Fanfest 2014 is just 10 weeks away. It would be a major blow to the fortunes of Dust 514 if the next named expansion of the game isn't announced or made playable to those that make the pilgrimage to Harpa. So I'm going to assume it will be for the purposes of today's blog.
When CCP Rouge came on board in October, I believe it would be a safe assumption on our part to expect that he'd be concentrating on the next expansion of the game rather than iteration on the previous work done. CCP brought him to Shanghai to steady the ship and plot a new course. It would be a waste of his time and energy to do anything else.
I'll be referring to the next expansion as 2.0, even though in software parlance it would be 'insert name' 1.0, so don't pick me up on that please. For the record I've maintained that my prefered name would be Insurrection.
Here I delve into the realms of speculation and wish fulfilment. I claim no precise knowledge of what's coming up in 2.0. I do base some of what I say here on the tiniest slivers of intel I've heard from various sources but some of this is contradictory, so again don't hold me to any of this.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that those expecting an announcment as to the movement of the game to PS4 are going to be disappointed in May. Sony have placed the PS4 behind a paywall, meaning that the game would no longer be free to play as such. And despite the fact that Sony just announced that they've sold over 5 million units of the PS4, I don't believe the user base is yet large enough for a game such as Dust 514 to gain enough pool of players on the format, to justify the extra development costs. It will happen, just not this year.
We also have to take into account the recent decision of the Chinese Government to lift the ban on consoles. China is a huge potential market for Dust 514 and the cheaper PS3 is likely to the console of choice to begin with. Tie in the oppuntunity to link in the game to Eve's Chinese server, Serenity and CCP are looking at huge new market. The recent restructuring of nearly all Dust development to under one roof in Shanghai not only makes sense in term of effiency, it makes sense in light of this huge new market that CCP, either through happenstance or forward planning, are going to be able to take advantage of locally.
I would say that there is also a slim chance that it might move back to PC and perhaps even drop console altogether. I base this purely in the fact that non of the current CPM are standing and my own sense of paranoia. An Eve player without paranoia is a podded player. Jenza hinted in her open letter to candidates that CPM1 would have a harder time of it for some reason and by the sounds of it none of them want to be around. As a candidate for CPM1, I have to say that this is my nightmare scenario but I consider it unlikely, given the potential of the Chinese console market.
Once again, I feel that there will be disappointment in the community because I'm fairly sure that CCP will be sticking with the Unreal engine for the time being. While it's limitations for an MMO have been well documented, I know that there are many game programmers in the community that are very impressed that CCP have got it to do what they have at all. CCP seem to be getting much more out of the engine than was thought possible, which to me demonstrates an affinity for the engine that they'll be unwilling to ditch just yet. Certainly, till they are ready for the inevitable upgrade to the new formats.
I am expecting some major optimisation to the coding of the game however. Dust already has some very nice lighting effects but it's animations for the Merc's themselves are very 1990's. Having them teleport into vehicles is very offputting. And of course, having a stable 30 FPS during gameplay should be a given by now. Compared to the closed beta, its silky smooth at the moment but it needs to be stable.
Seriously, if there isn't a fix for the Voice Comms and it works all the time, I may have to slap someone in the chops at Fanfest. Other than that, I'm not expecting anything other than new weapons noises and refinement of what we have now. The in game audio is pretty good, but I'd like some some better rear channel steering for locating vehicles, especially Dropships.
You all knew I'd get there eventually.
For as long as the Eve Client is required to properly run a corporation in Dust, then the UI in Dust must and should be considered an abject and dismal failure on the part of CCP. Make no mistake, they should be ashamed of what they given us to make do with. For as long as a CEO or director is required to subscribe to Eve then the game is not truely free to play.
They must also break free from the ingrained design dogma that perpetuates their thinking in terms of the UI. The current design of the UI with its drop down and pop up menus is as a result of using M&KB for so long in Eve. At what point is CCP finally going to realise that it must adopt an 'in the box' mentality when designing a console game.
