Disclaimer: It should be noted that while this article isn't aimed at following the "Dust is doomed" bandwagon, it is true that the game has issues and those being fixed over the next 6 months will be key to Dust's future. Most of what I have written here has been from thoughts about the game over the past few months and would have been written despite the timing. It's also purely opinionated and merely for the sake of creating discussion. The Dust 514 roadmap devblog is also coming soon, but I'd like to put my 2 cents in regardless.
There's been a lot of discussion about the Dust/EVE link since the game came out of NDA. As of right now, the link between the games is barely noticeable. On the Dust side, we get slightly better orbital support given the right circumstances, but that is almost negligible. On the EVE side, we get POS bonuses that rely on Dust players picking certain ground structures and an advantage in taking systems in faction warfare that is hard to control on the Dust side. It's also worth noting that the rewards for these actions on the Dust side of things simply don't exist. A faction warfare battle gives no more than your average Skirmish match and the district structures that give bonuses give less income on the ground than the structure that doesn't.
Right now, the games don't really matter all that much to each other and Dust is getting the short end of the stick. This is supposedly getting improved with a new orbital system in the future, but having that edge still doesn't do much for the average Dust mercenary. The biggest idea that is being debated right now are ISK transfers between the games. This has issues with balance and could end up with situations where a trillionaire with a taste for FPS could run around in advanced tanks until the end of time. Even if the ISK transfers were heavily taxed, the potential disasters seem to be keeping it off the table currently. If either game failed with the other relying on such a system, it could very well hurt the other game.
But what if there was another way to link the games? If they need to work independently of each other, do they even need to be linked in such a direct manner?
Picture a faction warfare war-zone. The current mechanics on the EVE-side reward those that destroy enemies, work towards taking/defending systems and run PvE missions for their faction's militia. These rewards are increased by the amount of space you hold and upgrading the space you're in.
While this system isn't perfect, but Dust could also benefit from being a part of this. Right now planets affect faction warfare by altering the speed systems are taken. This is a nice benefit to EVE players, but provides nothing for Dust players that a simple public match doesn't (other than a sense of racial pride). Dust players could easily fit into the current system and even help fix one of it's flaws, but I'll get to that.
The first step is rewarding winners with loyalty points with a set amount. The base amount for a normal person winning a match will be named 'Tier 1' for now. For the sake of having a workable number, we'll put the reward at 50 LP for a victory.
The second step is giving mercs a choice if they want to sign up for a specific militia or stay as a strict third party. The benefits from joining up would be getting earlier access to faction warfare matches and victory rewards based on your chosen faction's tier. Higher tiers would mean potentially gaining 100/175/250/325 LP per victory. All of a sudden you now care about how well your faction is doing and your contribution to the war effort pays you back in kind. Third party mercs can still take part and will have the freedom to fight for who they want.
The third step is to allow mercs in a faction to donate LP to their faction's infrastructure hubs (thus increasing your faction's tier). There's an issue in faction warfare where those who benefit the most from the payout system are the ones who don't donate to iHubs. This could be alleviated somewhat by allowing mercs to also help donate. It isn't a perfect solution to the issue, but perhaps the increase in participants would allow for a more serious effort to maintain a higher tier. It also gives EVE and Dust players more incentive to work together.
The fourth step is adding more active battles. In EVE, there are always complexes (king of the hill hills) available all across the warzone. This allows space for those wanting to farm in remote corners while organized groups fight in the more important ones. With a way to show where the active systems are, organized groups could push those while rag tag groups fight over the less important systems.
The fifth step is to add faction rewards. The great things about these are that they can be used to experiment with variations of standard gear in a real environment. Maybe that sprint bonus from equipped armour plates wouldn't be great on a standard dropsuit, but if it's too good or too weak, you can tweak it without messing with the more commonly used standard gear.
Anyway, just some thoughts as I've spent the past week back in faction warfare on EVE. Faction warfare has some huge potential in Dust and is the perfect starting point to try new mechanics before putting them in the rest of the sandbox. If people are interested, I'll do a part 2 on some thoughts on linking the games outside of faction warfare.