Friday, 12 April 2013

DUST 514 CCP's epic misstep

There is no denying the impact that EVE online has had on the MMO world, it may not be the biggest MMO out there but it does have the most depth and freedom for players when compared to the likes of Warcraft.  Mighty corporations run exclusively by players, massive mining guilds, pirate empires and more exist in the ruthless cutthroat world created by CCP and players love it.  EVE is one of the few MMO games that actually allow players to choose what they want to do, when they want and how they want, and it is expanding all the time with new features and content that further expand this philosophy.

There aren't enough players in a match to do this yet
Previously I have stated that I think EVE has to move with the times and become a free to play game or else risk becoming a dinosaur of the MMO world.  True EVE has a very dedicated fanbase who will likely continue to happily pay their subscriptions even if CCP increased the cost I think the rabid EVE fanbase would continue paying even if it meant to loss of their house.  But as more games come and go the ones that stick are the free games, even World of warcraft has changed to a partial free to play model.

DUST is probably part experiment part expansion for CCP.  If a lot of players buy the Aurum items which require real money then I wouldn't be surprised to see EVE having another look at a free to play model or at least adding more microtransaction items.  Personally after playing a few rounds of DUST I don't see how this game will succeed in a competitive shooter market, even as a free to play game.

The maps are pretty basic and this is one of the biggest problems with DUST.  If you look at other popular shooters like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Red Orchestra and many others you can see that the maps each have a unique 'personality' for lack of a better word.  People tend to remember particular battles and events because the map is designed specifically for chokepoints to develop.  These chokepoints are where most of the fighting happens and dictates the pace of the match.  Two good teams may end up fighting a vicious battle of attrition while other games may see a more aggressive team achieve victory by exploiting the maps features.  DUST has severely misjudged this element of game design here with maps that are bland, uninteresting and insanely unbalanced.

In the future you will be able to hit EVE players with cannons
True the world of EVE is a unforgiving one but when a single sniper can rain death for a majority of a match simply because the map is mostly flat with little cover it doesn't really give the right impressions.  When players do reach some solid cover in the form of buildings, they will find utterly flat dull textures that show no sign of effort being put in by the developers.  You can't even enter these buildings to use as temporary HQ's for planning your next move with squad members.  Even the ground is awful to look at with a massive expanse of dark grey sand which sometimes dips or rises to form hills or craters.  The entire thing looks rushed and it doesn't end there.  Textures for infantry look rough and show no signs of anti-aliasing as jagged edges abound on character models, again with blurry pixelated textures being obvious the closer you get.

Combat feels archaic with characters feeling like they glide around the map rather than inhabit it, I felt like I was playing DOOM as I moved around.  When you have competition like Killzone another exclusive console shooter you need to be aiming to either match that or beat it.  Even running looks and feels odd as the character doesn't move like his feet are touching the ground, more like he is navigating the world on some sort of hoverboard.  Killzone this is not as weapons are instantly forgettable with no feeling of weight or impact.  All soldiers can take mammoth amounts of punishment before going down, but if they are within a millimetre of a grenades blast radius you instantly die.  Grenades are massively overpowered to the point where a man can hit you multiple times with a minigun and you survive but a grenade will end you instantly.  A majority of my kills came from chucking grenades like there was no tomorrow because my assault rifle sounded like a toy and looked like one also doing virtually no damage with a full clip.

For some reason the aesthetic of EVE doesn't translate as well for soldiers and guns.  The vehicles however look great with dropships, tanks and light armoured cars really standing out for their design, although I take issue with the fact you have to pay for using them with in game currency or real money depending on the vehicle.  The harsh reality of EVE and it's risk versus reward nature is accepted by the fans of EVE, but console players who enjoy shooters without such limitations are going to be a little pissed to be honest.  I can only imagine how annoyed players will get when they pay for use of a weapon or vehicle using real money, vanishes after you die or it is destroyed.  I guess this will weed out the players who are immature or whatever, but still it won't help the game any.

This map doesn't exist in game yet
The aspect of integration is nice as players in EVE will be able to provide to fire support for their soldiers, and the ability for guilds of DUST mercenaries to be hired by player corps is a cool idea.  Whether it will work or not remains to be seen really, as console players are fickle and tend to move as trends change.  Had DUST been developed for PC I would have actually been in favour of joining a guild and being a part of the EVE universe, but sadly CCP and Sony are in bed together and exclusivity once again ruins a good thing.

With announcement of PlayStation 4 and it's release later this year I really don't know what will happen to DUST.  It is still in Beta and likely will still be come summer, a few months later and PS4 will launch and I can't see many players wanting to play a online shooter with last generations graphics even if it is free.  Maybe CCP are already working on a version with better visuals but who knows.  Personally I hope they abandon the project on console and switch to PC as the community is more competitive and the legions of EVE players would happily jump into a dropsuit as well as a battlecruiser to assist their corp on the ground and the space above.

What do you think of DUST 514?  Leave your comments below and thanks for reading.


Bryan Hulse said...

I think the protracted Beta cycle of this game is its biggest problem. Not enough new content quickly enough and still no sign of a firm release date. Its (sort of) great that they mananged to link a PC game and a console game, but I am still asking myself "Why?" What do Eve players get and what do Dust players get?.
Some of the gameplay vids online make it look pretty good, but then you play it and it somehow manages to dissappoint, hard to explain, but there are certainly far better shooters out there even if this is free. Lets face it though if they charged you for this unfinished product you would certainly not be happy. Not sure what is really going on with this game, but it has potential. If they want to get more than just the EVE fanboys wetting themselves about a ground based EVE shooter then they really need to put alot more effort in than it appears they have so far. To most console users EVE is some weird sci-fi game they don't really know anything about, and that's if they have even ever heard of it. Eve lives happily in the middle of the most nondescript part of obsurity and has one of the smallest player bases for a game that has been around so long. As you say the PS4 announcement may mean it never gets finished. A PC version would be fantastic!

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