New DUST 514 Interview

I meant to post this earlier but this trip started off a bit wonky and we ended up at bare minimum rest time last night, so here we go!

Thanks to James Egan over at Massively for catching this two-article interview at Edge Online (a site I don’t read which is why I rely on Massively to do it for me) with CCP Shanghai about DUST 514! Great information and I’m really looking forward to the game. Oh, and I’ve discovered that it’s officially DUST 514 (all capitalized like EVE) not Dust 514…

Part One: Core concepts and mechanics behind the game.
Part Two: How EVE and DUST 514 will (hopefully) interact.

I’ll do my usual bullet-point thing of bits I found interesting.

  • The map size has been revealed to be 5 square kilometers. That’s roughly 3.1 square miles for us metric-impaired Americans. Anyone who plays shooters with me knows that I love huge maps, as it provides more real estate for the developers to create multiple objectives.
  • The Commander will be located in the Mobile Command Center (MCC) which flies above the map, similar to the Titans in Battlefield 2142. The Commander can issue orders to the mercenaries on his team in an RTS-like fashion, again similar to Battlefield 2142. The Commander also has a full 3D voyeur mode to see the action from a closer perspective. Players have to earn the right (presumably from ranking up via XP like in the Battlefield or Call of Duty games) to be Commander, and if no one is eligible an AI Commander will be assigned. I do hope CCP includes a voting system to oust ineffective Commanders, however; no one likes getting stuck with an incompetent leader who earned the spot simply by playing long enough rather than knowing what he’s doing.
  • Prior to the match, the Commander chooses his team’s vehicle and installation loadouts, as well as placing preliminary spawn points. There are ten vehicles and fifteen installations in DUST 514 but a Commander can only choose five of each per map. CCP compared it to Magic: the Gathering where you prepare your deck ahead of time, not knowing precisely what your opponent will be bringing to the battle.
  • Once the mercenary infantry has brought down the shields of the enemy MCC, the Commander has missiles, etc. to destroy it; another similarity to Battlefield 2142’s Titan mode that DUST 514 looks to improve upon.
  • CCP is still fiddling with the number of players per map but Edge says it’s unlikely to go as high as 256, like MAG is doing, because of the “elaborate firepower” available to each team. Regardless, it’s still being billed as an MMOFPS so they’ll have to exceed 64 players per map to earn that acronym.
  • During play, mercenaries earn War Points which can be used to purchase vehicles on-the-fly. Literally, as the vehicles are flown to your location via dropship. This aspect is similar to Section 8 where you earn points to spend in the purchasing menu to have custom items such as turrets, tanks, or mech-like heavy armor dropped to a location you specify.
  • Each battle is obviously instanced with a population cap, but it sounds like the pre/post game lobby is a “single shard” setup like EVE where players can chat, etc.
  • The final sentence in Part One implies (at least it does to me) that DUST 514 will ship with clan support in the form of Mercenary Outfits. This will be a huge boon for the game, as the only console shooter I can think of that has actual clan support is Section 8.
  • CCP plans on two updates per year. Since DUST 514 will be using a microtransaction model rather than subscription, I suspect each update or expansion will be marketed as premium DLC as well but we’ll see what type of deal CCP makes with Microsoft and Sony.
  • Player progression will be achieved through an “achievement matrix” unlock system which sounds like an expanded version of the Battlefield unlock scheme. (Possibly like COD too; I’ve never managed to have enough fun in COD multi-player to see any unlocks.) Some of the combo unlocks will provide persistent attribute enhancements for weapons and vehicles, which is certainly an intriguing twist.
  • EVE provides DUST 514 with persistent, dynamic battlefields. The example given was that one time you fight on a certain planet it may be lush and green. Then in an EVE space battle, someone nukes the planet from orbit. The next time DUST 514 mercs fight on that planet, it will visually show the devastation from the EVE battle.

A primary concern I have for DUST 514 is how CCP integrates microtransactions. Shooters are player-skill-based games and I strongly oppose the ability to buy better weapons which hand spending players an “I Win!” button. There was already quite the upset over Battlefield Heroes raising prices and adding new weapons that have the potential to tip the balance in favor of premium players. All I’ve read so far is that they plan to sell blueprints for weapons, etc. While it is true that console players are far more accustomed to, and accepting of, microtransactions than PC players are, if the “item shop” isn’t balanced properly the console crowd may unleash an unholy Jihad of a shitstorm if they feel forced to constantly spend cash to be competitive.

14 thoughts on “New DUST 514 Interview”

  1. Why would you always want a commander? I understand you might sometimes for some reason – but really, a FPS is about shooting guys, not waiting on someones commands. Or am I reading too much into commander and he just hands out info to help as you gun guys down?

