Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Easy does it

There's been a new press release of additional details and a new game play video for DUST 514.  As a result, I feel a lot more comfortable that I can ease into talking about the game a bit.  The NDA, while quite restrictive, does allow me to repeat and reflect on information that CCP has released to the public.  Both the press release and the video qualify.  So let's talk about them a bit.

The press release makes several features of DUST 514 quite explicit:
...players can create and edit customized fittings (load-outs) with a huge variety of dropsuits, weapons, equipment, modules and vehicles.
It also mentions "deep character advancement", something that's been covered in public by CCP as well, particularly at Fanfest.  We've known for quite a while now, for instance, that DUST 514 uses a skill point system quite similar to EVE.  Further, we've known for quite a while now that it would use a similar-to-EVE skill tree system, with lower tier skills unlocking upper tier skills.  We've even known for quite a while that skill points would accumulate passively and could be spent at any time for instant gratification of your skill needs.  In this the game is identical to Perpetuum Online, which uses the same model.

On the vehicle and weapons side, CCP has already released a lot of information as well.  We know from public release that the game will have heavy and light "drop suits" and they've hinted at other types.  For instance, they mentioned during Fanfest that during their internal testing "everyone was using Scout drop-suits" until the heavier machine gun-like weapons were put into the game.  A number of weapons were shown at Fanfest including assault rifles and the aforementioned machine gun.  On the vehicle side, CCP has released that there will be "LAVs" -- Light Assault Vehicles -- and tanks (presumably classified as HAVs).  They've also shown flying vehicles, hinted that they will be called Recons, and said that these and other vehicles will cloak.

In terms of skills, they've made it public that there will be hacking and ECM (and presumably its opposite).  At several points, the video shows the player accessing a wrist-mounted computer-like device to project various effects.  So, it would be reasonable to assume that there will be skills around those effects as well.  At Fanfest, the devs mentioned that there were "five years" of skills in DUST so far... in other words, you'll have to play for five years to maximize all the skills.

Where am I going with all of this?

I was pointed several times at the following blog post, which I suggest you go out and read yourself.  It's worth your time: Free to ski: how Tribes succeeds by avoiding the low-hanging fruit.  At the core, though, the post lists two defining principles for free-to-play games to be successful:
(1) Free to play games have to be basic; and,
(2) Gamers buy-to-win.
...but then -- rather interestingly -- the post argues against those points.  The post argues that Tribes: Ascend (the writer's only example) has managed to create complex game-play and has added purchasable items that materially affect matches without breaking balance in a F2P game.  It's an interesting perspective.

It's also quite wrong.

Tribes: Ascend was developed by HiRez Studios, whom I'm quite familiar with as the developers of Global Agenda.  And while Tribes is an interesting game, I've come more and more to believe that it's not much more than a re-skin of GA with a different brand name attached to it.  The two games have similar sensibilities and play styles, from their guns to their jet-packs.  It's easy to argue, in fact, that HiRez was perhaps disappointed with the relatively small numbers they were pulling with GA and developed Tribes to try to attach their (rather good, actually) game play to a more well-known brand.  The blog post dances around but doesn't come right out and list the third defining principle for a successful F2P:
(3) Volume is king.
In other words, the more players you can draw into your game, the better chance of success you have.

But even beyond that, the premise that Tribes is a complex game is also not really correct.  At the end of the day, Tribes is actually quite simple.  Sure, it has increasingly complex weapon designs and map goals.  But the basic premise and execution behind the game isn't much more complex than Team Fortress 2, released almost five years ago.  If anything, Tribes is less complex than Global Agenda which features multiple class-based abilities and items, and more strict differentiation of class combat roles and perks.  Those complexities force GA teams to work together, unlike Tribes, in which matches most often quickly devolve into an "every man for himself" feel.  Most of the complexity in Tribes is around movement, and anticipating the movement of your opponent.  Tribes is rugby, not American-style football.

In short, one can pick up Tribes very very rapidly.  The learning curve is quite low.  Teamwork is relatively minimized and individual initiative and options are maximized.  And as a result, you learn the advantages of some of your P2W options right away.  You can put purchasable items to work nearly immediately until you can grind them up the same way.

It is at this point that I will remind you that it's public knowledge that DUST 514 has five years of skills.

The main reason micro-transactions don't work for EVE is because even if you have the ISK to purchase a Vindicator or a Nightmare, you probably won't have the skill points to use it properly.  We've all heard about dozens and dozens of this kind of loss-mail.  Unless you're willing to spend literally hundreds of dollars on a character to go with your shiny, you're not going to be able to put your shiny to work properly and you're quite likely to lose it.

I can't see how DUST 514 will have a Character Bazaar.

CCP's apparent plan for addressing this dichotomy is still under NDA.  But I encourage you to think it through logically.  And I assure you the plan isn't to make the game less complex.  This is CCP we're talking about here...


  1. I have zero interest in Dust, but this was an intriguing read. Skill points accumulate passively and build up "in the bank", so to speak, and you can apply them to skills when you've accumulated enough? Am I understanding that right?