At this point I have to swear, there is no other way to adequately get across my frustration on this issue but when consoles come with a mouse and keyboard in the fucking box, then and ONLY then, will mouse and keyboard have any claim of parity with the gamepads that come with every fucking console. Until then, M&KB is a secondary consideration and should only be worked on once everything else works perfect with the sodding gamepad!!!!!
New Player Experience
In a non twitch game such as Eve, a slower and more intense learning experience is possible because the format of the game lends itself to that. And having the social aspects of a player run corporation are a huge plus in player retention.
An FPS game can't afford to be slow in this regard. The type of player that Dust attracts are used to the pace and speed of franchises such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. The other problem with these franchises is that they have, for lack of a better term, dumbed down the need for the kind of tactics that player trying Dust for the first time would need.
The lack of tactical thought that those that claim excellence in CoD when confronted with Dust sometimes show is frightening.
The NPE must demonstrate to a new player the complexity of Dust without putting them off it. I would hope that there has been a lot of progress on this in the last few months as its vital to the long term growth of the game. I look forward to seeing what CCP have done in this regard.
I think we may see the fabled pilot suit in 2.0. CCP have had plenty of chances to remove mention of it in the marketplace and have not yet done so. I hope that when they do arrive, CCP have the good sense to release all the racial variants. There could be no claim as to the need of a respec at a later date if they do that.
A player driven marketplace is essential for the game at this point. However, two things are by all accounts, making it difficult to implement. First of all are the BPO's. In terms of earning CCP money via purchase of Aurum and the various packs, BPO's can be considered a success. And were very popular. In terms of the fledging Dust economy, they are a disaster. The games central premise of purchasing fits that are lost on death is undermined by BPO where there is no ISK being pulled from the ecomomy.
The second reason is the amount of ISK that there is in Dust right now. CCP were far too generous as to the financial rewards of Planetary Conquest. There is currently trillions of ISK in the game, held by a select few and with nothing to spend it oon as yet. Being rich in itself is not anything to be ashamed off in New Eden but right now these two factors are in danger of destroying the games economy before it starts.
I'm going to very interested in how the CCP economists intend to deal with this issue.
Its a given I'd hope, that the Amarr and Minmatar MCC will finally make their game debut in May as well as their ground and air based brethren. I like to think that their logistical variants would also arrive but my gut tells me that CCP are still not happy with the game mechanics that underpin them and with current misgivings regarding the AV capabilities of the infantry, adding them is not a good idea till that is addressed.
MTAC's, speeders and jets.... Not happening before Christmas at least.
I'm not a fan of PC. The UI, the timers, the lag, the high profit margins for a limited few while not providing an alternative revenue stream for those not doing it. I expressed an opinion last Fanfest as to how PC would end up and I was about 90% right.
I personally wouldn't mind if it dropped altogether and forgotten about.
How I'd have it is current pub matches remain in High Sec, FW in Low Sec and a player contracted version of FW in Null sec where only the very best equipment and skills would be enough to compete.
PC 2.0 is going to have to be something very special for me to be convinced otherwise.
I think that we will see some expansion of the forums capabilities including with some luck, integration with the Eve forums. This will be an important step in the social connection between the games being strengthened.
Last year, CCP promised that by next time we all met again in Reykjavik there would be a companion app for Eve on mobile and tablet. I'm going to hold them to that promise and hold onto the hope that their will be some form of companion app for Dust 514. I said earlier being limited to the Eve client for proper corp control is a failure but I'd be happy for it all to be done via a web based or actual App.
The current map designs are not great and give too much free reign to ground based vehicles while restricting infantry in its ability to do close to medium range combat. The current problems with redlining can all be traced back to poor map design and was the topic of many alcohol based chat in the bars of Reykjavik last year. And nothing has been done since. I'd hope that this has also been addressed.
Right then, that's enough waffle for the time being. It'll be interesting see how right or wrong I am in 10 weeks. And I hope that some of you will be there to see it all with me.