CCP has been very upfront about the mistakes they made with EVE Online's Incarna expansion last year. Namely, they believe they added large features too quickly, which moved the focus of the game away from space combat.
This morning at EVE Online's Fanfest player convention in Iceland, I asked CCP CEO Hilmar Pétursson if he was concerned that they were making the same mistake by having their upcoming console shooter, DUST 514, interact with EVE Online at its launch.
He doesn't think so. "We're not trying to cram [DUST 514] into EVE Online. So it's different [from Incarna] in that sense: it's not going to affect your everyday EVE experience unless you want it to."
I was a bit surprised. For years, CCP has touted the integration between the games--which lets players on both sides talk with each other, work towards objectives, and even attack each other --as a revolutionary new feature. Pétursson continued, "That was the mistake of Incarna. It affected your EVE Online experience without you making that choice. And the choice and freedom is a big part of the value proposition of EVE. We took that away, and people were very unhappy about that. If we had just made it optional, that would've satisfied a lot of people that were raising concerns."
This is definitely the lesson taken away from the Incarna disaster--I've heard three different developers say that same thing today. But how can they make DUST and EVE's interactions entirely optional, but still engaging and worthwhile? Pétursson explained: "DUST will not have that same problem because it's not affecting you directly, unless you want it to. Then, of course, there's a huge opportunity when the PC game and the console game are connecting together and you're orbitally bombarding back and forth and all that. Of course we must make sure that we gain all the advantage of that, but that is going to be something that people optionally participate in."
I suggest that it'll probably be aggressive corporations eager to control as much territory as possible that'll be most enticed to participate in the new system. Pétursson agrees, and then drops a bomb.
"Yeah, and even, because, initially the EVE-DUST link will basically take place in NPC space. And it won't really go into null-sec until, sort of, January of next year, based on feedback. Because we know that factoring in those very passionate politics early too early is just, that's not the way to go."
Whoa. The DUST/EVE integration will only be allowed in a sub-section of the galaxy that is highly patrolled by NPC police. That should make fighting over position to launch orbital bombardments interesting. Pétursson defends their decision by comparing it to EVE's launch. "It's a little bit how EVE grew in the beginning: initially people were in high-sec and then they slowly moved into null-sec, where all the empires and all the drama occured. We're doing a similar thing with DUST, precisely to not affect people's daily lives immediately without any feedback."
I asked him if that makes the launch of EVE and DUST 514's integration features more of a beta test on live servers, in areas where players won't be as heavily invested in the territories in conflict.
Pétursson smiles, "Absolutely. It is precisely."