Wednesday, 13 May 2015

So why do I still love Dust 514?

I honestly couldn't tell you in a simple sentence.

Perhaps a personal history lesson might be the best way, detailing via increasingly tedious minutia the  personal changes in my gaming life? But the simple truth about such details is that their peak level of interest is usually only shared with a demographic of one.

Maybe an examination of the games more singular mechanics, unique in the FPS market could offer illumination to the uninitiated... but that is likely to be an emotionally bereft composition to read through.

Or possibly an overarching essay on the games history could present to you, the reader, an understanding as to the vice like grip the game still holds over me?

However, any one of these approaches, singular or in combination, are only ever going to succeed in getting no further than the surface gloss.

And none would give you a straight answer to the question posed in the title of todays missive, why do I still love Dust 514?

It's a question that I've asked myself a lot in recent months. Not because I need to find a justification as to the time and energy I spend on it, my enjoyment of doing so is more than enough recompense for that kind of expenditure.

No, Ive asked myself that question because after two years of performing my self imposed role as an instructor for the game, my personal sense of fulfilment in the helping of others understand the game remains as strong now as it has ever been, perhaps even more so.

Yesterdays batch of new players joining DUST University wasn't noticeably different from the thousands of others that I've processed. They were still the usual mix of brand new Merc's with no employment history, freshly created that same day, returning players having had a break from the game and wanting to brush up on their skills or find out about new features that have arrived since they left.

There are even many vets of the game just wishing to pop in for a few weeks or days wanting to set up a few squads and help out for a while.

But while going through the applicants, sorting them out alphabetically and sending them the 40 emails I send to all new members detailing the game I had an epiphany. I must've send by now close to 300,000 emails to players over the past two years. It's a process that is now muscle memory, practised to level of precision that only that particular quirk of human physiology can provide. And yet my personal sense of satisfaction in helping these people through the simple action of imparting knowledge, remains as strong now as it has ever been.

And there perhaps is the key to my still loving this game. It is the human connection that those that play it share both in the game directly and in the community that has sprung up around it. It's a connection to the game that no amount of marketing budget can provide and no amount of quirky bugs within it can diminish.

It's a connection that other games attempt to claim they have with their player base but these are simply fans of a product in comparison to the bond shared by those playing Dust 514, a bond unique in the tidal mass of FPS games out there.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Been a while...

Hello to one and all,

Sorry for the very long gap since my last blog. I'm not the most disciplined person when it comes to writing and I've been very busy since then with a combo of real life, CPM duties and prepping for Fanfest.

But being this busy has been very rewarding, especially with the CPM part of it. In the last six months we've seen further hot fixes all the way to Echo now, Dust's latest expansion, Warlords, has been released, not to full universal acclaim I grant you but certainly a surprise to many of the bunnies still playing the game and a low key but rewarding Fanfest has taken place. I even won Day Two of the cosplay competition with my Dust Uniform while there.
Over my left shoulder, fellow CPM SirManBoy and Cross

Low key is certainly the way to describe Dust 514's presence at this years Fanfest but that was entirely the right call to make after last years unpleasantness at Harpa's main stage.

With only one Dust roundtable this year CCP Rattati, Dust's Senior Producer, made the most of it, inviting the community to further help him and his team by continuing all the feedback given to him and his team. If you've not already seen the roundtable CPM1 Member Soraya Xel recorded it and can be viewed here.

At Fanfest the star of the show was undoubtably Eve: Valkyrie, CCP's Dogfight sim and almost certainly a killer app for the fledging VR gaming scene. But the strangest thing was happening at this years little shindig in Reykjavik. Eve players were curious once again about Dust 514.

While my dressing up as a Dust Merc over the three days certainly gave me a higher profile than my fellow CPM who were also there, Xel, SMB and Cross, all four of us were answering a lot of questions about the game from Eve players. Other than the most popular question which was 'Dust is still going?', the question most asked was if it was coming to PC or PS4? For that we we're unable to give an answer but for myself personally I have to say I'm still very hopeful for that happy ending.

My reasoning for that was one of the stories that came out from Fanfest, the now public knowledge that Dust is now making a profit, confirmed in an interview to by CCP CEP Hilmar Petursson, Dust is now a revenue stream for CCP so it makes sense to ensure that such a stream continues.

