Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 10, 2014
 
Down in the Dust

Exactly one year ago today a great MMO experiment was started: The PS3 shooter Dust 514 was linked to the PC MMORPG EVE Online. Whether you are a fan of EVE or not (and I sure ain't), one has to acknowledge the innovation and potential of the idea of a central virtual world in interaction with satellite games. So how did it work out?

Unfortunately it didn't. While EVE Online outside China has 30,000 daily peak concurrent users, Dust 514 only has 3,000. So there are ten times more pilots in space than troops on the ground. And with other console shooters having 300,000 daily peak concurrent users, it is safe to say that Dust 514 was a flop. Review scores were pretty bad, Metacritic shows an average of 59/100.

As far as I can tell the reason for the flop was that Dust 514 simply was a bad shooter game. It was not the idea of a link with an MMORPG that sunk the project, but the quality of execution. Thus I am still positive on the idea having potential. And not just with shooters: 16.5 million people bought an Animal Crossing game, 150 million people bought a The Sims game. Is it so outlandish to think of a MMORPG linked to games like these, where the players of the satellite game replace the NPCs of the MMORPG, playing the role of the peaceful villagers in need of heroes to do tasks for them?

Comments:
Being a PlayStation-only title surely didn't help at all.
 
I don't think that consoles are the best platform for tactical shooters. There just wasn't enough players interested in this kind of gameplay.
 
Do people want to play a game where players on another platform could influence their game experience?


The trailers for Dust implied that "no lifers on PC 's" could negatively impact on their game experience so is it any wonder that PS3 players weren't interested?

Not saying the game was like that in reality. I played EVE recently so am I aware that their trailers are nothing like the actual game.

But anyway the marketing whether reflective of the real experience or not probably shafted that game.
 
Yeah, not sure Sims players want to wake up and find that the Goons have nuked their sim-vilage...
 
Well, obviously the interaction between a MMORPG and a peaceful game like Animal Crossing or The Sims requires that the MMORPG in question isn't all about nuking villages. In games like World of Warcraft you can't nuke an NPC village, so it would be completely normal to not be able to nuke a player-run village on another platform.

Of course EVE Online as a designated game for evil bastards can only be coupled with a likewise destructive game, and as Random_Phobosis mentioned, even there it isn't certain that the typical EVE player antics would be considered acceptable in a game, even if that game is about mass killing.
 
FPS players tend to view/treat their hobby as a sport.

Sports traditionally adhere to etiquette rules of fair play.

Everything EVE isn't about.
 
I've never had a PS3 (and gave away my beta invite for that reason), so I've had to rely on third-party reports.

From what I heard, teamkilling combined with the requirement to buy gear for your every life created a dynamic where you were more likely to loose than you gained in any given match. In spirit with Eve? Certainly. But could it be fun? I don't know. Apparently the rest of the mechanics weren't anything worth writing home about.

Also, I don't know how the PS3 shooter community measures up against their legendarily vitriolic XBox 360 counterparts. In any case, building a brand new Eve-like community without piggybacking on the parent community was probably a big contributing factor.

BTW, I wonder how Warframe is doing. I tested it quickly, and the Mass Effect-esque PvE missions did seem to be more fun than Blacklight Retribution's archaic arenas.
 
I think Warframe is doing a lit better but I do t have numbers. At least the circles of people I roll with like the game. The good thing about Warframe is you can do a really fast game and it's not complicated to understand.
 
I don't even look at a shooter if I can't play it on PC. I have never successfully made the transition to consoles beyond Final Fantasy VII.
 
I expected this from the beginning. Planetside 2 on PS4 will be the nail in the coffin. I mean Dust is a PS3 game, and Planetside 2 will be a PS4 game, but CCP can't stick with PS3 forever. The number of PS3 users will definitely go down over time as they switch to the new consoles.
 
Is it so outlandish to think of a MMORPG linked to games like these, where the players of the satellite game replace the NPCs of the MMORPG, playing the role of the peaceful villagers in need of heroes to do tasks for them?

