First Look – EVE: Project Legion

By Rich Stanton on May 3rd, 2014 at 12:30 am.

Rich Stanton is in Iceland attending EVE Fanfest, CCP’s celebration of internet spaceships and those who love them. He was there when the company revealed Project Legion, and he tracked down CCP staff to get details of the new sandbox shooter set in the EVE universe.

Finally. Among CCP’s odd decisions over the years, surely one of the strangest was in making Dust-514 a Playstation 3 exclusive – and compounding this by releasing it at the end of the console’s lifecycle. One could speculate that this was all down to a giant cheque from Mr Sony, but at Eve Fanfest’s Dust-514 keynote the inevitable was announced. EVE’s Project Legion, a free-to-play PC shooter, aims to make Dust-514 look like a dry run.

But it’s not Dust. CCP have been scrupulous about distinguishing between the two games, and insist both Dust and Legion will be developed in parallel. This may again be down to Sony’s cheque, because although menu screens and the like are clearly different, the core shooting seems to share many similarities. This is of course not good news for Dust fans, but it may not be very good news for prospective Legion fans either.

There are two things to say about Dust as a foundation. The first is that it was not a very good game at launch. The second is that it’s subsequently become much better, thanks to CCP’s trademark post-launch care, but not to the extent that you’d place it anywhere near the top tier of shooters. It is not a matter of mechanics so much as of polishing mechanics; everything in Dust-514 works well enough, but very few elements of it are exceptional.

Dust-514 was developed by CCP’s Shanghai studio, and a (currently) small team of around 60 there is also handling Legion. The lines really are blurry here; in short, it seems CCP want to take aspects of Dust and re-build a massively multiplayer shooter framework around them. Perhaps the most obvious difference at first glance is how players use the starmap – one of EVE’s most signature sights, an expansive and seemingly endless representation of the universe. In Legion this will be used to pick combat zones depending on their security status and what loot is available, the suggestion being that better players will be able to go straight for the big prizes.

Part of this is the introduction of PvE in the form of salvage drones. A key aspect EVE’s lore is that the universe’s mega corporations send drones down to battlefields to scavenge what there is of value – and one of their kinks is that they don’t necessarily distinguish between living and dead loot opportunities. So it will be possible to play Legion as a pure co-op shooter, hunting down these drones and trying to claim their salvage for oneself – with drones in highsec less lethal and giving up blander prizes, but lowsec drones having more punch and better loot.

This feeds into another area that CCP regards as key to Project Legion’s success or otherwise; the economy. Basically scavenging can get you gear, but it seems to be primarily a way of accumulating ISK. The promise is of an economy that works in the same way as that of EVE, though with so little shown of it and EVE’s much grander scope it’s hard to see how this can be achieved. A dash of scepticism may be necessary here, at least until more is shown, but then on the other hand you have the vast improvement Dust has shown since release – something even its fiercest critics must acknowledge.

But the most intriguing link is of course the one to EVE Online itself. I spoke to Atli Mar Sveinsson, the creative director of CCP Asia, about Project Legion and asked him to clear this up first. “So the games are not linked in the form of a couple of barrels being shot on a planet’s surface from orbit. They’re primarily linked by corporations and social networks and that is actually what we care most about. Of course we care about the footprints in the sand between games, but at its core this is about socialisation – that, more than a specific feature, drives us to certain conclusions.”

Sveinsson also clarifies for me that the Legion of the title is not meant to reference a Roman Legion – that is, not 100-player battles. Rather it’s the sense of ‘I am Legion’ and making players feel they have the strength of 100 soldiers. This makes me curious about CCP Shanghai’s size, and how many are working on Legion. “Right now we have between 80 and 100 people,” says Sveinsson. “But the reason I’m unsure of exact numbers is because that includes support staff for EVE China, so I’d say the development team is more like 60 people.”

So what about the actual gametypes, the nitty-gritty where EVE’s open gameplay translates into a much more traditional (and some might say unimaginative) structure. “You ask me if it will be the same as in Dust where we kind of retrofit team deathmatch gameplay onto planets? In a sandbox wouldn’t it be better to allow it to be a continuation of the sandbox elements? In terms of say, a flag, and I don’t know if that’s some massive structure or a literal flag – why not let the players direct it?”

