Project Nova

PC

EDGE - - CONTENTS - De­vel­oper Pub­lisher For­mat Ori­gin Re­lease CCP Games, Sumo Not­ting­ham CCP Games PC Ice­land, UK TBA

All the hy­po­thet­i­cals will come to noth­ing if the shoot­ing doesn’t cap­ti­vate

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ust 514 was a shooter both nour­ished and suf­fo­cated by its link to the cut­throat cos­mos of Eve On­line. Launched in 2013 and shut­tered three years later, it tan­ta­lised with the prospect of two gen­res work­ing in tan­dem within one uni­verse – Dust play­ers fight­ing across Eve’s own plan­ets for the glory of Eve’s own cor­po­ra­tions, while star­ship cap­tains shelled them from or­bit. Sadly, its dreary gun­play paled be­fore the rich­ness of player drama of­fered by the long-run­ning MMO. While it’s start­ing from stronger foun­da­tions, Dust’s suc­ces­sor Project Nova al­ready looks like it might end up the same way.

CCP has, in fair­ness, learned a lot from the first game’s fate. The shoot­ing still lacks charisma but is a def­i­nite step up, closer in terms of pace, han­dling and map di­men­sions to Halo than Dust, with a stream­lined class sys­tem in place of the pre­vi­ous game’s opaque load­out man­age­ment. While hardly novel, the guns and abil­i­ties lend them­selves to some pass­able team­play strate­gies: a sniper us­ing her ac­tive camo and hover jets to flank a horde, for ex­am­ple, while com­rades pop heal­ing auras and build tur­rets on pre­set pads near the ob­jec­tive. Nova’s aes­thetic is just as gloomy and unlove­able as Dust’s, but the fact that scraps now un­fold on star­ship hulls rather than plan­ets at least makes for some spec­tac­u­lar back­drops, with frigates cir­cling over the car­nage like an­gry seabirds.

All this re­flects the stu­dio’s be­lated re­al­i­sa­tion that an Eve shooter can’t trade on its Eve el­e­ments alone – a re­al­i­sa­tion that saw it en­list­ing Sumo Dig­i­tal’s new Not­ting­ham stu­dio, made up of Cry­tek vet­er­ans, to de­velop Nova’s core, while mov­ing the old Dust team back to CCP’s Reyk­javik of­fices to strengthen ties to the MMO. “It has to be fun to kill some­one, over and over again,” game di­rec­tor Snorri Ár­na­son tells us. “It can’t rely on other me­chan­ics that are not part of the game to keep it sus­tain­able.” A wor­thy agenda in­deed, but Nova doesn’t strike us yet as a game that can ex­cel on its own mer­its, and other de­vel­oper re­marks sug­gest a lack of con­fi­dence in the un­der­pin­nings. Ár­na­son ob­serves that Nova’s team-based wave sur­vival mode On­slaught might “mir­ror” the role of as­teroid-min­ing in Eve On­line – that is, some­thing that is “in­her­ently not re­ally fun”, but a re­lax­ing way of grind­ing out re­sources. Game di­rec­tor

Steven Clark, mean­while, com­ments a lit­tle tellingly that CCP’s fans have been han­ker­ing for “some­thing they could pick up and play for 15 min­utes while they’re wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen in Eve”. Is Nova an ex­pe­ri­ence in it­self, then, or just a way for fans to fill time?

The up­shot is that the game’s most in­trigu­ing el­e­ment is once again its con­nec­tion to the MMO that spawned it, which CCP is re­luc­tant to dis­cuss at the time of writ­ing: the de­vel­oper’s hope is to sell play­ers on Nova’s shoot­ing, then slowly in­tro­duce the Eve meta-layer in line with com­mu­nity feed­back. The key word, though, is “asym­met­ri­cal”. Events in each game do not trans­fer across di­rectly and in re­al­time, but pass through a ‘trans­la­tion layer’ which gives CCP more con­trol over the ef­fects; this also avoids the prob­lem of each game’s networking fea­tures (such as voice chat) be­ing de­pen­dent on the other, which means that CCP won’t

have to take Nova off­line when­ever it per­forms a ma­jor up­date on Eve.

Ár­na­son gives the ex­am­ple of an at­tack on a star­base in Eve trig­ger­ing a clash across the sta­tion’s sur­face in Nova, the out­come of which feeds back into the MMO. “The Eve owner might get a mes­sage that says, ‘Your Ci­tadel was sab­o­taged, your re­in­force­ment timer is now mi­nus two.’ That would scare a lot of Eve play­ers, be­cause the whole game is about mak­ing sure you’re de­fend­ing on your re­in­force­ment timers.” The MMO’s unique ‘time di­la­tion’ fea­ture makes teth­er­ing its en­gage­ments to those of Nova dif­fi­cult, how­ever. For the most part, Ár­na­son feels the best way to achieve sym­bio­sis be­tween games is via their economies: a Nova player might har­vest black oil, for in­stance, to flog to Eve play­ers via an auc­tion house.

All these hy­po­thet­i­cals will come to noth­ing, how­ever, if the shoot­ing doesn’t cap­ti­vate. The con­cept of an FPS fight­ing its cor­ner within an MMO is still ar­rest­ing, and

Nova is very much a game that aims to set wrongs right: CCP’s cau­tion about spec­u­lat­ing be­yond the fun­da­men­tals is prob­a­bly the cor­rect tack to take. But a project with a long tail still needs to make a good first im­pres­sion, and where Dust felt like it might make his­tory,

Nova seems like his­tory on re­peat.

Nova runs on Un­real Engine 4 with a per­for­mance tar­get of 60 frames per sec­ond. Many char­ac­ter and en­emy con­cepts re­turn from Dust 514, but each has been to­tally re­built

The game’s de­fault sidearm is a beefy hand­can­non that shoots ex­plo­sive rounds, good for the odd mul­ti­kill. It’ll blow you up too if you fire at point-blank range

ABOVE The AI’s switch­ing be­tween ob­jec­tives and player-killing can be ex­cit­ing, but en­e­mies too of­ten be­have like creeps in MOBAs – you rarely feel like you’re hav­ing a one-on-one fight.MAIN Among the tougher en­e­mies is this man­tis­clawed elite, which can tele­port short dis­tances while rush­ing you. For­tu­nately, you’re en­dowed with a pow­er­ful melee at­tack.RIGHT CCP has Eve- sized am­bi­tions for Nova’s econ­omy and so­cial as­pects – think in-game cor­po­ra­tions, es­pi­onage el­e­ments and cus­tom star­bases – but these may take years

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