E3 2012: Dust 514 hands-on

Upon my arrival to my meeting at CCP Studios to come check out Dust 514, I was asked whether I'm familiar at all with EVE Online. Sadly, I had to say no since the space exploration/mining/ship combat never really striked me as interesting. On the other hand I also know its largely successful thanks to its format, but it just isn't for everyone. Why was I asked whether I'm familiar with EVE? Dust 514 is a persistent online shooter that isn't just based off of the same universe as EVE Online, but is based in the same universe.

At first, I was of course confused by how this works; after all, one is an MMO with very little action, while the other is a straight up shooter. Dust 514 puts you in the role of a mercenary looking for any job that pays well, and these jobs take place in the same maps, on the same planets, that appear in the PC MMO.

The way it works is quite fascinating. There are essentially three tiers to Dust 514's style of gameplay. The first tier is essentially you hopping online, selecting a quick match and shooting up some enemies in various maps — a simple way to get online and rank up some credits, without really needing to delve into the politics of EVE Online.

The second tier then involves various battles to be mandated by EVE Online, depending on the status of various planets, mining outposts, etc. The game will systematically make matches based off of the political status of various systems, which players can then take part of.

The third tier, and arguably the most interesting and ambitious, is the fully user-based model, where players on EVE Online will put bounties on various planets. The bounties then get offered to the mercenaries playing Dust 514, and they can choose to fight for the player who is attacking that system, or choose to help the player who currently owns that system to defend it. The defending player can then counteroffer a higher reward for choosing to fight on his side, which makes this dynamic completely unpredictable. Talk about amazing! This essentially means that the game can be fully driven by the community, rather than the devs having to develop new content.

This user-driven system is what the devs behind Dust 514 hope that the game becomes. Being free-to-play will allow anyone to jump in and take part in the fight, though as any free-to-play game, you can bet that there is an in-game marketplace. Luckily, the marketplace supports both in-game money as well as real money, and will offer stat boosts, exp boosts, various vehicle drops, and a slew of weapons.

Dust 514 easily impressed me as the most ambitious title of E3, and willing that players will participate on both ends of the spectrum, one being EVE Online, and the other being Dust 514, this synergy of the two titles along with the planned community-driven missions will make Dust 514 one to watch out for.