For the presently-unaware, a few days ago, CCP announced that something interesting would be happening on the Dust 514 website by way of a gigantic countdown timer. The half-awake amongst us will have realised that this coincided with the E3 show (which is still on-going). Those that dug a little deeper worked out that it would align perfectly with the Sony Press Conference.
This in and of itself didn’t necessarily spell doom and gloom for those out there that have a 360 but not a PS3 – myself included: those who watched Microsoft’s presentation would have seen some Mass Effect 3 footage and said game using Kinect features, but Mass Effect 3 was never intended to be an exclusive on any platform. So there was still hope.
Once the Dust counter hit zero, we were ‘treated’ to a livestream of the press conference. I use inverted commas there, because it was the same stream you could see on GameTrailers, Gamespot, or any of the others covering E3. But after an hour or so of trudging through various games that none of us really cared about (even if some were quite pretty), we got what was probably the shortest presentation of the two-hour show.
Dust is to be a PS3 exclusive. And much rabbling ensued (and still is!) on ye olde tweetfleet.
Much as I still find the idea of having a run-and-gun game on a console somewhat silly – with analog sticks being such a poor means of accurately coordinating shots compared to the fidelity of the classic mouse and keyboard combination – the decision to make this game a console-only pewpew experience is one that makes a lot of sense.
CCP have always taken on difficult tasks. Eve itself is testament to that. While most MMO developers start on the micro level and scale things up with each expansion, CCP have done the opposite (for the most part) with Eve. They gave us a galaxy to play with, and as time’s gone on, they have been drilling down to give us more detail beyond its grass-roots epic space battles. You can see this in effect in PI today, and Incarna as it’s slowly released over the next year or so.
But what does that have to do with Dust? Its the same thing. Sure, its an abstraction from the game of Eve, but its not a separation from the world of Eve.
The climb in subscribers hasn’t been exponential for Eve. Its been steady up until now (with a few exceptions for things like Unholy Rage), but one has to wonder how many of those are unique new subscribers. I myself make up six subscriptions, for example. I think what CCP discovered a few years ago, is that their leading edge in sci-fi simulation wasn’t going to cut it forever. Sure, they get to enjoy a lot of luxuries because they’ve had no direct competition for the last eight years, but that just makes it a niche game, and sooner or later, you’re going to run out of niche gamers.
A move then – not only to another genre, but to an entirely different platform – makes sense. We’ve already seen the years of forum whining about Incarna being ‘irrelevant’ to Eve, and how people just want “moar spaceships!!”, so moving some of these not-so-spaceshippy activities to another game is probably a good idea.
PC gamers, by and large (unless they are literally blinkered by the likes of WoW) are at least aware of Eve these days. CCP’s flagship product enjoys interactions with the press far outreaching its meagre subscriber base size. Counter to this, is the console market. Having read some of the comments on places like the Playstation blog, a lot of the responses seem to be positive about Dust and that it “came out of left field”. People who game primarily on consoles haven’t really heard of Eve, but a lot of people that play shooters like squad-based gameplay and progression. If that wasn’t the case, the Battlefield games wouldn’t sell as well as they do.
By bringing one aspect of Eve to consoles exclusively, and having it still directly tied to the same online world we experience on our PCs exclusively, CCP can expand the interest in their IP to places that would otherwise have ignored it. Its a really good way of showing people the awesomeness of New Eden without directly alienating their existing customers.
Why the PS3?
I know, I know. When we last saw Dust actually being played, it was at FanFest 2009. Anyone paying attention could see then and there that it was being played on an XBox 360; the controllers are quite a give-away.
I’m not going to say I bought a 360 purely on that basis, but it did play a fairly substantial role in my decision of whether to get a 360 or PS3. Currently, it pretty much gathers dust (lolpun) sitting under the TV until such time as I feel like watching a DVD. I have some games for it, but its so rare that I feel like playing something not on the PC that its horridly underused.
So I should be grumpy about this PS3 exclusivity thing, no? Well, yes and no. Its been long enough since I bought the XBox that I don’t really feel it as a sting in the wallet. Sure, its annoying that I bought a console that I hardly use, but that’s more my fault than anything, and it still serves a purpose as a fairly decent (if expensive) DVD player.
But none of this gets to the heart of the matter. Why no longer on XBox?
I’ve seen comments from people in the past about expenses. How true these claims are, I couldn’t possibly say. These people talk about development costs and Microsoft taking commission on the use of their services and so on. If this is the case, then I can see why CCP would want to move away from such a relationship. Nobody is going to say that Dust isn’t a risky venture, and the better use of their literal ISK that CCP make, the less there is to lose should it all go pear-shaped.
On a personal level, I’ll be damned if I’m paying 15-20% more for a game on a console and then paying a subscription just to play it online when I can do so for free on the PC for less initial investment. And for this reason the PS3 makes more sense: it costs nothing to play online, as any non-MMO should.
There’s also the added bonus of developing for a single platform: it cuts down (potentially) on playtesting and QA time. We all know first-hand how CCP’s QA department can fumble a release, so this could be a blessing when it comes to updates to the game.
But What About…?
There’s a lot of pseudo controversial issues I’ve not talked about here. Like the end of the Dust trailer showing the mercs performing the inverse of the Future Vision video and taking out spaceships from the ground, or how Dust will interact with the PI system, or the micro-transaction ruination of everything good and pure in this world. These are all discussions that need to happen at some point, but they aren’t going to happen here. I’m happy to bounce ideas around with people in-game about the direction of Eve or Dust and how they could destroy (or enrich) each other, but I want to keep this platform primarily focused on Eve, and nothing else.
Will I Play It?
At this stage, I don’t know. I’m assuming a 2012 release, so there’s plenty of time for me to make a bit of money to buy a PS3, or trade-in the 360 I have. On the other hand, the last time I got vaguely hyped about a co-operative shooter was Brink just last month, and while I didn’t find the game as totally disagreeable as some did… even though I was playing with friends and the game featured character progression and levelling, it just didn’t hold my interest at all. I still only have 4 hours clocked on that game, and I have a horrible suspicion that Dust would end up the same as my 360 – gathering a thick cake of its namesake under the TV.