Yes. "Disclaimer: Game Experience May Change During Online Play"

Interlinking sounds like a great idea but it also sounds to me like it's ripe with potential as a great vehicle for griefing. Imagine the frustration our peaceful villager feels as his "hero" figures out ways to grief him.

You also need to be risk that the success of one is not too dependent on the success of the other. In other words, Devs don't need to just win big on making great gameplay once -- they have to do it twice. If it's incredibly fun to be a hero but no one likes to be a villager, what do our heroes do? And if you have auto-villagers in additional to people, then what's the value in creating this symbiotic relationship if it's not truly symbiotic because one side doesn't need the other?
 
I agree with the analysis that it was execution - it was simply not that good.

I disagree with the idea that a console game was such a bad idea per se. I.e. EVE players strongly resist the sort of things that would attract more customers. Companies want to grow. Essentially, the EVE customers are pushing CCP to invest in things that are not EVE.

A PC version of DUST so that more of the EVE players can play does not target new customers. I.e., getting 50k hardcore EVE players to play DUST does not help broaden the market. A successful console could have. A bad console game accomplishes nothing.

CCP just had more WoD laysoffs - reportly all level designers were laid off. I have no facts but choosing WoD instead of consoles might have been better?

CCP needs to invest in non-EVE businesses. But they lack the expertise in this. And if they make it so that only customers with an EVE-mindset (HTFU sociopathic griefer) will like it, that does not expand the market much.

The lack of announcement about the current Playstation hardware puzzles me. I just don't see why someone would start a game that hasn't even addressed a plan for last year's PS4. A play a couple of weeks shooter perhaps but DUST has more of the grind for skill/gear MMO vibe. It could be that they are waiting to announce something with XBox or PC. Although due to the PS3 architecture, that is not as simple as porting among PS4/XB1/PC. It could be that CCP has given up on it and is just getting more end of life revenue by not saying it is a dead parrot.

 
So the question is, where does this leave CCP money wise?
 
I played Dust for a bit. It's pretty terrible.

Ugly:

It's basically the same map over and over again, with uninspired architecture and occasional texture pallette swaps. And whatever variety there is is poorly handled by the PS3 so that the net effect is a muddy, pixellated brown. The environments in your personal quarters and the ready-room ship? Quite pretty. Great screenshot fodder. But on the ground? It's just ugly. Much uglier than the competition.

Boring:

If you don't join a clan and have regular scheduled meet-ups, you're in the random pool. And because there are so few players actually playing, if you're anywhere outside the US, you're going to wait for a while for a match, and your match is going to be either 'team deathmatch til lives run out' or 'hold capture points'. Probably 2 players per side. If you play during US peaks, you might get a squad rock up to steamroll you with some tanks which has the advantage of ending your misery swiftly instead of trading sniper fire with that one other dude who's probably just as bored as you.

Handles poorly:

The shooting mechanics are lousy. Especially for the newbie experience. I suspect it's to cater to their RPG'ish 'skill' system, which reduces recoil/increases accuracy/damage etc as you progress. Basically take any other competitive shooter and set that as the bar for 'maximum all stats', then dial back the playability to 'utter shit', and you've got your newbie start. Which leads to...

Unbalanced:

Initially, there's a rookie-training 'proving grounds' mode that new players have to go through. Which they really only have to survive one or two rounds of to prove they know which end of the gun goes boom before they're set out into the wilderness with dudes who have LITERALLY five to ten times the shield and armor. People who will sit there, watch you empty three clips into them, while they inspect their nails until you're empty, then they laugh and blast you into oblivion with a god gun. And of course, EVE players go, "Well duh, that's EVE." But they forget that's EVE players. Not shooter players. Worse still, EVE lets you bring fifty buzzing gnat friends to take out that behemoth... Dust only goes half-way, by enforcing team balancing. So no, you can't bring your fifty newb friends to pound that ultra-dude with a barrage of bee-stings. Throw in the cash-shop-currency exclusive weapons and armor of incredible relative power and you've pretty much got the DEFINITION of pay-2-win.

