Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
 
Stomped into Dust 514

Stabs has a rather brilliant analysis of Dust 514: The difference between a good player and a bad player is too big. The dirty secret of MMORPGs is that playing them isn't hard for 99% of the content. As a result the difference in performance between a veteran and a new player for doing most of the game, e.g. doing quests, leveling up, normal dungeons, isn't all that great. Multiplayer first-person shooters are a very different kettle of fish: They are actually skill-based. So if the game allows it (and Dust 514 does), you can be killed repeatedly by players that are much better than you without ever having any experience of success.

That causes a rather unique problem for Dust 514: The players who are actually good at it, because they already played competitive multiplayer shooters for 10,000+ hours will not be all that interested in the game, because compared to the top games in the first-person shooter market Dust 514 is just an also-ran. And the players who are very interested in Dust 514 because of its link to EVE are for the most part not very good at playing it because they spent their time conquering galaxies instead of learning how to shoot. The number of people who are both good at EVE and good at Dust 514 will be very small.

I think CCP is setting themselves up for an epic fail here. The integration of Dust 514 turns the game into a sort of "open world free-for-all PvP" game, but that sort of setup exacerbates the virtuoso problem where players of vastly different skill levels are matched against each other. I don't think the fragile egos of the kind of people who enjoy EVE because it allows them to gank other players will be able to handle being permanently on the receiving end of the ganks in Dust 514.

Comments:
I agree with your assessment of 514. CCP and FunCom will be the first casualties of the saturated mmorpg market. Neither company will exist in their present forms at the end of 2013.
 
And even if you manage to get the drop on a veteran player, there's still the gear differences to consider.

Granted, gear differences aren't unique to Dust; Many of it's competitors already have additional/alternate gear and/or extra powers acquired via gameplay.

However, I do see a way out of this mess. I haven't played TF2 that much, but I understood that the default set of weapons is still good for most situations; Alternate weapons can be better, but only in specific situations with specific playstyles. This is similar to the original design philosophy in Eve's tier system: T1 is general-purpose, T2 is specialist and T3 is adaptable.
 
I see the disconnect with the EVE philosophy. CCP is an iterative developer with regular semi-annual releases. Will console gamers give it that long? Most seem to be "play the new hotness for a month or two and move on." I know the console stuff is developed by purchased companies, but still cool and shiny on day one is not a trait I associate with CCP.

If I spend $0.26 on BiS gear that is lost when I die, then can Goons be Goons and gank me? Or will I be protected and really annoy the EVE players? Just how much HTFU will someone who has zero invested in their downloaded F2P trial put up with? Will CCP's partner Sony really be ok with things like the Mitani's fanfest talk. Will exiting EVE powers be about using or griefing DUST players?

I understand the PS3 not PC ( they are looking to expand their market, not cannibalize it. ) When the world was doing well and Icelandic financial companies even better, very aggressive moves were reasonable. Now, it seems much riskier.

CCP has some good traits and tenacity so I don't ever count them out. But I currently definitely would bet against them.

What I have not seen is whether DUST was a "bet the company" thing or could they just shut down the recent acquisitions and move on? (I am petty enough to enjoy the drama if in hard times CCP gets bought by their partner Sony.)


 
As far as I have heard they ran out of money, and just recently had to get more investors in to borrow $20 million from them. We know how that worked out for Studio 38.
 
CCP has one cash cow, EVE with 400K*$15 = $6M/month income. So they are financially rock-solid. Even if they go bankrupt over DUST, they don't have to worry, someone will surely buy them and keep operating them for EVE.

My number 1 question about DUST was always "why?". Why did CCP branched into a new genre, new platform, new audience where they have zero experience instead of just branching somewhere closer to EVE.

While I cannot say "DUST will surely fail" I can say "DUST has a same chance of success as it would if me and some of my colleagues would have developed it" as we have exactly the same design and market experience on FPS games as CCP.

My major concern is the other way: to support DUST, and protect console kiddies from griefed away on day 1 by bored Goons they soften EVE up to the point of "WoW in space". THAT would bankrupt them for sure as no WoW clone lived in the shadow of the real one. EVE is living exactly for being the only non-WOW-clone MMO.
 
EVE is living exactly for being the only non-WOW-clone MMO.

