BB #75: What Does Project Nova Need to Succeed?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 75th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

At Fanfest, CCP showcased their current iteration of the FPS set in the Eve Universe. Following on from DUST514 and Project Legion, Project Nova is shaping up to be a solid FPS with CCP taking the decision to get the game mechanics right first. However, with so many FPS out there, what will Nova need in order to stand out from a very large crowd and be successful? What are the opportunities, and perhaps more importantly, the dangers for CCP? How can Nova compete against CoD, Battlefront and Titanfall, to name a few?

I do not own a gaming console, and have no intention of ever buying one. I have always been a PC gamer, and I always will be. My keyboard, mouse and monitor are my preferred means of interacting with gaming entertainment.

Still, I looked at DUST 514 when it was first announced, and considered buying a PS/3 in order to play it. My main interest was driven by the promise of integration between EVE Online and DUST. The planetary bombardment feature demonstrated at Fanfest 2012 was one of the highlights of that event. 

Demo of planetary bombardment in DUST 514 shown at Fanfest 2012.

CCP Games also stated that they intended to bring the worlds of EVE Online and DUST even closer together by eventually integrating the two games' economies, and possibly providing players with the opportunity to use the same characters in the two games.

"If only DUST ran on a PC," I remember saying to myself at the time. "Then I'd be able to switch back and forth between EVE Online and DUST missions. That'd be awesome."

I figured it would be only a question of time before CCP saw the light and ported the game to the PC. I decided to just wait. I planned to be one of the first to play the game, once it was available on my preferred platform.

Then came Fanfest 2014, and the infamous "Rouge Wedding"...

CCP Rouge describes and shows a prototype of Project Legion, a PC-based version of DUST, at Fanfest 2014.

At last, DUST - or at least a version of it - was coming to the PC. I was thrilled. Unfortunately, this announcement also annoyed and alienated the PS/3 console players, who immediately saw that this was the inevitable future of their game. The path was clear: DUST as a console experience was doomed - which is exactly what eventually happened.

I've been eagerly anticipating this PC version of DUST for the last two years, though there has been very little news about it coming out of CCP Games since the initial announcement. In fact, I started to worry that it was never going to be released. But then CCP showed Project Nova at Fanfest 2016, and my enthusiasm returned. I had a chance to try the game at Fanfest, and I enjoyed it a lot, though I felt it still needs some tweaks. The critical gaming press agrees: the game has lots of potential, but is not quite ready for prime time.

So, what does Project Nova need to succeed?

First and foremost, it must provide a consistently competitive FPS shooter gameplay experience. This is obvious and fundamental, but it is exactly what many players felt was missing from DUST 514. The play must be smooth and quick and graphically state-of-the-art, and it must be favorably comparable with other competitive FPS games.

Fortunately, everything that CCP is saying about Project Nova indicates that this is their #1 priority, above all other else. I frankly thought the gameplay in the prototype was very good, though the developers I chatted with said they want to make additional improvements. That makes me confident that CCP will get this critical aspect right.

Once this essential element of solid FPS gameplay is ready, I think there are four additional factors that are needed to make Project Nova a success:

  • Multiplayer at core
  • Emergent gameplay
  • Player-driven economy
  • Part of New Eden

That's right - these are the same four elements that CCP Rouge talked about in his Project Legion announcement at Fanfest 2014. He wasn't wrong then, and more importantly, these elements are even more important now.

Project Nova must get the multiplayer aspects of the game right. Specifically, the match pairing must be much better than DUST, which sometimes put players with dominant skills and equipment together with less capable opponents, resulting in boring one-way routs. The monetization method of Project Nova will likely be free-to-play with purchasable upgrades and enhancements - care must be taken to make sure that these items are not overpowered "pay to win" buttons.

The opportunity to set Project Nova in a meaningful way in a larger context, such as being mercenaries in New Eden's faction warfare, would provide players with a strategic aspect of the game to compete within. In addition, providing in-game support of teams and corporations, operating within this higher-level game context, would encourage emergent gameplay by those groups. I think this is where CCP wants to take the game eventually - at least, I hope so. The orbital bombardment feature of DUST was super-cool but required too much planning and effort to coordinate. That degree of linkage between EVE Online and Project Nova is not needed for the latter game's success, but linking Project Nova to the success of faction warfare in EVE Online could be an exciting way to provide a larger context.

One thing that makes EVE Online interesting is that the economy is almost entirely player-driven. Project Nova would benefit greatly by using a similar model. As much as I would love it, this player-driven economy does not need to be linked to EVE Online to work well within Project Nova. Rather, there only needs to be a way to sell and buy items in a separate mercenary-only market - and earn in-game profits in the process.

I've already alluded to some ways to make Project Nova feel like it is a part of New Eden, but this can't be emphasized enough. I think the initial target audience should not be players of other FPS games, but rather, players of EVE Online. We already understand and love the world of New Eden, and want to experience more of it. If Project Nova uses settings that we EVE Online players recognize - the interiors of faction stations or ships, for example - and if it remains consistent with the look-and-feel of the universe we already know, we will be more likely to be attracted to the game. We are the principal target audience for Project Nova - even those of us who aren't FPS players now.

Bring it on!

I hope that CCP greenlights the development of Project Nova, and brings the game to market. On the PC platform, I think it will appeal to every EVE Online player - and it could also attract an entirely new audience to the EVE universe.

I'm already sold. Make it happen, CCP!

Fly safe! o7