Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Future Dust Merc: Bassmeant

Our latest interview is with a frequenter of many games in the FPS genre, and he counts himself in the Battlefield side of many of our console debates. In one of our more candid and informative interviews he chimes in on why FPS hasn't progressed, how many games in the genre went wrong, how clans are important and why its important that players be their own endgame.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
old gamer, born in the 70s. producer/songwriter/singer by trade. raised on table top rpgs to text based computer, 8 bit computer, 80s consoles + "pcs", 90s consoles and online team based shooters that were "polygon" games, 90s pc online up til now. currently, game addicted, searching for the "perfect" game.

2. How did Dust first catch your eye?
gamespy game release dates, i tend to read em as far ahead as they post em. whenever it hit there first is when i started to pay attention. peeped out eve as soon as i understood what dust was about, to see if CCP was gonna drop the ball or not. based on what made eve worthwhile, dust held much promise, especially in the wake of the mag/homefront fiascoes.

3. You were critical about many aspects of MAG and seem to have more of a pessimistic view of Dust, why?
<sigh> well, that question is the one that opens up a whole can of worms...
mag failed for many reasons, the least of which was player incompetence. consider the idea of the bell curve= in a random group, 2 smaller percentiles of sub groups will fall toward the outter ends of the curve, representing 2 extremes. the majority will favor some common behaviour or trait that is the "bell" in the middle. the average. that's what gaming suffers from. the majority of games are designed for "accessibility" which is a death word for any real gamer. it means that the game has been reduced down to being enjoyable for the player with the least amount of skill or motivation, say the "noob" in gaming. and when you are raised on a diet of such ez mode garbage, in time, your skill will atrophy. so you take bad gamers and year after year they continue to get softer and softer games until everything is too challenging for them. its been like that for the last 6 years.
now when we talk about "hardcore" gaming, we talk about the other end of the spectrum, the exceptionally "skilled" or "motivated" players, if my theory is correct. that would include teams and clans, groups or otherwise folks who practice and "take it too seriously" and also enjoy MOST the clan on clan or "team" based competitive play, which would be considered the "highest" or "best" level of play a game can produce, yes? so most folks fall in the "middle" and simply don't care as much nor have the time or motivation to play at the "hardcore" level, but still want to experience any said game, which to a degree, is their right as a buyer of said game.
when you begin to get into "team" or "clan" based gaming, the casual gamer simply doesn't exist at that level, no matter what the sales for any given game represent. the long term "loyalists" of any given game are more likely then not going to be "clans, teams and hardcore solo players" who really enjoy being exceptionally good at something and enjoy the challenge of maintaining said "skill level" against other teams/clans. modding tools would be the most obvious example, in terms of things like battlefield 2 and the project reality games.
Eve is notorious for some stories that would, had they taken place on console, possibly end up in court, based on the soft skin and sad panda face of the "average" console gamer. and the devs, god love em, ENJOY what they have built. They created this world and said to their clients, the players, "ok... we built it. you guys moderate it. handle it, cuz we aren't gonna baby sit you." i love the idea of that. THAT is hardcore gaming at its finest. Consoles have consistently proven that the majority of players will not be able to handle an environment that would be so "harsh" to play in, no matter how the null sec, low sec, etc is divided. now, as mag proved, when you take a bus load of console players and duct tape them together and call it a "team" for some sort of vague reason like some non existent "shadow war", what you get is an INSANE amount of the most asinine incompetence known to man. just balls out mass incompetence that ruins any chance of the game being worthwhile long term. but of course, based on paragraph 1 above, the game is accessible, so you cannot for any reason let clans do anything resembling teams in public rooms. you have to code AGAINST clans. battlefield 3 is doing the same thing right now, incredibly. and because the casual gamer needs to experience ALL parts of the game, you have to code out any clan ladders, etc. for fear of offending the casual gamer. same thing with private/clan rooms, etc. you have to limit what clans can do at all costs or they will run your game and not you, the dev. THAT'S the current state of console gaming. A whoooole lotta training wheels and babysitting going on, protecting casual gamers from clans and from the idea that once you unleash clans, the casual gamers daily stats will change and they will find out, for once and for all, that they are nowhere near as good at gaming as they think they are, because they have never faced a real team. Which isnt to say, clans should jump in pub rooms and smash noobs for stats all day every day. But there is no reason a clan, on a Friday night, with no clan battles on deck, cant roll a public room as a team and show the rare lucky few casuals what REAL games are like, and not this public room short bus statwhoring selfish camping han solo cowboy bullshit that passes for modern gaming. But again, circular conversation, the devs code against this...
so this is what Dust faces. Do you, god forbid, make DUST514 "accessible" to the casual gamer and the noob, knowing that it is directly tied to Eve and my god, the horror, if they dumb down DUST what might happen as the casuals from console begin to migrate to Eve and pc and suddenly the long term pc player is asking himself why is CCP dumbing down Eve all of a sudden???!?!? And beyond that, if it is that dumbed down, if you protect the casuals from the clans and do some sorta hocus pocus with dust to make it SEEM like every ones on the same level, keeping the clans apart from the casuals and what not, then the whole validity of any of the "lore" is gonna be lost and there is no mmo persistence. the casuals will explode in forum rage over the idea that they will be missing out on some of the most epic battles in the game, because they aren't allowed in without a clan, trust me on this.
Or do you go with, hopefully, the idea that gaming skill is like a muscle and the more you use it and the harder the challenge is, the better you will get and the stronger you will be in the long run for it? No console devs have taken this pathway yet. Hopefully CCP is the first to lead the way.
4. What clan do you represent?
One person can't represent any team.

