Dust514 – Progressing into the sunset?

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the Dust514 Progression presentation at Fanfest 2014.

Fanfest2014

I was a little distracted at the start of the ‘Dust514 Progression’ presentation but it seems that the ‘Dust514’ presentation, much like like the ‘Dust514’ keynote, was pretty much entirely focused on the just-announced ‘Project Legion’ PC reboot of Dust514.

And yes, it appears to be a complete reboot and ground-up re-imagining of the game in an effort to deliver the sandbox FPS experience Dust514 has long promised.  If you haven’t already, go read that dev blog as it contains more hard info than was given in the keynote.

It appears that CCP have gone back the drawing board and committed to redesigning the whole damn thing on upgraded tech and a new platform (PC) in order to deliver on the promise made with Dust514.  A promise CCP are conceding that will not be met by iterating on the Dust514 we know which runs on the outgoing last-generation console PS3.

Unfortunately I feel as I watch the live stream and social media reactions that CCP are screwing up the announcement and putting out a damaging mixed message.  We have had two Dust515 branded live presentations so far this fanfest and neither were actually about Dust514!

Existing Dust514 players are palpably worried, I know I am.  Many players have spent real money and considerable amounts of time on Dust over the past 18months or so and it appears at this point that significant development of Dust has stopped in favour of iterative updates while CCP focus their efforts on Project Legion.  CCP are openly admitting that they have no plans on whether or not existing characters will be ported over to Project Legion.

My impression is that they won’t, and that means any further investment into your Dust character becomes highly risky.  Project Legion is not a mere port of Dust514, it is a reboot.  It is being developed essentially as a new product with a new economy and dynamics.  It may even not be possible to directly port existing characters into this structure, the games could be that different.

What does this mean for Dust514?  I am very concerned for Dust’s future at this juncture.  Dust exists on an out-going platform with no plans to port it onto a platform with, you know, a future.  That surely condemns the game to a limited exposure to a dwindling audience.  Over the next couple of years more and more PS3 owners will migrate to next-gen consoles or the PC as their old console becomes increasingly obsolete.  I have heard Dark Souls called the ‘last hurrah’ of the Ps3 generation, and that game is now released.  As the big ticket games move on, so will the players.

As I said before, so far this fanfest there has not been a single notable announcement made for Dust514 despite two live presentations having already gone out.  There is one more Dust514 presentation to come (‘More sand in the box for Dust514’) tomorrow then CCP Presents.  It is starting to look like Dust514 is almost in development ‘maintenance mode’ at this point as the significant investment is now going into Project Legion.

During the Q&A at the end of the Dust514 Progression presentation a couple of questions were asked to the tune of ‘is any of this (Project Legion) skill tree redesign presented  being considered for Dust’ for which CCP had no straight answer.  Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.

It seems like the future for Dust514 is smaller scale iteration to keep things ticking over until Project Legion is ready for launch.  By that point Dust’s small but dedicated community will probably be dwindling in step with the inevitable decline of the PS3.  It is hard not to feel disenfranchised by that thought.

I am looking at the intangible promise of Project Legion with a glimmer of hope.  But I’m looking at Dust514 like it just took a gut shot.  CCP need to step up and improve their communication dramatically at this point before their Dust community starts to evaporate rapidly.

It is not enough to put out a brief keynote presentation declaring an essentially new game without addressing the current one at all, then publishing a dev blog that most fanfest attendees wont see until they get home, then a miss-branded presentation that again ignores the current game and then a roundtable discussion that isn’t streamed at all.

I think I’m more annoyed by this than I was about Incarna.  Incarna undelivered, but at least it wasn’t a back door announcement that my game had been effectively cancelled.  CCP’s community and marketing teams need to step up their game here.  And they can’t take too long to do it.

I really hope the EVE keynote turns out to be awesome, I need an EVE-hug.

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