Friday, May 11, 2012

Use Trials to Refine Gameplay

ENTER: Mordu's Private Trials

Most of us have played betas at this point. Today's beta is different, though. While it was originally intended as a tool to refine and fine tune gameplay, it has more recently been used as a quick advertising device to give potential customers a quick tease of the great gameplay they'll see in retail. Most betas today release within two weeks of launch and are little more than advertisements that you can interact with. Dust 514's Private Trials would seem to be breaking this mold, but gameplay as deep and as involved as we're hoping to see must also be patient to make sure its balanced.

The last attempt at a console MMOFPS, MAG, had a beta period that lasted almost 4 months. Dust must equal or exceed that, its necessary for the necessary tinkering and balancing that goes into developing a good product.

Early results are mixed, while NDAs may limit some of what we see on the internet, gamers talk more than female adolescents so word gets out. It's a fact of life. What we're hearing early touches on several different issues. We've decided to address a few of them:

1. Shooter Experience - The early indications here haven't been stellar. While we've heard sound bite after sound bite of quotes of "understanding how the core shooter experience can't disappoint" sadly it has. Whether its the movement, a clunky interface or legions of bunny hoppers. What many hardcore fans have tested hasn't been what they expected from a game that considers itself tactical. Hopefully what we've seen so far with be tuned endlessly until it finds the sweet spot.

2. Shots to Kill - Many testers have complained about the amount of rounds it takes to kill an enemy. We've decided to be open-minded and side with CCP on this one. While most of us are used to shooters where enemies go down rather quickly, this could be better. In the end we believe the extended beta period will give the devs plenty of data with which to make a decision.

3. Prone - Count us among the people that were puzzled when we heard this news. No prone? Why? We still haven't heard an explanation. We're hoping this isn't something that lasts not only for our sniper brethren, but also from the tactical viewpoint of people trying to use cover or shrink their target profile. The best news here is that we're still in beta--lack of prone isn't written in stone yet.

4. Graphics - FACT: Casual shooter fans love pretty graphics. With Dust being F2P there will be plenty of casual shooter fans. And in truth, dont we want plenty of them to download it? The more exposure the game gets the better, we say. The one thing they never take into account is that the more great features (like large player counts and huge environments) you have, the more graphics usually suffer. As fans of games with more depth and content than their graphics would have you believe (MAG for instance) this doesn't bother us one bit. It would be cool, however; if CCP could find a good balance of graphics and great, deep gameplay.

5. Losing Gear - Since we heard the announcement regarding gear being finite there have been those who've been concerned with losing what they've bought or achieved and those afraid that consequences like these will make the game camp-friendly. We can't say we're concerned here. The shooter genre is in need of some change and Dust 514 could very well be the game that ushers in a new standard.

6. EVE Integration - While we've only heard bits and pieces regarding this, its actually a good thing. Some of the early quotes referred to this being trickled in slowly at first. We've gone on the record as valuing balance over nearly everything else, so this is a good thing, a GREAT thing in fact. The EVE players being onboard with slow but purposeful integration sold us. Imagine playing a game for almost a decade and finding out key elements were being re-written to accomodate another audience? Few of us would be overjoyed. CCP is doing the right thing here.

7. Magic Bullet - More good news here in that early on, there doesn't appear to be one. Unbalanced weapons can be the ruin of any title (see BF3's explosive shotgun rounds and the M26 dart for details) as they're basically exploits that got through testing. Constant vigilance is the only thing that can help here.

Hopefully the developers won't be afraid to scrap something, rethink their approach or be attached to something just because it was implemented early. One of our favorite quotes speaks to "being steadfast in your goal, but fluid in your approach." This is important  because the ability to sincerely grasp change usually results in success. Any look at the patch-happy habits of contemporary console games lets us know that the speed at which you correct something that wasn't implemented like you intended, usually determines whether a product succeeds or fails. Whether its BF3, MAG or COD: M26 darts, shotgun explosive rounds, ninja doors and aimbots HAPPEN, its when they're still in-game three months later that makes us say "Houston, we have a problem."


  1. 1: Agreed. The vids I saw before they were taken down seemed a little.. clunky. but I'm sure they will refine this before release, at least to a certain extent. It's not like the game will be static. EVE is proof of that.

    2: Fuqdatnoise. This isn't Modern Duty: Call of Honor or whatever. The soldiers have futuristic heavy dropsuits, yes, they're going to take a lot of shots before going down. This is like criticizing Eve for having frigates that can survive a single missile or a single volley of autocannon shots. I think gamers of today need to be reminded of what non-'modurn warfur' shooters were like. You know, Quake, Unreal Tournament. Unrealistic, but fun. In this case, the dropsuits are so durable that soldiers persisting in gunfire isn't unrealistic. Just unusual in today's market.

    3: Agreed, prone needs to be in.

    4: the PS3 is the limitation here. it is impossible to create a game that is this large and has this many players, *and* make it look good, when you only have a 256MB frame buffer and only 256MB of system memory. this will improve when DUST inevitably makes it to the PC. (or, as evil tongues say, the PS4.. but I think they will be forced to port it to the PC before such a product release)

    5: QQ, noobs. I won't even try to be civil here. Gear exists. Gear can be lost, stolen, destroyed. It wouldn't be New Eden if it couldn't.

  2. good read. agree totally.

  3. lol @ fuqdatnoise. thats the funniest thing i read on the interwebz in a while.

  4. anyone know when the beta goes public?

  5. lol @ modern duty call of honor! hilarious!!

  6. is that right? gear can be stolen? *rubs hand together evily*

  7. I hope gear can be stolen, destroyed, broken, lost, ect a it makes it more in line with people HAVING to work together and not go rushing out like an idiot.
    don't understand why people always go graphics>gameplay, I must be one of those few people who grew up around the UBERAWESOMETOPOFTHELINEGRAPHICS and really did not care about graphics.

  8. better question, when do EVE players who registered for the MPT get in?

  9. I know that there are people that are making a big deal out of the not being able to go prone,but I welcome it.

    As a player of Brink,I'm totally use to it,and genuinely hope that with the absence of being able to shoot in the prone position,that it will reduce the number of snipers in a match.

    I HATE SNIPERS! To be more specific,I hate people that lay up and snipe.Run and gun snipers are ok,but I consider them to be marksmen,and not snipers,and to have more value than a person laying on their stomach like a snake waiting for someone to shoot.

    I know that true snipers have value,it's just that most people don't really know how to really snipe and will sit in one position for a whole match if they could.

  10. Considering in any game that has prone... most players consider going prone noobish....

    Not being able to go prone, means:
    - camping will be reduced.
    - players that are moving will have the advantage.
    - no dolphin diving, which narrows the gap between skilled and less skilled players. (which is good for the majority... and means not only elite players stick around)

    There will be so many other things going on in a game... if not going prone is your breaking point... your wayyyy too closed minded.

    Also... ITS STILL AN ALPHA BUILD. the game can only get better. Its like listening to an unmixed CD. It sounds like shit usually

  11. I love what the game is trying to do but its FPS mechanics are the thing holding it back right now. the shooter experience needs work. lots of it.

  12. gotta agree. shooting needs major work. hopefully CCP listens to this.

  13. good article. oh and swarm rockets are the early magic bullet. they need to slow down people with heavy armor too.

  14. hating snipers isn't a good reason to support lack of prone. its about whats good for the game. not what you don't like. I dont like dolphin diving and bad snipers either but i'm not going to go as far as removing them from the game. people dont like mortars, claymores, pressure mines and shotguns either. should we take those out too?

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