    And I don’t understand why people get so upset about others being able to buy better gear.

    If it’s a skilled based game, when they have better gear the difficulty slider goes from normal to hard. Haven’t we all played a single player FPS on hard mode? Okay, so you don’t get to choose when it goes hard here. But we all played hard on a single player FPS because we liked it.

    Now if the gear cranks it up past hard onto something which is ten times as hard as normal, okay, I grant that’s too big a difficulty hike without you opting in.

  2. @Callan S.: You want a Commander because these types of shooters aren’t your COD or Halo games where it’s all a bunch of one-man-army types running around shooting each other in the face for no real reason. Larger, more tactical shooters have large maps and multiple squads per side, and you want a competent leader. Think of it like a raid. A “raid group” is multiple “normal groups” tied together. A squad would be the equivalent of each individual 5- or 6-man (depending which MMOG you play) group but the Commander is like the raid leader, taking in the “big picture” and issuing instructions to each squad.

    Your example of “hard mode” in a shooter doesn’t work when you’re all playing the same game. It’s one thing to play MW2 in Veteran difficulty but that’s a single-player-only choice. In multi-player there is no “difficulty setting” and it’s 100% player skill versus player skill. Once you start allowing people to pay money for gear that can either compensate for their lack of skill, or supercharge a skilled player’s abilities, you now have an extremely unbalanced game.

  3. I think I’d consider what my own objective is and whether I need anyone else to achieve that. That’s the very thing about ‘tactics’ – you don’t get attached to having a commander or not having a commander. You do what meets your own objective.

    And I’m not sure what you enjoy about difficulty/challenge. For myself, I enjoy facing challenge – that it ramps up a degree at semi random is not an issue, it’s just more of what I enjoy.

    I mean, do you dislike it because some little ten year old with uber bought gear might crow about how he beat you, with absolutely no reference to his own bought gear? And other people might follow suit, as if it had been 100% skill vs 100% skill? I’ll grant that some…perhaps many people in online games might start giving put downs without paying any attention to the role bought equipment played. But that’s because their kind of stupid.

  4. @Callan S.: I think I’d consider what my own objective is and whether I need anyone else to achieve that.

    That’s why there are different types of shooters out there. I’m guessing you would vastly prefer the more solo-oriented COD-style of shooter where it’s either free-for-all or even if you’re on a team, it doesn’t really matter because in the end it’s all about the scoreboard and there’s no larger meaning behind the battle. In MMOG terms, that’s like joining a raid then saying “you guys go ahead, I’m going to solo over here.” Not saying there’s no room for solo-ish stuff. In BF2142 a Commander or Squad Leader (each individual squad has it’s own leader who can assign objectives, etc. too) might say “defend this control point.” How you defend that is up to you. If you’re a recon/sniper you’ll probably want to go somewhere alone where you can see the action and get better sniping angles. No one’s forcing you to even defend that objective but if you do, you’re also helping the squad itself get extra points for temporary (that map only) squad upgrades.

    I have no problems with challenge at all. The problem I have is when people can buy their way out of challenge, or buy their way into near invincibility. I don’t know what your favorite shooter is, but let’s pretend it’s MW2. It’s one thing to have the unlock system where maybe you get additional abilities or more selection of balanced weapons but none of those give a distinct advantage over other players. On the other hand, if Infinity Ward setup an “item shop” and sold AimBots that lasted say, 2 hours each. Uh oh! Suddenly players who pay for AimBots just got themselves a two-hour “I Win!” button and are only “competitive” against other players who bought AimBots. But now the PvP game just turned into a BvB (Bot vs. Bot) game and the actual players using their own skill have no chance to compete. That’s my problem with having what is supposed to be a game based on player skill vs. player skill allowing players to buy gear that gives an advantage. I do not, however, have a problem with giving the choice of buying the balanced abilities that are already part of the unlock system though, because as I said those typically do not give that player an advantage, merely expanded choices for how to play his loadout.

  5. I’ve never really done raids, I’ll admit. So the idea of deciding to play a game, then having someone else tell me how to play (a commander) sounds contradictory if I decided to play myself. May as well get someone to tell me when to make mario jump.

    But as I understand it with raids, the raid leader is just telling you the set PVE sequence of stuff you need to do to beat the PVE boss. It’s not really telling you how to play the game, it’s more like telling you the answer to how to beat the boss.

    Here it’s against other players, I’m assuming – there is no answer how to beat the other side, because it’s not a prefabricated PVE boss.

