This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the state of play in Dust514.
Dust514’s latest monthly update, Uprising 1.5, went live recently continuing CCP’s focus on fixing up the basics of the game that were found wanting at launch. The 1.5 update isn’t the game changer that 1.4 was (with the extensive controls overhaul), as this time around it focused on a revamped tutorial and new player experience.
I created a new character to give it a quick run through and found it to be a pretty big improvement compared to what we had before. It seems to pretty much align with my own thinking and now points the player straight at getting into a match. Previously the game threw walls of text at you and expected you to sit and read for what felt like a very long time. The new system both looks slicker but keeps it simple letting you play a match before you are asked to start messing with skills and fittings.
Uprising 1.5 also introduced a squad finder which works like EVE’s fleet finder allowing you to group up with friends much more easily. I find it works pretty well for private groups but found that the public search was awkward and uninformative. I found it difficult to search and that squad entries would just around as the page kept refreshing. So its at least half-way there I guess.
The other two big changes were the addition of corporation roles, which are very much a good idea as the community evolves, and new war point rewards. More ways of earning war points is an excellent addition as players are now better rewarding for performing a wider variety of activities on the battlefield such as preventing hacking attempts.
All in all, the monthly updates are continuing to do their job of refining the game and smoothing out the game’s many rough edges that earned its mixed launch reviews and Luke-warm public reception. What we are of course waiting on is details of where the game is heading in the more mid-term future. At some point CCP will want/need to switch from Uprising’s polish focused point releases and to move into expansion territory and more far reaching additions to the game.
A bit like EVE-Online players are muttering about really. 😉 Over in EVE, we are a month out from the Rubicon expansion which CCP are communicating as their point of ‘no turning back’ expansion as they strike out on a 3 year development road-map leading steadily towards CCP Seagull’s ultimate vision of space colonization. EVE-Online players have a taste of where EVE is going in the foreseeable future, where the question marks ‘simply’ hover on the specifics of features. Heh. ‘Simply’. 😉
The picture for Dust514’s future is nowhere near as well understood by its community. We aren’t even sure if Dust514 has a roadmap or any specific overarching vision at this point! I think that this difference is quite nicely underlined by the differing experiences of each game’s respective player body of representatives.
EVE’s CSM8 has been having a fairly steady term in office, where EVE’s development is proceeding along a steady and generally satisfactory course. Over the past couple of years we have seen CCP making many good changes and improvements to the core game but not pushing all that far into bold new territory. Things are going well, but players are keen to see bolder, more innovative steps be taken in the near future. CSM8 chairman (and robo-blogger) Ripard Teg has often talked about ‘war time’ and ‘peace time’ CSM’s and the notion of ‘activist’ CSM’s who push things forwards with CCP Reykjavik. He had this to say in his most recent activity report.
This is one of those weeks that were I just a blogger again instead of on the CSM, I would be berating the CSM for its lack of progress. “Where are the damn minutes?!” many of you are asking me. And all I can say is, “I know, I know…” I haven’t decided what’s worse: if we’d been a war-time CSM, or this constant low level of avoidable CCP issues. We had two formal meetings with CCP about the SOMER Blink situation in the last week, plus a plethora of informal discussions.
The big issues in EVE right now are more community based than to do with the game itself. EVE is in a fairly healthy state (compared to 2011 it is the very model of fitness!) and seems to have a clear plan of action going forwards meaning that the CSM is involved in sanity checking CCP’s plans and helping to channel community feedback. It is a positive two-way relationship.
Dust514’s inaugural CPM is by comparison involved in sustained trench warfare. CPM spokesman (and CSM7 alumni) Hans Jagerblitzen reports on a far less productive relationship with CCP Shanghai. While CSM8 is reaping the benefits of past CSM’s building links with EVE’s developers, CPM1 is trying to build a relationship from scratch with a dev team that until fairly recently was largely working behind closed doors with little community input at all. Worse still, Dust514’s rocky launch and the organizational reshuffling in Shanghai has further hampered bridge building.
It seems that things are coming to a head now as the CPM reaches the end of its originally planned six month term, with no decisions having been made on what happens next. This is the part of Han’s update I found most interesting.
The time has passed for the CPM to take verbal assurances at face value, and from this point on we can only evaluate CCP’s interest in engaging the community through observing substantive action. As your representative body, pledges of cooperation made to the CPM are also made to each of you, and because of this they should almost always be made to you directly. Since CCP Dolan’s initial post announcing our formation, the CPM’s activities as well as CCP’s interest in our development have been documented almost exclusively through this blog, and that will no longer be the case. The last pledge from CCP that I will communicate on their behalf is this: There will be a public statement by the end of the week, where CCP will update the community on the state of the CPM as well discuss how we will be proceeding moving forward.
The ball is in CCP’s court, and it has been squarely put on them to pick it up. Funnily enough, this weekend is the EVE Vegas gathering which CCP are heavily supporting. There is a Dust514 presentation on ‘Past, Present & Future’ which I think could be an interesting watch. I am very much interested to hear CCP start setting out some more concrete plans for Dust than ‘fix the current issues’ and to see something of a mid-term roadmap that bridges the gulf between where the game is today and the lofty future dreams of fighting boarding actions inside EVE’s capital ships that were being mooted back at fanfest pre-Uprising. Or the space elevators. Or of moving Dust battles into EVE’s player controlled null sec empires.
There is a whole lot of middle ground that CCP need to cross to get to a point where the two games are truly integrated and interweaving. I am very much interested in finding out how CCP plan intend to start filling it. Hopefully the CPM can manage to breach those trench lines soon.