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.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Fanfest. There's a plan and then there is, the plan.

Hello to one and all.

It has been  just over a month since my last post on the blog. Sorry about that. RL has been kinda busy over that last month so I've not had the time to post some thoughts.

But RL has slackened now, we've had 1.8 and in three week I'll be in Iceland, so my anticipation is beginning to rise to silly levels.

I've made a start on upgrading the Fanfest costume I wore last year..
 So new boots have arrived, upgraded body armour to be painted and thanks to clarification from Icelandair, a custom holster is winging its way from the magical world of ebay for my custom Gallante answer to the Flaylock. The 'Strongarm' GL 72 Flux Pistol. 

 I'll be easy to spot at least when you arrive at Harpa.

So as to Fanfest, what can we expect?

Well first and foremost for the Dust faithfull making the trip, it's going to be about one man. JC Gaudechon, better known as CCP Rouge.

The main concern about Dust 514's new Executive Producer that the community has, is that apart from his introductionary Dev Blog, posted above, we know next to nothing about him. Those that are active on the forums or who talk to the Dev's and CPM0 know a little about him, most of it extremely positive but the rank and file Dust player hasn't heard a peep from him since his arrival.

I do know that he has almost completly rearranged the whole Dust development process, that his re-organisation of the Shanghai office has been from the ground up. I know that he is a passionate believer in the concept of the CPM and he's been described as the Patron Saint of Truth, not afraid to tell his team where they're going wrong and how to fix it. 'Super Cool' is the term that get said a lot about him.

But all of this is from from me actively looking for info and asking questions. I also hear that he has a plan. 

Me and a old work colleague, who is now a film director, used to have a mantra whenever we heard that a plan was in the offing from those above us in the chain. There's a plan and then there is the plan. The latter refers to what the fates might conspire to knacker the the former. 

Now whatever CCP Rouge has in store for us in that Dust keynote, to my way of thinking at least, would do well to break from the games past, which I'm sure it does. The game in the past clearly did have a plan but it was one that didn't take into account what the plan might have in store for it. And as such it floundered when it hit the rock that was Uprising. 

For me at least, Fanfest is going to be less about the new shiney stuff that might be coming and more about Rouge's plan. Player market, a snazzy new UI, Corp Mechanics, a working Comms system, all will be for nothing if the new EP can't excite and energise the playerbase with where he wants to take the game. 

I'm confident he can. Too many people, whose opinion I trust, are telling me that he is the man for the job and Dust is in safe hands. It's now up to him show what he can do. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Does Dust 514 need the PS4?

With now confirming what we already knew, that the next evolution of DUST 514 with be shown at Fanfest, speculation is understandably begining to bubble in the forums and social media.

Will it have the player market? What are Rouge's plans for the BPO questions? How will the Eve/Dust link be expanded.

But inevitably one question has been asked a lot. Will there be a format change or increase in availble formats?

Playstation4? PC? Steam Box? 

One arguement that Dust alumni, Battlefield 4 streamer and all round good guy, DS The Drunk Heavy as well as many others, have consistently given for the jump to PS4 to be an essential move for the game and CCP, is that it would enable the playerbase of the game to grow.

But is it? When you sit down and look at the figures in a cold and dispassionate way, I can see no evidence that would support that hypothesis. Certainly not for at least another 18 months.

Sony have recently announced that they've sold 5 million PS4 since launch. A grand figure to be sure and only likely to increase to something like 15 million by the end of its first year. But the PS3 has over 80 million units still out there. Yes, the new console is the media darling and it has some great games but everyone didn't stop buying the PS3 overnight. Sony only stopped making the PS2 three years ago after all. 

Now a figure that I've heard been flung around a lot in the various channels of chat in Dust is that the game has a retention rate of just 1 percent. This is may or may not be the truth but it seems a little off considering that that the retention rate for new staters that join DUST University is something like 35%.

For the record retention rates in Free to Play games is based on how many players in month 1 are still playing in month 2. For a better understanding of the mechanics of player retention I'd read this,

But let's assume that this 1% figure is correct and do some hypotheticals. The record for most players on the game is 9255 during the launch of the game. If that retention rate is correct, then 925,500 players downloaded the game in total during the launch and 9255, 1%, hung around and played it long enough to be part of the figures. 

