There are much grander plans for Project Nova though—plans that don’t at all come through from this little arena shooter demo. The long-term vision for Nova is to get back to the Dust 514 dream, blending Nova together with EVE Online.
Not in real-time, per se. Árnason says that only “one percent of one percent” of EVE Online players ever used the real-time feedback aspects of Dust. But the idea of the Planetary Conquest mode, wherein corporations battled for control of planets, is something Árnason wants to resurrect in Nova—and more.
“What I’d like to do is some sort of economic link,” says Árnason. In this hypothetical situation, he sees a corporation in EVE Online and in Nova linking up, potentially by way of a structure created in EVE, and then hooking together so each side gets money or other resources. “That future is all an open map,” says Árnason. “We can do whatever we want, after we demonstrate the correct shooting mechanics.”
It’s bottom-up development, and talking to Árnason it seems like this is the opposite of Dust—a game that seemingly started with a grand plan but could never nail down the details. The downside: The demo here at Fanfest is not nearly as inspired, mainly because none of those big-picture details are in yet.
Which is not to say it’s bad. It’s not! It’s a perfectly fine twist on the arena shooter. But it’s clearly early days for development, and I have a feeling plenty of people will walk away from Nova this week feeling like it’s lacking a hook, a standout feature, not realizing that those are on the long-term roadmap.
The dream of a Dust 514 on PC is still compelling. As someone who can’t bring himself to play EVE Online but enjoys shooters, I’d love a more palatable means of interfacing with that universe.
A lot of pieces need to fall into place though, and in this case CCP’s newly conservative approach to development—where games need to prove their worth from concept to prototype to “Project” phase to greenlit project to eventual release—may hurt a game like Nova, which has a grand vision but can’t necessarily communicate that to players without an astounding amount of up-front work.
Point being: If you see Project Nova footage and you think “Well, that just looks like a generic arena shooter,” you’re not wrong. The surprise is that’s exactly what CCP wants at the moment—because if you think it looks like a competent shooter, then it’s already avoided the biggest of Dust’s problems.
The universe-spanning vision can come later.
[Disclosure: Until recently, my roommate worked at Lewis PR as part of CCP’s external PR team. He no longer does, but due to the timing of his departure we’re making a note of it during Fanfest 2016 anyway.]
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.