First announced in 2009, CCP Games' online first-person shooter tie-in to its popular sci-fi MMO, EVE Online, was finally released as an open beta on Tuesday. Called DUST 514, it allows PlayStation 3 owners to play in the same world as EVE Online, fighting ground battles while EVE Online pilots contest star systems. The results of DUST 514 matches affect worlds and in-game corporations in EVE Online, and EVE Online players can even use starship weaponry to bombard the planets DUST 514 matches take place on.
Introducing New Eden
EVE Online and DUST 514 take place in a distant star cluster called New Eden. In a scenario sort of like " Stargate" meets " Star Trek: Voyager," human space explorers found themselves trapped in New Eden, impossibly far from Earth, after using a one-way portal. Many thousands of years later, their descendants have formed completely new nations and ethnicities, and fight each other in space and on the ground over resources or ideology.
The most difficult MMO ever?
Widely regarded as very difficult -- a popular infographic depicts EVE's learning curve as a sheer cliff littered with stick figure bodies -- EVE Online is also known for its byzantine politics, which take place completely between players. Player-run alliances sink years into building enormous spacecraft, which can vanish in a single battle or thanks to one person's treachery.
A study in contrasts
DUST 514 is only available on the PlayStation 3 console, whereas EVE Online is for Windows PCs and Macs. DUST 514 is free to play and has no monthly fee, while EVE costs money to start and up to $14.95 per month (although there's an expensive in-game item which can be used to offset this fee). But perhaps the biggest contrast is the level of commitment required. Instead of managing a whole spacecraft and needing to keep track of where it's docked, DUST 514 players can just jump into instant battles, and are rewarded with experience and in-game currency each time.
Since the two games were linked together just a few weeks ago, however, EVE Online politics are beginning to affect DUST 514, and groups of players are getting drawn into its conflicts -- or being sent by EVE in-game alliances to fight for them.
A work in progress
DUST 514 still bears the "beta" tag, and the end-user license agreement reminds players of this, even pointing out that CCP Games may choose to reset players' gear and experience points at some time in the future. It has a very limited number of planet environments and only two styles of play, which basically amount to capture the flag and team deathmatch. CCP continues to develop DUST, however, promising that even more content will be available in the future.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.