REYKJAVIK, ICELAND—Dust 514 is dead. Long live Dust.
Okay, not really. Dust 514, CCP's "first-person-shooter-tied-into-EVE-Online-through-some-kind-of-magic" still exists and will exist for the foreseeable future. They're not shutting down the servers anytime soon, and in fact every CCP developer I've spoken to at Fanfest has reiterated the company's commitment to Dust 514 players.
But as a PlayStation 3 exclusive there's no doubt its days are numbered—and no doubt that Dust 514 didn't really pan out as well as either CCP or EVE players hoped.
So why not start anew?
We are Legion
Project Legion, unveiled today at Fanfest during the Dust 514 keynote, is essentially a new CCP prototype, along the lines of EVE: Valkyrie at last year's show. In other words, CCP is gauging whether there's interest in Legion, which is a first-person shooter built for the PC.
In other other words, CCP has taken everything it learned making Dust and transferred it to this new project. Yes, new project. This is not simply Dust 514 ported to the PC. It's an entirely new effort by CCP to make a first-person, ground-based shooter based in the EVE universe.
I got a chance to speak with Project Legion executive producer Jean-Charles Gaudechon prior to Legion's official announcement, and he told me a bit of what to expect. Full interview transcript below.
Deep-ish dive with Jean-Charles Gaudechon
What is Project Legion?
Jean-Charles Gaudechon (JCG): Project Legion is a—
I mean, is it Dust on PC?
JCG: No! There's some pieces of it, absolutely. There's a studio that's spent five years building a shooter—you don't throw that away. It's a shooter.
But it's a very different experience. Just to give you a little bit of background, when I joined CCP several months ago it was very much with the idea of carrying the banner forward. Take Dust 514 forward and deliver on the promise of a true sandbox, first-person experience in New Eden. That's the vision of this.
And I felt that, as I sat with the team and we discussed where to take it, that it became quite different. That it became its own thing. And that's where Project: Legion was born, as a part of the team in Shanghai. They've started working for the past few months—it's still fairly early. We're in prototype phase on this.
We're salvaging some of the best of Dust, but it's a brand new experience. The way I see this, that ecosystem of what Project Legion is, it's three pillar.
It's a deep, balanced competitive shooter—that's the core, moment-to-moment gameplay. It's a sandbox experience, with some player versus environment in there mixed into that experience. That's important because that adds looting, and creation of value is getting you looting in these sandbox areas. And the third piece, the cement of that ecosystem, is the player-driven economy—player trading and stuff like that.
Two out of the three pillars? All new. It's a brand new experience. A different experience.
And all of this is still in the wrapper, which is the EVE universe, New Eden.
How do you bring something like an economy into a shooter? Normally in a shooter you have one thing to do—
JCG: You shoot at people. Yeah, well, and that's really the question because that's the loop of the ecosystem. Basically the way I see the experience is—you'll see some of this in the live demo. Not a lot, or all the stuff I'm talking about here, but some of it. But the idea is that in your merc quarter, which is basically a space facility, you'll be scanning New Eden and you're going to find stuff to do.
It's going to say, "Well, I found"—because we're geeking out a bit with an OS that helps you find stuff, but basically—"I found two PvP contracts for you to take on, good money, et cetera. I found a tournament, which is Guristas. Make some big money but there's some betting involved. Or scavenging grounds. Scavenging grounds are that sandbox experience in Project Legion.
So once you have these choices, you're like "I'm going to go scavenge some stuff because I need some gear." The looting piece of it starts there. You're going to drop on the face of a planet where you're going to see some ambient threats, which will be the drones in the first situation. And then other players—it will be social, all together, not PvP-style but higher sec in that world—you're going to be able to shoot at some drones, get some stuff from the ground. It's the aftermath of a battle, or you're getting some gear for the next battle, or to get some money by putting it on the market. That's where you see that ecosystem, that loop, started.
So how do you get gear? How do you get an economy? That way. Get that gear. Do I sell it? Some people will just do this. They'll find the best places in the universe to get the best gear they can—they'll master that, and they'll master the way you play the markets and make a lot of money. That's one way to play the game.
On the other side, if you have someone playing their pure shooter, they're like "I don't shoot drones, I don't chat with people. I'm here to shoot people in the face, so that's what I'm going to do"—cool. That person can get the gear he needs through the market. It's fed from the sandbox areas, the scavenging grounds, but they both meet on the market. That's why I call it the cement of the system.
That's how you make an economy out of a shooter.
CCP has a legacy of eleven years of EVE Online now. They tend to be a company that puts out a game and that's their game for a long time. Do you think it was a mistake launching Dust on a platform that was already on its way out by the time Dust released?
JCG: Well, not when they started. [Laughs]
No, I really don't think so. I really think we learned a lot by getting on PS3. We also formed a really strong collaboration with Sony, which helped a lot along the way. Being able to have people on the PC shoot at people on the PS3—that kind of interaction's really cool. And if there's something CCP does, it's that they take on challenges. They mess with them all the time, and they find a way to solve it. I think it was a real novelty, a real innovation. There was some really cool gameplay that came out of it.
