Dusting off the TV

As I mentioned in my last monthly update, Dust has landed and I figure it would be remiss of me if I didn’t talk about it at least a little. I started playing the day before the Uprising patch, and to be honest I was an entirely different game to what it is now, and as such I am ignoring my experiences prior to the patch. This means I have only got a single week of play under my belt, making this very much a first impressions post.:I haven’t played everything (who has) and I don’t know intricate details. But I do know how I feel after a week of play, so this is it.

In the interests of full disclosure I will state that I am playing purely with the Keyboard and Mouse, and on a 1080p TV using a HDMI cable. I am also using a PS3 Super Slim (I think) 12Gb.
Where to start with Dust? Gosh. Well. Let’s go with sandwich format shall we? Something good, something bad. So, niggle One:
You have to get very lucky to fight in FW battles at the moment (I gather thats a bug which will be fixed), and when you do, it’s really not much different from a Pub match. That sucks really. I had assumed that Dust would have 4 levels of seriousness in terms of investment & Risk/Reward:
  • Public matches
  • Faction war
  • Low Sec Corporation Wars
  • Null Sec Corporation Wars
At the moment, public matches are about all you can do, unless you have fast hands, and find a FW match, even then there is just no real feeling for actually participating in Faction Warfare, it just feels like another Pub match. There are two things needed to fix this. Firstly FW should be something you have to make a Risk/Reward choice for: Let my Corp take a 1 month FW contract out which bans us from all other matches: crank up the number of FW matchs (and add an auto join FW match button), then pay us a bonus by how much we help out side at the end of the month. Anything to differentiate FW from the same of Pub matches. I expect this is in the pipe for future updates, but for me the Pub matches just seem to make things a big boring.
First Great thing: The game is pretty solid right now, and feels like a glorious cross between Eve online and Battlefield 2142 (which are the game’s I have spent the most hours playing). I really enjoy the eve online complexity to the system, and battlefield style tactical play. The game makes me grin, and I have enjoyed pretty much every match (bar a few). CCP was aiming for a AAA shooter release, and to be honest I think there not far off the mark. I don’t think dust will be considered AAA on its release date, simply because it would require the game to be released with at least a full spread of weapons and vehicles for each race, as well as perfect balance and more maps. But it is clear to see that its burning for that triple A mark fast, and I expect it to achieve that base level (and keep on going) by the end of this year. In the end it’s a wonderful concept executed well.
Second Niggle; progression. FPS’s need to give a good sense of progression to the players, to keep them interested; and in that area, upgrades to suits and vehicles are great. However very quickly the gaps between these upgrades starts to grow. I’m 1 week in now and already the waits between upgrades are starting to get longer. And worse the progression tree for suits/gear is not clearly marked out. As an eve player, I’m ok with that, but I can see the average console kids getting pissed off and dropping the game the first time they realise their next reward is a month away. My  belief is that Dust requires some inconsequential rewards to keep us going in-between big progressions. A good example of this would be the Battlefield Medal/Ribbon/Pin system. It’s great to see how you are doing in a match and in your career by more than just a KD ratio and a WP total, and small rewards will go a long way to sustain the players interest between upgrades.
Next Pro: the devs. This one is whats knocked me for six the most. On a whim I decided to join the IRC channel linked in the Dust forums. First shocker was the Dust devs in the channel, it’s always nice to see the devs chatting with the players, especially on an “unofficial” media. But what really amazed me was just how they were communicating. Every so often all of a sudden a CCP dev will pipe up in channel and mention what their working on. For example in the first day of joining I witnessed a CCP dev chatting about vehicles, and soliciting requests and issues from the people in the channel. I doubt any other game has this level of Dev-Player relationship, and CCP should be very proud of it. This bodes very well for the games future.

Niggle 3: actually I am fresh out of niggles now, and it’s all just good stuff from here on outwards. I really enjoy playing Dust, and I get the feeling of a juggernaut starting its slow climb to an unstoppable kinetic force. I gambled on Dust hoping to find that it was an FPS I could get behind, and one which would keep developing and evolving for a very long time (say 10 years +). I think I found that, and I hope that over time my investment will pay off. My only worry is that I am a freak of nature, and one of the few people who wants spreadsheets inserted into an FPS game. For the first time in a long while, I find myself hoping that I am normal. Small chance of that really. I expect to write some more as the game and my experience of it develops further.
Walk happy,

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