Dust 514 Beta, Weapons & PS3 Release – CCP Interview (Part Two)
Missed part one of our Dust 514 interview? Check it out here:
Dust 514 is the first free-to-play console shooter to hit PS3 and not only will it break new barriers when it launches exclusively on Sony’s console and PS Vita, it also has the potential to revolutionise gaming.
This revolution comes from the fact that Dust 514 and EVE Online – the immensely popular galactic trading and warfare PC MMO – share the same universe, and will cross over in significant, innovative ways.
For example, this convergence lets a PC gamer playing EVE Online to launch orbital strikes down onto the planet of Dust 514, and into matches being played out on PS3 consoles – a feat that hasn’t been achieved in such a significant way previously.
But this is just one small example of how one game will affect the other. To learn more about how EVE Online and Dust 514 will work and grow together, we spoke with CCP’s senior producer Jon Lander, and lead game designer Kristoffer Touborg.
Left to right: Jon Lander and Kristoffer Touborg
EVE Online has been active for nine years now. Do you want to try and replicate the long-term value and freedom established in EVE through DUST 514?
JL: Yeah absolutely. Dust 514 is a really good opportunity for us because it give us a new game to apply everything we’ve learned in the last nine years – you know, the sandbox play style, the deep meaning, the sense of loss – and all of those really cool things.
But also, this enables us to say, “Hey, how about we make this fairly easy for people to get into, and how about we give you the opportunity to just play a quick 15 minute burst, rather than spending three to four hours at a time like you might in EVE.
Although, Dust 514 will definitely have all of the CCP hallmarks players have come to expect, such as a single server. It will also be as complex as you want it to be, and let’s be honest, it’s going to be a free to play, first-person MMOFPS shooter on PS3, connected into the PC world. But you can still just dip into it if you want, or if you just say, “I’ll just give it a go”.
However, we know that some people will look at Dust 514 and think, “I can progress my character, I can build this, I can take some land, or you know what? I can fight to defend land I’ve claimed.” People will be able to get into it on a number of different levels.
It’s refreshing that Dust 514 will retain the openness of EVE, but what about those who just want to play a multiplayer shooter in small arenas, away from the main conflict?
JL: Yeah that’s a key part of what we want to do, so there will be the opportunity to have a quick battle, but if you want to experience the game beyond the broader context of the EVE universe, and you just want to have a fun time shooting your friends in the face, you can do that.
We have to be realistic though, because that is exactly what a lot of players will want to come and play the game for. But what we hope will happen is, all of a sudden these casual players will think, “Yep, this is cool, I’m having fun, but why am I dying time after time? What does this all actually mean?”
Then people will be able to go in and actually get involved in the wider sandbox style of gameplay. It’s that persistence, that freedom to go deeper down the rabbit hole, if you want to, that will be interesting.
It’ll be interesting to see how all of the Call of Duty guys and the traditional FPS players will suddenly react to that world, when they realise that “Yeah, I could be doing a hell of a lot more beyond just shooting these guys for fun”.
KT: This is the point that people will realise that winning or losing actually matters in the wider sense of the world, and they’re not just playing rounds and waiting for the next match to begin.
By that token, betrayal would matter as well – just like it does in EVE – because people can be ruthless villains in EVE if they want. What sort of things could a player do to mess up someone’s day in Dust 514?
JL: Who knows? [laughs]. Again, this is what CCP is all about. I guess no one knows, because we have no idea how people are going to greet each other in the game. We’re just giving them tools to use as they see fit.
But I know for a fact one of the things that will happen is, people in EVE Online will rally around the planet in their ships to do some kind of orbital strike, and at the last minute they will change their mind and shoot the other faction instead.
Then there will be a guy in Dust 514 who will get in touch with the EVE player orbiting the planet and say, “How about I give you a million ISK – more money that the next highest bidder – to shoot this guy I need taken care of?”
So stuff like that, and as we said earlier, from that point your reputation as being ‘that guy’ will follow you. You will then be known as the guy in EVE who betrayed the Dust player who hired him, and from that point Dust mercs won’t trust you because they’ll say, “Well, you might drop your allegiance at the drop of a hat.”
Balancing is one of the most fundamental aspects of any good FPS. As Dust 514 will offer players so much freedom, has this made balancing more of a challenge?
JT: With Dust 514, we’re still balancing at the moment. We’re in closed beta right now and we’re doing an awful lot of balancing. One of the great things with EVE is – I hate balance – because the minute you start balancing stuff, people just mid-max it.
As long as you’ve haven’t excluded people from being able to access a certain piece of technology, ship or gun – then you don’t need balancing. As soon as you have a solid balancing system, people can figure out exactly what combination of weapons and skills will excel in any given situation.
What is your approach to microtransactions in Dust 514?
JL: Dust 514 is completely free to play, but it does have microtransactions. You’ll be able to download the game off PSN and you won’t have to pay a penny for it. But if you want to get a new piece of kit, or pay money to boost your skills, you will be able to spend money on that.
This will be really interesting, because as we said, Dust 514 is being built from the ground up as a free to play game with microtransactions, as this is something that is very hard to retrofit on to an existing game. It’s something many developers do if their game is failing.
As we’ve seen with things like League of Legends, if you build a game form scratch along with free to play and microtransactions, it’s a very powerful model. One of the things that I really disagree with, is that subscription based games are on the way out.
I think that subscriptions still have a huge place in the industry, if you have a really good product. If you have something that people aren’t prepared to invest years of their life into – I mean, we’ve still got people who have been playing EVE Online since 2003 – then people will not invest money into it. Then of course our PLEX in EVE Online gives people the option to essentially play for free.
In what ways can you see future generations of consoles opening up to make MMO games viable?
KT: I think the current generation of consoles are perfectly suitable for MMO games, in terms of that you have a player profile, you might already have your credit card registered to that account for microtransactions, so I think consoles are fine for free to play stuff.
JL: One of the thing we’ve found is that there has only been one free to play MMO title on consoles before Dust 514, and this is something CCP prides itself on, as we’re breaking some of those conventions.
The industry is going to watch and see what Dust 514 does, because it will blow away some of those preconceived ideas where people used to say, “You can’t do a free to play MMO on PS3”. Well, if you can digitally download it, and then you can just play it for free, well that’s the same thing.
We just thought, “Well why not?” let’s just give it a go. Dust 514 has the opportunity to be a major game changer, because we’re linking into a PC title, with its own persistent world. I mean, that’s just going to change the way we consider gaming.
In logistic terms, what technical aspects would you want from the next generation of consoles to help you achieve bigger things, or to keep Dust 514 continuing into the future?
JL: Wow, what a good question.
KT: Well, it would be nice to see a bigger crossover between consoles, like, we’ve been talking about PS3 games crossing over with PC titles. I think there is a lot of potential for widening that aspect of gaming.
JL: Yeah, and I think there’s going to be a shift from the notion of, “What device am I accessing my game from?” as we’ll start to realise that the big differentiator is, “What am I connecting to?”
Is this a one off game, an instance or a huge persistent world? When I log off, I know that people could be on there, stealing my stuff. So one of the things that we’re looking at is, how do we get as many difference channels into our games as possible?
Frankly, I don’t care if someone is accessing EVE Online via an iPhone, an iPad, a netbook, or a high-end gaming PC. I don’t care. What I do want is for them to be participating in a persistent world, so I think anything that enables people to have that connectivity is an amazing thing.
The great thing about working with Sony is they said, “We understand this completely different concept, and we’ll work with you in any way that we can so that our PS3 can connect into this persistent world.” That has resulted in an incredibly good relationship between us and Sony.