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.