“We’re moving away from that more rigid structure,” says Sveinsson. “Even Planetside is rigid in that sense of it has capture points and stuff and it’s rinse-and-repeat. But I would say we’re moving more towards the DNA of CCP – give players a set of tools and then be surprised when they use those tools in strange and interesting ways.”

I ask about the timeframe – because Dust-514 didn’t make its initial release date, and CCP are being coy about Legion’s ETA. “Right now it’s a prototype,” says Sveinsson. “We put together the team – it’s the same team really, a lot of people from the Dust team but we carved people out. For me I’ve been on the project for so long it was great to see it with new eyes, we came up with a vision and decided to let the team loose – and how quickly the team has put together something that looks so good. And all of that footage is real, it’s crazy. It’s not a linear effort, it’s logarthymic you know, so although we can’t say dates I want to be clear that it’s not because we don’t want to – it’s because we have a history both at CCP and at CCP Shanghai to be very confident about times, and sometimes we haven’t been able to realise them. Right now we’re much more focused on being honest and up-front with people like you and saying we don’t know.”

One of the things about Fanfest is the excitement. EVE fans have wanted Dust on PC since Dust was a thing, and so Legion’s announcement was met with the kind of cheers and whoops usually reserved for new ship animations. It’s easy to forget in such circumstances the challenges that the game itself will face on a platform that’s already overflowing with great free-to-play team shooters – and the EVE audience, large as it is, is unlikely to sustain a F2P shooter on its own back.

Sveinsson says the two audiences – EVE fans and non-EVE fans – “are not mutually exclusive.” But clearly much remains to be seen about Legion – not least how it plays. Dust was a shooter that launched too early – “and we knew this” says Sveinsson. In some ways it hasn’t thrown off that launch, though anyone who tries the game now on PS3 may be pleasantly surprised. If there is one thing CCP has proved itself expert at, however, and may be emulating here, it is iteration. Legion might excite the non-EVE fans among us yet, mutually exclusive or not. But if the talk of a freeform FPS where objectives are set by players, among a landscape of PvE opportunities, has anything to it – well, this could be something that gets more than just Fanfest attendees whooping.

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39 Comments »

  1. racccoon says:

    CCP just keep pulling their hair out! they are the most poorly timed and ignorant to late companies of this decade.

  2. thefinn says:

    Yeah I wouldn’t say they were “experts at iteration” they were dragged kicking and screaming into having to do iteration only 2-3 years back – by the playerbase.

    • Einhaender says:

      If you’re talking the Jita Riots, then saying they were “dragged kicking and screaming” is quite an exaggeration.

      They tried to defend their points (something every company would do) but eventually came around. And that was not simply because everyone was raging and threatening to unsubscribe but because a large part of the community showed CCP that they care as much about the product as they do.

  3. Rindan says:

    Here is my fantasy. I want two Eve games.

    First, I want one game where you dog fight, Elite style. I want it so that when a ship shows up Eve, it can spew ships that are smaller than the smallest ship in Eve that are controlled with a good old fashion joystick. A player in Eve pops open the hatches of his carrier, spews out some player controlled fighters, and those ships are flown by humans from that corporation, or (optionally) random blokes. The carrier spewing fighters can set targets and what not and direct, and maybe even have the capacity to ban folks who disobey orders from flying for him again. You can get ISK into it by having it so that those fighters cost ISK to launch, and part of that ISK goes to the bloke flying the fighter. Pilots can set their rates. Good pilots can get good ratings and charge more.

    Now imagine a battle in Eve. In addition to the usual mess of normal ships being flown by pod pilots, you have some people flying even smaller ships being annoying. Think of them as bad ass drones. They can’t take even the smallest of Eve ships one on one, but maybe they a squad could take out a frigate. A swarm can’t kill a Titian, but maybe they can knock out a couple of guns if the bigger ships can knock down the shields. They might not be able to take down a battlecruiser singlehandedly, but they could intercept a few missiles and get in close and be an annoyance.

    On top of this, make a ground game. Again, use roughly the same idea. The ground game can pull corporate soldiers or hire mercenaries. Soldiers can be used to bord Eve ships and structures. Again, marines can’t take out a station or Titian, at least not quickly, but maybe they can do a raid and take out some subsystems. Defending soldiers can repair the damage and repel borders. Don’t make them overwhelming. Maybe they can capture a station, but only with a constant stream of reinforcements that can only be supplied by the nasty full fledged Eve space battle covering the invasion pods.