    I think a raid leader works because he helps everyone know the answer to the boss. I think always defaulting to having a ‘raid leader’ in PVP is just having someone telling you how to play the game. Now as an individual you might decide you know someone who would be good at it, and it would aid both of you for him to be in command. That’s your own choice. But to be forced into it by game design – well, you said it yourself to a degree with your ‘vote out incompetent leaders’ thoughts.

    On challenge, you seem to be equating any money purchase as instantly buying their way out of challenge or into near invincibility. If they bought a gun that’s the same in all respects as the one you have except it has one more bullet, it’s not a jump into buying their way out of challenge or having near invincibility. Even if they win because of having one more bullet at the end. It just takes more skill to overcome that one bullet advantage.

    It’s a question of how many extra bullets, so to speak, the bought stuff gives you. It’s not that any extra bought advantage makes everything crash and burn.

  6. @Callan S.: It’s not so much telling you how to play as it is assigning you a specific task to try to accomplish. Again, these are shooters with much bigger maps than an arena shooter like COD, UT, etc. They have multiple objectives, be they control points or something else, but the hope is that the people in the squads will cooperate together and the squad leaders will cooperate with the commander’s instructions to defeat the enemy team who’s doing the same thing against you. A raid leader (or just a normal group leader) in a MMORPG might say “Group 2, stand here, buff Group 3″ and so on. The individual players in Group 2 know their roles per their class; healers heal, dpsers dps, etc. the leader just coordinates it all, rather like a symphony conductor. As you said, you’re not playing through a PvE boss’ script, you’re against other players which makes the field more dynamic. The Commander has a birds-eye view of the larger tactical map so he might see vulnerabilities to send guys to a vacant objective or give information to where the enemy is attacking next so your team can try to head them off. As one of the infantry on the map, you wouldn’t be able to see all that on your own.

    But again, some people just prefer the fast run-and-gun, spray-and-pray tight compact gameplay of COD and arena shooters where they don’t have to play with anyone else. For that matter, even in a more meaningful and tactical shooter, no one is coming to your house and holding a gun to your head if you don’t help your team. But much like in MMOG’s, you may find yourself booted out of the group because we’re in that game for the bigger picture and the feeling of a more meaningful victory through teamwork and coordination. When we’re in the mood to be a Spartan we can load up Halo 3, but we don’t try to be Master Chief in every single shooter just because all of them gives us guns to pewpew with.

    And no, as I said earlier about purchasing gear, I don’t mind so long as everything is balanced. Most shooters with weapon choices within a given category will balance each one so a player can find one that fits his style but none are “better” than the others from an overall standpoint. Say within sniper rifles there are five different rifles to choose from. Each will have differing levels of accuracy, damage, rate of fire, etc. Giving “one extra bullet” like your example is not balance-changing, but being able to buy a sniper rifle with -90% sway affects balance IF a gun like that is not also available to unlock without buying it because now the paying snipers have a rifle with only 10% sway so they can headshot like a sonovabitch — eliminating 90% of the need of any player skill at aiming — while non-payers still have to use 100% of their aiming skill while sniping. Becoming clear yet?

  7. To me, it’s not co-operation if your forced to do it. This commander position, as implemented, is forced, not asked for (unless there’s some option to stick with a bot commander, which is okay since I don’t care about a bots feelings of course).

    And on booting, I’m wondering if it fits into a ‘do unto others’ framework. For example, say your about to boot me but I have this magic button that boots all of the rest of the group. And you can’t group for 24 hours after. Would it seem right that on someones whim, your locked out of game content?

    On balance, one paid for extra bullet does effect balance. It’s not a question of whether it affects balance. It’s a question by how much does it affect balance. Same for a paid for sniper rifle with -1% sway vs one with -90% sway – it’s not a binary condition that one does not affect balance and the other does. They both affect balance – just one more so than the other. So I guess there’s no common ground to be had on that one – it’s not a binary condition to me, at all.

  8. @Callan S.: To me, it’s not co-operation if your forced to do it. This commander position, as implemented, is forced, not asked for

    If you’re an educated consumer (ie. you know what the game is about before you buy it) then you have “asked for” the experience — the Commander; teamwork; cooperation; all of it — by nature of being a player of that game. There are umpteen thousand shooters out there that are all about the Solo Hero; this isn’t one of them. Just like if you’re a big “solo, screw everyone else” in a MMOG you wouldn’t be asking into a group or a raid if you plan on soloing and not working with the group or raid. Not sure how to be clearer on that point.

  9. Well the same could be said for -90% sway scopes – if you’re an educated consumer (ie. you know what the game is about before you buy it) then you have “asked for” the experience.