    That's a change they could make to EVE as well in a heartbeat, and if they do that then consider a new character on a newly subbed account who does nothing but accumulate skill points. Minimal logging on for a couple of years. Never undocking or buying/selling anything. After 2 years of this, the character is put up for sale and with a nice chunk of SP to be spent, would be an attractive purchase for many.

    What the above scenario results in is this: A character with no injected skills, but with a vast reserve of SP just waiting to be applied, and it cost the owner 24 months of sub fees (or PLEX if you prefer). Money in, bake for 2 years, many SP to spend. Money... SP. Why wait?

    1. You've just hit on exactly why passive SP accumulation will never come to EVE, even if SP accumulated only on subscribed accounts.

      CCP made it very clear that they want people logging into EVE on a regular basis. Why they made a different choice for DUST 514 (which is free to play!) is beyond me. They should be encouraging people to log into the game as often as they can force people to.

      Hell, I should blog that.

    2. The thing about DUST is you accrue way more SP by actively playing the game than by waiting. The more you play the more SP you gain. I'm actually quite in favor of this system.

  2. "In short, one can pick up Tribes very very rapidly. The learning curve is quite low. Teamwork is relatively minimized and individual initiative and options are maximized."

    T:A is basically everything T1 and T2 were not. They had a huge learning curve(2 years into comp play in T2 and I still have so far to go). They were centered around team work.

    You nailed it on the head when you said T:A is just a reskinned GA. It is most definitely not a tribes game.

  3. The first thing that pops into my head is to allow Dusties to buy skill points with Aurum - though I'm sure that if that is the case, you wouldn't be able to confirm it because of the NDA.

  4. You said:

    > In short, one can pick up Tribes very very
    > rapidly. The learning curve is quite low.
    > Teamwork is relatively minimized and
    > individual initiative and options are
    > maximized.

    I completely disagree. You've obviously never played tribes in anything other than a public server.

    Tribes has a perfect learning curve that is strived after by almost every game manufacturer ever - easy to learn, hard to master. When you can make a 320km/h flag grab from a precisely defined route and fly off into the distance, or perfectly aim a mortar from half way across the map to clear a flag stand - while being under attack by three defensive players.

    Teamwork is far, far more key to tribes than you insinuate; I'll DM/poke you on twitter and tomorrow evening we can play some PUG competitive-style play together and you'll start seeing how the learning curve actually works. @khalleth, btw.

    A Tribes: Ascend team consists of 7 players fulfilling various roles:

    Capper (gotta go fast!) - goes incredibly quickly, objective is precisely just to grab the flag and fly off into the distance as fast as possible. But the capper can't succeed without..

    Light Offence/Heavy Offence - These classes are not suited to grabbing a flag, but their job is generally to clear the flag stand of opposition so the cappers can grab the flag without being blocked. In turn, these face off against...

    Light Defence - Responsible for taking care of the enemy offence to ensure the flag stand stays protected against cappers, and also responsible for protecting the...

    Heavy on Flag - responsible for standing his fat ass on the flag and body-blocking any cappers that come in, combined with his force fields and heavy weapons to kill cappers on the way in and out. Also protected by..

    Chasers - Wherever the flag is, these people are. It's their responsibility to chase after a taken flag, get it back if the game is in standoff, or protect the flag when its on the stand.

    All of the roles i've named above have to work in concert, in different quantities depending on how the team works, and with only one role or everyone fending for themselves, the team will fail miserably and lose.

    Yes, you can unlock items with Gold faster than you can with XP, but:

    1. Everything in the game can be unlocked with just in-game grind. Grant you, lots of it, but it is possible to be precisely as effective spending $0 on the game as someone who's spent $000's.
    2. These items represent a shift in play style, rather than effectiveness. Someone who's played the game for 5 minutes but is highly skilled can destroy a player who's spent thousands and unlocked everything.

    I'm serious: come play a few pickup games with me tomorrow evening (1800-2400 eve time) and i'm sure you'll change your tune.

    1. I'd love to try playing this way, but your TZ and mine are completely incompatible, I'm afraid. :-/

  5. "be spent at any time for instant gratification of your skill needs."

    I ain't what you might call a thinkin' man. But if I were. I'd be thinking that redeemable skillpoints sound like an awfully choice commodity for sale in a game with five years of skills.

    But, ya know. Probably going to try to sell Quafe cannons or something.

  6. TL;DR: "CCP is commiting some mistakes here and are basing Dust gaming model on a weak business case, and I'm trying to say this in a way that doesn't risk me breaking the NDA"

  7. The simplest answer is to pay for increased skill training speed or simply outright able to buy chunks of skill points on an escalating scale.

    1. Indeed.

      The idea will be that you'll either buy short boosts that will double/triple your skill gain for x number of days or outright pay X amount of $ for 100.000 sp (or something like that).

  8. You know, it has always amused me that we have implants for Engineering and Electronics, but not Amarr Cruiser or Sentry Drone Operation.

    Give me implants to bypass the skill prerequisites of the game. How to manufacture them? Biomassing an existing character would be a starting point.

  9. Afaik Dust only has 5 years of skills when u never do anything useful in a match. Cause afaik CCP said that Skillpoints will be gained through a) Passive Skilling b) Useful Actions on the Battlefield

  10. Not to much new, but here's a IGN E3 interview about Dust:


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