NDA on Dust 514 got lifted today, so let’s dig a bit into what makes it role playable.
Let’s start with EVE. Dust takes place in the same world and the same single shard, so not just the backstory, also the EVE market, warfare and politics apply to Dust. What makes EVE so RP friendly is that you can RP the game, not just RP in the game. The main emphasis on EVE is on PvP – the warfare, mining, manufacturing and market are all player-driven; practically all items player characters use are manufactured by other players and sold on market for profit at whatever price the supply and demand set.
The special feature of PvP, instead of scripted content, is the realism and non-repeatability. On scripted content, to keep costs at bay, the script is reused. On some special cases one player gets the one scripted mission/quest only once; on typical case you end up killing the same rogue for dozens of times. And even on those special cases all *other* players in your faction get the same scripted content, ie. kill the same rogue. Not to mention all players on other shards.. This means it’s hard to believably RP this with others – everyone has the same “I killed then mighty dragon and saved the city” story to tell.
On EVE, especially as there is no sharding, if you were there when Dal fell, you were there, and you know exactly who else was. The incident never repeats exactly the same, so you can talk about whatever you character did and it actually happened in the same space-time-continuum than everyone else is in. Also, you can mostly avoid AI-run opponents, meaning AIs lacking the “I” part does not kill SoD either. PvP opponents might be stupid, but they are very realistically stupid..
Another social friendly feature of EVE is that a relatively young character can meaningfully be on same ops than age-old vets. The skill system is based on specialization and diminishing returns, meaning if you specialize very narrowly, you can almost reach the vets in just few months. And if you are at 90% of the vets, that’s good enough, because on team work the selected strategy, group discipline and your brains cause a lot more variance than that.
Another feature of EVE that supports teaming up with players with different amount of time on their hands is the training system – skill points accumulate over calendar time, not by using skills. This means casual players don’t drop past the hyper active players that fast.
So, Dust. Dust shares the same game world and it uses mostly the same skill system. Because it’s an avatar-based game, it needs more hand-eye coordination from the player than EVE, but it, too, relies heavily on specialization, group work and diminishing returns. For example, you get +5% to light weapon range per level of Light Weapon Sharpshooter skill. Now, on EVE every further level costs about 3 times as much SP than the previous one; in Dust it’s more like 2. However, this means the level V gives the same absolute amount of benefit than level I, yet it costs dozens of times as much SP. This means the gap between the very best and the quite good is actually quite tolerable; enough that bringing one extra person already tips it to the favor of the younger characters.
And now, most of these benefits apply to Dust as well as EVE.
What is slightly different on Dust is that, unlike EVE, you get SP also from playing the game. You gain certain amount of SP “passively” like EVE, but you can get similar amounts “actively” by playing the game. This means active players will gain ground faster than casual players, compared to EVE. However, the diminishing returns still apply; after certain point you will be close enough on *certain role* so that the vet no longer has sizable advantage.
It can be argued Dust characters have less variance on career paths than EVE characters, at least at this stage of the development – for example EVE characters can have totally pacifistic roles like manufacturer or miner, whereas currently on Dust everyone fights on planets; different people just have different roles on the fighting unit. However, when it comes to RP, Dust characters should not have disadvantage here.
Another angle to look at is the separation of character and player skills. With my limited time with Dust it would seem it’s not worse than EVE in this respect; in both games you need certain amount of player skill to triumph, it’s just partially different types of skills that are needed.
Now, what makes it stand out for non-RPer from other FPS games? First of all, the principle of diminishing returns is of benefit for everyone who wants to play with friends with different amounts of experience. Second, the single shard and realistic politics are what everyone in EVE and Dust is part of. Dust characters will play a role in the said politics, and their efforts can make a difference; EVE characters cannot directly fight on the planets, and Dust characters benefit form the orbital bombardment EVE characters can provide. Third, the realistic market will also play a role. Equipment will in the future come from the same EVE market, and loot will be sold there; laws of supply and demand and fights over rare resources will enter Dust, too.
And of course, just the idea of having cross-game teams where both need to play they role well for the effort to succeed is an intriguing one. Both Dust and EVE characters have different kind of trouble on getting the orbital strikes from EVE ships to Dust battleground timed and positioned right, and both can die in the process by some other party unless they pay close attention to the scene. I fully expect pirates to start hunting the orbital bombers whose attention is partially on the dust side. And treacherous EVE characters to leave their mercenaries to die.