Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sandbox 514: Making Dust Matter

Recently a group of hardcore players from the Dust forums decided to do an open letter to the new executive producer CCP Rouge. It inspired the writers at our blog to do the same. While it may take some time for him to change the course of this title, we felt we would do our part to point him in the right direction.The player developed sites that have spawned as a result of this game have been nothing short of amazing. Have you taken a look at Dustboard, DustWiki, Duststats, The Dust Wiki, DustAlerts, DustReports and the newest [and quite possibly most impressive] Dustcharts? Did you know this community had a fundraiser for one of its luminaries [Quickgloves - thoughts with you and your family] dealing with a real life issue? The initiative, drive, dedication and creativity these sites and this community has shown is amazing. They deserve a developer worthy of their support. Where before have you seen so much backing from a community for a game that from a critical standpoint, tanked?

No one would argue the success of sandbox style gameplay in regards to EVE Online. The model itself is self sustaining and urges users not only to create content, but also to enjoy whatever style of play suits them. Its puzzling then, to see Dust 514, one of the windows into the EVE universe adopt gameplay that is the total opposite of sandbox in nature. Why stray from this despite its success? Only CCP knows for sure. At this point its an understatement to say Dust 514s launch was unsuccessful. Two years ago the ideas behind what CCP was attempting were the toast of the industry. Gaming loves developers that push the envelope and commit to innovate, in particular gaming critics. They loathe seeing the same franchises with negligible upgrades churning out yearly products. Today Dusts reviews and the poor product itself are an afterthought because there was no follow through. Promises of a genre bending FPS have all but vanished. The previous executive producer was fired or left, A recent article on IGN referenced the Top 25 MMOs they hoped to see on the PS4 and there was no mention of Dust whatsoever. The gaming community does not even deem it noteworthy..but this can change with a renewed focus.

Our writers decided to tackle the problem of 'Where Dust Went Wrong' previously in an effort not only to expose the missteps of CCP, but also to show them what it takes to right the ship. The innovation by Rockstar with the masterpiece GTA Online has shown many just how rewarding a true sandbox can be, and that its possible on console. Here were some of the things we came up with:

Tiercide - The game would do well to start with a system that embraces veterans and new players by lowering the emphasis on SP rather than skill. The health gap must vanish in exchange for a system where upgrades are more subtle. Want an example? A 30 round militia AR with iron sights and the recoil currently in the game that does 32dmg with no customization slots. The Exile would then have 40 rounds with a faster reload time, the Dren would have Exile stats but would add a customization slot for a suppressor, stabilizer, sight or extended magazine. Give us upgrades that accentuate skill not ones that replace it. We should see upgrades are more subtle and focus on areas like recoil, sights and ammo. Next, lower the health universally and make those upgrades subtle as well. It simply shouldn't take an entire clip to put down infantry. It may be a good idea to revise hp: 100 base health for scouts, 125 for logis, 150 for assaults and 450 for heavies. This is future warfare where the technology for offense and defense can compete. No armorer makes weapons that simply cant kill the enemy. Basic armor plates should add 25 health, 30 for advanced and 35 for proto. The true advantages should be that the better equipment should restrict movement less, take up less CPU/PG and add less to your scan profile. not soak up 4 times as many rounds as a newer player.

Balance Gameplay - We love the fact that Dust will see constant upgrades to core systems, but the game needs to have a basic level of balance so that roles are defined. At present the changes done to the range, dispersion and aim assist for the assault rifle are criminal. It is currently a weapon without peer. It has to be adjusted as it has essentially broken the game. In addition, these aim buffers have to be applied universally if the game is going to succeed. Next, the complete library [including unique logi frames] of dropsuit racial variants must be included in the game. Also, customization is a great thing but there have to be limits. In the same vein that we wouldn't want to see a Commando or Heavy outrunning a scout, the days of Logis with more total HP than even your basic Heavy need to cease. More of the games stats aspects have to be balanced so that they fit with the intended roles. Devs must always consider that the entire library of weapons isnt in the game yet. The Gallente AR can't have over 100m of range. Lore and EVE dictates that gallente weapons are short range and high damage, right? following that logic, even the Caldari SMG would have sniper-like range. The previous versions of gallente rifle that had 50m of range were perfect before the unsolicited and unwarranted range buff. Implement the weapons with their intended stats instead of this constant change to the way weapons operate, whats the logic of doing a redistancing when the other racial versions of weapons are added? Are all Gallente rifles somehow going to magically have less range? Instead let users learn each weapons strengths and weaknesses now instead of being frustrated by the constant retuning.

