Dust: the shape of things to come?

Oh CCP, how could you break my heart by having a huge announcement yesterday and not mentioning Vampire even once?


But the company that has gained a reputation for out of the box thinking about MMOs may be about to score another winner. Dust is going to be a sci-fi themed planetside FPS, set in the EVE universe, running on consoles, and there will be some kind of interface with EVE Online. Battles fought in Dust will affect the geopolitical landscape in EVE. EVE corps will be able to hire squads of mercenaries in Dust to stake corporate claims on planets — in effect they’ll be supporting player driven quests. And still, the FPS console fans will be playing their FPS console game and the world of spreadsheet-craft MMO fans will be playing their MMO. At least that’s the theory.

Now I find this to be a really exciting concept. I’m not interested in FPS but that’s not the point here. The idea of creating a new aspect to an MMO and implementing it as a fully featured new game on a different platform but letting the two games interface is answering questions that I didn’t even knew I had. Most of all, it’s easy to understand the vision. It’s ambitious, but it is easy to see how this expands the game for the MMO players (adding a whole new feature of managing mercs) as well as for the FPS (having battles tie in to a persistent universe and possibly being paid in game for the privilege).

Pete@Dragonchasers has a perfectly formed rant at a comment I made, which was that this kind of vision made games like Aion and Champions Online look like tired retreads. This is not to say that they might not be great games — I played the Aion beta and liked it a lot. I’m not currently in the mindset for that kind of PvP but I certainly enjoyed similar setups in other games I’ve played, and I have no qualms about saying that if you’re looking for a gorgeous WoW-esque game with a PvP focus, give it a shot. CO simply disappoints me because I don’t think that the levelling/ questing game design really suits superheroes and I was hoping to see a bit more vision in the design (I especially think it’s important for superheroes to be tied in deeply to the city where they live) — but there’s no reason for it not to be a perfectly fun game. Although I am puzzled that I haven’t read many beta reports where people were getting more excited about it, there’s usually a bit more buzz than this.

However, I disagree with his point that MMOs are set in stone and that it’s a bad thing to get excited about new innovations and bored by unimaginitive implementations. Questing was not a bedrock of MMOs until WoW came out. Nor was instancing. Stats and Stat-based actions don’t seem to be a huge part of MMOs like CoH and EVE. Auction houses also don’t have a long history in the genre.

So no. The core of an MMO is playing a character in a large persistent world with lots of other players in it. The rest is negotiable and if it changes then it can get better. But is it fair to complain that a game is too like WoW? Or not similar enough? It certainly is, as long as you give your reasoning.

MMOs are large complex beasts. Only the individual player knows exactly which parts of the cocktail really attracted her to the genre. Is it the huge world? The immersion? The instances? One particular character class? Socialising? The lore? The gameplay? Raids? The UI? So she will cheer when new games build on the parts she likes, and exude meh when they focus on parts which may be cool but aren’t so crucial to her particular game.

For me, Aion mimics some parts of WoW very well, but it misses the expansiveness of the game world. In other words, it actually fails to mimic one of the things I really like about the game. And I dispute Pete’s claim that this indicates burnout. I know I’m not burned out on MMOs, because I’m really enjoying EQ2 at the moment. But EQ2 does feature a very large and expansive gameworld and gameplay that is similar to WoW in some ways and different in others.

I love the huge smorgasbord element of MMOs. And I love games that really feel massive, and immersive, and social. So the idea of being able to play a pilot and charter groups of mercenaries to dominate planets, and know that actual battles are being fought on the ground somewhere to determine the results of those conflicts … that just hits all my buttons even though I don’t even play EVE. Whereas pretty graphics and a nice questline are just pretty graphics and a nice questline.

I’m sure I’ll jump into Aion sometime (I do need to be in the mood for an open PvP game because I find them more intense) and if my husband and his friends fancy CO I’ll probably try that too. But damn if Dust isn’t the one I’m excited about.

13 thoughts on “Dust: the shape of things to come?

  1. The idea to make EVE MMO players give Dust shooter players kill/mission/quest contracts is a genius idea. It might strengthen both games and add flavor and new features to them.

    I like EVE, but I have played it long enough to the point where only a lot of time dedicated on EVE would offer me something new. Travel, combat, making money – it all eats up a lot of time in EVE, the longer you play the longer you train for your skills and so on.

    But if I am allowed to fight in a ground battle in the EVE universe now and then, perhaps even help my still EVE playing buddies while only playing an hour or so, wow, just wonderful. My friend Steve would probably join, too, he is playing WoW for ages by now as he finds most other MMOs to be too tedious, so no wonder he never got into EVE.

    I am sure you will find Aion fun, make sure you get all your friends into a big legion. Aion really wants you make to play with others, solo play is possible but having two, three or for the Abyss even more buddies playing alongside you makes things go faster and less tedious.

    @HooUzo finally got his new system and can now run Aion at max detail without trouble. Without him I had to perform the “RLSG” (run like a screaming girl) maneuver by far too often. I think you were spot on as you said some games need buddies/other players to show their full potential. But you are also right that the Aion world is rather small, and every area outside the Abyss has very limited to no flight, even the final one that I tried to explore as far as possible in the final CB event.

    It could also happen that Guild Wars 2 turns out to be Aion deluxe. It looks beautiful, too, and has a decidedly more western touch, which I prefer.