Out of 80 million consoles only 1.15% downloaded and tried the game. So let's put it like this. If that figure was transposed to the 5 million PS4 out there that would be just 57,500 downloads in total. And just 575 regular players on PS4.

575 players. If each of them spent £1739.13 on Aurum then CCP would make £1,000,000. Who here reading this, thinks the development costs of porting the game to PS4 would cost just one million quid?

Less than 1% I'd wager. And no ones spending that much on Aurum any way.

Growth of the games playerbase can ONLY be achieved by increasing the player retention percentage. Increasing it to just 2 percent is an 18,510 record for most players on the PS3. For the PS4 to match that, it's version of Dust would need a retention rate increase of 32 times that of the PS3. Very unlikely I'd think.

There is an arguement that CCP haven't really advertised the game. That the figures are that low because players aren't aware of the game. Well, that's true. But without increasing the rentention first, the marketing budget would be wasted. Spend that money making the game better first.

This is why I await CCP Rouge's plans with great interest. A switch to the PS4 is what players want.

But it isn't what the game needs.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Entitlement? Says who?

I'll just come out and say it.

The Dust 514 forums are home to some of the most unpleasant repositories of splenetic outpourings of self entitled bullshit, it has been my misfortune to wade in. 

Granted, it's a vocal minority and most of them are clearing trolling or compensating for inadequacies elsewhere in their life but really..... grab the TV remote, watch the news about Syria, Sudan, oppression  of dissenting opinion by some regimes and get some bloody perspective in your lives.

The tragedy is that the vast majority of the denizens inhabiting our digital frat house, have genuine concerns about the game. They're able to articulate their worries in a considerate, well thought out way and engage with other players and more importantly the Dev's, that will be heard and made note of. 

Raging, name calling, unwillingness to except the merits of an opinion not your own does not mean you are heard louder and clearer than all the others. All it earns you is scorn, derision and a lessening of your arguement to the point where none is prepared to even entertain it.

I'm standing for CPM and I welcome all opinions. I will weigh them against others and my own and apply to them any advance knowledge that the shield of the NDA will furnish me with and help provide a conduit from the player base to CCP, that can influence the direction of the game for the betterment of all and not just a few. 

But behind Dennie and Kevall is a person, made of flesh, bone and sinew just like you. And he'd like to be spoken to in a way that you would choose to be spoken to. In an equitable way and manner. It's how I'd hope to conduct myself when speaking to CCP on your behalf. We'll get more done together that way.

Stamping your feet like a child, screaming and pointing at the sweet counter only really draws attention to you pointing at the sweet counter.

It doesn't get you the sweets.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

It's the little things that'll make or break it.

Unless CCP have some big surprise, 1.8 is all about the new racial suits and if we have some sort of infantry SP refund for their introduction. 

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. 

User Interface 

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!!!!!

Rant over.

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.

Market Place

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.

PC 2.0

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. 

Wild Cards

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.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Do you read the credits of a film or game?

Well, you should.

I'm one of those people that watch the credits at the end of a film. And not just to see what the next Marvel film will bring us.

I don't do it all the time but enough to see the same names popping up in the scrolling texts. Not the big names like director and star but the ones that get overlooked but whose contribution often makes or breaks a film. Director of Phototography is one I watch out for a lot because although the director will often dictate what goes in a frame of film, it's the DoP that will make sure how it looks. 

There has been many a time that a DoP has determined for me to see a film of not. The really good ones seldom choose to work on a film that ends up being a car crash.

I also watch the credits of a game once completed. Many games give you an achievement for not skipping it as well, little tip for you there. And some of them are long, very long. Assassins Creed: Black Flag, which I just completed on the Xbox One had a credit list that went on for 10 minutes! That's five minutes more for the credit list of the last Bond film to crawl past.

If you're in any doubt as to how big a business gaming is now, just watch the hundreds and sometimes thousands of people that are involved in making just one. It's rumoured that the last couple of COD games pushed past $200m to make each. Knowing that puts the recent decision of the publisher of the franchise to switch to a three year development cycle in some context. These games are a massive financial investment to undertake and it's better to spread that risk over a longer time.