The Logi has the second lowest total health and needs to move around the battlefield to be effective. Doesnt it make sense that it should have the second fastest base movement in the game? Why hasnt the scan radius and scan profile interplay been resolved yet? The ability to detect others and be detected should vary a great deal among the suit classes and adds to the games depth. At the same time those same classes must have their pros and cons. The scout for instance, simply has to have the benefit of being hard to detect and speed if its health is going to be so low. While the Heavy needs considerably more hp than the others, its movement and turn speed cant be as fast. Vehicle balance can't be postphoned forever and can't give us tanks made of tissue, or indestructible ones with unlimited supplies of ammo. Dropships need balance as well and basic features like ECM among other things. Lastly, drop uplinks can't continue in their current state. While no one could have known before that tiny, placeable spawn points would have this much of a damaging effect on the game, we do now. Uplink spam cheapens gameplay into a spammy mess. While they should not show up unless in line of sight or scanned, they need more limitations. They should: 1) Cancel each other out if two are within 50m of each other 2) be limited to one per person 3) have an enormous CPU/PG cost and 4) be separated instead by amount of spawns. 5 for militia, 10 for advanced and 15 for prototype.

Open World  - With the success of GTA Online lobby shooters pretending to be MMOs are no longer acceptable. Especially when battle launch areas within open worlds can be 'instanced' to send players to lobbies. PVE is essential and the gift that keeps on giving. How can GTA promote player conflict by adding a Bounty system while the original game with an economy stands pat? Its also past time player corps had the ability to issue contracts. Lastly, a list of all the available player issued contracts with issuer, directive and reward amount would be very user friendly. New Eden is an entire galaxy why dont players have access to it? Now we certainly arent asking for each planet to be an open world per se, but GTA has shown how important noncombat social areas like bars or corp boardrooms and headquarters are to an MMO. Its criminal not to have access to locations like Jita, Caldari Prime and the other home planets, ships, stations and the infrastructure on our own districts. We never even see CONCORD or feel its presence, why? Social areas could expand by seeing the shooting ranges [already in GTA] and virtual training rooms we were promised long ago. An open world isnt easy but its almost necessary in the world of EVE where the politics, spying and dialogue between allies and enemies is as critical as raiding a cargo vessel for salvage.

Casual Elements - Dust was largely laughed off the FPS stage by casual reviewers and fans. They panned the game as an abject failure. One of its biggest missteps was trying to blend casual and hardcore elements. SOCOM 4 also tried the impossible task of  pleasing both casual and hardcore fans. The latter simply have a much higher standard for gameplay and even lower patience for titles that dont support their styles of play. There is zero excuse for elements like rage quitting [where are the deserter incidents on the permanent files of mercs?] and the LAV 'mariokart' shenanigans. If a casual game like GTA Online has friendly fire on, there's no excuse on earth for a game alleging its 'tactical' not to implement it. A few key changes would alter these elements so much. Like a system where grenades have to be equipped before they can be thrown. Splash damage is so poorly done in this title that its laughable. Reward player aim [it is a shooter after all] and limit all handheld weapons to 1m of splash that does 30% of the total damage. You simply cant reward people for missing in a shooter by giving them 70% of direct damage for being 'close', thats FPS 101. Where is the ability to go prone or paint targets? What happened to grids? Dust does a great job with some aspects of shooters [sniping is well balanced, as is passive spotting] so its strange to see Dust botch aspects like chat so horribly. One channel for everyone results in a confusing mess. Imagine how much crosstalk gamers would suffer through when the game expands. A compartmentalized chat system like the one MAG had is much more tactical and user friendly.

PC Changes - Planetary Conquest is Dusts flagship game mode but its in need of more content, fixes [since corps can lock their own districts] variety and most of all guesswork. We've heard whispers of sabotage style gameplay recently. Months ago we suggested missions and game modes where single players could stealthily avoid alarms and AI defenses to steal assets or gain intel. We hope to see these added at some stage but the point is that PC needs to vary more and have more guesswork and tactics involved. There's no reason the enemy should be able to see how many clones we have on our districts, let them work for that intel! Have them complete a scouting mission or perhaps even a spy within our corp can give it to them, but simply going to the starmap shouldnt reveal our troop strength. Moreover, stop limiting the amount of clone packs a corp can attack or defend with. The excess clones should be considered reinforcements and not clones that will stay on the district. The only result would be gameplay that isnt so predictable. As a matter of fact, each side should be blind to the size of the other force until the game starts, introducing a level of metagaming to PC and some risk as you dont get to know the size of the enemy forces by default. Lastly, make EVE players matter in PC. Balance the game with orbital weapons so infantry can protect themselves, do away with orbital strikes that depend on ground forces and give EVE players a number of ways to influence battles from above. Lastly, incentivize both sides and make the rewards of cooperation worth losing a Titan. Make EVE players give a crap about Dust and vice versa. Also. implement a universal timer regarding spawning and better server selection. A better connection or SSHD cant give players a decided advantage. The server closest to most of the players in the battle should be the one selected.