    The point I was slowly arriving at is that the game developers don’t actually print these things on the box. That’s why food has it’s ingrediants listed on the side – it doesn’t rely on customers being ‘educated’ on what the ingrediants are.

    It’s not asked for. It’s bait and switch.

  10. @Callan S.: I only see it as “bait and switch” if you’re forced into it. Many people claim your typical Diku-MMORPG is “bait and switch” because the leveling game drastically changes at end-game and if you want to continue progressing your character gear you are forced into group activities repeating dungeon and raid instances.

    In the shooters I’ve mentioned, namely Battlefield 2142 and DUST 514, you won’t be forced to join a squad or listen to the Commander. If you want to be a rogue, that’s fine. (Well, some 2142 servers set rules that you must join a squad within X seconds or be booted, but those are rare. That clan is paying the bills to run the server and if they demand even a tiny bit of cooperation, that’s their prerogative.) Again, I’ll liken it to a MMOG where you can solo if you want, but the game also has team-based options available for a richer experience if you want it. Not sure why you’re so opposed to that.

  11. Because they aren’t team based options – it’s locked out content unless your in a team. Content your subscription presumably paid for.

    I’ll put it this way – you buy into a game. I’m the leader of the only group there – and I decide not to have you on my team. You can’t do any of the content I’m doing – how does it make sense that another player can block you from content you just bought into?

    Now I’ll grant with WOW, I was fine with their battlegrounds because no other player could lock you out from them. Did alot of BG because of that. And from what I hear WOW these days has changed it’s dungeon LFG to be alot more like a battleground que.

    But the traditional model is some other player determines if you can get what you’ve payed for. If CCP repeat the traditional model, it’s bogus.

  12. @Callan S.: So should I presume then that you’re one of those rare soloers in a MMOG who also think every single bit of content — including raids — should have a solo option available? Most soloers, myself included, don’t think that way; they just want optional solo content to get alternate “best” gear for themselves.

    When it comes to a shooter, though, at no point does being solo — whether intentionally or because no one wanted you in their squad — “lock you out” of any content, you’re just getting a solo experience while running the chance that most of the other players on your team are cooperating in squads, communicating, making strategies, whatever. Some people just flat don’t like playing with other people and that’s fine, if a bit strange at times that they elect to play multiplayer games at all.

    Then again I find myself in situations quite often where I can see the validity of the expression “these multiplayer games would be great if it weren’t for all the other players.”

  13. Scott, if you already did this with other things in your real life, I would atleast get that that is how you live. Like if you bought pizza’s from a place, and although you payed for the whole pizza you only get to eat one slice unless you have a team. If you did that and with other products I would go ‘Oh well, that’s how he lives, fair enough that he does the same with mmorpgs. That’s his life he’s chosen’.

    But I think you find the pizza example rediculous and perhaps even a rip off. Yet you don’t map that rediculousness to ‘pay full price even though you can be locked out of full content’ mmorpgs.

    For myself, I have certain values in me that see that as rediculous and even a rip off.

    Now you’ve struck me as having those values too. Now either I’m genuinely wrong and you don’t have them (I really mean I may be wrong, not just saying it as if it’s not possible for me to be wrong). Or you do have them and your in contradiction to your own values.

  14. @ Callan S.: I think you’re coming from the standpoint of MMOG’s being a singular product, much like a single-player game or your pizza example. You will find, however, that MMOG developers and publishers have learned to think of their game as a service, CCP very much included among them. The box itself is the product, for the ones who don’t offer the game client as a free download, but you pay a subscription for ongoing service.

    Just like with many other (not all) services, we pay the same fee but everyone gets varied degrees of usage. In a typical month, I might have 12 days actually being home where I can do anything. But my internet bill is the same whether I’m away or if I had a normal 9-5 non-traveling job where I was home every night like normal people. Same for a MMOG. I’m home less than half the month but paying the same as the people who can play every night. Some people can play all day, every day. I just ask if I am getting my $15 worth of enjoyment out of what I am able to do in the time I have available. A lot of the time I am forcibly solo because I’m usually free in the mornings when normal people are at work. But if I can get into a group to accomplish group content, great! If I can play at night and do a dungeon or a raid, even better! I don’t demand that for my limited time at home, my $15 should get me a free solo pass into every pixel of content. If I choose to not group or partake of options to see specialized content in the game, then I am locking myself out of it as a result of that decision. Choice and consequence. I don’t get to point fingers and blame the developers for daring to have multiplayer content in these massively multiplayer games that I can’t play because I refuse to play with others.

    Then again, that $15 itself now means less than it did 10 years ago because my job pays more so I can shrug it off and not think twice about it. But there was a time when that $15 was a much bigger concern.

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