This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss recent Dust514 happenings.
I haven’t had much to say about Dust514 for a little while, mostly because I’ve been distracted by other things and only keeping half an eye on it while waiting for some updates. I do have a couple of things to touch on though, so I’ll start with before getting around to this weeks 1.4 update.
Firstly, I started writing about the Dust514 Prime League Tournament but never finished. Coming off the back of EVE’s Alliance Tournament XI I was hopeful that CCP would be pressing forward with another good show to demonstrate the other side of the EVE universe in a similarly good light. Sadly not. Not only is the rather-hyped tournament not being streamed or shown in any way that I can tell, but the whole thing has been plagued with problems from the start. There have been last minute rules and format changes, sign-up problems, scheduling gaffs and a very clear and uniform sense of dissatisfaction from the player community. So pretty disappointing.
What I find most curious is the ambiguity (at least to me) over what exactly CCP’s partners in this misadventure are actually responsible for. As far as I can tell CCP themselves are doing most of the work and acting to address the issues. Said partners are these people:
We are proud to announce that we are co-hosting the Prime League Tournament, the first open tournament in DUST 514, with UrgentFury; an accomplished online organizer in the console FPS scene.
So far all I have been able to figure out is that they have a pretty badly designed website that I don’t want to give any of my personal information to. Frankly I think it looks dodgy as it is covered in pop-ups and I haven’t gleaned anything useful from as yet. I’m really not sure why CCP decided to use them to do whatever it is they are doing, but I don’t think it has worked out too well. Actually that sort of poor communication has pretty much defined this tournament, I was very interested but everything I have seen once I started digging has turned me off it.
Having said that, I do hope that CCP isn’t too discouraged and comes back to the idea having learned what not to do. The winner of this gets to name a planet, which is pretty cool I think. Wonder what they will settle on?
Speaking of communication, lets move on to the other bit of bad news. Dust514’s body of player representatives, the first CPM, a couple of weeks ago took a momentous step and wrote an open letter to CCP on the state of the game. Needless to say, but players only do this when they feel that things are not going well. There is a strong parallel to be drawn between this and the open letter by EVE’s CSM5 back in March 2011, a few months before the infamous Incarna expansion.
CSM5’s open letter was a desperate plea for CCP to engage with its community over the future, and indeed then-current, direction of game development over the monumental Incarna project that CCP had been investing heavily into over a span of years. CCP refused to speak directly about it or to recognise player concerns that ultimately turned out to be distressingly well-founded and came close to killing EVE and CCP entirely. The CPM had this to say about Dust514 development last month:
However, the most dangerous problems have not been fully recognized nor appreciated, despite constant calls for improvement from the community for almost two years. A lack of trust between the developers and the community continues to stand between Dust 514 and its full potential. A lack of communication also persists, and has at least been briefly acknowledged as ‘something to improve on’ multiple times by everyone we’ve approached in management. Sadly though, these acknowledgements come with only with the faintest hint of understanding pertaining to the severity of these problems.
Reading through the open letter, I very much got the sense that CCP Shanghai are still operating under the mind set of CCP Reykjavik in 2011. Development is behind closed doors, all of the cards are held ever so tightly to the developer’s chests and only revealed in brief glimpses. And what the community, or indeed the CPM, cannot see they cannot provide feedback on or get all that enthusiastic about.
Since 2011 the EVE devs have made huge strides in restoring EVE to former glories and are pushing the game forwards in all the right directions by cultivating feedback on upcoming changes and making course corrections before changes go live. The Odyssey 1.1 industrial ship class revamp is a great example of this. The balancing team put their first idea to the players and received a lot of negative feedback over the direction. They went away and came up with a radically different suggestion instead and got a big thumbs up. We haven’t seen much of that with Dust514, armor tanking got a recent overhaul, the players expressed concerns but they weren’t acted on and went into the game. The changes failed to have the desired impact.
It does sound like CCP has begun to respond to the criticisms and are gradually putting in the changes necessary to close the chasm between players and developers. It won’t happen overnight but it does seem to be happening. We can hope.
To end on a more positive note, Uprising 1.4 looks to be a very positive step in the right direction. There has been quite a lot of work done on the UI for the Mercenary Quarters. The new recent updates screen does a nice job of pulling the most relevant information together, and introduces the new daily skill point bonus which you can earn just for logging in on consecutive days. This is a really nice way to encourage regular play and reward activity I think.
I’m liking it. Far more important than this however is that CCP have overhauled the controls making things feel much more responsive. They also put some kind of aim assist back in, which to be honest I probably need as I still suck! 😛 Playing the game now feels more like I fighting against the other players rather than the controls, so whatever they actually did under the hood I’m in favour of it.
The battle finder has received love and improved considerably for it. I can now filter Factional Warfare battles and join a queue for the faction(s) I would like to fight for, and it seems to be getting me into FW fights much quicker than before when you have to try manually joining fights the second they appeared before they would fill up. I’m not convinced its working perfectly though, as it seemed to put me into an Amarr team when they are the one faction I wanted to filter out. Fine tuning may be needed. 😉
There is a new map, which is also welcome and comes with some new method of creating sharper textures that CCP have been playing with. It must be doing something as my wife noticed the difference without being told about it! Nice to see that CCP can still raise the visual bar a few more notches.
The last stand out thing I’ve already seen in action is the nerfing/fixing of the ‘murder taxi’. Previously you would get players tearing around the map in the LAV (buggy) running over anyone and everyone with impunity. Now they deal damage based on the speed of the vehicle, rather just splatting everything they might nudge. Someone tried repeatedly to do this to me and failed utterly as he wasn’t going anywhere near fast enough. He eventually got out of the taxi in frustration and I shot him. Heh.
So it hasn’t been going so great for Dust over the summer, but there are promises of improvement and now some clear indications of key issues being addressed. My fingers are crossed for another strong update next month.