PS4 - This is simple. Make the announcement that the game will be a PS4 title. There's simply no reason for gamers to invest time and effort if the game doesn't have a future. We're sure CCP wants to support the title as one of the many 'windows' into New Eden so this should be easy. At the same time, please take your time with this and learn from the PS3 version. Complete this project to satisfaction before inviting players in. Quality is job number one in the next gen.

As always, we'll continue to attempt to help promote and publish ideas that help establish, enhance and grow the Dust 514 community as much as we can. Have any ideas that need sharing? Would you like to join our staff as a writer? Be sure to contact us at


  1. great piece. hope CCP listens 2 u. they finally added transport bonuses so maybe theres hope.

  2. they need too look at ferroscale/reactive plates too.

  3. never seen it described like this but i agree. theres really no reason for fans to support this game, it bombed and has followed through on so little of the things it promised that most have left. that people still play and pay money goes against all logic but they do it anyway. you owe them some follow through CCP.

    less than 4K per night logon now.

  4. ur all fucking stupid....quit whinng about game balance and play it for what it is. there needs to be no balance, we r mercs, and the upper hand should always go to the guy with the most skillpoints and isk. whats this balance shit, limiting ulplinks, etc. sounds like a group of call of duty teen girls wrote this article. i love this game for all it offers thats NOT CALL OF DUTY. ....get a life

  5. no serious shooter has this wide of a health gap as it prevents new players from catching on, get it? look @ the KDRs for so called elite players.many are in the double digits. thats ridiculous! the health gap may be the only reason you're good but its a recipe for failure. Just look at the numbers smart guy.

  6. I like the idea about not letting people know the size of the enemy force and letting people buy as many clone packs as they can afford but provide a way for defenders to see the attacking force as well. maybe eve ships in the system can scan for them or if we have districts on other planets in the system it can be some kind of early warning system. let us pay for orbital sensors on our own planet if we have the money.

  7. what happened to the part where we could look at the logs for old battles? ccp screwed us.

  8. I agreed with a lot of what was said in the 'Where Dust 514 Went Wrong' series of articles. The after-the-fact analysis provided in those articles was largely on-point , accurate and fair.

    People are talking as if CCP has forgotten their original intentions and aspirations for DUST 514. This current article, 'Sandbox 514: Making Dust Matter' is yet another example of that kind of thinking.

    There is no arguing with the fact that DUST has been plagued and crippled by poor decisions in development, in marketing and in communication with the playerbase. The tremendous romantic capital CPP had with the press and gaming public was squandered by Shanghai long ago, and today we are paying the debt for those development sins.

    But we are where we are, and it is also true that CCP's prioritization and focus from ~1.3 onwards have been impeccable. The reality is alpha content is still being added to the game, core systems are still being fleshed out, basic code is still being optimized. CCP is refining it's internal processes in Shanghai, and Dev tools are still being built. Love it or leave it, the is no way to rush the process.

    This current Duster's Blog article has some good content, but is months premature, and by the time we get out of this rebuilding and recovery phase, enough will have changed that the article will need a serious rewriting to be pertinent. Definitely worth revisiting these topics in the spring or summer.

    Vrain Matari

  9. assault rifles are op? laughable. have you played against lasers and scrambler rifles? or do you just use those and dont want them nerfed?

    1. u gotta be kidding bro. ar range and damage too high now u use it or die.

    2. He's on bad drugs even most ar users admit its way OP. Even worse that its gallente rifles with 100m of range.

    3. no one with a brain thinks the AR is ok like it is.

  10. Honestly, dust is death for me. They just lost one of most ambitious game project. I put really big time sice beta on this game and what i feel now. I feel still like in beta, nothing working properly, maps are just fragfest without place for strategy. With boosters and other B*shate stuff its still beta. I really dont know if they made fps genre ever. But its like, imagine elder scrolls skyrim in space and guns, but still withou some core catch. You just running, shooting and dying and its not what i expect from core game mechanix. There is still many thingie, guns dont feel like guns. Vehicles are just meh. Shooting is teribad. Honestly Iam sad, i was big fan of MAG and i saw in this game something like its possible son. But CCP just fcuked that all. There is just one thingie what is actually nice and thats idea of deep skill tree, but all other stuff is just bland and flat. I´ll wait for another title, if there will be something. But for now MMFPS genre died with MAG. No PS2 (what is actually far far better game that DUST514), no DUST 514 this games are just shadow of good old MAG times. I honestly dont know why SONY dont save MAGs ideas and start with this something what isnt even fun and by that fun i mean fun for long time. There is no fun in dust 514 its just something like "i playing with my clan" and if we win o lose game, doesnt matter its stil that mediocre game with no fun aspect, with no scent of strategy. Sorry but for me Dust 514 is BUST 514+