It was surprising actually how many Eve players at Fanfest, usually the hardest of the hardcore capsuleers, freely admitted to us CPM and the Dust team that they played Dust 514. Admittedly, they confided this information to us in such as way as to not be heard by other Eve players but still, it was encouraging at least.

Yours truely playing Project Nemesis
Most of the senior members of CCP Shanghai had come over with CCP Rattati, including Rouge, Wolfman, Frame and Z, mainly to help with the demonstration of Project Nemesis, a mobile based game for the Samsung Note series of phones and using the new Gear VR hardware, a collaboration between themselves and Oculus. 

Being and important partner working with CCP, Oculus provided them with a Gear VR to see what they can could do with it. Quite a lot as it happens. Project Nemesis is stunning achievement considering that its powered by a mobile phone and uses the latest version of UE4. A simplistic game but enjoyable nevertheless, Nemesis places you in control of a turret on a larger ship where you must defend it against waves of incoming ships, all from the world of New Eden. 

It all the more remarkable when you consider that its been created by just three of Shanghai's team in their spare time.

Because of there being only one Dust 514 roundtable during Fanfest, the CPM members in Reykjavik got to spend a lot of time with the Shanghai team so it became a mini summit. Obviously all of it is NDA but we got an awful lot of work done while there and Rattati and the team have enough ideas for Warlords 1.2 and further beyond even.

On the third day of Fanfest, thanks to my charm, wit and basic refusal to have no said to us, CCP Frame arranged for us an interview on the EVE TV live stream for Fanfest which can be found here at the 2:58:10 mark.

The reason was to get a bit more out there about Dust 514 to the New Eden Community at large but it also gave us the opportunity to give CCP Rattati and the team a little token of thanks from the community for all the hard work they've done in the last year.

Dust 514 Warbarges make it Reykjavik. Rattati's is the Quafe version.
Based on the original concept art shown to the CPM prior to the release of Warlords in February I'd worked on a 3D model of the ship and decided to get a couple printed in time for Fanfest. For anyone wanting the file so you can print your own, should you be lucky enough to have your own 3D printer it can be found here.

So beyond Fanfest..

In less than a week Warlords 1.1 will be here bringing with it a lot of user experience upgrades, Skins for suits and Player Trading finally comes to Dust 514. Some of this was discussed at Fanfest and Rattati had plans to do more but for now, the patch notes for 1.1 can be found in this Dev Blog.

I'll try not to leave it so long next time. Till then, happy hunting.

Monday, 20 October 2014

So..... 1.9

First of all an apology.

It's been 3 months since my last blog. And for that I'm sorry. The reasons for the delay I'm not so sorry for, so please bare with me while I explain. 

My last blog was of course the day I was elected into the CPM. This in itself should tell you something about the delay between blogs. It's been a busy time for the CPM. Hotfix Charlie was in its final stages when we started our term and we were immediately into Delta. 

Arguably Delta was the biggest of the Hotfixes. It most certainly didn't start that way, with Rattati wanting a smaller, focused set of changes. But finding himself with a fresh CPM, full of enthusiasm, ideas and willingness to help, Delta grew into a monster which balance passes across nearly all weapons, dropship rebalancing (which was, despite claims to the contrary, badly needed), changes to the NPE and starting skills and the return of the BPO's. 

That's the reason I'm not sorry for the delay. Its been fantastically busy and rewarding to help influence the game directly rather than throwing in ideas from the sidelines. I spend a lot of my free time reading through the forums (even while at work), reading your feedback and either highlighting it or linking it directly to the Dev's. 

Another underlying reason for my blogs quiet spell is summed up in three letters. NDA. 
Because of its nature, we have to try and get feedback about concerns the players have, without tipping off those that can connect the dots better. And there is a lot of you that excel at that. There's a larger number that don't however and that's a reason you might get accused of tin foil freshness. 

And while keeping safe details of Hotfixes might be easy, our first real test of secret keeping came just over a month ago when CCP Rouge informed us of Uprising 1.9

Of course speaking as a player, I and the CPM were thrilled to hear the news which was a complete surprise and very welcome. Even more so as it became clear that this wasn't some drive by patch. Some substance client fixes and changes were on the way, produced by a significant amount of Dev time and talent. 

