Sony "removed" PSN barriers for free-to-play MMO Dust 514

Dev CCP tells Eurogamer all about it.

Sony didn't relax PSN policies so free-to-play MMO Dust 514 would work on PS3 - Sony "removed" them, developer CCP has told Eurogamer.

"Relaxed is not even the word - they have 'removed'," Dust 514 executive producer Brandon Laurino revealed.

"Together we've worked to identify all the barriers that need to be removed to properly operate a service such as this on a console."

This generation ought to have been a hotbed for consoles MMOs. The online capabilities are firmly there. But platform holder red-tape has kept MMOs largely at bay.

The crux of the issue: how an MMO can be patched, updated and charged for - as they are without restriction on PC.

But Dust 514 won't fall at that hurdle.

"We have complete ability to service and update the game as much as needed."

Brandon Laurino, executive producer, Dust 514

"We have complete ability to service and update the game as much as needed," Brandon Laurino declared.

So patching won't cost $40,000, as it did Tim Schafer and Double Fine?

"We've worked out a framework where it's certainly not at that level, and essentially it's not even a thought, it's a completely trivial part of the equation," answered Laurino.

CCP needed to remove those barriers to realise the concept of Dust 514: a free-to-play shooter to exist within the universe of PC MMO Eve Online. The two games operate on a unified cluster of servers, which means events that happen in Dust 514 affect the game world of Eve Online and vice versa.

Eve Online spaceships can order real-time orbital strikes on Dust 514 planets, but structures can be built in Dust 514 to retaliate and shoot back. This bond extends to the Eve Online economy, and means CCP can pull-in things like skill systems and more from its long-running and successful space MMO.

But Sony's willingness to adhere to CCP's requirements wasn't special, one-off treatment for a PS3 exclusive. The ground MMO specialist CCP and Sony have broken was done so to benefit the entire PSN platform.

"Part of the reason [Sony] engaged with us on this is to be able to bring this business model full force to their platforms moving forward."

Brandon Laurino

"I can't speak for Sony," Laurino said, "but part of the reason they've engaged with us on this is to be able to bring this business model full force to their platforms moving forward."

"Certainly the intention here is to evolve the whole console business model, and we're doing it in a way where it's not just specific to us necessarily. This was very much an evolution and learning exercise for them as much as us."

cosplay

My old Eve costume.

PlayStation Network boss Jack Buser echoed this sentiment yesterday, when he talked about Sony's willingness to engage in new business models, as in Dust 514.

Such is CCP's confidence that Laurino readily promised an Eve-like lifespan for Dust 514. "Our whole plan for the game, our whole roadmap, extends out over five years now," he said.

That suggests Dust 514 will be able to transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4. Will it?

"A very astute question," shuffled Laurino, "but one that I can not comment on today. But, obviously, given the statement I just made, you know, that's a very interesting topic."

How Dust 514 will develop post release is a discussion that will begin with fans at the annual Eve Online Fanfest event, which takes place this year from 22nd to 24th March at CCP HQ in Reykjavik, Iceland.

But deepening the link between Eve Online and Dust 514, "That is absolutely our intention," Laurino remarked.

"Our whole plan for [Dust 514], our whole roadmap, extends out over five years now."

Brandon Laurino

"Every single battle, every single market transaction, everything that's happening [in Dust 514] has a butterfly effect through the whole [Eve] universe. So yes, we're starting out with these basic building blocks, and then we fully intend to iterate on [them] with the community, with the players."

"We don't want to go so far down the road and realise, 'Ah, what [players] really like is playing like this,' and have to back out and focus on something else."

Eurogamer broke the news that Dust 514 will be a free download from PSN as well as be free to play. The game will make money through sympathetic micro-transactions, which won't manifest as "pay to win" items.

Laurino said Dust 514 will stream-in content, allowing the client to be "pretty lean" - around the 2GB mark right now. "That said, we haven't zeroed in on precisely how big it will be, but it's not going to be anything crazy outside of the norm," he reassured.

"We're also looking into other means of getting it on your PS3 for people who are bandwidth constrained in that way," added Laurino, "but can't comment on any of those specifics yet."

Closed beta sessions for Dust 514 began in December. Laurino couldn't tell us when more will be, nor when the beta open for the public. Perhaps Sony will offer this as a PlayStation Plus exclusive, at least for a time.

Laurino did, however, confirm Dust 514 as a 2012 release.

Incidentally, he wouldn't give any ground on the Dust 514 PS3 exclusivity deal, and rebutted our PC and Xbox 360 enquiries with "no comment".

Dust 514.

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