    Now imagine this all comes together. Two corporations are fighting over a station. Inside of Eve, it is the same old game. The only difference is that there are also fighters to swat in addition to drones. The fighters are useless on their own as they can’t hold any of the systems a pod controlled ship can, but given some serious backup, they can provide a nuisance. Your own fighters are going after them. The traditional Eve ships wear down the station enough that an assault ship can start firing boarding craft at it. Fighters escort the boarding craft in. On board the boarding craft, marines and look out and see the battle in progress. When they hit their target, they breach and start looking for things to break. Defenders looking for things to fix and repel borders.

    I love Eve in principle, but god damn is the actual combat mechanics boring as hell. I desperately want to be apart of Eve, but not as some pod pilot god. I want to be a peon. I want to be fired from a ship in a boarding craft that never makes it. I want to be in a fighter that is vaporized instantly when it happens to be in the way of a Titian’s laser. Pod pilots can’t keep the glory. I just want to be a peon in that universe doing something fun.

    • phuzz says:

      Eve Valkyrie will give you the dogfighting you desire, but it sounds like it won’t be integrated into Eve proper, except possibly the way that Dust is (or Legion will be).

    • merbert says:

      If you haven’t seen it, this touches on some of your themes.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFTUazuGdTw

      I really like your vision and indeed I share it.

      I won’t put a time frame on it coz it’ll get flamed, but I do see this happening.

      My own addendum to your idea would be to put a specific clone vat for these fighter pilots on the Carrier and this could be rented / leased to the pilots.

      Idea being that if you die, you get an instant respawn aboard the Carrier (as it’s gonna be seemingly easy to pop these guys if they’re not even Frigate size) and you could rent / lease 5-10 insta clones so that you’re right back in the fight. The clone could be a specific one you jump to in these circumstances and it has boosts / attributes that are specific to Fighter pilots.

      • Uncompetative says:

        All you have to do is make it like Forza 5 where the other racers are AI mimics of absent players, then there is no server lag as it is quasi-single-player! Also, if you want something a bit more dynamic there are other options:

        Enemy Starfighter – an RTSFPS space dogfighting game
        Elite: Dangerous – a FPS space dogfighting, boarding and trading game*

        *David Braben plans to allow you to land on planets sometime later.

        As to a game that combines space combat with landing on a planet and sniping enemies, I can only think of one:

        Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter

    • Jahnz says:

      Being a marine in a boarding ship, watching through port holes as beams and explosions silently light up the space around the ship. Bracing for impact as the boarding ship slams into and breaches the hull of a vessel. The hatch at the front swings open and out we go streaming into the vacuum created by our breaching pod. We head for the engineering section as the breached ship’s robotic defenses come to life. That would be awesome.

      Defending forces could be varying degrees of AI units with a strength dependent on both the level of ship and the level of defenses purchased.

    • lunatis orrak says:

      Legion will be great but i think all of this is leading to something more big picture guys they just need to do it before anyone else or they will fail badly

  4. Batolemaeus says:

    Let’s just take a short moment to appreciate just how ice cold CCP are.

    So, they have a game on a dying console. They invite players of said game to spend a lot of money to come to iceland, to fanfest. They gather them into a presentation room to tell them their game is legacy and there won’t be a migration path to the new dust, which is totally not named dust, and really isn’t dust, really. They release those players from the keynote, but there’s still 1 1/2 days of fanfest left, where it will be clear they don’t belong.

    I mean, I have little sympathy with people who are surprised that Dust 514 is going to sink with the PS3 and take its playerbase with it. I had expected a little more tact from CCP though. Taunting those people isn’t exactly the nicest thing to do.

    • NimRast says:

      CCP announced that they are going to migrate characters, and it’s equipment, isk and so on to project Legion, so they are not abandoning their current playerbase of Dust 514. Besides, they said they are going to keep supporting the game, which is much more than some companies do with their non-free games.

      • Batolemaeus says:

        No. At the dust keynote, they announced nothing like that. They had someone come on stage 24h later to say they were working on migration.

    • John Connor says:

      I don’t get it. Are CCP supposed to prop up the PS3? The game was going to be ported to another platform eventually, may as well be the PC.