The changes already mentioned in the Patch announce to are only a part of the content of 1.9, with the rest of the details yet to be brought to you all, I can admit to there being a couple of things on their way that I'm very excited to hear from you all about. 

But the real point of 1.9 is that it is a result of the progress the game has made since the Hotfixes began. The enthusiasm of the playerbase for the changes made in them, proven not only in the forums but also in the stability and even growth of the playerbase, has more than proven the need for continued development of Dust 514. 

With that continued growth and confirmed willingness of the players to invest, not only their time but cash into the game (the new Quafe suits are everywhere), the chances of a 1.10 increase all the time. And with CCP's absolute intent for an equitable transfer to Project Legion should it become an official game, I for one have no problem investing my money in a game that gives as much pleasure to me now as it has in the past two years. 

And you shouldn't either. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Council of Planetary Management Member

It's only really just beginning to sink in to be honest with you all. 

How am I feeling about it now that I'm here? Stunned, humbled, excited, nervous, terrified, take your pick. I've felt them all over the last 48 hours. 

But I guess the main thought that is overriding them all is responsibility. A lot of you voted for me as for first choice and many others had me as second or third. This shows that you have trusted me and it is something that I'm not willing to forget. 

The other successful candidates as well as myself have begun talking to each other and getting a crash course of what it is to be in the CPM from the current members. We'll soon be choosing a Chairman and Secretary and we'll let you know as soon as we can. There's a number of details that need the i's dotted and the t's crossed and hopefully we can hit the ground running. 

Thank you so much for involving yourselves in the process if you voted and if you didn't, well with a bit of luck and hard work, CPM1 can prove to the doubters as to the value of such an advocacy group like the CPM and get you out to vote for CPM 2.

Thank you all once again and wish all seven of us good luck.

Dennie Fleetfoot/Kevall Longstride

CPM 1 member. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

I also play Elite: Dangerous

And this selection of upcoming decals for the Eagle combat craft are just too good to not share


To learn more about Elite: Dangerous go to

Friday, 20 June 2014

Been a while...

Sorry it's been a while since the last blog but RL has been very busy recently and the Legion announcement knocked the wind out of the sails of the community for a time. But the work of CCP Rattati on Hotfixes Alpha & Bravo seems to re-energised the community somewhat so I thought I'd post some thoughts.

I would like post a little bit about what is happening in DUST University and how it pertains to the future of Dust and Legion.

Right now, I'd be an outright liar if I was to say that D-UNI was as active corp as it once was. The Legion announcement hit us very hard as I knew it would when I first learned of Project Legion. For those not aware I, along with a select number of community members were told and asked for opinion about Legion prior to Fanfest. The details as to how I was told are covered by NDA. But the fact I knew beforehand became an open secret at Fanfest once the news was out.

I knew that new player numbers would drop significantly because people would, wrongly as it turned out, just assume that Dust 514 would have the plug pulled almost straight away. Legion is at least 12 to 18 months away from being a shippable product according to what all the Dev's were saying at Fanfest and Dust is likely to continue for at least a year after that.

Many of the CEO's of the other corps do 'inactivity culls' much as I do. I personally kick members that haven't logged on in the previous calendar month on the first of every month. So on the 1 July, I will be kicking members that haven't logged on in the month of June.

Why highlight this?

Because of the size of the D-UNI membership, the cull's I perform have a statistical value as to the 'health' of the community. I've always publicly announced the level of inactivity as a percentage of the size of D-UNI. For pretty much the last year it has remained a steady 18-22%, meaning that I'd kicked that percent of players for inactivity. But we'd be getting many new applicants to replace them.

However the 1 July cull will be different. This will be the first cull that will show the direct impact of the Legion announcement. Many players logged in over the Fanfest Weekend which was the first one of May, so I wouldn't have kicked them in the 1 June Cull. 

As it stands right now the next Cull will show somewhere in between 40-50% removed for inactivity. This will be because the numbers of new players joining the D-UNI has significantly fallen between the 2nd week of May to the 3rd week of June.


