Thursday, December 8, 2011

Onlines Worlds, First-Person Shooters and DUST

Combining MMORPG's and Shooters is always a difficult procedure. Striking the right balance between long-term progression and the fast-paced, drop-in and drop-out action of the modern shooter can lead to some disastrous results. DUST is going to be facing these challenges by integrating itself into EVE. I think the best way to figure out how they may accomplish this is by examining other games that have approached this style and see how they did it.

Firstly, let's look at Call of Duty: Black Ops, a game my roommate played much of in college. Playing with friends or dropping into a completely random game, you still were in for short, 10-20 minute matches with fast-paced action an clear objectives. Team Fortress 2 shares this, and will likely be more familiar to PC players, but I chose Black Ops because of their progression system. Besides choosing your weapons and customizing your character, you have three enhancement slots to slot perks in. You can level up these perks by completing certain achievements to get better versions.

So, FPS players are not strangers to any sort of long term progression. But we find ourselves with a problem when we lean to hard on the MMO aspect. Global Agenda, a free-to-play shooter available on Steam, is an example of taking too much from the RPG department. Levels and stats are, in my opinion, not systems many shooter fans want to put up with. Achievements, unlockables and monetary systems are good things to bring in though, and Global Agenda ports this last one well by offering upgraded versions of weapons for tokens earned in game.

Match based gameplay is a tricky one. Specifically, how do you reconcile the battles in EVE with the drop-in and drop-out gameplay? Individual players could be catered to using a mercenaries style system: While a battle is raging, the corporations sponsoring each side could offer a payment for participating. Bonuses could be awarded for achieving certain goals, such as a certain amount of kills or successfully capturing a control point. Battles would be long term, but players could individually pick and choose with contracts to take based on how much money they want to earn and how long they want to play for.

In fact, ISK could form the basis of a tremendous amount of systems for DUST. Contracts could be drawn up with mercenary corporations to pay them to defend or attack, paying a premium for a guarantee on teamwork and skilled combatants. Weapons, vehicles and gear are suddenly opened up into a new market for EVE businessmen, and being able to reliably acquire the supplies you need in order to keep waging a battle could become a concern for corporations as well.

We run into an issue when it comes to the skill system, because even though the 'set it and forget it' style may work for EVE, DUST players may prefer a system that gives them more tangible benefits. EVE players know the worth of a 5% increase in the long term, but FPS players are more likely to wonder why the hell they need to wait a month for that bonus. The official website says that skill points can be earned in-combat or offlines, but CCP could really take a page from CoD in this regard and offer more active bonuses in the form of perks. The skill system would work on a smaller scale, but the perks system really shines for being able to customize your character without giving players too many difficult decisions.

Quick gameplay, money, guns and perks make up a comfortable set of systems that a typical FPS player can enjoy in his game. If they wanted to play an MMO they have many options to do so, but prefer this style of gameplay. The long term battles for planets and long term view that EVE players tend to take in their schemes and actions need to be tempered by a mercenary system that can appeal to FPS players. Though I do not own a PS3 (and pray that they consider a PC version of the title) I'm excited for the possibilities it could bring to the market and will be looking forward to watching this sub-genre evolve whether it fails or succeeds.

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