Saturday, May 3, 2014

Interview: Hayden Dingman of PCWorld

In a move that few saw coming, CCP used the Dust 514 Keynote at this year's fanfest to advise the gaming community of two things 1) that Project Legion was its new version of their ground-based MMOFPS and that it was being developed for PC and 2) Dust development was essentially over and the game's support would slow to a crawl [although for some reason they seem hesitant to admit it] it could have something to do with the prospect of no more sales of AUR items, but who knows.

It might seem odd because although we disagree [wholeheartedly and passionately] with the way this was done, we agree it was a decision that had to be made. For a myriad of reasons Dust couldn't succeed on the PS3 and had to transition to a better platform. We get that part, but 1) why delay this announcement when the decision was made months ago? and 2) why continue to take money from and mislead the community with promises of Soon™ and ask for patience when players were essentially paying for a glorified beta and nothing close to the vision they were sold on.

Hayden Dingman of PCWorld went to Iceland and was able to interview CCP about Legion & Dust We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about what he saw and heard.

1. You started out your piece on Project Legion with "Dust 514 is dead. Long live Dust." a reference that reminds us a bit of a tale of two cities, why the duality?
It was actually a reference to "The king is dead. Long live the king." I was referencing the fact that Dust 514 is passing out of the forefront, but a new game with many of Dust's traits is inheriting that mantle.

2. Console fans and many EVE players don't support the way the Legion reveal was done. You had Dust players who traveled all the way to iceland for what was almost trolling your thoughts?
I can certainly understand why Dust fans are upset. CCP made a lot of promises about Dust and didn't deliver on most of them, and I was as surprised as anyone else that Dust wasn't even mentioned during the keynote. I expected at least a few new upgrades or features.

And yeah, I think it's rough that Dust players feel they were tricked into attending Fanfest. It's a shame because Fanfest is a really fun and inclusive event, and to have that experience ruined for some players is upsetting.

On the other hand, CCP is in a bind. They clearly wanted to have big news at Fanfest, and a Dust-type game on PC is certainly huge.

3. Was the move to PC the natural progression for a game like Dust/Legion? You saw the reviews of Dust 514. If the 'progression' never came and what we have now in Dust's final state, do fans have a right to be irate?

First of all, I think it's unfair to say Dust is in its final state. Possible, yes, but not necessarily true. CCP is pretty good about listening to fan feedback and I'm sure they're aware of the anger coming from Dust players. We'll see whether they act on that feedback, but I wouldn't write them off yet.

However, I do think the move to PC makes sense. Dust, unfortunately, launched on what's essentially a dead platform. And one that is technologically years behind. CCP clearly had trouble realizing it's vision for Dust on the PS3, and while that's a letdown for fans its also just a reality of development sometimes.

And I'd like to point out that CCP has not ruled out bringing Legion to the PS4. They've only said it's a PC-focused title.

4. The dust forums have melted down with the rage of CCP's alleged bait-and-switch, is this par for the course every time a title is shelved?

I think CCP is lucky in that it has an extremely devoted community. But the flip side of that is the community gets invested heavily in everything CCP does. When there is backlash, it's always swift and violent. I think this is par for the course with any similarly devoted community (just look at the backlash towards the recent Thief reboot).

5. You mentioned
every CCP developer you spoken to at Fanfest has reiterated the company's commitment to Dust 514 players, did they mention how this would be done, or in your opinion was this just marketing?
 They didn't mention specifics to me, but that also could be a factor of me not asking. Obviously we're a PC-focused site, and so Legion is a huge deal to me as someone who thought Dust sounded interesting but didn't want to play a console shooter.

Legion is still a long way off from release, though, and JCG both confirmed at Fanfest that development is NOT stopping on Dust and that players will be able to migrate characters to Legion.

6. You mentioned
that Dust 514 didn't really pan out as well as either CCP or EVE players hoped. Why in your opinion?
I think it's clear the PS3 is not a powerful enough machine for the type of crazy complexity CCP wants to put in its games, and it also was a machine CCP had little experience with.