New Player applicants are once again beginning to grow and while they are never going to reach the heady heights of the 70+ a day we once got till Legion is released, they are giving me cause for optimism for the continued growth of the player base. It will be minimal growth but growth nevertheless. And because I use the Eve Client and are able to look at a players employment history and date of Merc creation, I'm seeing a growing number of veteran players returning, I suspect because of the Hotfixes deployed by CCP Rattati and his team.

And this is the main reason that I want to be on the CPM in the first place. D-UNI managed to do a great deal for new players despite the games UI and infrastructure being so NPE unfriendly. But being on the CPM would give me a chance, however limited, to ensure that Legion provides the tools required for ANY corporation to do the most important work they do, which is to provide the chance to create emergent gameplay. I can also help ensure too that the NPE in Dust is not forgotten. Some of that may require UI change, some could be done with server side changes to make running a Dust corp easier in the Eve client.

I'm often accused of being the most optimistic of the candidates despite the setbacks that CCP either intentionally or unintentionally hit us with. But I do see much cause for optimism with the figures I'm able to gleam from my corp data. D-UNI can still have a huge part to play in the story of Dust and continuing in Legion and I want to be at the heart of ensuring that all corporations in the in game can grow strong and effect the history of New Eden.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Fanfest, NDA's and 'Rouge Wedding?'

So it's been a week now since Fanfest ended. I'm back home, getting over the tail end on the 'concolded' epidemic that is currently running rife through all the attendees. Patient Zero or CCP Saberwing as he's' more formally known, was sick as a dog at the beginning of Fanfest week and wisely didn't come out to play till the Wednesday night when he was over it. Except he wasn't quite.

The author with CCP Saberwing 
The problem is that I can't really get angry at him because it's was such a genuine pleasure to meet him finally. Shahin is a really cool guy and very energised for the community and the game overall. We have one of the best Community Mangers in the gaming world with Saberwing and coupled with LogiBro and the rest of the team, we are fantastically represented. And no one should be in any doubt that these guys will always do their very best for us. Even the trolls.

Those of you that follow my Twitter will know that I had a 24 hr delay to my arrival in Reykjavik due to a faulty fuel pump in the right engine of the Icelandair flight. So of course on my eventual arrival, I immediately unpacked the Uniform (seen here) and hit the The English Pub to get a drink. Or two.

Reevira was the first person I recognised, having met her last year and she had already gathered a lot of the Dusters already there, most of who I'd only shot in the face at some point and not met. I was about to get that drink and meet them all, when a crazy man shouted 'DENNIIIEEE!!!' and I was up pulled into a massive bear hug by CCP Praetorian. 

Left to right: CCP Saberwing, CCP Praetorian, CCP Z
Atli Mar is the Creative Director of Dust 514, one of the progenitors of the whole Dust concept at CCP and the person that I would describe as the beating heart of the game. His importance to the game is often overlooked or not known to the more casual players of it but trust me, without him they'd be no Dust. He is also an epic party animal.

Praetorian is also important to the story of this years Fanfest. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying this but last year while still very excited for the launch of the game, one could sense that he wasn't as engaged with it as much as you would hope to find the Creative Director of a game. He loved meeting the players and drinking with them but when talking to him about the game itself, you could detect a little weariness behind his nearly always smiling face.

What a difference a year makes....

Make no mistake, Atli is all smiles now. His enthusiasm is infectious and his mind is fired up for the possibilities that the game can now finally realise. And I'm confident that his re-engagement to the game is due to the man that he was dragging me to meet.

CCP Rouge, like nearly all Frenchmen is one charming mother fucker. JC as he prefers to be called is the near mythical Executive Producer of Dust 514, hired in October of last year to, I won't say rescue but rather steer Dust from the choppy waters of the poorly received launch of Uprising. Mythical is perhaps the wrong word but because of circumstances that would be made clear later, very little had been heard from him direct to the community. Our knowledge of him was gleaned from hints and whispered conversations with members of the CPM and the Dev's on the forums like Saberwing, LogiBro and Frame. He had become the Keyser Soze of New Eden.

