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Dust, EVE and CCP's new sandbox
 Dust, EVE  and CCP's new sandbox
November 12, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander

November 12, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Programming, Design

EVE Online is a machine that allows players to create stories, and all its systems support that end. According to lead designer Kjartan Pierre Emilsson, speaking at NYU's PRACTICE conference, it's a "beast" that's "quite daunting for new players," but it has its own ethos. Set in the vastness of space, EVE presented the team with the interesting opportunity to populate different planets.

The entire universe was created procedurally, using various algorithms. "Space is mostly empty, and we had all these planets laying around there doing nothing, so we wanted to do something with all of those," he says. Hence Dust 514 coming to PlayStation 3 -- it's different from EVE, but is an extension of the same IP that shares the same universe.

"The idea is that you have some kind of free ground to play with, and whenever you interact with it you leave some kind of persistent trail on it," Emilsson explains of the way CCP defines EVE's sandbox universe. "You also modify your environment, and the fact that you modify your environment will affect the destiny of others."

"The idea here is that you provide players with the tools and the materials to build from, and as soon as you do that, they will build castles," he adds. "And because they put their own effort into it it sort of gives them a strong sense of ownership, and they will care much more for what they build themselves."

In a single sandbox there's no limit to the social networks that can form or the scale of what players can build, and it enhances verisimilitude, an important trait for the EVE universe.

dust 1.jpg"For people to really believe in a world, it needs to be believable -- if I open this door, I expect to come into a room, I don't expect scaffolding," he says. "So it's not a question of graphic fidelity, it's more like when you do something you expect it to behave in a certain manner... when you do an action, you expect it to have consequences."

"Our sand is really a multidimensional matrix in a ... live database where you have certain constraints," Emilsson explains. "Just as a player working in the sand literally in this, a player playing with this leaves a data trail in this pile of sand. That is a way of communicating."

The task for Dust was to rethink EVE, factor out the universe, look at the game itself as a tool -- and see what other tools could be added. Dust is fairly typical conquest-style gameplay that sets players to competing for districts and resources. But how does that blend with the EVE universe? It starts with the social structure -- corporations are the same in both games, so that PC and console can share the same shard from a design perspective, too.

"We want to believe the universe exists in a sort of high-level way... we want things to be believable, with global conquest between the games. This is our hope," Emilsson explains. The rationale is that the more players interact and the more the number of interactions, the better it is for everyone -- the higher the value proposition for others.

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So Eve is a sandbox with lots of toys to build into your own play civilization, while Dust is just a playground that has already been built by others in the EVE universe in which a Halo style MMOFPS can take place. Is that about right?

IT sounds all very interesting, but I'm a little FPS out.

Kevin Alexander
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Fleet flies, and M.I. dies.

Trent Tait
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PS3 only? They really thought that through.

Jeremy Glazman
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I think they went with a Sony exclusive because Microsoft wasn't allowing free-to-play, microtransactions, or certain cross-platform connectivity on XBLA when they started developing Dust. That might not be true anymore for XBLA, but it's too late.