EVE link:

99% of players will never see it. You need to not only join a corp which is allied to a corp in EVE, but you have to play on one very specific system, to make very minor (utterly negligible changes) to a portion of EVE space no-one cares about. So even if you DID ever see the link, you couldn't give two tugs of a dead dog's dick over it.

It's a bad game, on the wrong platform, aimed at the wrong audience, and it can't even do the one thing it promised would set it apart. Meaning it's left to compete on its own merits as a team shooter... which don't exist.

The funny thing is that the graphics, gun-handling, and populations could all have been fixed by launching on PC, which has capacity for higher specs, a mouse-and-keyboard control system, and a shit-tonne more players who are familiar with the franchise. With a bit of luck and some good decision-making, they could've made a very average game.
 
My guess is this game wouldn't have gotten off the ground without whatever money Sony threw at CCP to make it. CCP got to experiment with something that might have cost them out of pocket to fail on PC. That and it didn't help that they arrived at the tail end of the last-gen console cycle in a market saturated with other much better options for the FPS crowd.

As for how it played: what Cam said. it was a trainwreck.
 
Do you have a link to any other console shooters online stats, to support the 300,000 number?
 
Do you have a link to any other console shooters online stats, to support the 300,000 number?

Here you are! And that is just one random article mentioning numbers of simultaneous online players of recent console shooters. I don't claim to have studied those numbers over many years for many games.
 
I have to be pedantic. I can't know what they mean by simultanious. They could be taking a sample by the second, the minute or the hour.
 
I have to be pedantic.

You have to be pedantic with what purpose? I would say it is totally okay to say that all measures of success of a video game are to be taken with a grain of salt. We never get absolute numbers, especially not in comparisons. Every company states its numbers in the terms that flatter them most, e.g. EVE counting number of accounts instead of number of players, because there are so many more accounts than players. Or both EVE and WoW counting their Chinese players.

But whatever measure of success you take, you usually can with some certainty establish an order of magnitude. Is a game a success or a flop? Is it far more or far less successful than a similar game from a competitor. I consider it established that Dust 514 is considerably less successful than other multiplayer console shooters, e.g. Call of Duty: Black Ops. Do you agree with that?
 
I have to be pedantic, because you brought in numbers first - and numbers are pedantic.

At a rough guess, call of duty would likely outsell lots of other FPS'ers.

If were going to get into the numbers though, then lets get into it seriously. Not just cherry picking the numbers that seem to favour a disposition and ignoring the metric by which those numbers were gathered.
 
I use the numbers I can find with Google. If you say I "cherry-picked" the numbers, you would have to show that there are other numbers out there which contradict my point. Just saying "I don't believe the numbers" isn't enough.

The point I made in my post was that Dust 514 was a flop, and that significantly less people play it than play other multiplayer console shooters. The numbers I found support that point. So the ball is in your court now: If you have numbers that show I am wrong, go ahead, link them here!
 
If you treat asking for the sample duration size as 'just not believing the numbers', then...one of us is at an extreme end.

And you could claim a teapot is in orbit out past saturn and also claim it's up to me to disprove it rather than up to you to prove your own claim. Either my asking for sample duration sizes is somehow extreme, or you're just giving up on proving your claim and using the much easier 'everyone else has to disprove what I say' method.

 
What part of "simultaneous" or "concurrent" don't you understand? There is no such thing as sample duration size. Or rather the counting is done by a computer within milliseconds. We are talking peak concurrent users here, not numbers of logins during some duration.

Even if for some technical reasons the determination of number of simultaneous online players would be done only once per minute, what difference could that possibly make? We are talking multiplayer shooter games. Are you suggesting a huge number of people logs into a multiplayer shooter only to log out again within seconds, so that these people wouldn't be counted?

claim it's up to me to disprove it rather than up to you to prove your own claim

It is at least up to you to prove that your objection is relevant. Otherwise I can dismiss anything you say by objecting that you didn't state the color of the shirt of the person who is your source.
 
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