Dust514 – Less dead than expected?

This entry has been written from an ‘out of character’ perspective to discuss Dust514.  Which is apparently still not dead…

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I’ve been meaning to write about this for a week now, I’m starting to think that my life is running in fast forward as I keep losing track of time!  So anyway, last week a new Dust514 dev blog was posted giving a development update on Dust514.

There are multiple surprises in store here, the first being that this wasn’t yet another developer spotlight and actually contained something worth talking about!  It is my personal opinion that CCP like to put out developer spotlights to fill up long gaps when they have nothing else to announce.  Since Fanfest we’ve seen a fair few of these interspersed with the occasional announcement of an event or one of the hotfix updates going live.

You may recall that the Fanfest 2014 Dust514 keynote was the infamous ‘Rouge Wedding’ where CCP dedicated the bulk of the brief presentation to showing off the ‘Project Legion’ prototype for a potential replacement game that would take the Dust514 vision back to the drawing board.  It is never good for a game when its big keynote presentation is dedicated to its potential replacement as the developers effectively declare their existing game to be a failure.

It was at this point that the world pretty much wrote off any remaining hopes that Dust514 would ever reach its original potential.  There was no port to PC/PS4 on the horizon, no new content on the cards and development effort now apparently being invested into building a new game instead.  Shortly afterwards CCP announced their upcoming plans for Dust to come in the former of ‘hotfix’ updates that would focus on rebalancing existing content, rather than add anything wholly new requiring a client update.

Since then we have seen four hotfixes which have made a long list of balancing changes to just about everything.  This sort of work is great for the health of the game and undoubtedly has improved the game quite a bit, but it isn’t all that exciting and doesn’t take the experience anywhere new.  Personally, I stopped logging in regularly months ago as I didn’t feel like there was anything new to see or do.  I haven’t completely given up on the game, but I wasn’t rushing back and I’m sure this is the general attitude towards Dust among EVE players.

This latest development update then has surprised me.  After six months or so of nothing ‘new’, and about 18 months since the game officially launched with Uprising 1.0, we are suddenly getting Uprising 1.9!  The headlines for the update are new maps (at last!) and the option to sell unwanted gear back to an NPC vendor which has been much called for and much needed in the absence of a proper market.

Following on from the 1.9 update CCP say:

We also want to add more variety and flavor with new modules and weapon variants. That‘s why this is the right moment to bring out more content in the form of Blueprints and Personalization options to allow players to express themselves. That‘s something you‘ve asked for repeatedly in the past and present, and we are more than happy to deliver in the form of a new content update.

So combine that with the new maps and we actually have some new graphical assets going into the game for the first time in ages.  I wasn’t really expecting much of that as I figured CCP Shanghai were putting their people to work on building Legion rather than on the all-but-canned Dust.  Which makes this other statement interesting.

We‘d like to take a quick moment to reiterate the message from EVE Fanfest 2014. If Project Legion becomes a reality, the absolute intent is to offer a migration plan as fairly and quickly as humanly possible. However, Project Legion is not an official game yet.

Interesting to see CCP Rouge stressing that Legion has not been green lit and still might not happen.  I’m not sure then if this means that the team has returned their sights to Dust while they wait for CCP management to decide on Legion’s prospects, or if Dust is getting some love in order to extend its lifespan.  I imagine the answer is a bit of both.  The update tells us that Dust is actually doing better than I think most people would have thought.

We‘re very happy to see that our player base remains both stable and active. In fact, we are currently seeing the highest engagement numbers in over a year, averaging around 300.000 Monthly Active (unique) Users over the last few months.

It is very surprising to hear that Dust is seeing players clocking more time in game now than they were well before Fanfest.  You’d think that the ‘Rouge Wedding’ and lack of new content would have kicked much of the enthusiasm out of people but it seems that the hotfixes have been helping and players stuck around.  If Dust has managed to hold onto its playerbase this long then honestly I think things are looking quite good!

The game’s ability to retain a solid (if relatively small) community despite a ‘challenging’ year is a good sign for CCP and may well be cause for some fresh investment in content.  New maps and gear will freshen up the experience while adding personalisation options gives players more stuff to buy in microtransactions.  All in all in appears that Dust remains a viable product for the time being!  You weren’t expecting that, were you? 😉

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