Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DUST Motes: Speculation

     I remember a Star Trek episode where the plucky crew of the Enterprise stumbled on a race of xenophobes, and the aliens kept erasing the crew's memory while Data tried to help clean up the errant loose ends.  Problem was, a few strands were left hanging here and there and the humans, being human, couldn't help but tug at them to find out what they were attached to, which led to the inevitable nearly-fatal hijinks for the entire crew.  I think of that show when I think of DUST 514.

     DUST will be a fairly major accomplishment if CCP can take the idea they've been cooking since 2008 and get it to decently mesh with Eve.  There are probably a fairly huge number of technical issues to deal with, and that doesn't even include the game balancing issues between the two games' populations and complicated market interactions.  On one hand, CCP needs to develop slow enough that the ship doesn't sink when they smash the bottle off her nose on launch, but they can't wait too long either lest a fickle FPS crowd loose interest in a prolonged and de-featured beta, and the crowd goes looking for another ship.

     I probably have more plans imagined for DUST than CCP does, but that doesn't mean what I hope DUST will be, is what CCP intends DUST to be.  For non-Eve players, some of the very generally described game play features inspire a lot of speculation that tends to grate on the already fairly raw nerves of the Eve players, especially the null Eve players.  FPS players are pretty jazzed about the ability to actually "claim" in-game resources and land, and that it can still be theirs tomorrow when they log in again.  It's something that has only been possible on a very limited scale, and is completely transient in other FPSs.  The ability to claim  planets and space - sovereignty, is an exciting thing and some of the most vocal DUST players are looking forward to dropping in all over the Eve verse, scooping up planets left and right.  Eve players think parts of the rumoured game play will be pretty cool as well, until of course planets and systems in null sec are mentioned.  At that point, the nicey-nice, and genial conversation sort of hits the floor.  The polite smiles go bye bye.

     For non-Eve players, they really don't understand the time and effort involved in claiming space in null.  FPS lads think that a few rounds of match play, run over some bunnies, capture a few zone guns, and they're well on the way to grabbing some tasty null sec space.  An Eve player really doesn't want to hear about that shit when it takes them days and days to go through the iHub and TCU reinforcement timers, or what happens to the shit they have in the system's outposts.  A DUST bunny says "WTF is an iHub and a TCU??"  The short answer is, they're a couple of many things that are really going to piss off Eve payers, that's what they are.  Eve players need to carry around supplies, plan moves, build ships and mods and ammo and take it with them when they go off to kick someone's ass.  They really don't want to hear any bullshit about how DUST bunnies can drop from the sky, like the special snowflakes they are, and start poking gaping holes in their alliance's sovereignty.  Eve players don't want to hear about a magic travelling market that goes with the bunnies, everywhere they go, and making their gear on the fly as they drop into the planet zones.  Eve players don't want to hear that an alliance might need to go out and get a bunch of PS3s if they want to keep control of their space with the same effort as they do now.

     Speculation is always going to be an issue when you have a bunch of gamers as excited as the DUST bunnies seem to be.  NDAs, limited game functionality, and cloak and dagger references to game features are lacking just enough detail that they inflame the imaginations of the console players, and inflame other things in the Eve player base.  After all, it's not like CCP dropping stupid shit in the lap of the player base is a rare thing.  Eve players can do some crazy shit, if there's too much stupid shit.  With too little understanding of Eve, the DUST bunnies will dream up some really optimistic, pro-console game play, and that already isn't very popular with Eve players, especially in null sec.  With too little info on DUST, Eve players are going to dream up some really pessimistic pro-console game play, and that is not going to make integration any more acceptable with Eve payers.

     Eve players are already on a bit of a short fuse and all the recent ship balancing and eye candy is helping a little, but I don't think it's really taken the heat off of the Eve pressure cooker a whole lot, especially with the null crowd.  DUST is no where ready to come out of the oven yet, and there are so many aspects of the game that haven't even been tested or seen yet, it's got to be well into next year before they even think about an open beta, if they're smart.  There are a lot of fancy games that have just come out, or are going to be released soon.  Maybe CCP is being smart and they're waiting for the smoke to clear a little from titles that might be too close to DUST, like Planetside 2, MWO, Hawken and Halo.  The longer CCP waits, the better the game will be, but the longer they wait, the more tired the enthusiasts will be of grinding the same beta content and over-speculating about features that that could be years away from implementation.  I think CCP needs to start adding more little bits and pieces, a little more often, or people aren't going to be around in the months ahead that I think it'll take to test out even the most basic planet-taking features.  I'd hate to be the guy planning the release date.  While CCP claims that the nature of Eve's and DUST's game play connection is such that either game could survive without the other, it would be a real shame to see the incredible potential of DUST, roll over and sink to the bottom on launch.

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