Dust514 – Putting more sand in the box

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss the third and final Fanfest 2014 presentation for Dust514 ‘Putting more sand in the box’.

Fanfest2014

Seems CCP Shanghai are waking up quickly to the player reaction over yesterday’s announcements.  They are conceding a need to talk more openly to players about the future.  CCP Praetorian commented how cool it was to bring a playable build of Project Legion to fanfest, only to ‘cry yourself to sleep when you look at twitter’ afterwards.  There were a couple of acknowledgements to player emotions running high going forwards.

Having said that, all of the players who asked questions seemed calmer than you might have expected.  That may be an after effect of the pub crawl last night but there seemed to be a lot of coming to terms with the news and becoming resigned to the new state of affairs unfolding.  Everyone knew that Dust514 would have to leave the PS3 behind eventually, this is how it is even if it isn’t the outcome we all might have hoped for.  Or maybe everyone there is also already a PC gamer so won’t be as badly impacted as others.   Who knows.

As with the keynote and presentation on progression yesterday, CCP revealed absolutely no new developments for Dust514 as we know it on PS3.  The presentation was entirely geared towards Project Legion.  This may be a presentation about putting more sand in the box, but it is a whole new box we are talking about from here on out.

A question was asked about what updates for Dust514 (PS3) can we expect over the next year.  The reply was that CCP were just rolling off the Project Legion effort and entering a planning phase based on that.  CCP Praetorian could not offer any sort of a firm answer but suggested that we might (but not definitely) see balancing changes or things like new weapons still being added.  My assumption here is that assets developed for Dust can be exported to Project Legion, touched up and still be used long term.  Larger efforts like new game modes we can pretty much forget about.

The reality is that CCP just don’t know what if anything will be added to the current game from here on out.  I find that thoroughly depressing particularly given that we have no clue when Project Legion will be released.  I think fears that Dust514 is now dead in development terms may be quite accurate.  This is very sad as the game’s small but dedicated community have nothing to look forwards to in the indeterminate meantime between now and the new game which for all we know is two years away.  Or six months.  Place you bets.

Getting into the presentation, CCP Praetorian described Dust’s current match format as being too confined to allow for the true sandbox game play envisioned.  You couldn’t spend two days just wandering about on a planet cloaked up, as you only get to be anywhere for the 15 minutes or less that a match takes.  You are also confined within a smaller area by the map boundary lines.

The expected progression for a new player was for newbies to start out in public contracts and move into factional warfare as they developed.  Finally players would enter into the planetary conquest end game. In reality that hasn’t happened and players bounce between all modes, a behaviour that I note was reinforced by switching FW rewards from ISk to purely loyalty points.  That change forces players to go back into public matches to gain ISK unless they could get iut from planetary conquest.

This chart depicts the ecology that CCP want to move towards.

fanfest2014 Dust514 sandbox2

In Project Legion CCP want to provide a choice between the structured contracts similar to what Dust has today or the ability to freely roam out into the sandbox areas where you can encounter Rogue Drone NPC’s and other players.

Rather than putting new players into an academy, players will have access to high sec sandbox areas where you can’t kill the guy next to you. The New Player Experience will start in a high sec planet sandbox zone pitting the player against drone NPC’s to teach the activity of harvesting resources in the sandbox.  A Bot/AI guide character feeds missions to players over a long time span well beyond a typical game’s NPE period.  It sounds a  bit like the description of EVE Valkyrie’s Ran Kavik character which is probably no accident.  I for one hope they cast Edward James Olmos. 😉

The salvaging game play is clearly going to be a big deal in Project Legion, which I approve of as it was meant to be a cornerstone of Dust514.  Salvage will be scanned for on the star map to identify which planets to target and then again on the sandbox area’s planet surface.  Resources will be scattered and need to be located geographically. It is a goal from the outset that rather than having all players densely concentrated in one region as is the case with current PC players all being in Molden Heath, players will be encouraged to spread out across New Eden even if there are fewer planets used in each region to avoid spreading the player base too thin.

fanfest2014 Dust514 sandbox flags

Districts will still exist, but in sandbox areas (outside of high sec) you will be able ‘plant your flag’ and claim territory.  After that it will be up to you to keep it flying possibly with the aid of building shield structures etc.  CCP want it to be a ‘less abstract’ concept than the current PC clone transfers for ISK to initiate battle.

One reason why CCP are placing salvage front and centre is that they want to grow the social and economic aspects of the EVE-Dust(Legion?) link before expanding on the overt combat side such as Orbital Bombardment.  CCP Praetorian and Dr Eyjog talked about Legion players going out into the sandbox zones to bring back items of value to EVE players for trade.  Praetorian would like the ability for ground forces to turn off modules on spaceships though, or to target paint a ship.  Someday.

The matter of allowing ISK transfers between games was raised by a player and Dr Eyjog gave the usual old (and sensible) answer.  It will be enabled slowly over time and monitored closely.  CCP are placing the player run market principle at the core of Project Legion’s design as this is a recognised failing in Dust514 that we still don’t have one.

A question point raised was that some players do not want to have to worry about where their equipment is coming from, can’t they simply buy it from the market?  The answer was that yes they could, as basic gear will be seeded through NPC sell orders while ‘cool shit’ will very likely be brought to market by other players as happens in EVE-Online.

A player raised the problem in Dust514 of players being either very poor (like me) and struggling to afford the better gear, or being ludicrously wealthy to the point where losses are irrelevant.  CCp simply promised to learn from ‘past mistakes’.  That answer sort of made me feel that CCP are considering the Dust economy to be pretty broken at this point.

Another player pointed out that it is kind of ridiculous that in Dust not only the player but all of our vehicles and stuff is magically transported across the map for each battle and wanted to know if that mechanic will change.  CCP basically said no it won’t as this is a concession to accessibility, playability and fun.  However, it may be that the resources we gather need to be transported somehow.  Possibly by EVE players?

Finally, Tournament play is apparently high on CCP’s list.  They would like to put in ‘poker tournament style buy-in’ (100mill ISK to compete at this level, 500mill ISK for access to the platinum table) acts as both a large reward and ISK sink.  Currently events are heavily reliant on manual scripting so CCP want to build the tools for the players themselves to use in designing events.  Sounds like something that will be added post-release I think.

So then.  Project Legion certainly sounds like the game we all wanted Dust514 to be.  Unfortunately Dust514 itself now appears truly terminal.  I really do hope that CCP step up their communications with the player base over the next week if they have any intention of doing anything to retain that community in the coming months and perhaps years between now and the day Project Legion bears fruit.

Unless CCP pull something out of the bag in the CCP Presents keynote tonight then fanfest 2014 will have delivered no new content for Dust514 and marked the beginning of its end.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to watch the keynote tonight live so I will have to wait until it hits youtube to see what else CCP have in store.

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