I'm no developer and I don't want to speculate on what went wrong with Dust, but the end result was a sluggish game with little of the promised EVE interaction. It was a letdown, and I hope Legion goes better.
Fair enough, but isn't seeing if the hardware can deliver on our vision job #1? Shouldn't 'seeing if the ps3 can deliver on the complexity we want' the first thing that should have happened? Lastly, if they didn't have experience with the PS3 shouldn't someone 'experienced' have been brought in? It just seems odd to invest money into development but decide to go in blindfolded.
It should be job number one but development is a complicated and terrible beast. Scaling is an important step in development, but it's impossible to know sometimes how that design document is going to transfer into reality. As I said, I don't think CCP intended to make a broken game. Sometimes it just happens.

7. Do you think Project Legion is a prototype that has an interest level that will warrant further development, similar to how Valkyrie did a year ago?

I do. Despite the anger directed from Dust players, the PC EVE community has been nothing but excited--or as excited as anyone can be after the failure of Dust. All the comments I've heard from PC users say that Legion marks a return of CCP to it's primary market.

8. Do you think JCG is the man who can make Project Legion into a success?

 I don't know him well enough to say, to be honest. However, he does seem passionate about the project and has a lot of big ideas for where he wants Legion to go.

9. One of the chief complaints of Dust 514 was that it released in such an unfinished state. Does this have to be resolved in Legion?

Of course it has to be resolved. Nobody WANTS to release a game with a lot of bugs and major content pieces missing. Whether it will be resolved? That's anyone's guess. I'd advise people who feel burned by Dust to step carefully when it comes to Legion. Until a game is released, there's always the chance it could fall apart and go horribly wrong. You can be angry afterward or feel let down, but game development isn't a science. Everything is always on the brink of failure.

10. In your interview JCG mentioned that Dust was "going strong" and "really well" but if this was the case would it have been shelved? Its a game that can't maintain 5,000 concurrent users that was universally lampooned by the gaming media and community . Is it time for CCP to admit to its abject failure so that we know they're capable of being objective and learning from mistakes?
 It'll never happen. Not that bluntly. However, there have been interviews conducted at Fanfest where CCP staffers admitted Dust has huge problems. That's probably as close as we'll get.

And even if they're not admitting it to press, they know the state of Dust. Probably better than we do, and it probably keeps them up at night, stressed, trying to figure out what can be done.

Don't forget there are real human beings behind these games. They're not trying to let players down. They're not trying to screw anyone over. And that's especially true of CCP--as someone who interacts with a bunch of studios, I can say with certainty that very few teams in this industry care as much about the community as CCP.
Understood. And we defer to you since you have much more interactions with developers than we do, but to know for months that your intent was to slow Dust 514 development but still allow people to make Fanfest plans and spend money on AUR? And then to follow that up with a Dust Keynote that acted like the game didn't even exist? That focused solely on Legion and answered none of the questions Dust players would likely have? That was 'caring about the community'? We'd hate to see what EA would do.
As I said, I don't agree with what CCP did per se, but I don't really see any other way they could do it. CCP's seemed very apologetic about the Dust snub, and all I can do is take them at their word. I think them pulling JCG out on stage was them admitting they messed up on the announcement. Not much more they can do to make it up to Dust players, unfortunately.

11. Gamers often complain about the marketing side of gaming being deceptive. Is it safer to for players to judge games based on how they are rather than how they promise to be?
Absolutely. Play a game when it has the features you want, not because it might one day have those features.

Revisit my answer to question nine for more of my opinion on the subject of Early Access and the like.

12. In closing, what will you ultimately take from your opportunity to go to CCP and see/talk with them about Legion?

 I'm tentatively excited, but that's because I play games on the PC almost exclusively. We're still far from Legion as a finished project though, and I refuse to get my hopes up. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Legion at future trade shows, and I hope it works out both for Dust players and CCP.


  1. well atleast the guy from PC world admitted Dust was a broken game. hurts to have bought their BS and promises that it would get fixed.

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