DUST 514 fans are revolting over their seeming abandonment, and being angry about CCP's sudden shift from focusing on the PlayStation 3 game to a possible PC-only future with Project Legion is rational.
There are also big changes coming to EVE Online, including a new model that introduces 10 new updates every year.
The real story that came out of Fanfest was one that many people missed however, although understanding what’s going on helps makes sense of everything else. CCP is in the process, and those are definitely the very early stages of this plan, of creating the equivalent of Battle.net for internet space ships.
Things were something of a mess even a few months ago. CCP was working on its breakout hit, Eve Online, it was developing a World of Darkness MMO for the PC that would introduce a whole new universe to CCP’s catalog of games, and it was supporting a PlayStation 3 free-to-play title. So what has changed in the past few weeks?
CCP has slimmed down to become laser-focused on the Eve Universe. There is no comment on the CCP-owned World of Darkness setting being used for another game, but CCP has strongly declared that it’s in the business of internet spaceships, to the exclusion of everything else.
Suddenly the plan of four games stretched across two platforms and two universes has changed to a business plan that includes three games, all on the PC. Eve Online, Eve: Valkyrie and Project Legion are the three big titles that were discussed during Fanfest, and each one of those games operates inside the same world, and they’re all on the PC.
There are still some things off to the side, including the continual existence of Dust 514 on the PlayStation 3. I was told that if the player base remains, the game will be supported, but that’s only part of the story.
All three styles of play could come together in an epic war
The reality is that CCP admitted that Dust wasn’t great, they stated support may be lessened in the near future, and Project Legion is already shaping up to be a much more interesting game. CCP won’t kill Dust 514 with a bullet in the head, it will likely just wrap a string around its neck and wait for it to slowly suffocate.
Eve Valkyrie is also coming to the PlayStation 4, but that won’t happen until there are solid plans for the release of Project Morpheus. Fanfest attendees were shown a much earlier build of the game on Sony’s hardware, while the Unreal Engine 4 version of the game, which was much improved, was only shown on the Rift hardware. We know that Valkyrie is coming to Sony’s platforms, but there are just as many questions as answers about when that may happen.
So there are three games, in one universe, with a focus on a single platform. What’s next?
One pilot, one war, many ways to fight
There was a project called "EVE United" that was briefly shown during the final keynote of Fanfest in Iceland, and this is the real prize for CCP.
The demo we were shown included a single screen that could launch Eve Online, Vaklyrie and Project Legion, along with a single character you controlled in each game.
We were shown a female character who changed outfits and weaponry to reflect whatever game you were going to play. A single program that controls all three PC games, that you can access through a single login, sharing social functions between all three games, with character creation and progression shared throughout the entire EVE Universe? Things suddenly became very interesting.
It gets better. This system would allow CCP to offload the launcher and social functions from Tranquility, the EVE Online server, which would increase performance in the game. We’ve already seen owners of the collector’s edition of EVE Online be given exclusive ships for the upcoming Valkyrie, and the trend of sharing a single economy and content between all three games could be a powerful motivator.
Imagine earning ISK in Eve Online by mining and then using it buy gear in Project Legion, or finding a rare piece of equipment in Project Legion and selling it for ISK that can be used to buy PLEX so you don’t have to spend money on your Eve Online subscription? Or perhaps your fighter in Valkyrie will share customization options with your ship in Eve Online so when you log into the game your corporation’s livery is already displayed during your games?
These are just a few ideas, and of course we're describing a service that stretches across three games, two of which aren’t out yet and one of which is more of an idea than a real game. We’re looking down a long corridor and describing very ambitious things. But CCP is just like every other company that is interested in, or already owns, their distribution platform; they want to create an ecosystem where every player interaction creates value for their games.
Having three titles that are all operate in the same world, all of them on PC, and then leveraging players by introducing interactions in the game’s economies and battles is a powerful weapon to try to lock players into a single world that stretches across multiple games.
This is just a way to make the sandbox a bit bigger, and invite different players in. Once they’re there, the draw of moving over to the other two games may prove hard to resist, or at least players will find value in trading ISK, working together across games or simply enjoying shared characters and lore. The latest trailer out of Fanfest, embedded in this story, hints at what the game may look like in the future: All three styles of play coming together in an epic war.
This is what CCP wants, and it’s why it's cutting the throat of World of Darkness and potentially leaving Dust 514 behind to atrophy. World of Darkness may have been an interesting game, but it wouldn’t have provided value for the other properties. Dust 514 may enjoy a small but hardcore following, but it lives on a console of the previous generation.
This new structure leaves little room for another World of Darkness game, and it wouldn't surprised me if that property was sold to an interesting party who would like to use the setting, or perhaps get back into the pen-and-paper role-playing business.
CCP can now create a much larger ecosystem and economy based on a player-controlled world of internet space ships and, as they keep repeating, internet space ships are serious business.
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