I object to "only", seeing how there are other non-WoW-clone MMOs like Puzzle Pirates or A Tale in the Desert. But EVE Online is certainly the most successful non-WoW-clone MMO.
 
Tobold,

I get the point, but if the good players stay away from 514 because it isn't shiny enough then won't the place be left to the mediocre ones? Perhaps there is a chance that the EVE fans will actually survive for longer than a snowball in hell after all.
 
If CCP did go under, I wonder if the EVE players would stage a buyout. It's one of the few MMOs where I could actually imagine that.
 
"The dirty secret of MMORPGs is that playing them isn't hard for 99% of the content."

I'm not sure this fits with your other, true assertion that most players aren't in the least "hardcore". My experience in many MMOs has been that a lot of players *do* find playing them hard, often too hard. In family guilds over the years I've watched countless players get to the middle levels and stop finding it fun because they can't complete the content. It's not the grind that gets them down - that generally doesn't appear until near or at the level cap; it's not being able to kill what they are asked to kill for quests or get to the places they are asked to go.

MMOs have become progressively easier for a reason.
 
In terms of skilled FPS players, CoD and BF3 players are not going to touch EvE like you mentioned earlier about top players not being interested. However this game does have a strong appeal to MAG players and Killzone 3 players, so there will still be some skilled clans participating in Dust 514.

However make no mistake all the skill in the world is not going to help a infantry player solo a Mega tank. Even though these tanks are insanely expensive and are lost on death, it's still possible to fill the whole map with them if you have enough funds.

And who are these Daddy Warbucks going to be? Well the EvE corps that have near infinite ISK they can throw through at Dust clans to pretty much buy their victories with tanks, and orbital barrages.

Even if a MAG or KZ3 clan can still beat a Eve Sponsered clan in Dust, the after battle rewards will simply not be enough to cover their losses. However with near infinite ISK a EvE sponsored Dust clan will be back to full strength.

The most likely scenario is that the top FPS players will have to break up their own clans in order to be recruited/assimulated by the Eve Corp sponsored Dust clans in order to play the game competitively or quit.
 
I read that the after battle rewards depend on what equipment was destroyed during battle. So battling ISK-rich players will give greater rewards to the ISK-poor but skilled players.
 
There seems to be one RATHER IMPORTANT thing that people are forgetting while slating DUST as being impossible for PC players; it's still in Beta.

Disregarding differences in player skill (which will always be a factor), people need to remember that the game is still in a live testing phase and as such, many weapons and suits are very unbalanced and the controls are being tweaked continually. It's common knowledge amongst most testers that there are several ARs (assault rifles) that are an order of magnitude more powerful than other weapons, and as such, the players who have played for a while, who know this and have the in-game skillpoints to use these things tend to wipe the floor with everyone else. These and many other issues will be addressed in the next patch.

Many of the issues brought up are the same for a lot of newer FPSes; the players who've been playing for a while have access to better gear, better 'perks' etc, and in this regard, DUST is a much better bet for a newbie as the more ridiculous perks you find in other games (*cough* nuke *cough* airstrike) just don't exist.

I also take exception in your assertion that people who play PC games or MMOs are somehow unable to play console FPSs. Innate skill and time spent on each are the main factors, and those things aren't mutually exclusive.

For what its worth, I think DUST's biggest challenge will be a similar one that Eve had; it's NOT your run-of-the-mill shooter and I feel many people who jump into it expecting yet another iteration of Medal OF Battlefield Duty VI: Spectacle Ops will be sorely confused & disappointed.
 
I object to the idea that one type of gameplay requires more skill than the other, rather than requiring a different type of skill.

Playing an mmo is about planning the correct gear/ability setup, reading a detailed/information-rich current situation, and making decisions about how to succeed. e.g. I look at my raid and see who's low, where they're standing, what incoming damage pattern I can expect, and then choose which heal spell to cast and upon which target. This isn't easy, or if it was, then other people wouldn't be so bad at it.

A first person shooter is entirely different. It depends mostly on twitch, simply reacting very quickly, and then upon using manual dexterity to align your mouse cursor with a moving object on the screen.

One isn't innately more skill-based than the other, rather they require different skills. The disconnect is that eve requires high level planning skills, while dust is pretty much all twitch. Players good at one aren't necessarily good at the other.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
I agree, CCP is setting themselves up for a failure. Maybe they're very lucky and it won't completely fail, but the setup is there.