JC's knowledge of the game is considerable. He plays the game a lot with various alts in different corps (including I suspect my own) and constantly reads the forums. He knows all about the major players in the game and the better known ones. And he makes a point of telling them that when he meets them finally. He greeted me like an old friend and immediately got me a drink. Later in the evening when I introduced him to Reevira, he embraced her and called her the Queen of Dust. She got very girly after that....

I'm hugely impressed with JC after spending a quite few hours taking to him over the week. I'm confident that CCP made the right choice to put him in charge and they spent a long time finding the right guy. He has already enacted many changes to how the game is developed in Shanghai. Sadly like all such transitions, some people have left the team but JC has brought in some impressive new talent to CCP Shanghai. None perhaps more important than CCP Z.

Julien is the Monitization and Progression Manager of Dust 514, a post that unbelievably didn't really exist till JC hired Z. It is also important to note that they had previously worked together for 6 years so the understanding between them is very strong and both know exactly what they are doing. 

Z is very excited for the possibilities that Dust offers and has all sorts of strategies and plans for the development of the progression system of the game. That first night of meeting me, he pretty much gave a full rundown of what would be said in his presentation later in the week, which is here to watch in full.

He also went into a little more detail than he perhaps meant to for his futher plans but I'm not going to do a disservice to his typically Gaelic enthusiasm by repeating it here. I do however share that enthusiasm and really hope a lot of what he told me comes to pass.

So on to the start of Fanfest itself.

The format of this years was a change from the previous years that I've been to and while I was initially annoyed by the lessening of the round tables, it was clear that a relaxed and creative atmosphere was the goal of the organisers this year. In this, they were successful but in other areas they were as slapdash as CCP can only be sometimes. And this year they were spectacularly slapdash when it came to Dust Keynote.

So this year I didn't have to rush around trying to cram as much in as I had in the last. And that enabled me to mingle and get to know my fellow players so much better than before. It also meant that the Dev's were much more at liberty to sit down with a bunch of us and really chew the fat. 

This new format is a great success and I hope it's repeated for next year. 

Now, I have to mention Valkyrie. It's almost impossible to describe to you just what a game changer this is going to be for interactive entertainment. But simply put, VR technology now works well enough to do for gaming what the addition of sound did to movies. 

This is the level of the huge leap that the gaming world is about to take. Until you try Rift for the first time, you won't understand that. 

It is also important for the story of this years Fanfest to in regards to Dust and Project Legion. As many of you know, Valkyrie will be also released on the PS4. Sony had several high ranking executives at Fanfest as well as virtually all the demo units of their answer to the Oculas Rift, Morpheus, in existence. And these guys were wearing the biggest shit eating grins you've ever seen. When launched in the inevitable PS4 bundle with a Morpheus headset, Eve: Valkyrie will sell more PS4 than any Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy sequel ever could. If you own a PS4 in a year and don't have Valkyrie and the headset, you will be considered an idiot. End of discussion. 

Right now, Sony love CCP. An important point to remember.


So on to the Dust Keynote and while getting to that we have to talk about NDA's. They are important for many reasons but the most important in the context of what happened at Fanfest is that they allow CCP to speak openly and be free to propose all sorts of ideas without the details being made public. And that's important. What may be thrown away after a two minute discussion in a meeting and decided to be no longer pursued by the Dev team, may cause a huge amount of forum rage to have been even considered. But ideas such as that have to be considered so that they can be found to be lacking in substance. 

Everyone working at CCP has to sign one, standard in the gaming industry. As do any partners that they may work with, such as Sony or Nvidia, both in a business sense and those that work with them in another capacity, such as the CSM and CPM. Without them, creative endeavours such as Dust in a competitive industry simply couldn't happen. And they are serious documents, applicable to pretty much any country with copyright and trademark laws. The penalties for breaking them are severe and will end any career you might hope to have in an industry that uses them. Not to mention you can also get sued for many thousands of pounds. Anyone reading and then proceeding to sign one will tell you that you had better take them seriously. And I'm telling you to take them very seriously...

So while I respect the opinion of those in the forums who say that the CPM should have 'leaked' details of Project Legion, that opinion could not possibly have been formed by anyone that has ever read one and put their signature to it. So I would dismiss such opinions as being possessed by those not in full knowledge of the facts.

