I wrote before why I would not go down the DUST-514 route but limit my CCP-time to EVE Online and spaceships. I used Planet Side 2 as a stand-in for DUST since I did not own a console and found the experience rather wanting. If I decide to spend an hour of my day in front of a computer game, it better be immersive, persistent and social. It better be EVE.
Well, thus went my thinking until recently when I broke down and bought a PlayStation because I am bored of maintaining a dedicated media PC that does nothing than stream Netflix or Amazon Prime movies. A Roxio or a PlayStation could do the same with far less noise and heat generation. And I never had a BlueRay player.
So I “installed” DUST-514 and went to roll a character. First disappointment. I had assumed that they would use the – rather outstanding – EVE character creation tools. After all, DUST-514 fills the gaping hole in EVE’s gameplay, i.e. the character that I can bond with, shape to my liking and care about – it being a leftover of the disastrous “Incarna” expansion. But DUST’s character selection is a single screen outlining who the different races are and thats pretty much it. Sure you are running around the planets in armor suits but wouldn’t it have been nice to have a station environment to kick back and relax, plot the next battle, hang out with friends? Walk in stations?
Oh well. I better join battle. My experience with FPS games is that first you need to find a quiet corner somewhere and try the controls, move, jump duck, aim, fire, reload and “use”. Pretty much all games of this genre work the same but PlayStations of course come with a controller, a contraption I have never used. So, while getting blasted with walls of unreadable help text (a feature clearly designed for a computer screen, not a TV), I careened around some industrial building staring at the floor or the sky and accidentally lobbing grenades at my spawn mates. My real body sat uncomfortably on the sofa with outstretched arms holding controller like a steering wheel, cramped fingers mashing random buttons. I must have looked like a air traffic controller suppressing a bout of diarrhea. Even my cat thought this was a waste of time and left in disgust.
After about an hour, I got the hang of it and logged off. I may spring for a keyboard / mouse combination without which this game is not playable – no idea what possessed them to release it with a controller as input. But what I totally lacked was the reason why DUST was launched in the first place. There was absolutely no hint whatsoever of EVE’s fleets of pilots above my head. As far as I was concerned, I was playing a bad copy of PlanetSide 2 with complicated drop suits that don’t really matter unless you get more ISK or skills. If I had been totally a PlayStation jock with no concept of EVE Online, I’d probably drop the game on the spot, as a shooter it simply does’t compete with a 5 year old version of Halo, Battlefield or any other franchise.
But I probably will come back – it is tied into EVE somewhere and I want to find it. I think that CCP is onto something visionary – yes, a Jesus Feature. The company created a parallel universe (“New Eden”) as a staging ground for interconnected entertainment products. DUST-514 is the first in a (hopefully) long list of franchises that interact with this universe and once one gets over that point, many avenues open. Planetary Interaction could well be its own mini game played on mobile platforms, so could station trading and contracting. Those are obvious – they are already part of EVE Online. But there are many more ways, Zynga-style puzzles like the recent hacking mini-game could be run from within Facebook. Open world exploration games like FarCry or Skyrim are equally possible with unlimited numbers of planets to take place on.
If this vision became true, CCP is not the game developer anymore but the platform, the Eco-system for entertainment to take place – pretty much any game could occur within New Eden’s vast boundaries. The trick is to couple them together tightly with loose controls. I.e. the much-hailed butterfly effect that I can either explore or ignore as I please.
The tool to do this is being developed by CCP and its called “CREST“. In principle, its an API that hooks into CCP’s game engine allowing control read and (soon) write access into their databases. A Zynga Facebook game generates “Robotics” and puts it onto the Jita market? CREST should be able to do it. But where is it? Is it actually being developed? Since “Incarna” it has been rather quiet around this entire concept.
Which would be a shame – I really want CCP to win, not because I hold stock or I am a EVE player but I like companies that take risks and prove the market and the competitors wrong. Who would have thought that EVE was still around (and growing) after 10 years?
So, I will be patient with DUST-514. It may be good, it may be bad, time will tell. The product that CCP rolled the company dice on is “CREST”.