It had nothing to do with taking longer to make the game better.

So now we come to the credits of Dust 514. CCP employ in total just over 500 people. Less than half that just worked on AC:BF alone for Ubisoft. Split equally over the four projects that they currently have live or in development that's just 125 each. Compared to the bigger guns in the industry CCP is a cottage industry. Admittedly a very swanky cottage over several floors and with a superb aquarium. Ask Hilmar about their aquarium. You'll never find a man so proud of his salt water pumps. I'm serious. They have offices in multiple country's but still, a cottage industry in comparison. 

So the fact that thay have done what many considered a fools dream and created a living breathing virtual world with consequence in Eve on PC then added to it an FPS on a different platform is truely remarkable. The fact that Eve: Valkyrie will also tie into New Eden eventually should come as no surprise to anyone. So how do they do this?

It's all about using what you have and placing it where's its needed most. Which is why I pay attention to the credits of Dust 514. People move on to new projects all the time or get reshuffled in companies all the time. We as consumers don't often know about this and more often than not don't care. But you really should in a long term project like Dust. 

Have a look at the credits as they are now. Then compare them to the ones that will be at the end of 1.8, 1.9 and then the next named expansion. You'll be seeing a lot of changes. Some you maybe know about, some you don't. Nearly all of it because of the reshuffling of resources that CCP have already done in order to give CCP Rouge, the executive producer of Dust 514, everything he needs to drive the game in the direction he wants. For instance, pretty much all development of the game is now done at CCP Shanghai, under one roof and one time zone, so ideas and the creative drive in the team doesn't have to wait for another in the team to wake up in Reykjavik. 

It does mean that several of the Dev's that have engaged so well with the community are no longer working on the game directly. True Grit for instance are working now on Eve once again I've been told. I'm sure that when it comes to the link itself however we couldn't have a more qualified team at the Eve end of the link working on it. So thank you for all your work guys, I do hope that you'll be on the Dust group for the bar crawl.

I know that CCP Rouge will be telling us before Fanfest how he wants the game to progress, what he's doing and more importantly already done to achieve it. I know that confidence in his being at the tiller is high within CCP. They're excited at the route he's plotted and the energy he's given the project. Of course it's maddening that we know this but don't know the details yet, however, I'll still be trying to nudge Saberwing to spill some breadcrumbs until Rouge posts his next Dev blog.

As the excitement for Fanfest builds so will the anticipation of finding out what our favourite FPS has in store for us. Because of the nature of change I'm sure that there will be some disappointment, features not being added as quick as we like, features maybe even getting dropped. But I'm sure the long term benefits will be obvious once explained to and experienced by the community. 

Executive Producers are one of the titles I keep an eye on for film credits. And games too

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Main reason I want to stand for CPM...?

Over the last few days I've been working on a new starters skill plan, that I can give to every new starter in the UNI.

So to do this I've started a couple of fresh clones and started from stratch to find the best combo of skills to give using the least SP. Now its been a couple of months since I checked out the NPE, so I didn't know what to expect.

It is a disaster. 

The number of 20m+ SP players as gone up a great deal and although the concurrent numbers are beginning to edge up, these players as a percentage of the playerbase, are clearly increasing.

I was out of the Academy in two matches. Admittedly, I know what I'm doing so a novice might take a few more matches to get through. So what they hell are these players doing getting thrown into a match with players fielding prototype suits and weapons?

What kind of logic is that? It's like asking a recently graduated General Practitioner to perform open heart surgery with a steak knife!

How are we expecting the playerbase to grow when this is the experiance we ask them to face in their second hour of the game? Even Eve, the game with the infamous learning cliff, starts all its new subscribers in High Sec space with a series of PvE (which I know we don't have yet) that reasonably breaks them in with an explanation of the basics. Dust has none of that.

And those that repeat the oft spoken acronym HTFU in this situation have clearly no grasp of the reality of the situation. 

The game is now as playable as it's ever been. The suits are about to finally get the full racial variants it should've had at launch. We have one set of complete racial weapons and soon a second. UI (while still far,far short of what is needed) provides a basic ability to run a corporation and have basic communications with rest of the community. 

