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Dissecting CCP's Vision For The Future Of EVE Online

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The unquestionable high note of the EVE Online Fanfest this year was an exciting video showing how EVE Online will fit together with Incarna and DUST 514. Incarna is the 'walking in stations' portion of the game that is slowly being phased in over several years, starting with designing characters like those we currently have, then adding walking around captains' quarters, and finally full-fledged meandering around stations with other players. DUST 514 is the mysteriously named first-person shooter that will feature teams of quasi-immortal mercenaries fighting over lucrative districts on planets, possibly in cahoots with EVE Online pilots.

If there is one thing CCP does exceptionally well, it is make great-looking trailers of their games. This video depicts a seamless integration of the three arenas of spaceship combat, planet-based mercenary teams, and a player aboard a station coordinating the whole thing.

Though not necessarily representative of the final form that the games may take, it may still prove interesting to take a close look at what the video is showing us.

Above The Planet

EVE Online

Okay, it's a nice fleet, but I'd love to know what they plan to do about those Nyxes off-screen.

First, check out the video: it's here. Cool, right? But there are hints here about what we can expect from CCP in the future.

The movie opens up with a shot of ships gathering above a terrestrial planet, including numerous industry related ships and a fleet of Nyx supercarriers. A large satellite structure looms nearby, seemingly some sort of space elevator.

A Civire Caldari man gazes intently at them for a minute, then checks his futuristic palm pilot. As he turns to go, a red-headed Gallente woman notes his departure.

The two of them are apparently inside of a station of some kind (not aboard a ship). The satellite structure appears to be a space elevator because of the large cable extending from its lower portions. It is likely that the surface-side connections of such structures are what DUST mercenaries will be fighting for control over.

Mercenary Aspirations

The Caldari man returns to his quarters to find a squawking video call from a DUST mercenary. It is some kind of battlefield uplink. The mercenary says that his team has reached the last checkpoint before their target. The Caldari asks whether they can take the ground station, and the mercenary replies that they need air support. The mercenary insists that the Caldari promised air support, and the Caldari affirms that it will be there. "You just send that airstrike and the money, we'll take care of the rest," says the mercenary leader.

The scene fades from a video call to the planet surface, where the mercenary is taking cover behind what is left of a building wall. He is clutching an automatic rifle of some kind, and wearing futuristic combat armor.

The mercenary leader breaks cover, and we see the rest of his team: a swarm of other infantry some vehicles, including a hovering troop carrier of some sort and what appears to be a tank that moves on treads. The battlefield is covered with smoke, explosions, and debris.

Another mercenary is hit by some rifle fire. As he falls to the ground there is a sort of flickering light around his body. Though most likely an effect of the weapon that killed him, it may be some sort of personal shield, or part of the resurrection process that the DUST mercenaries undergo when they die.

As the mercenary leader slides behind another chunk of wall, he comes under fire from a turret. It is some kind of automatic, unmanned security turret. The turret sports the Caldari state logo on one of its legs.

The mercenary leader yells for another mercenary to use his 'jacks', some sort of rocket launcher that fires a twirling set of about five rockets. It takes the turret out in one shot. It is worth noting that the guy using jacks does so from behind what appears to be a land rover with a gun turret that can be used by a second mercenary. Moments later, an enemy tank rolls in and destroys the guy with the jacks and the land rover in a single shot.

An Elegant Operation

As the mercenary leader again demands air support, we see the Caldari back in his quarters aboard the station. He is examining an overview of the battle. After aborting an airstrike, he sets up an orbital bombardment. We can briefly see his overview of the battle, including a shattered stretch of highway that the mercenaries are fighting near and the disposition of both mercenary teams. The Caldari gravely informs the mercenaries (apparently called 'Vanguard') that "help isn't coming, at all." A blast of energy strikes the battlefield from the sky, killing everybody. We can briefly see a tower that makes up the ground connection of the space elevator.

The camera zooms back out to the planet's orbit, showing the space elevator (now quite visible as such) and a Moros Gallente dreadnought that is firing at the planet's surface. The Moros is clearly the source of the orbital bombardment.

All's Fair

EVE Online

Whatever happens with Incarna and DUST 514, it is bound to add new dimensions to an the turbulent world of EVE Online.

As the music kicks up a notch, we see that red-headed Gallente from before moving down a hallway. Her body briefly shimmers around the edges, perhaps indicating that she had been concealing herself. It is also possibly a trick of perspective, with the camera viewing her through a pane of glass.

The camera cuts back to space, and we see a fleet of Caldari ships warping in, including a Phoenix dreadnought and a smattering of smaller ships. A trio of Manticore stealth bombers open fire on the Moros, even as the Caldari watches the destruction caused by his orbital bombardment. The redhead enters the Caldari's quarters, holding a pistol and catching him by surprise. She tilts her head and smirks as a taunt, and the sound of a gunshot is heard. The video ends.

Some Conclusions

First, a caveat: though this video is awesome, it will take CCP years to get to that point. DUST 514 probably will not be released in 2011, and walking in stations will probably not be at a point where multiple people are in the same room until 2012. Some parts of the video, like assassinating another player in their quarters, seem rather unlikely to ever happen as depicted.

That said, the video makes good fodder for speculation:

DUST Mercenaries: The mercenaries seem to constantly be dropped off mid-battle via airdrop. According to previous buzz about DUST 514, there is a real mercenary command structure that players will need to work with. This is quite visible in the video.

DUST Mobile Command Center: Though we don't know what they are called or what their capabilities are, it does seem that battles in DUST 514 will be fought to see who can destroy the other side's mobile command center. For a very brief period as the mercenary leader is initially running from cover to cover, we can see a large ship in the distant that is quite possibly the opposing mercenaries' mobile base.

DUST Weaponry: The Vanguard tank seems to fire a missile of some kind, while the opposition fires something else, perhaps a hybrid weapon of some kind. The Caldari logo on the defense turret does seem to imply that the defenders are Caldari and thus, the tank weaponry is probably some kind of hybrid turret.

DUST Vehicles: The tanks look pretty impressive. I'm unsure what flying vehicles are piloted by players, what are troop carriers, and what are supply dropships. It does seem like there is probably air support that is non-vehicular in nature and provided via cooperation with EVE Online players, though what form that takes we can only guess. Purely speculating, I'd guess that it is some function of using carriers to field fighter support.

Orbital Bombardment: It seems unlikely that spaceship pilots could open fire on ground battles willy-nilly. More likely, there will be some sort of system where mercenaries paint targets on the ground, calling down fire that is provided by the presence of dreadnoughts in orbit. Still, it will be good to have something to do with all those dreadnoughts that are otherwise gathering dust.

Station Windows: I think pretty much every EVE player has wished he could look out of a station window and see what is going on outside, at some point. Will that functionality eventually be included in Incarna? I'll be impressed as heck if it is.

Assassinations: According to pure EVE Online lore, capsuleers must be inside of their pods to be reborn when they die, though there is some ambiguity with data backups of pilots' consciousnesses. More recent stories seem to imply that a pod is not necessary to be reborn and, according to Tony Gonzales at Fanfest, the DUST mercenaries will not require pods to be reborn. It's hard to imagine some schleps fighting it out on the planet having access to a technology that the capsuleers do not, so one imagines that the Caldari jerk that gets shot will be reborn. Certainly, nobody at CCP would by crazy enough to let there be any kind of perma-death resulting from PvP in stations.

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