  2. Couple of points.

    First, I apologize for not attributing you in my initial post. I’d just done a sweep of a bunch of blogs and a bunch of comments, and remembered someone saying that Dust made Aion & CO look old and tired, but not who.

    Second, at the risk of sounding pedantic, I was specifically talking about MMORPGs, not MMOs in general. I don’t see DUST being an RPG (though I admit that RPG to some extent is in the eye of the beholder..some people feel that Call of Duty is an RPG), but rather an online shooter. Massive or not remains to be seen.

    APB, CrimeCraft, The Agency… there’s lots of MMO’s headed our way that aren’t MMORPGs.

    I guess terminology is becoming a bigger and bigger issue with these games as the lines blur. Guild Wars, for instance. MMORPG? Some say yes, others no. The ‘hubs’ are massive but actual gameplay is not.

    Lastly, I didn’t mean to dump my whole rant at your feet. Your comment was one of many that had me feeling like I needed to vent about the amount of negativity I’m hearing towards tried and true game systems that millions of people enjoy.

    I’m all for CCP making Dust and I agree with you that the company is showing innovation in ways that no other company is (thought I’m a LOT more skeptical about how the reality of it will play out). I just don’t see all these games as being on a see-saw, where building one up has to mean tearing another one down. Aion does (from what I know of it, mind you) what it set out to do really well, and I don’t see how Dust diminishes it in any way.

    • No prob, I wasn’t taking it as a personal thing and I do understand where you’re coming from.

      To be honest, having watched the Guild Wars 2 and FFXIV trailers today, I’m pretty excited about ‘standard’ MMORPGs coming out in the next year or so. And these are ones that may or may not push out the boat innovation-wise but I definitely feel like I want to play them.

      There are a lot of companies trying newish things in the MMO space and a lot of them are games I have no interest in playing myself. APB et al are all examples of that.

      But like I say, I don’t think people are abandoning the WoW style MMORPG either. I didn’t mean to tear down other games with my comment, but it was very striking to me that the one idea I heard that blew me away with its ambition and innovation was for a game that I know I don’t want to play.

  3. Ideas are cheap. Implementation is expensive.

    So expensive that I can count the number of Western subscription MMOGs that weren’t half-finished, buggy, steaming piles of…uh…that stuff we’re always digging through in various WoW quests — on one hand.

    That’s basically why I don’t really give a fig about innovation in the MMOG space. Because a decade plus out in this genre and we’re still at the point where quality is the rare exception. The Shadowbanes, Vanguards, and Darkfalls of the world don’t deserve any bonus points for ideas. All that matters is the implementation.

    So if someone wants to go the total retread route, fine. Quality is all I care about in the end.

  4. I’m going to agree with Bertie here. It’s like with books: you can have the greatest idea for a book ever, but unless you can actually write the thing well, it doesn’t mean anything at all.

    Which is not to say getting excited about innovation is a mistake, just that implementation is more important to the success of a game. Saying “well, they made a terrible game, but it’s innovative, so they still deserve your money” is stupid. Some of the best games are both innovative and well-implemented, like Portal.

    I can imagine some people arguing “if you make every innovative but shoddy-made game fail, then developers will learn the wrong lesson and not be innovative”, but I think a game developer who learns the wrong lesson is not very likely to produce a successful game anyway.

  5. I love the idea behind Dust 514. I think it’s a brilliant concept from CCP. Not only have they managed to create an innovative new form of gameplay around their MMO but they managed to cleverly harness the IP and will likely boost its awareness and subscription numbers as a result.

  6. I really don’t think EVE will attract the players who would find Dust fun. The FPS-squadbased action will be the draw, the interaction with EVE at best will be icing on the cake, at worse will turn people off.

    I think I’m going to have to write a post summarizing why it is flawed to me, seems like very few people are and I don’t want to sound like a broken record in comments.

    • The point of making Dust a separate game is that players don’t have to like EVE as it is to enjoy dust. They are tied together, but you don’t need to enjoy EVE to enjoy Dust and vice versa.

      The interaction with EVE will turn people off? You mean that you would rather have an arbitrary/trivial static story link your FPS missions together instead of an over-arching player-driven narrative that effects tens of thousands of people at any one time?

      I find it hard to agree with you here on any grounds.

      • Spinks, it has some pretty serious competition on the console front in non-mmo FPS. The bar is set pretty high on the FPS aspect.

        Evi, yeah honestly. If anything, there is no resonance for a DUST player about EVE-most probably will never have heard of it, will not really care much about that aspect beyond their own clan and other DUST rivalries, and may even dislike it if it affects them negatively, with lower ranked clans being denied missions, or higher ranked ones being metagamed by EVE moles.

        It’s not going to be that aspect that matters, really. People will buy DUST if the squad-based FPS action is solid, and treat it like a larger SOCOM. The EVE connection could possibly hinder it, depending on how the mechanics work, or even how popular EVE fans view it.

  7. Spinks, you have to post what server you’ll be playing on when Aion comes out (if you do indeed decide to indulge in the game). It looks like Motstandet (co-author of That’s a Terrible Idea) and I will be playing Aion to see just how burnt out we really are. Perhaps we can form a “people who spend too much time writing about how to make MMOs better” guild. We can lambast the game designers and ragequit together! (How adorable would that be!?)

    • Sure thing! But it won’t be when the game comes out (like I say, feeling a bit too emotionally fragile right now for a heavy PvP game), maybe in a few month’s time. Will be interested to see what you think.

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