So to have all that work and effort from the Dev's and the feedback given to them, brought down at the very first hurdle is so disheartening it really want to make you bang skulls together. And I want the chance to be able to do something about it, direct at the source as well as in the game itself.

There's a couple of things that could be done that could bring immediate relief to those new players.

First of all, like the Acadamy, a couple of modes that allow only those players with less than a certain number of WP to enter, to prevent the Protostompers from getting in there. I'd say any more than 10,000 and you don't have access. This can be done with little effort because the Academy already does it but with a lower WP threshold. Do this while giving an accelerated built in SP active boost to new players so they can get to say 3 million SP a lot quicker.

The other thing that should be done but I know from sources is difficult to do at the moment, is remove vehicles from Ambush altogether. The cheapness and effectiveness against infantry of Militia tanks is putting a lot of new players off. And in the Academy, Veteran players are using the militia tanks with new clones to get their KDR jollies at the expense of new players. Seriously guys, you're killing the games growth. 

So like I say, someone needs to stand up for the new player. These are the backbone of the future corporations in the game and we need these guys and gals to stay.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Year of the Horse

As the Shanghai office of CCP winds down for a few days, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, I thought I'd use the animal of this new year, the horse, as a ridiculously tenuous link to my real life occupation.

For I am a purveyor in false hope and dreams....

I manage a betting shop.

I also know something about odds and percentages and now a good long term bet when I see one. Just over two years ago I paid off the flight tickets for my first trip to Fanfest. Back then I was an enthusiastic but still limited in experience pilot in EVE University and Eve Online. It was to be honest the only game that I played a lot on the PC. I'd dabbled a bit in Civilisation V on the format, a couple of bargains on Steam but the format I'm most comfortable with is consoles. 

At the time specifically the Xbox 360. I didn't own the PS3, not because I'm xbox fanboy, though I admit choosing the Xbox One over PS4 for reasons I'll came back to later. No, I chose the Xbox 360 for two reasons. First of all it was cheaper and secondly for Xbox Live.

I'm a proud owner of the number 10 on my Gamertag tenure, shortly to be 11. In fact I was one of the UK beta testers for Live before it was launched. It was easy to be in that beta if I'm honest. Fast and stable broadband a decade ago in the UK was the heady speeds of 120kb a second. Ooooooo. And the cabling of the UK was still going on, so it was fairly rare to have broadband, almost by default I was in the beta. 

Halo had already fired up a love for FPS games which had started in the seedy seaside Arcades o my youth, so when Halo 2 (still the best in the series) arrived with the Live option it's predecessor lacked, I was hooked. I swear that disc didn't leave my Xbox for 9 months. 

So you've noticed that so far I've owned all three Xbox consoles and claim to not be a fanboy. How does that compute. Well, put simply there were no games on the PS2 or PS3 that I wanted to play that  there wasn't an Xbox version of. Don't get me wrong, there's been some great games on the format but nothing that floated my boat so to speak. 

So back to the Fanfest of 2012. I'm a console gamer, in a place full of PC players. Who'd just learned that the FPS that CCP had been working on wasn't coming to PC but was going to be a console exclusive. And not only that, on the most consolely of consoles, the PS3. 

They weren't happy. Not happy at all.

Seriously, the day they opened to door in Harpa main hall, to show the hastily gathered PS3 demo units and allow us to have a go, you could feel the contempt, heavy in the air. It condensed on the walls and you'd think you could hear it drip. As someone who was a console gamer at heart, that happened to love playing Eve, it was a very uncomfortable feeling. I dared not tell anyone. 

It was like getting a cheap ticket for an FA Cup match and finding you're the only Leeds fan in a crowd of Man Utd seating. 

The problem was for me however was that I liked the game. Don't get me wrong, it was a festering pile of kak in terms of the problems that build had. The controls, the UI, map design, the lack of variation in the them. It was using an inferior controller... It was bloody awful. 

But I still liked it for no good reason I could identify. Part of the package for those that attended Fanfest that year was a beta key. Well I'd had some experiance of beta's, the last one prior to that was the Open beta for Halo 3 (I flipped when that email arrived), I couldn't play the game on the 360 and I'd heard rumour of some survival game featuring a middle aged man and a young girl coming onto the PS3 that was promising. The price had dropped since launch, so I took the chance and got a PS3 slim. And waited.

