Dust 514: Still A Very Bad GameXander Phoena
Two months ago, notorious tweeter and director of Goonswarm Federation’s Dust 514 Goonfeet corporation, HVACRepairman, wrote a piece detailing what why CCP’s attempt on the FPS genre was doomed to fail. Since then, both CCP and the Council of Planetary Management (CPM) have been working on improving the experience. If the title wasn’t hint enough, HVAC thinks they still have some way to go…
In late June I wrote an article titled ‘The Tragedy of DUST 514‘ where I went into great detail of the failures of CCP’s second title. The piece listed a significant number of issues that had plagued the game since closed Beta and went after Dust’s first major expansion, Uprising. I originally wrote it as a way to get some of my frustrations with the game out to the public, stir up some conversation and wake people up to the reality that the game was most likely going to be a failure unless significant steps were made to fix the very core fundamentals.
Since that article was written, 1.2 and 1.3 patches have been released in an attempt to fix a number of my complaints. Weapons now have optimal, effective and absolute ranges, Planetary Conquest was iterated on (more on that later) and memory issues were addressed, amongst other things. CCP made a small number of improvements and the game took a couple baby steps in the right direction.
I did have an ulterior motive for writing the story; I wasn’t satisfied with how the community was expressing their displeasure with the game, and I wasn’t entirely sure if CCP were fully aware of how bad the product was in comparison of similar titles of the same genre. The piece was well received and no one outside /r/Dust514 took issue with what I wrote publicly.
Last week the CPM released an open letter to the community. The letter was fifteen paragraphs in length and condemned CCP for failing to properly communicate with both them and the community, as well as failing to address the many core issues with the game. When the CPM were first chosen by CCP, many felt (full disclosure: I did as well) that it was merely a publicity stunt filled with Dust cheerleaders. Regardless if that was true at the time, it certainly isn’t now. The letter was grim, precise and long. It was the public shot across the bow that I had been wanting to see for months, and why I wrote my original article.
In early July, CCP hired industry veteran Sean Decker as the new Senior Vice President of Product Development. While I am not suggesting his entire job is the Dust product, it is quite clear with his background in the FPS genre and microtransactions that he’ll have quite an impact in the future development of Dust. The hiring told me two things. Firstly, CCP realizes that Dust is not the product they envisioned it would be. Secondly, CCP weren’t confident that they could fix the game in-house. Since his hiring, almost all of his tweets about CCP products have been about Dust, save one about World of Darkness. One of his last tweets mentions he’s going to be spending several weeks in China, which makes the next part pretty interesting.
It has recently been revealed that Executive Producer Brandon Laurino has left the company. If you’re not sure who he is, he’s the bearded guy who has given both the 2012 and 2013 Dust keynotes at FanFest. Hired two years ago, he was tasked with the enormous burden of turning the absolutely colossus of a trainwreck that was the closed beta into a game that would be commercially viable. The Uprising expansion was largely his work, an attempt to get the game playable by release. There is no doubt that Uprising was a couple steps forward in the right direction, but it also raised new issues and failed to make the impact that a lot of people had hoped it would. He was definitely passionate about the game, and I hoped, if he had been given enough time, he would have been able to turn it around. Regardless of how it played out, he is no longer with the company and CCP is looking to hire a new Executive Producer.
My guess is that Sean Decker will have a heavy influence in who becomes the next Dust EP, and I would not be shocked if an outside hire of similar background to him gets put in that role. Maybe having outside eyes on the project will kick some life into it — clearly CCP had to do something and their options are very limited.
The previous article I wrote went into great detail in why the Uprising didn’t live up to the expectations that had been set. To me, the expansion was five steps forward, three steps back, and about thirty steps sideways. What it did was add a lot of ham-handed features which sounded cool if you read about them, but in practice fell flat. Planetary Conquest went live shortly after release and was the Jesus feature that would put Dust on the gaming map. Despite the recent iterations in patches, the ambivalence towards it still exists. Several months later, PC is still in the same place it was; many groups simply do not care for it. Others who are involved are only doing it as a way to replace corporation battles, a feature that was removed to make room for PC.
The development of EVE for the last two years can be summed up in one word: iteration. CCP’s direction in turning EVE from a game in a bad state to the best state it has ever been in was nothing short of phenomenal. What I’m worried is about is that they’re taking the same approach Dust. While Dust does have numerous internal problems that need to be addressed, one of the largest is the lack of what it does have. Right now the game feels like a complicated version of Counter-Strike, except with a long skill grind.
One feature I would like to see introduced is an overhaul to the various weapon systems. You’re starting to see this in other games, most notably Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. In Dust you’re using the same assault rifle as everyone else. Being able to customize your assault rifle to do certain things (like add a scope, different firing modes, different types of ammunition) gives you more creativity and flexibility to do things. Right now, the assault rifle does one thing. Want one that has a scope? You’re stuck using one with a different firing mode. The only real customization in Dust is your dropsuit, and even then your practical options are very limited. Unless you’re doing a specific thing, you almost always need to be fully tanked. One of the best things about EVE is that you’re almost never boxed in to doing one type a thing or one type of fitting, whereas in Dust the opposite is true. You can add that to the long list of things that require a top-to-bottom redesign to make Dust a commercially viable product.
With the public letter the CPM released, hopefully CCP got the wakeup call it needed. Dust is most certainly going to fail catastrophically unless new ways of thinking are injected into the creation process. They’ve fallen behind in a fast-moving, unforgiving genre. They’ve failed on a conceptual level of forcing FPS players to adapt the EVE system instead of adapting the EVE system to FPS players. They’ve been unable to make any meaningful fixes to the core gameplay in the last year. I’m a realist, and if CCP doesn’t believe they can turn the ship around they need to discontinue development and cut their losses.
The first step to fixing any problem is realizing that there is a problem. I’m glad that both the CPM and CCP are finally acknowledging there is one.