I looked for 30 minutes in my feed reader to find a citation that I read a while ago, which was so exactly my own opinion (and written in a more popular blog than my own) that I never picked it up again. It went something like this:

CCP is great at having ideas, but poor at grasping the results, and makes poor decisions based on a dumb combination of ideas that are great in separate.

1) Hey, EVE is great, let's expand into a different genre to get the EVE feeling there. Awesome!

2) Console gaming is a market we haven't tapped yet, let's extend into that. Great! Alright, Sony is nice to us, so let's make it PS3-exclusive!

3) FPS games have huge player numbers. You know what, let's make a game for them, that's where the money is!

4) Sooo.... let's create a game of a completely different genre we have no experience with, for a different target audience, on a different hardware platform that is slowly reaching the end of its life cycle... wait, what?

[Whoever can point me to where that was from, please do point it out.]

It sounds like a classic over-estimation and over-extension scenario.

Maybe the goons will find enough - goons, I guess - to populate the game. That might help them keep that thing afloat.
 
I've been saying for a loooooong time that I will play Dust when they come to their fucking senses and put it on the PC.

In the meantime... well. The good vs bad divide is absolutely impassable. If you're not a virtuoso with PS3 control pad, you will spend the majority of your time shooting just to the side of your opponent.

That's barrier 1.

Barrier 2 is gear. I believe CCP is really angling to amp up their 'risk vs reward' theme. Starter 'militia' gear is infinitely replaceable and doesn't cost you anything. It's also unbelievably and disproportionately shit.

Someone with a high-quality fitout need not ever die against players who are not buying new equipment. You can empty three full mags into an opponent with decent shields/armor, and they will still not die... and if they have an expensive rifle, they will tear you into human jerky strips in approximately 0.5 seconds.

That compounds the skill difference exponentially. If two players had the same skill level and that degree of difference in gear, the geared player will usually win. If the geared player is good at the game and the un-geared player bad? The geared player becomes some kind of GOD.

Pretty sure that's intentional, though. Because buying gear that can at least hurt a LITTLE isn't actually that expensive.

Even if you LOSE a match, you will still get somewhere around 50-100k ISK. One decent-quality assault rifle costs around 600-800 ISK. The dropsuit, maybe 1k ISK. Modules to boost survivability, maybe another 2k per fit-out if you care about stamina.

Even if you die 15-20 times in the match, you'll still break even, and gain 'skill points' to give you a different level of advancement to reduce your expenditure next time.

I believe the upcoming (21st August) Keyboard & Mouse patch will eliminate some of the virtuosos. ...Or at least create new ones.

The current death-gods are gamepad players. They are not happy about KB&M support. If they stubbornly refuse to upgrade to the more precise control system, once it's available, then their gear will really only make them around equal, and possibly still even die to KB&M noobs.

These kinds of prima-donnas don't do well competing on a level playing field. They want their skills to 'mean something', by which they mean gaping chasm of score differences. They'll go play somewhere else, and it'll be the folks who were interested in the EVE universe who remain.

...And a year after PS3 release, with its disappointingly shitty graphics/performance, the exclusivity deal will end and Dust will end up on the PC where it belongs.
 
I think you're all overlooking one important factor. The battles won't remain "balanced" for long. (I'm going on comments made at fanfest for this).

My understanding is that for the initial release there will be NO link to 0.0 warfare at all - all the battlefields are in high sec. And initially NPC run. Think world of tanks or any other MOBA. This will not remain true as the years go by.

Eventually they will start fighting over lowsec and 0.0 planets and we'll have asymmetrical warfare. Where you may only have 5 guys defending a planet when 40-50 guys come calling. These are situations EVE players are used to that FPS players are not. One wonders how the fragile egos of the FPS community adapt to asymmetrical warfare once it's introduced.

As someone once said, quantity has a quality all its own.

Succeed, fail, at least someone is running the experiment. And that at least will reveal (or not) avenues of progression for both MMOs and FPSs.
 
I have played three different builds of dust 514 so far. Except for the latest build which a) hasn't been folly deployed yet and b) I have only played for about 2 hours I did not feel the 'virtuoso effect'. Also do not underestimate the 'goon effect' either.
 
I just just want to object a bit to Gevlon's $6M a month and your "But EVE Online is certainly the most successful non-WoW-clone MMO."