I would also note for anyone that has espoused on the forums that had they been in the position of the CPM they would've leaked the information, congratulations. You've just saved CCP the time they would've have wasted considering to ask you to sign one. They would almost certainly veto you, as the CPM white paper affords them the right to, from ever being on the CPM in the first place.

'Rouge Wedding?'

The CPM and those with advanced knowledge of the Legion announcement were very, very nervous as to the reaction to it. It has since transpired that the CPM had already unanimously told CCP, on multiple occasions, that its announcement at Fanfest was a bad idea. News of it should have already been released and more details as to the future of Dust made clear, a view that I totally agree with them on.

However for reasons we can only speculate about, CCP as a company decided to ignore those warnings. Not the first time they've ignored either of their two advocacy groups, the CSM and CPM but without doubt the worst possible time they chose to ignore warnings.

Speaking privately to CCP staff afterwards, I can tell you that internally, CCP regards what happened as a bigger self inflicted PR disaster than the infamous Incarna. I can also tell you ignoring the CPM in future, is going to be less likely.

While I have no claim to any inside knowledge on the reasoning for CCP to ignore the warning of its advocacy group, past experience has demonstrated time and time again, that the massive gaming media impact that the annual Fanfest has and its potential for marketing purposes, can, has and did in the past, cause CCP to think with their metaphorical dick and not with their head.

It is also regrettable that even though they plan Fanfest months in advance, the slapdash methodology of which I spoke earlier reared up again. It prevented them from ensuring that the new Executive Producer of Dust knew that the Q&A Round Table after his important Keynote was not going to be Live Streamed and instead left him in the belief that it was.

It was JC's intent to use a streamed Q&A to answer everyone's concerns as the continued dev work of Dust 514 on the PS3 while the team also worked Project Legion. Denied that assurance, the forums of course, imploded. Understandably so.

What of course followed was the usual self induced CCP panic to fix a cock up of their own making, with JC having to repeatedly hijack the Eve TV Live Stream to give assurance to the established PS3 based console Dust players that Character retention and transfer to other formats for the game was a top priority. This culminated in the appearance of JC at the beginning of Saturdays CCP presents Keynote to inform everyone that Dust Characters WOULD be carried over to Project Legion and the aimed for PS4 version.

You remember how I told you Sony love CCP? The deal that allowed that transfer had only been agreed to on Saturday morning. JC only promised the transfer would happen when he KNEW he had the deal to do it.

You'll all find that is how CCP Rouge works. He'll only promise what he knows is deliverable.

As to the Rouge Wedding thing, now the forums have calmed down a little and solid information as to the fate of your Dust Merc's settled, can we really in all honestly compare it all to the betrayal and murder of a fictional family from a book?

Of course not.

The PS3 had simply hit a wall. Many of the features that CCP wanted for the game were either simply technically impossible of the ageing console or made difficult by a backend to Dust that required a complete rewrite, with no guarantee of success. Anyone unwilling or unable to see that will soon learn to do so as we find out more about Legion.

Gratuitous glamour shot of me and the lovely
Reevira, Queen of Dust
The Shanghai team, genuinely believed for the longest time, they could pull it off on the PS3. It took a fresh set of eyes to objectively look at the progress made and decide that it couldn't be done on a limited format. When CCP said they were laser focused on the PS3 at Eve Vegas, they were. JC had barely started and Project Legion hadn't even been thought off at the time.

The change to the PC format also allowed the corporate refocusing on New Eden that CCP as a company had chosen to embark on, using a format they are intimate with and using the X86 Chip Architecture that is now shared by all the next gen consoles as well as the PC. A point that JC and the team are at pains to remind everyone of but won't promise till they know its going to happen.

As to Dust on the PS3? It's not dying. But it can't be the game we all though it would. The PS3 can't hack it. But it will be worked on still. The lessons that CCP and Sony both learned from it, are invaluable to both. Balance work done on Legion will find its way to the PS3 and vice versa. Legion content that can make the journey over will do so. And it will continue for at least a year after Project Legion is out on the PC. By which time of course, it might be on another console too.

There are a fantastic amount of positives about Legion. Don't let the poorly conceived way it was announced colour your hopes for it.

Dust is not Dead. Long live Dust.