5. It seems consolers are claiming superiority based on their particular shooters, while PC players feel THEIR medium is superior. You seem to be convinced about BF players, why?
Chess vs checkers. The combined arms of BF makes the games WAY more dynamic. Traditional BF map size means that skill also requires thought as well as reaction time. The use of multiple assets across an entire spectrum means that BF is just simply put, hard to play and harder to play well and those that do, the teams and the solo players, the smart ones, represent the apex of the food chain of console gamers. The BF clans will be the ones who will take to DUST like ducks in water. They were born for it.

6. You claimed to have much success versus MAG clans in their closed beta, care to name names?
i think there is a misunderstanding of what was being said. what happened during the closed beta was that, for a limited 2 week period, the group sizes were uncapped. we had 3 platoons plus of players, all in the same "clan", which really meant nothing other then close to 100 of the same tag in the closed beta. but outta that group, all had mics and most were GUNG f'ing ho about the few hours a day we got to test mag. and the maps were HARD!! this was before the nerfs. and the matches...were... EPIC!! great great battles!! long hard smart fighting, teamwork, mics, just all out perfection. and there were maybe a few other clans that had numbers, but nothing like the group we had.then the devs saw it and coded it out of the game.
couldn't remember a single name of most mag clans because the whole thing was such a fiasco and there were never any clan battles. =V= was a good clan though...

3. What are some of the poor decisions CCP can avoid making with Dust?
answered in question 4.

4. What errors did MAG make?
1. the allowance for sub accounts invalidated the "shadow war" and any of the persistence that was being sought by Z/ony. The casual gamers wanted to experience all sides of the war, so this destroyed any legit wins that gained any prizes in terms of faction perk.
2. the nerfing of the maps and guns repeatedly in an attempt to balance out "end user skill".
you cannot code balance in to player skill because the flaw is located between the chair and the controller.
3. the shadow war win perks were weak, when they should have been a monthly expansion. had the perks been worth fighting over, minus flaw number 1 above, the game would have been more interesting.
4. the factions should have actually been the clans and the game should have been built so that when you reached OIC level you could start a faction. Then the motivation would have been fighting for self and not "valor" or "raven". You will fight hardest for what is truly "yours". Create and field your own army and go romp around and cause the other clans to band together to beat you... let the players themselves BE their own endgame.

5. What can DICE improve upon or do differently in BF3?
at the moment, their lack of clan support is so painfully obvious, that it overwhelms any of the smaller problems in the game. if not resolved it will be the shining example of everything that is wrong with gaming and will serve as an example of exactly what my "theory" here predicts for the industry as a whole, not just CCP.

5. What one feature would you love to see in Dust?
EXTENSIVE clan support. Ways to support your clan. An infrastructure that is focused on clans and clan maintenance. A game that educates an entire generation of gamers on how to play a team based game CORRECTLY using strategy, tactics, selflessness, etc. Something that shows each player "here is the role you are good at... DO that. focus on that! do that thing that you do and be the best at it in the game!! But don't waste your time and other peoples time half arsing it with things that you have no real intention of doing. Get good at what it is you do and then use those abilities to make your team the best one in the game!" Treat a FPS like RPG. Know your role. Everything you learn under those conditions you can take with you and apply to any other game on the market.

6. Let's say you make it in as a Beta Tester, what's the first thing you do? What do you focus on?
go thru the whole default kit and check out all the transition animations. switch thru everything on the go see if there is anything that causes a crash before i do any game stuff.
how is the menu setup and all that crap. how deep? how much control over options, graphics.
then check out the skill trees. what are we looking at here, how far into the future can i see the tree? what is on tap? what are the toys. Then with the game itself, how do they code their maps? is it a funnel system like cod, mag, etc? is it a big sandbox? is it a funnel sandbox? what are looking at in the way of tactical design? how is elevation used? then game play. How in depth is my control over things beyond shooting? whats communication like? is it even working?