If CCP has taken in more shareholder money that the company is now worth, if the shareholder's return has been negative or less than a savings bond, then I see no reason to call them successful; I don't know but disagree with an assessment that them still being in business means they have been successful.

As to Gevlon's numbers, I think income is quite unimportant relative to profit: income minus expenses. A company with $2m in revenue and $1m in expenses is better than one with $6m in revenue and $8m in expenses. GM had tens of billions of dollars of revenue when it went bankrupt.

I don't know what CCP's expenses are and I don't know the stockholder equity and loans. So it could be nicely profitable and successful. Or neither. My guess is closer the latter than the former. Regardless, I am skeptical about the common assumptions that it it profitable and successful.
 
Regardless, I am skeptical about the common assumptions that it it profitable and successful.

I think in the case of CCP it depends on whether you look at the whole company or only at the EVE part. As far as I know, EVE Online is profitable, having more revenue than expenditure. But CCP is developing other games, primarily Dust 514 at the moment, and that development is eating up more money than the profit from EVE provides.

It is a bit like Studio 38: Kingdom of Amalur was profitable, making more money than it cost to develop. But it didn't make enough money to pay for the development of Copernicus.

Gevlon is right in that if Dust 514 would be a "bet the company" deal going wrong, it would still be feasible for somebody else to pick up EVE and keep running it profitably.
 
If i was CCP i'd make a game that re-used the Eve model in a ground-based setting for example

Sci-fi version

- a partially sentient and psychic planet with great mineral wealth
- the psychic atmosphere allows the planet to create avatar creatures that attack anything physical outside safe areas
- mining corporations have created safe base areas (equivalent to space stations) with short-range defensive energy fields that can keep out the critters
- people can travel safely between connected bases via high altitude shuttles but can't physically travel outside the energy fields as it's too dangerous
- however the psychic field of the planet allows people to strap into some kind of psi-pod inside the bases and create a psychically controlled avatar who travels outside the safety of the energy fields
- the avatars the player can telepathically create are the equivelent of "ships" and the area outside the bases the equivalent of space
- the avatars would be Scout I-IV, Stormtrooper I-IV, Space Marine I-IV etc and you'd learn how to create each avatar type the same way you learn how to fly ship types in Eve
- each avatar type would have slots to load skills and equipment similar to ships in Eve so you'd train to be able to create those skills / equipment on your avatar and buy consumable implants that provide a certain number of uses
- the implants burn out if your avatar "dies" and you have to buy new ones
- the economy would be the same as Eve where players take their avatars out to mine mineral resources which get crafted into into implants / injections that are used for mini-gun implants or heavy armor implants or whatever
- mining would be player avatars leaving their base and looking for somewhere to mine. the world itself, being psychic, creates mobs to attack physical mining equipment so the avatar finds a mining spot and orders up a mining drone from the base which flies out and rops on the marked spot. the player has to defend the drone from the mobs the planet creates until it has finished mining and then escort it back
- the strength of the psychic field around the planet varies from place with the corporation bases in the low strength areas. the best mining spots are in the high strength areas but in those areas the planet has the capacity to create 60 foot balrogs to attack the mining equipment so it takes an experienced group to hold them off
- guilds can create their own bases (like a POS) either close to a corporation zone, ally with the corporation, and have their base become part of the corporation zone (high-sec) or strike out into more dangerous regions (low-sec)
- the size of NPC threat created in the low-sec areas can be tweaked depending on how pve or pvp orientated the game would be
- the mobs the planet creates could be specific or they could be drawn from the minds of the miners hence why they could be based on human mythology and nightmares
- specific minerals could have their own specific class of mobs which need specific skill load outs e.g mining beryllium could generate packs of large rats in high-sec areas and ratmen with laser rifles in higher sec areas. in the first case you might want to load out your miner avatar with physical armor and aoe skills and in the second case energy armor and accurate long-range skills

etc etc

So basically take Eve but put a ground-based skin on it.

(They could almost take all of their existing database and rename the ships as humanoid avatars and the skills as avatar skills and equipment.)

(It wouldn't be that hard to dream up a similar idea for a fantasy or other setting - cyberpunk would be another obvious possibility.)

This would suit me as i like a lot of the ideas in Eve but ships don't do it for me.

 
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