EVE Online developer CCP is preparing to embark on a new experiment in online game convergence with its upcoming console tie-in, Dust 514. In a recent interview, CCP's CEO Hilmar Pétursson discussed some of the steps that are being taken to integrate the upcoming PlayStation 3 shooter--Dust 514--into the same persistent universe as the PC-only MMO, the methodology that will be used to ensure the games will compliment each other in meaningful ways, and the challenges of supporting both games into the foreseeable future.
The PlayStation 3 won't be the first platform beyond the PC to be invaded by the EVE Online universe. Pétursson explained to industry site Develop that the philosophy of launching Dust 514 on the PlayStation 3 is quite different from platform convergence. "You can look at current industry trends as convergence, with all consumer devices offering similar services, but I look at it as expansion," he said. "Eve was a core experience that has expanded to many other devices. From that perspective it's almost the opposite of convergence.
"We're proliferating Eve, not converging it," Pétursson posited, before referencing a fan-made Android app for Eve Online that has garnered around 100,000 downloads, and Eve Universe, an tie-in iPad application made for iOS.
"Our fans had such a desire to put the Eve experience on mobile devices that they made an Android app," said Pétursson. "That's the philosophy here – expanding the experience into new devices when there is a desire to."
There's a great number of amazing apps developed by the community, and this is all through a relatively simple gateway. Compare that to the gateway we're about to open with Dust... We want to give the application developers more help in building their apps and their own Eve products.
Pétursson's assertion that he would "rather think of Dust as an integrated experience with Eve," makes even more sense, in that light. "There are so many people who are naturally intimidated by getting started on Eve," he said. "And that's what Dust is for. It allows people to participate in this massive world by just picking up a controller."
Even the PlayStation Vita is set to play a role in the EVE Online universe. "We were thinking about giving people access to more asynchronous parts of the game," Pétursson mused. "But now, having looked at Vita, I'm sure our teams will have many ideas as soon as they get hold of the device for themselves."
The developer also touched on how both Dust 514 and EVE will be supported in the future. After all, EVE has been able to receive fairly seamless support on the PC, a feat that will be tough to duplicate on consoles due to certification processes. Consoles also have a finite life cycle. Though there's still much to be determined, CCP has a plan.
There is a big roadmap for the game and all its updates," Pétursson said. "Obviously we have to wait for customer feedback to determine our decisions. Now, we have been faced with technology upgrade challenges for years. We release new versions of Eve at a time when most people don't have the technology to support it, so we operate both the old and new versions of Eve on the same client and allow people to migrate.
We will continue to develop on PlayStation 3 even after the release of Dust, and I think the game's audience is more used to constant updates than people may assume. I mean, if you look at Call of Duty, that essentially is an online experience that has undergone mass migration across three games.
If there is a PlayStation 4 – which I can tell you now I have no idea if there is – but if there was, we would build Dust for that console as well. It will most likely be a revision of the experience, as with all updates, and could allow people to play across PS3 and 4.
Integration between Dust 514 on the PlayStation 3 and the PC's EVE Online is an ambitious proposition, to be sure. CCP intends to make sure that community feedback continues to play an important role in the development of both games. "The moment when we really meaningfully begin that dialogue will be at Fanfest this year," Pétursson explained. "We'll be speaking to the die hard fans, and have roundtable discussions, both for Eve and Dust--talking to people about what they're concerned about – getting feedback on their ideas about how the games interplay."
"Obviously we have the basic designs and ideas, but we really need to make sure we crack that puzzle of finding a compelling Dust experience for Eve players," he concluded.
As far as the connectivity between the PC and PS3 goes, players in both games will be able to communicate via CCP's social network. "We already have cross-game text chat working, and we're looking into cross game voice chat too," said Pétursson. "There are also more structured engagement between Dust and Eve players in terms of in game mission contracts going back and forth," he continued. "We also have a huge commitment to orbital bombardment."
Dust 514 is currently planned to require an initial purchase on top of a monthly subscription fee, but CCP is looking for a solution that will best allow them to bring in new players, while ensuring the core community and early adopters are being served well. When asked about the possibility of some sort of free-to-play model, Pétursson didn't rule it out. "Whether we go free, or how soon we do it, are questions that will be answered the more the experience evolves," he said.
CCP still hasn't decided if Dust 514 will see a retail release or if it will only be available via digital download.