    • Uncompetative says:

      Who said the PS3 was a dying console?

  5. Mittens89 says:

    Another F2P PC shootygame online thing! Please, make it stop.

  6. Gesadt says:

    i feel like Rich didnt address the real story here:
    http://i.imgur.com/ZAy053K.png

    thanks for beta testing legion i guess, but inviting dusties to fanfest to announce their game is being effectively killed off is kind of PR disaster methinks.

    • toxic avenger says:

      PR nightmare? Don’t you think that might be a little harsh? I mean, stateside we just had a billionaire owner of a sports team exposed for spewing racial bigotry and inventing new and exotic kinds of racism and combining them together to get what could be called a disgusting racist sandwich, and a company MAKING a new game that competes with an older one, possibly even making the old one obsolete, thereby making a few hundred gamers angry is the PR nightmare? I just don’t see it.

  7. Rizlar says:

    Would be interesting to know how Legion is actually going to work. They seemed pretty adamant that ‘legion’ was referring to a single person, rather than 100. So presumably they are not going for really large-scale battles. So then what? It would be nice to have some idea of the tools they intend to give players to encourage emergent play.

    Maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic about the fps market, perhaps it will actually just be a 10 player deathmatch on a largish map with robots. And a stock exchange for guns.

    • serioussgtstu says:

      Looking at the footage Polygon had up yesterday, I got the impression that they’ve not yet implemented any innovative mechanics regarding combat or movement. It looks like a very dry multiplayer shooter. I hope that as development continues they’ll be looking at games like Titanfall and trying to be distinctive as them.

      I expect that they will have 64 player matches for Legion, considering that Dust has 48 player servers.

    • NimRast says:

      Looking at the size of the map presented in the gameplay video, even 64 players is too small to fill it up, so I’m guessing they are going to have way bigger teams than 64.

      Maybe modern fps companies are starting to see how weird it is that the first battlefield game allowed for 256 players per map, while the newest allows for 64 only…

  8. colorlessness says:

    Didn’t CCP just screw over all the PS3 Dust players? What keeps them from doing the same thing with this game? Consider that all the promises for what Legion will be were made 2 years ago about what Dust would become…

    • Aklyon says:

      No, they didn’t. While the hysteria of the dust forums will tell you otherwise (and it will bash you over the head with it until either you leave with a head injury or agree), it could’ve been worse. They could’ve tried to make it sound like Dust isn’t going to become a waste of time, but its better than them leaving the ps3 players behind to sink with their console and never update it again. They still plan to work on it some, but not much, afaik.

      The PS3 is dying. It has lived exceptionally long as far as console generations go, but its replacement is here (along with new competition, and also the wii u), and an exclusive that never showed up on pc will go down with the ship, because porting it to ps4 will require it to be ported /again/ in a decade or so once the PS5 comes out and the PS4 becomes the sinking ship metaphor/forum rage generator. Instead, CCP decides to stab it in the head with the nanite injector of pc and not worry about console longevity or lack of it in the future.

  9. ChromeBallz says:

    1) I was not aware that Dust is going to be closed down or abandoned. Did anyone say or mention that at any point?

    2) CCP found out at some things just aren’t possible on the PS3. Lets face it: It’s a (nearly) 10 year old console with hardware to match. Should CCP force Dust to remain on the PS3 alone and let it die off because they’re not allowed to let it move platforms?

    3) The one thing i agree with is that the content for Dust players was severely lacking. They pushed fanfest for community reasons, not game reasons. Not making this clear beforehand was a huge mistake.

  10. PopeRatzo says:

    Nah. Free to play is too sad to play.

    It means they couldn’t be bothered to make a game good enough to buy.

  11. kfix says:

    “It’s not a linear effort, it’s logarthymic you know”

    Is that where it grows to the beat?

  12. Stevostin says:

    This is very, very interesting. Now if they realise exploration has to be a big part of it, maybe even larger than the manshoot, it can be my dream game.

  13. b0rsuk says:

    Hawkwind ! Hawkwind ! Hawkwind !
    The first image is either a homage, or a ripoff depending on your point of view ! “Hall of the Mountain Grill” – check out the album cover !

