Sony's PlayStation Spring Preview showcased an array of working titles for the PS3 and Vita platforms, from "Street Fighter X Tekken" to "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time." But the event offered more than a sneak peak at upcoming releases; it proposed an idea that could shape the world of massive multiplayer online (MMO) gameplay.
DUST 514 is a free to play first person shooter MMO that will be available exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The game will operate in conjunction with EVE, which is a colossal online gaming community for the PC. In DUST 514gamers will play as a mercenary battling for control of the thousands of planets in the vast EVE universe.
Developed by CCP Games, every EVE registered gamer is playing in the same shard. This allows for extended interaction between tens of thousands of gamers, making it unique from other online networks.
The feature that makes DUST 514 so significant is that players of the PS3 game will be able to play and interact with EVE gamers instantaneously, creating a new cross-platform universe.
"We've seen other games do this a little bit, but at the same level," said David Reid, CMO of CCP. "This is the first time two different games with different mechanics are linking together."
Although EVE access is purchased through a monthly subscription service, currently boasting over 400,000 users, DUST 514 is completely free of charge, according to Reid.
"All they have to do is pick up the controller and play the first person shooter, just as they know how to do," he said.
But perhaps one of the most important aspects of the MMO shooter is that advancement is based on skill sets, not money or rank. The game follows the spiritual model set by titles such as League of Legends, where players unlock additional content through in-game currency only. Players gain access to different items, such as new assault rifles, in order to improve certain skills. This keeps any gamer from gaining an unfair advantage.
"We have to be super clear," said Reid. First person shooters operate on a very skilled based model. If people think you can buy your way to the top, it's not going to be successful."
The idea for a completely skill-based model came from first person shooters developed in Asia, Reid said. Companies such as Nexon came up with this type of format in the past, but these games didn't garner much interest among the Western gaming community.
However, Reid says that CCP puts a major emphasis on expanding games throughout various mediums.
"CCP has always been ambitious and kind of crazy," he said. "We focus on how to make virtual goods that work across platforms."
A large part of DUST 514 gameplay will feature vehicle-based combat, with the ability to summon different types of tanks, jeeps and ships to suit players' missions. For example,transporting an entire squad using a dropship could be useful for skirmish-type endeavors, according to Rob Fleischer of Sandbox Strategies. This aerial vehicle also makes it easier for players to quickly travel across large maps.
"You can customize your ships the same way you can do fitting on characters," Fleischer added.
Other than DUST 514, the Sony event previewed titles such as "Starhawk," "Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time," and "Sorcery" for the PlayStation 3. "Resistance Burning Skies," "Street Fighter X Tekken," "Metal Gear Solid HD Collection," "Gravity Rush" and "Sound Shapes" were showcased on the PS Vita.
"Metal Gear Solid" players will be interested in the game's Vita port, which incorporates touch screen tricks to add new elements to the game. The handheld version of the action-stealth game also boasts around 30 hours of gameplay.
"Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time" gives the classic platform franchise a fresh twist. The new title features Rioichi Cooper as the furry ninja frontrunner. Players tiptoe across tightropes, pickpocket enemies, and dodge lasers to regain the creature's missing sushi knives, unlocking doors to new levels.
Sony's Spring Preview certainly provided perspective on the future of the gaming industry, both immediate and in the long run.
"You can feel it in the gamer community," said Reid when referring to free-to-play games.
"Over time more people are getting comfortable with this idea. Before people thought that if something was for free, it was because it's no good. But now consumers are willing to try a game out in a much lower risk factor. Mandatory subscription is becoming out of date."