This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss my first impressions of Dust514.
I have had time to play a bit of Dust514 now so this is probably a good time to give my newbies perspective. The bottom line? I’m enjoying it but can see some areas of improvement. I think that it is a decent (and fun) shooter and can deliver on expectations, although my first impressions are that it isn’t quite as polished as I hoped given that it is now live.
Being not just a Dust newbie but a console noob, part of my challenge in getting to grips with the game has been my (very) limited inexperience of control pad controls. I’m getting there. Slowly. 😉 Something i am trying to avoid is comparing Dust too closely to my experience of shooters on the PC, CCP deliberately chose to make a console shooter to tap into a different market, so arguably Dust’s primary target audience will be approaching the game with a control pad in hand.
The area that I really think CCP need to concentrate on improving ASAP is not actually the shooting part of the game. Its the tutorials and the Mercenary Quarters, the between matches stuff which separates Dust from Call of Duty of Battlefield. My first response to the game was bewilderment!
Once you create a character in Dust the MQ loads showing your avatar standing in his small room (smaller than EVE’s Captain’s Quarters, which from a lore perspective is a nice touch). You are then bombarded with information. I suddenly had a sense of deja vu taking me back to when I first started out in EVE and the game hurled walls of text at me expecting it to all make sense. After that initial torrent of not entirely useful information, you are on your own.
In this respect, Dust is much like EVE. Or maybe I suspect, like EVE used to be before CCP put a lot of effort into improving the new player experience. It is hard for me as an EVE veteran of almost 9 years now to evaluate EVE’s NPE today in the same way, but I suspect that Dust is currently lagging behind here.
A new character starts out with a pool of 500,000 unallocated skill points and I think 250,000 ISK. The problem I had at this point was that I had no idea of which skills were important or if I should spend my ISK on skills or equipment. A new character starts with pretty much no skills at all so just about anything you might decide to train first requires that you buy a skillbook. While this is also true of EVE, I think Dust takes it a step further. Also, EVE’s tutorial missions lavish free stuff upon the player including many of the basic skillbooks they will need. Not so in Dust.
As a result, I really haven’t got a handle on Dust’s skill system yet as I’m struggling to decide what is actually important to be training at this point. The good news is that Dust’s training system has a significant difference to EVE in that rather than spending time training a specific skill, skill points earned simply go into a pool that can be used to unlock a skill once enough SP has been earned. You don’t commit to training something for 3 days only to realise that you would have been better off working on something else 2 days in.
There is also some obsolete info in the tutorial wall of text blurb. Prior to Uprising (the launch build), characters were created with a specialisation choice that predetermine some starting skills. Specialisations were removed for Uprising (you just get the unallocated skill points), but the tutorial text has not yet been updated. In fact, a lot of the tutorial stuff feels like a placeholder or otherwise in need of updating and polish, which is a problem.
I think that as I become more familiar with the game (and the PS3!) I will settle into it and enjoy Dust for the long-term. I am working on getting some of my PS3 owning friends to create accounts and try it out so I hope to build up the core of a squad and expand my experiences in the EVE universe. My concern is that players who are entirely new to EVE may bounce off what can be a baffling first impression of the game given before you even get into your first match.
I wonder if the introduction of the game should be flipped around, with players encouraged to get into an instant battle before the game starts pushing them towards the skill tree, markets and dropsuit fitting. Players are approaching the game as a shooter first and foremost, only to be shown a wall of stuff and stats without knowing what any of it really means.
CCP, don’t scare the newbies off with masses of detail before drawing them in with explosions. Entertain with the fireworks first, draw them into the depths of the EVE universe afterwards.