Dust 514: Still A Very Bad Game

 

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.

Dust-514-Receives-Uprising-Build-on-May-6

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.

Dust-514-Uprising-4

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.

Tags: dust, dust 514, hvac, hvacrepairman

About the author

Xander Phoena

The good looking, funny, intelligent member of the team, Xander set up Crossing Zebras with Jeg in April 2012 mainly because he was talking too much about Eve on his other podcast. Playing the game for almost five years, Xander still has absolutely zero clue about how to actually play Eve but somehow still manages to talk a good game.


  • Liner Xiandra

    I’ve been quite impressed with the recent pointreleases and I’m sure CCP Wolfman and the rest can at least bring some balance back into the game that went out of the window with Uprising.

    But Dust doesn’t just need balance. It needs content, and a reason. Planetary Management still isn’t the answer, and what it should be still isn’t known. In fact, if you go back on the forums around Fanfest 2010/2011/2012, this “why should we care” question was always popping up and never got an answer, still up to this day. That is worrying me. I don’t think Dust on itself can manage a meaningful link on it’s own as well. Ever since Incarna CCP is hesitant on committing developing time to WiS or anything that isnt “flying in spaceships”.

    EVE Online needs to implement some new features that can make this a meaningful link; because I’m sure you can blame EVE partly for how Dust 514 turned out.

    For those that don’t know, you only have to look back at *the original* Planetary Interaction design plan – which differs greatly from the farce that we got now in-game. (http://youtu.be/rNhPig8inEY?t=1h1m45s for example) AND this original plan had plenty of hooks that you could hire Dust mercenaries for.

    So yeah, CCP; give us space elevators instead of POCO’s. Where we can dock and WiS with Dust mercs. Let me hire dust mercs to take out a competing PI’ers extractor. Let me hire mercs to clear out rogue drones from my PI installation to restore efficiency. Give PI products a more important role in the economy.

    ..or something.

    But Dust battles for a couple of districts so I can swing a FW system slighly quicker / give my POS a fuel bonus is hardly what makes me care.

    I hope CCP will find the courage again to invest time and effort to develop things in EVE Online that arn’t just FiS.

    • Liner Xiandra

      OH and after all that moaning about EVE where this article was about Dust;

      Dust needs to kick up its content a few notches as well. PvE gamemode (that ties in with EVE) or even filling out the racial lineups of weapons/suits.

      Fanfest 2012 showed some tests/concepts for hostile planets and fanfest 2013 showed test-animations for speeders and aircraft, with a ton of concept art that hints at many different outposts and locations.

      I’ve got a feelign they decided at the start of game development that it would be OK to release the game with only a quarter or third of the racial weapons/dropsuits/roles. Clearly that was a judgement error when the skill system is a massive grind that puts players off. (Where’s my caldari Rail Rifle?, CCP posted renders online back in .. december 2012 -or maybe before that-. Still no signs of that.)

      Oh well. Bad design decisions at the start of the journey are going to be costly later on.

  • Howard Treesong

    I’m still giving great kudos to CCP for trying such a hairbrained scheme like trying to marry a FPS game to a space MMO with a history as epic as EVE’s.

    Having said that, we all know CCP does not exactly excel in providing the best experience with the first iteration. What Dust needed was very much more development time in the way of ideas.

    I’m pretty sure the vision of CCP is sound in that they want both Dust to impact EVE to impact Dust, make it into two parts of the same whole. The difference in culture and the difficulties in having them meet somewhere and be feature complete is not something to scoff at. Over time that is going to work out, but time is not something the FPS player is going to invest, certainly not with so many other very nicely developed and mature environments to play in.

    The Dust bunnies will always remain a great idea, I fear, without finding the proper implementation.

  • Stabs

    I think the last hope for DUST is integration with Eve. The biggest most desperate war in nullsec was just fought and none of the participants could have cared less about planetary conquest. So the people who buy in to the dark universe of New Eden actually have to stop playing DUST when space empires are at stake. That’s daft.

    Imagine if the Fountain War had seen a drive for planetary victory. All that excitement, epic scope and player buy-in transferred to the DUST product in the SA v Reddit war.

  • The only way to make planetary conquest work is to turn it in to an integrated strategy game where planetary presence has

    – meaningful granularity, intricate and detailed consequences
    – gameplay that allows an ecology of choices and specialization
    – START with gameplay covering a few hundred planets

    Dust looks like some unimaginative middle manager trying to score a quick buck. It is lacking in vision and largely incompetent posturing. CCP should get rid of this short-term anglosaxon design bullshit. Eve started with real content. Superficiality won’t do in this era.

  • Mekhios

    Let me just fire up the latest version of Dust 514 on my powerhouse Windows-based computer with latest gen GTX780 video card and WASD-mouselook controls …

    … err wait … seems I can’t actually do that. What the hell is this console shit?

    Nothing to see here … back to EVE.

  • Chief

    Make Planets produce large amounts of moon minerals (You’d think the people of New Eden would be able to extract something from the planet surface).

    The only way to control these facilities is via dust514 storming the facility. Clearly you don’t want to orbital bombard and destroy the precious minerals. Eve side will be fighting to stop clones for either side making it to the planet, dust guys a blowing the crap out of each other on the ground.

    Eve players are having good fights in orbit, dust players are fighting for something meaningful on the ground and we have a good link between the 2 games.

    If you have a good meaningful link it will allow CCP the time to iterate over dust and make it look and feel good.

  • Rafe Andedare

    Until Dust Mercs have the ability to move throughout the Eve universe and be affected by what they are fighting for, the game will be a second rate FPS. I am in a Dust Merc Corp and those guys join all battles on all sides and never notice any changes to the Starmap. Make it so that Merc Corps must choose a side in Faction war when they are formed and so they can only join battles that are in the system they are currently in. Then by allowing Eve pilots to accept contracts to move them around in space to those planets would bring some fruition to CCP’s promises. No amount of FPS tweaking will accomplish that.

    Rafe Andedare

    CEO of The Iron Wolf Strike Service

  • OR PICK A NAME

    Dust is a rancid cunt of a game and needs to die so that EVE money can go back to being spent on EVE.

    If CCP make the EVE end game dependant on Dust the Jita riots will look like a picnic.

    CCP must be owed well over 10 million dollars by now by Dust. The rivers of gold did not come because they developed a shit game in a shit place,

    Kill it.

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  • Zero

    I see a lot of people just merely trying to make comments and connections to EVE. Maybe their attempts at trying to connect the two was what fucked it all up in the first place. It also doesn’t help that the core gameplay is absolute rubbish.

    The whole skills system is a massive disaster in my eyes. It almost always either completely fucks you over or completely takes away the challenge. I seriously don’t understand how people can passionately play this game for long periods of time and not wish to commit suicide. The fanboys are absolutely toxic as well and I can only stand their level of stupid and mis-placed loyalty for about 2 minutes.

  • Zero

    Oh, and I really tried to enjoy this game. I honestly did, but there’s something about it I just cannot stand. Whether it’s the horrible controls or the frustrating players. Honestly I’m fed up with people claiming their “intelligence” at this game. It’s like a bunch of people trying desperately to find intelligence in themselves and this game is the only place they can find it. So you mixed and mashed some skills and joined a corp of pub-stompers, I fail to see the intelligence. :/

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