  14. kathyrhitch says:

    my neighbor’s step-sister makes $89 /hour on the internet . She has been fired for 9 months but last month her pay was $12537 just working on the internet for a few hours. website link=========>>>>

    ​www.cash29.com

  15. KirbyEvan says:

    I’m interested in the game, but much less interested in the corporation part of it.

    I’d like my shooty f2p sandbox game without social darwinism, thank you very much.

    • Aklyon says:

      If you want to avoid the corporations and their effects, you’re gonna have to avoid EVE entirely, regardless of genre. Its like wanting an mmo game but complaining people don’t only play solo.

  16. Kong says:

    Frack you excel riding piece of crap. Give me a gun, a cockpit or a vibrator and I will so computer game the console out of your ass.

  17. bobbyk says:

    CCP tried to make the expansion “Pretty Avatars on Pretty Station”. People said they didn’t want it. It failed.

    CCP tried making Dust 514. People said they didn’t want it. It failed.

    Now they’re trying to bring Dust 514 into Eve. People say they don’t want it. Starting to see a pattern.

    CCP will fail going forward if they don’t evolve and start listening to players and the evolving game market. If is great and works for Eve, but beyond that game system they don’t seem able adapt and actually listen, they’re like a corporation incarnation of ADHD.

    • merbert says:

      Yeah…..

      My bollox-ometre reads 100.

      People may not have “asked for it” but they were very curious and excited at the prospect of a more animated and personalized version of Eve with your own Avatar walking around stations and engaging with fellow pilots.

      In the run up to the release of Dust 514 and having played Eve for 9 years, (therefore having an ear to the ground on all things Eve related) I never ONCE heard anyone say “they didn’t want it”. On the contrary, It was very eagerly anticipated, offering up, for the first time ever, the tantilising prospect of linking the console and PC worlds (execution of same is a different issue in reference to the points you made)

      “Now they’re trying to bring Dust 514 into Eve. People say they don’t want it. Starting to see a pattern”….Nonsense. Allow me to be a case in point….I want it. I don’t doubt that it’ll have it’s detractors, but they will be in the minority.

      It is ultimately, the future of Eve in terms of scope. It’ll take time to implement and get right, could be a decade, maybe more (hopefully less). Will it need tweaking on release?, of course. Will it need further iterations to smooth it’s adaptation into the New Eden Universe? Just like it’s parent game Eve, yes it will.

      CCP have made an outstanding virtual Universe. Have they made mistakes over the years in ALL forms of it’s development? Yes, of course they have, but they CARE about their product and their customer base, they’ll get it right in the (on-going) long run.

      “CCP will fail going forward if they don’t evolve and start listening to players and the evolving game market. If is great and works for Eve, but beyond that game system they don’t seem able adapt and actually listen, they’re like a corporation incarnation of ADHD.” – What an incredibly childish and ill-informed comment. CCP have learned the harsh lesson of not listening to the customers in the past, they are very attentive to the needs, requirements and wishes of their customer base, even setting up a CSM with player / Dev interaction to ensure that their future vision is shared with that of it’s player base.

      • lunatis orrak says:

        Dust failed? When was this ? What news did you look at another made up buncha crap dust hasnt failed that post is a fail and please tell me where people are saying they do not want legion? Noone said that why would they hate on A potential power house to bring people into the eve universe literally keeping eve itself alive for much longer there introducing a new generation of gamers dragging them away from console and in the wonderful land of pc you sir are a slobro

  18. cultiv8ed says:

    Being that Legion is a protoype, it doesn’t sound like Dust is going down any time soon.
    Don’t console FPS games have a pretty short shelf life anyway? I mean, if you aren’t playing the latest generic army shooter in the first few months then its pointless getting it as all your friends move on to the next one. 1 year of release (so far..) + all the beta time is not that bad going for a console FPS

  19. fluffy_thedestroyer says:

    they should of released dust on PC and stick to that media. Less hassle in the end. They know how to code on PC.

    When you change to consoles, its a whole new thing…Couple of things if not all things changes on the coding side. Not efficient if you ask me. All players are on PC (or mac ? and some on linux ??) so why the hell would they get it on ps3… is just beyond me. Perhaps they thought of getting fresh new players interested in the world of eve. I think they should of stayed on PC. When ps3 gets old, they have to change to the new one so new codes, new stuff to learn..new crap to do. On PC, its the same thing just improvements

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