t have the time to be able to sit down and really get into a hugely complex MMO. We thought the console platform would allow us to expand our audience.

DIG: So will Dust still speak to EVE players? Is there a common narrative thread, or sensibility, that they can pick up on?

T.F.: Absolutely. Both games are running on the same server, in the same universe, in real time. You can be orbiting a planet within the EVE client, and you’ll see the icons and markers that are representing battles that are going on on that surface at that particular moment in time.

As a corporation, you can also provide support. The connection isn’t just a meta-game connection; it’s a literal connection. The players within the EVE clients and the Dust clients on the PlayStation 3 can talk to each other on the local chat, and be in the same corporation. The equivalent in other games would be a guild. If you create one within Dust, it’s the same as creating one within EVE.

DIG: How much more work would you say is left before Dust is completed?

T.F.: Around the end of the year, we’ll be starting with the private, behind-closed-doors trials where we’ll start to test things and build things up, and we’ll continue to add more content. Around summer next year, we’ll release the game. And once we’ve released it, we’ll continue developing it, adding more and more content and features.

In a sense it’ll never be finished — for a developer, in some ways, it’s fantastic because it means you never really have to cut anything. You just have to wait until ultimately you get to implement it. But then I suppose it’s also, “Ah! We’ll never be finished!”

DIG: Do you have a sense of some of the ways Dust will evolve over time, perhaps after a year or two from the release?

T.F.: I do. There are always so many ideas kicking around the company. When you’ve got that many creative people, you’re always going to have 101 million ideas. It’s always difficult to pick from them.

There are things that we want to do, and things we’re really interested in developing. But it comes down to seeing what the players do with the tools that we’ve given them. When we release the game and we start to see how players play, and how players use the tools we’ve thrown in a sandbox, it’s going to be that that influences where we take the game.

It would be arrogant for us to assume we would just know what the players would do, or what the players would want. We’ve been proved wrong before; we’ve been surprised before. As a company, that’s what we’re about: empowering the players and letting them drive the direction for the game.

DIG: How might the integration of Dust players into the world eventually change the feel of the EVE universe?

T.F.: I don’t know if it’s going to change the feel of the universe so much as just increase the depth and the complexity of the universe. For the longest time now, it’s been flying in space. And now, all of a sudden, there’s this new element.

I would see the games becoming more and more integrated with one another, to the point where we’re literally able to walk up and meet one another, rather than just talk on voice or communicate over text chat. I would hope it’s going to spur on a lot of exciting and dangerous conflict within the universe.

I would like to see interesting and unusual types of gameplay coming to the fore, with sabotage and infiltration of rival corporations. This isn’t something that you typically see within the shooter genre, and I think that bringing this type of gameplay into the universe of EVE is going to produce some really interesting results.

DIG: What kinds of technical challenges had to be solved in order to seamlessly integrate the console and PC experiences?

T.F.: Obviously we’ve got quite a bit of experience with networking, given EVE Online. Getting both games up and running on Tranquility, which is our supercomputer that we’re using to run both games — some people would say it wasn’t as tricky as we expected it to be. But it was certainly tricky.

Really, we were expecting it to be harder than it was, in terms of linking the PlayStation 3 and the PC together. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to have a partnership with the platform holder, because of the things that we needed to do to be able to link the console network with our PC network. We needed to bend a few rules, break a few rules — which traditionally you can’t when you’re working with a console platform. That partnership’s been very beneficial for us.

DIG: How exactly have you been playing around with the rules?

T.F.: It’s kind of all over the place. For example, something that’s very important within an MMO like EVE is that your identity is essentially a secret. Typically within a console game, your identity is broadcast to all players. Your console’s identity is your in-game identity. That’s not something that we want within our universe, because — it may sound silly or even nasty — but it’s important that you can backstab your friends, if you want to. It’s these kinds of behaviors that will actually create interesting and meaningful social interactions.