E3 2011: Dust 514 preview

With its deep customizable gameplay, complex universe and penchant for battles that can last up to six hours (not to mention a continuous stream of updates and expansions that expand its universe even further), EVE Online is probably one of the most meticulously detailed MMOs out there. Developer CCP Games is no longer content with EVE on its own, though, and as a result they are introducing Dust 514, a shooter MMO for the PS3, to the EVE Online experience.

CCP’s hefty infrastructure has already made EVE an impressively massive project since its debut almost a decade ago, and the developers are using that built-in network to expand their world further with the inclusion of Dust. Basically, through a vast network of server nodes that deal with various facets of EVE’s design, they are working Dust into the same gamespace. The result is that EVE players and Dust players will be playing on the same servers, with both games running concurrently to each other.

Unlike EVE, which can deal with the detail-oriented minutiae of management over corporations, infrastructure and research and resource management (on top of planetary and galactic conquest), Dust will be focused on the first-person mercenary existence of a gun-for-hire, albeit with the same customization and upgradable elements CCP has made part and parcel of EVE’s framework. After you pay the one-time subscription cost on PSN, essentially the idea is that you create your own mercenary character, joining other players in large-scale battles.

You can work for your own purposes or become a member of one of EVE’s corporations, but whatever your actions are in Dust 514, it’s all based around the existing, previously-established world of EVE. So, say you join a corporation and are fighting over a hotly contested territory; if your corporation wins, Dust players will have access to creating basic infrastructure—you can also switch over to EVE and play with the space more in-depth if you so choose.

Credits, your primary reward for victory in battle, can also be used for a slew of upgrades, including blueprints for new weapons, armor and vehicles for use in further battles. Interestingly, since Dust is fully integrated into EVE’s virtual universe, you can get as involved as you want. But since the aim and approach of EVE and Dust 514 are different, you can also just play soldier from match to match, if you prefer.

Of course, skillsets are also open ended, so you can choose to evolve your character based on different abilities or item use, tailoring your merc to your own specifications. What little we did see of gameplay makes Dust 514 look a very competent shooter, too, considering how much virtual data is being passed throughout the universe.

CCP has never been one to shy away from grandiose ideas, and the ambitious undertaking it's attempting with Dust 514 – not to mention how the game-within-a-game structure will interact as part of the larger EVE universe – is certainly interesting. We look forward to checking out more as Dust 514 gets closer to its 2012 release.

Jun 15, 2011