The closed beta started. Some improvement since Fanfest. An active forum for testers. Chromosome came. It was going good. And I'm still playing the game now. Like I said, I know a good long term bet when I see one. It's survived its first year despite the hurdles it's had to jump and a poor launch build.

It's as playable and as enjoyable as it's ever been. The last couple of point builds (other than the over enthusiastic AV nerf of 1.7) have been really good and the promise of 1.8 and its full racial suits has me giddy.

So back to the choice between Xbox One and PS4. I'm a home cinema nut. Pretty much everything is routed via a really nice Sony Reciever and a fabulous Panasonic LED TV. My music is streamed to it all and I needed a console to fit in with all that with little fuss. The Xbox One.

Also, the PS4 is again not offering me something that I can't get on the Xbox One. Nothing floating my boat in Sony's immediate road map.

Unless CCP change that of course. Let's be honest I didn't get a PS4 because I can't play Dust 514 on it. But I think I'll be getting one this year...

I know a good long term bet when I see one.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

CPM Election Fever.

So election fever is upon us in New Eden thanks to CCP Saberwing firing the starting pistol a little early perhaps...

The Council Chamber is now full of candidate threads from the full spectrum of players in Dust. From the established big hitters to the smaller guys whose opinions are just as valid. I look forward to the inaugural CPM elections for many reasons.

First of all, because all the rumours are saying that it will be STV, single transferable vote. For a community as varied as Dust's but limited in number, its essential that such a system is in place to avoid the bigger Corps and Alliances filling the positions on the council. Secondly because there has been a perception, incorrect in my view, that the current CPM have no mandate purely because CCP chose them.

While its true that the players had no real say in the matter, the fact that they had benefited from the work and meta content that the CPM members had and still produce for the game, did give them a mandate by implied consensus. 

And part of the work of CPM0 was to create the white paper and processes that the future CPM's would need to do their job in the future. With the gun being fired we can safely assume that they've succeeded in that role and the community team, headed by Saberwing can proceed with the elections proper.

And it's important that this CPM do have a direct mandate from the players. Current CPM member Jenza posted an open letter, stating that CPM1 would have a much harder time than they did. Completly understandable considering.

It's beginning to come clearer now as to to the direction that the new EP CCP Rouge is wanting to take Dust and he's not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to do it. The frankly over the top reactions to the equipment and suit changes is indicative of the job that the new CPM members will have on their hands.

For the record, I have little sympathy for those that specced into FOTM in pursuit of KDR, a measure of excellence that for me is on par with middle aged men buying Ferrari to compensate for inadequacies elsewhere.

1.8 it would seem to me is the where the game that should've launched on May 14 last will finally be available for us to play. With a quick hotfix for problems found in 1.9, I'm confident that Fanfest 2014 will be the introduction of 2.0, a build of the game that demonstrates Rouge's vision of the game and how it grow from there. 

Whatever format it's on...

As to my CPM candidacy. I still intent to stand but I feel it rather jumping the gun to post a manifesto or announcement thread till finalised details are released by CCP. I'm old fashioned like that. Plus I don't want to bore people with a protracted campaign. That allows cynicism to creep in with the electorate and I want the community to be as engaged as possible without that. 

But I think with what I've spoken about before in the threads and with the Dev's themselves over the last two Fanfest's should give you some clues as to what I'd hope to promote within the CPM. 

An expansion of the New Player Experience to make it easier and more enjoyable for the new player to get to terms with the complexities of the game.

Helping to promote the growth of the games playerbase using the expanded NPE, an enhanced and valid Eve/Dust link and introduction of a form of PvE.

Working to ensure the continued expansion of the game onto new formats and the value that can be goined from that.

Engaging with the CSM and Eve playerbase to show them the potential value to them of the Eve/Dust link.

Pushing toward the ultimate goal of making the UI for Dust more robust and better suited for the running and expansion of Corps and Aliiances on the Dust side of New Eden, free from the requirement to use the Eve client.

There are a few other details that I want to speak on but for now that should give you some clue as to how I stand on various issues. 

So hopefully you agree with me on a lot of that and think my current work in DUST University have contributed to the community and its growth. 

Thanks for reading.