7. Is there such a thing as too much Persistence or Consequences-style gameplay?
no not really. we can only hope for a game that has "too much".

8. What things would you like to see done to cater to the clans and organized players?
they have to be in charge. they are the oil that will make this game run and run the right way.without them being in charge, it very well might descend into something way worse then mag ever could be. give em lotsa infrastructure, make them uncapped in terms of numbers, give them tons of customization with their camo, their insignia, their logos, let them be the part of the game that gives it a heartbeat. let them set the pace, the bar & the standard of play.

9. large-scale games usually depend on large numbers of players to participate, is there a flaw with that system?

10. What are some of the things you'd like to be able to do in Dust?
large scale battles on realistic terrain. crafting. a huge amount of vehicles. but mostly, the maps really need to be well thought out and cant just be a ton of funnels "to keep the action focused". that's just another way of saying small maps with a few choke points and no tactical value.
and height. there should be a lotta vertical in DUST and that was sorely lacking in mag.
need to have some sorta "bunker" or "clan house" social system for meetings and discussions. monthly dlc would be a good sign.

11. While we haven't seen any marketing yet, it doesn't seem like Dust is aimed for the casual market, with the low attention span of many console gamers, can it succeed by being so hardcore?
yeah, in fact, i dare say, it won't succeed without it.

12. Have you made the decision to join or form a Dust Corp yet?
talked about it, nothing formal.

13. Does Dust need huge numbers of players in simultaneous games to be successful?
if this game really wants to stand out, it might have to push duration a lil bit, in terms of player ability to maintain consistent output for longer periods of time then just short pub room matches. so no, maybe its time for 4 or 5 "big" games going on constantly that last longer and less "small fast" battles. even in mag, the 128v128 rooms seemed to end pretty quickly, at least on average.

14. Tell us something that CCP MUST HAVE in Dust for you to purchase it?
same as always... clan support, clan customization, an interest in supporting clan and competitive game play with more then just "clan" tags and a mic.

15. On the other side, what thing must they avoid for you to consider the game?
don't turn away from what made Eve great... the learning curve! once you accomplished something in Eve, there was a sense of giggity that went along with it... cuz it was hard!! Do the same for DUST and don't turn it into some casual gamer persistent nightmare. Remember in re:microtransactions... clans by stuff in batches, casuals in singles. Don't make it ez mode. You can make it casual friendly, but don't make it a casual game.

16. The floor is yours, anything you'd like to address is fine with us.
Now the whole point of this mess above is this:
once the level of gaming goes up, then the level of competition goes up, then there is a chance that more and more sponsors will start to look at gaming as a venue for advertisement. While at the outset, it might seem like a bad thing, in the long run, it is the only way gaming could ever evolve into a sport. and once that becomes the standard, then more and more tournaments with money will crop up, giving more and more players a chance at earning a lil scratch for their efforts and loyalty to their hobby. And with the added revenue from these sponsors, the quality of the games themselves should increase as more and more sponsors put money into game development. and i don't think anyone, casual or hardcore is gonna have a problem with games getting better overall? just a theory though...

thank you for your time and for listening to what i had to say.
i apologize to those who were offended in the above piece. Years of public rooms have worn down my tolerance. I look forward to rebuttals and corrections.


  1. kinda hard on casuals and devs but i pretty good read.

  2. Clan support was the biggest factor which drew me to EVE, and the Devs have stated on several occasions that EVE and Dust clans (Corporations) will be integrated-this means that the madly deep corporation system within EVE will also be in Dust. You can have corporations (clans) up to 6100 players in EVE with the right skills.

  3. Many of this i agree but if you look at EvE many of the things you talked about is there already in game so im very optimistic about Dust....

    See that i wrote EvE like this well thats because you can make it like this,
    Everyone versus Everyone or EVE... :P

  4. I hope this is spammed repeatedly on twitter and facebook!! CCP Take note of this mans wise words!!!

    This is the sort of FPS we want, stay true to the eve sandbox!!

  5. I really wish the author knew more about EVE so he'd quit droning on about clan support etc.

    Do you guys even read the releases CCP has put out?

    There is no game that supports what you are describing quite like EVE. The organization goes beyond clan/corp to alliances made up on corps. That's hardcoded in the game. It is the game. CCP would have to be 10 times stupider than they ever have been to mess that part up in DUST.

    Some of you thumbers/FPSers may recognize these guys. . .

    I assure you that their EVE cousins have been there for years. . .

    As for maps, coding, animation etc, I'm waiting with baited breath.

  6. >>>

    wow EVE is hardcore said upp there^