DUST 514’s corporate gambling, and crippling pressure of leadership, makes war a social experience
When I jumped into the DUST 514 beta for the first time, I did so as a lone wolf; a solitary merc, making my way through the galaxy without a care for who I fought for or against. I played for hours, but even so, barely scratched the surface. Most importantly, I couldn't tell you what it was like to take part in one of DUST's most important features: The corporation.
Chief Executive Officer of Kick-Ass
Shortly after my initial impressions of the DUST 514 open beta, I was contacted by a member of Old-School Gamers (OSG), a corporation which exists in the EVE Online universe and now, thanks to the inter-connected nature of the two games, DUST 514. Corporations in EVE aren't quite like anything else out there, but guilds are an easy point of reference. In a corporation, you band together with like-minded players to tackle tougher challenges, engage socially, and open up new opportunities for advancement and teaching. I decided to take them up on the offer.Like a real corporation, the corporations in EVE are also known for their ability to spend, spend, spend. Unlike a real corporation, OSG and others like it can call in orbital strikes from massive starships during corporate-sponsored attacks on rival organizations. These sponsored battles are likely what you'll build toward in DUST 514, should you desire to advance beyond the random matches the game otherwise pits you in. They're no joke, either. OSG told me they had a 30+ page standard operating procedure manual that isn't even finished yet, and recruits have to be tested in battle and approved before they're allowed to participate. Training is rigorous, simultaneously the most stressful and most engaged I have been in a team match for a long time. “Sophie, you're on bravo!” “Sophie, serpentine!” “Sophie, you're on hack!” “Sophie, cover the charlie CRU!” I'm no stranger to first-person shooters, but I fared… well, not so great. It's going to take a long time before I, or anyone with any sense of self-doubt and humility, feel comfortable leading soldiers into battle when money's on the line in a corporate battle.
Internet spaceships + merc warfare = serious business
Corporate battles were explained to me as tantamount to gambling in that a group must put up what they determine to be a reasonable, but enticing, amount of money, and then wait until another corporation can meet it. Winner takes all. A senior member of OSG told me that they view corporation battles as way to maintain and build reputation, but even this is a carefully measured game. Put up a contract too high, and you'll either draw unwanted attention from someone much stronger, or scare off everyone else so that no one will fight you. Put up a bid too low, and no one's going to take you seriously. It's a resource drain, and an investment in murder. Imagine the business card scene from American Psycho, but replace the cards with clone armies in space, and you have some idea of what must be going through every corporation's mind. “My god, it even has a watermark…”The same senior member explained that funds won from corporate battles were also used to train new recruits by purchasing them better armor and weapons, so that they won't have to grind quite as much. It's fascinating, and bit like being in some alternate reality, to hear someone talk about earning corporate funds via warfare, and then using those funds to train mercenaries with a completely deadpan tone. It's surprising to see just how seriously EVE players are taking DUST. Before the public had a chance to participate in the beta, there were many who grumbled that these console FPS kids were going to move into the neighborhood – throwing late-night parties, parking on the lawn, things like that – and ruin it. From what I saw during my brief time with OSG, that doesn't seem to be the case. EVE and DUST players are coming together in fantastic, interesting ways, and the intensely social nature of DUST's warfare – from calling in real, live EVE players for an orbital strike to the maintenance of a corporation and the pressure on squad leaders to perform under pressure – is a joy to see. If you only play random battles, as I did when I first checked out DUST, you're missing out. I sincerely and deeply thank OSG for inviting me to spend even the short amount of time in their warm, violent embrace.