DUST 514

Earth to earth.

Someone asks Atli Mar Sveinsson if DUST 514, the console shooter that will share a universe with sci-fi MMO EVE Online, will have character classes. You know, like engineer, medic, or assault. "That stuff is for computer games," the game's creative director says, dismissively. "This is not a computer game. This is a world. If you want to be a medic, take some stuff with you."

If CCP is different from other developers in one way above all others - and CCP is definitely different from other developers in more than one way - it's philosophical. And that philosophy can be boiled down to one central principle, pithily put by Sveinsson just then. "This is not a computer game. This is a world."

So DUST 514 is more than it appears to be - which, on the surface, is a large-scale, strategic multiplayer FPS in the style of Battlefield. Battlefield 2142 to be precise, not just because of the futuristic setting and vehicles, but also because victory hinges on the destruction of huge, mobile, airborne command points. The comparison is exact, but also misleading, because Battlefield is just a computer game, and DUST 514 is a world - or rather, half of one.

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The Command Pit is a lobby aboard the War Barge where players can assemble and plan ahead of a battle.

The other half is EVE, the immense, complex, political game of space trading and warfare that CCP has been running and steadily growing for some six years now. EVE is unusual among MMOs in that it presents an undivided, "single-shard" world in which all 300,000 players can interact with each other on one giant server; they all inhabit the same universe, New Eden. DUST 514 will put console gamers in that same single universe, as mercenaries fighting for control of planet surfaces just as EVE's spaceship pilots, organised into Corporations and Alliances, vie for sovereignty in space.

The two games will be linked, and the players of each will be able to interact - predominantly via CCP's New Eden social network, which launches early next year - and join forces to influence events in the galaxy. Initially, EVE players will be able to hire DUST players to attack planets or districts of planets for them, and players of both games will be able to join the same Corps and Alliances. "The link is something we will expand over time," says Sveinsson, mentioning the possibility that EVE and DUST players will eventually be able to walk around in the same social areas.

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You'll be able to watch Mobile Command Centres deploying from War Barges' hangars.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves, because EVE's all-consuming social metagame will be introduced to DUST players - and indeed, to the game itself - gradually. CCP is making DUST 514 in order to expand the appeal and player-base of its notoriously hardcore online world, but it understands it has to do so with care - both to avoid intimidating the new arrivals, and to avoid destabilising the economy and power structures enjoyed by its loyal EVE players.

"The majority of DUST players, at first, will not be engaged in the political arena," says Sveinsson. Instead, they will engage in a factional warfare system where it's NPCs, rather than players, engaging them to fight. "This is mainly for the new player experience and the first few months of DUST players' lives, a training area in a way," he says. "We understand that EVE players don't want total noobs in their world. It's also there to ensure there's a battle to be had if you just want quick fun."

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