Was it a mistake to launch on PS3? No. If today the idea is "Why are you going to PC now?" I feel that today, from what we have, the experience we're trying to do, PC is the right way to win at first.
Also, remember this is a free-to-play product, and the PC is a big market for free-to-play. That's part of it.
It allows us to go and touch a lot of people with a really strong experience. And then I think the final thing is that PC is part of the DNA of CCP, to your point. It's natural for our products to be on PC and expand. That doesn't remove any other plans out of it, but I very much feel that today it's time for an on-the-ground experience to go PC. Absolutely.
Will Legion be doing the same tie-in stuff with EVE as Dust?
JCG: Absolutely. EVE Link is part of our identity. That should stay.
Is it going to stay as-is? I want to see how the ecosystem we just talked about evolves, and depending on that it will give us the keys to how to do the proper interactions with it. But how I see the two games living together? It's not necessarily needing each other, or making them in each others' way. It's making the experience better together.
"Better together." When I talked to the team, I said "Guys, think of it that way." And perhaps cooperating together gets resources to each, and each has a real reason to be fighting together. But not in a forced way. More in a "Damn, that's awesome. Why wouldn't I do that if I get that out of it?" And both games get close together.
What happens to Dust now that Legion exists?
JCG: Dust is going strong. Dust is going really well. Dust is a product we're really proud of, and that's not about to change. Again, in six months or a year it's difficult to say today, and Legion is very much in a prototype phase, so let's not put the cart before the horse...
So basically by the time Legion comes out, Dust might not be a factor.
JCG: It's tough to say today. Exactly. Right now, what we know is we have a solid shooter on the PS3, and we have this other cool project we're starting. We're proud to show some stuff early and get a lot of feedback, absorb a lot of feedback. That's always how CCP does it: Get out there, show what we've got in a very open way, and get feedback on it. I think it's the right way to do it. It's the right way to make games. And that will help us shape that project anyway.
So right now, what happens to Dust? More shooting people in the face. That's what's going to happen to Dust.
What are you planning for the free-to-play aspects?
JCG: We've learned a lot. I personally come from...I was doing that on products at EA before. I was already quite a bit in the free-to-play business before, which allowed me to understand I think what makes a strong or good free-to-play experience, and not a frustrating one. That's normally the frustration with players, like "Ah, when are you going to stop the movie to ask for money?" That's not the way to go, I really think.
Also, I think EVE has been a free-to-play product for a long time, with the PLEX system. A lot don't realize, but people who play a lot can just buy a subscription.
So I think we're in a very strong position to make a free-to-play product learning from Dust, learning from EVE Online, and with the right DNA in the team to offer that. We've learned how to make it non-frustrating, so I think that answers a lot of the worries from the community.
The game is being made in Unreal?
You mentioned it's a sandbox-style game. How much structure is there actually going to be?
JCG: There will be structure. There will. If your question is "Are we...Rust?" I guess, no we're not. And we don't want to be either. It's cool. I love that type of product, absolutely a big fan, but the one line I always go back to is "How do we deliver on the promise of a true sandbox, first-person experience in New Eden?"
That's a very loaded sentence. You have sandbox. You have first-person. You have experience. And then you have New Eden. That's a very different experience there. Some of it, we'll have challenges or missions for you to do. We'll have game modes as you know them—Skirmish, and that type of stuff. And a piece of it will be a much more open, sandbox experience—the scavenging grounds are the first example of that.
I don't think all of that is mutually exclusive. You see EVE and some other products that offer a really complete experience. It's kind of the, "What am I going to do?" Scan the universe and, hmm, that. That's what I want.
And even further, when we look at planetary conquest today, there's that man on the moon feeling where you say "I'm going to drop in here." And then you drop in and you say "That's a very big drone. I can't take that by myself." You call your friends or you leave or whatever. That's the idea.
When people say, "Are you open-world if you call yourself a sandbox?" I say "Nope, but we're open-universe."
Will the corporation system from EVE come into this game to bolster the economy system?
JCG: We have it in Dust 514. A lot of people sometimes don't know, but we have a whole corporation system. We have a chat system that's linked with the EVE chat system. We have a mail system. That social experience is already at the heart of Dust 514.
And stronger from these learnings, that will absolutely translate to Project Legion.
...And that's it
Unfortunately that was all I had time for, but people have been asking for CCP to create a game similar to Dust 514, but for a PC for years now. It's not that Dust 514 was a bad concept or ultimately a bad shooter. Unpolished? Sure. An egregious amount of microtransactions? Sure. But really, Dust launched on the wrong platform at the wrong time in that platform's lifecycle.
Like EVE: Valkyrie, I'm sure we'll see more of Project Legion soon. As someone who's always wanted to participate in EVE without the "spreadsheets in space" aspect, I'm looking forward to it.