Boots on the ground

Well now I’ve got that rant over, lets move on…..

To date CCP have remained comparatively tight lipped about DUST 514 and how those battles on the surface of New Edens planets will actually interface with those battles being waged in the heavens.  As it currently stands it is hard to see how, or rather why, anyone would want to contest the resources of New Eden’s planetary bodies.  Whilst planets through PI provide a reasonable long term drip drip of ISK into the coffers of the average capsuleer their abundance across the universe and limited revenue generation hardly makes them worth fighting wars over.

So if we can be sure of one thing planets will have to become more valuable if conflict over them is to have any relevance.  That value may come in the form of greater worth in pure resource terms or indirectly by influencing mechanics such sovereignty ownership.

We already know that DUST 514 players (or Dusties) can exist within the same corporate structure as regular EVE capsuleers.  From that we can deduce that we will almost certainly see 3 types of corporations evolve: those with pure capsuleer membership, those with pure DUST membership and those who have a mixture of both DUST mercs and capsuleers.

Quite how CCP plan to manage the interface between these players is a mystery but it will be a significant challenge.  Whilst EVEs capsuleers have become accustomed to waiting around for fleets to form and battle to commence the FPS market is far more orientated to pick up and play gaming.  It is hard to envisage any PS3 owner happily sitting in front of their PS3 for hours waiting for a fight to become available.  This gaming environment is far more orientated to getting into the fight all guns blazing as soon as possible.

Equally individual PS3 players who don’t enter hard core clans will still be looking to get in on the action without delay and their degree of co-operation between their transient team mates will be minimal.  This all points to a rather chaotic background in terms of how EVEs capsuleers will be able to direct combat force against an enemy planet side, and to what degree those DUST mercs will be able to select the battles they wish to partake in.

Mercenaries however are…well mercenary.  It seems sensible to conclude that whilst EVEs capsuleers may be able to influence the ground battle and perhaps persuade DUST Mercs to fight on their behalf such support will be by no means guaranteed and its quality dubious at best.  In the same vein DUST Mercs will not be able to rely upon the support of their capsuleer brethren in every instance which rather leaves our initial point in a state of flux:

If planets are of value how are the battles over them be left to the whims of two tenuously linked player groups?

It’s only natural of course for us capsuleers to see the DUST Merc as someone who will do our bidding, running off like so much cannon fodder to defeat our foes, enlarge our empires and fatten our wallets.  The DUST Mercs however will have a completely different perspective – for these players their loyalties are more likely to be with their fellows on the ground.  They will develop alliances, friends and hated enemies of their own, which will often be at odds with those of the capsuleer who thinks to command them.

EVEs wars of conquest will be radically altered by this paradigm shift.  Until the advent of DUST514 we capsuleers have become comfortably accustomed to the loyalty of our fellow corp and alliance partners (at least to a degree) – the outcome of any given battle being largely within our control.

No longer.

DUST514 may well see battles won in space, whilst the ground war is lost.  Alliances leaders will now need to think in an additional dimension beyond the traditional perspective of the ‘flat battlefield’ of EVE.  History tells is that whenever a battlefield space is extended into a new dimension (i.e depth) the ramifications can be considerable.  The impact of both sub surface warfare with submarines, and above ground air power in the 20th Century had a significant impact upon how wars were conducted.

Those alliances who are best able to grapple with the ‘combined arms’ approach and the command and communication challenges that entails will likely be the most successful.  Equally recent blogs and media comments from CCP suggest that DUST mercs will be capable of launching their own campaigns independently of the capsuleers – providing a new axis of threat to controlling space.  Might we see war barges emerge from wormholes to strike and raid at previously secure backwater systems that alliances control? Its a tantalising prospect.

My suspicion is that the physical mechanism of directing / interacting with DUST Mercs will most likely be through the contracting system.  One reason for that is the UI and mechanisms are already in place – rather than request delivery of a package of goods from one star base to another, or a buy order for an item we’ll bid for and place orders for DUST Merc strikes.  DUST Mercs may also be able to do the same in terms of orbital support to their operations.

Such a mechanism would apply a direct value to the use of military force.  How much is a dreadnaught strike onto a planet worth? What about a DUST Merc landing party to disrupt your adversary?  We’ve become used to being there ‘in the thick of it’ – soon we won’t need to be…

in the future will we be sat in our Captains Quarters directing wars from afar, an unseen, unknown adversary?

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