Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Project Legion for the Masses?

At the Red Keynote at fanfest, Project Legion was revealed. Just like the PS3 itself, DUST514 is being slowly retired with the new shiny version taking all the development. In the case of DUST514, the PC version called Project Legion currently.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall I bought a PS3 just for DUST514. I played the beta and hated it. I played the released game and hated it. I patched it every few months hoping the new update will have sorted it. Nope, still hated it. I like FPS games on the console, but DUST514 just didn't do it for me. I am hoping Project Legion will be better.

There are plenty of great FPS games out there. CCP needs to sit down and carefully look at what makes them popular and what makes DUST514 unpopular. A free-to-play game cannot be unpopular to the masses. It cannot be a niche title. You need a lot of players using the micro transactions to make your money. A free-to-play model does not work with a niche title that has low numbers of players. CCP need to start thinking about broad-spectrum appeal.

One of my biggest gripes with DUST was the controls. Tried game pad then tried keyboard and mouse. Still bad. It improved towards the end and they may have sorted it now. I've not played DUST in a long time.... in fact I don't even know where my PS3 is! I think its in a box somewhere gathering dust! Whilst DUST troopers are supposed to be these huge hulking people with massive muscles (read Templar One) its no fun if you move like you are running in 2 feet of treacle!

Skill Gap
As a new player the matchmaking was awful. OK I've spawned and... BANG. Oh I'm dead. Anyway I'll respawn and now I'll... BANG. Oh dead again. Third times a.... BANG. Nope, dead again. May be on my next spawn I might be allowed to FIRE MY FECKIN GUN BEFORE DYING HORRIBLY! In most FPS games the weapons change as you progress but your skills don't. There can be massive differences in DUST between your tank and DPS and a veterans. This makes for unfair gameplay. Whilst this is true in other games, it isn't by the same huge gap as I found in DUST. A level 1 character running around with an M16 still has a very good chance as a level 50 character who has the AK47. In DUST the higher level character will destroy you!

Fitting in DUST514 is to complicated for a game to appeal to the masses. Without broad appeal attracting vast numbers of subscribers, you are not going to make money. Micro transaction bring in micro money when there is a micro player base. How many people play Eve? 500,000? Wrong! The actual player base is a fraction of that. How many accounts do you have? I have 4. The guy sat in the office next to me has 3. I know people with accounts in the double figures. What about those IsBoxers who have their own incursion running fleets? The physical number of people who play Eve are a small minority of gamers. What works for Eve is not going to work for a free-to-play FPS that needs to attract huge player numbers to make money from the micro-transactions. Most FPS work on the following:-
  • Primary weapon
  • Side-arm
  • A thing that explodes (grenade, mine, satchle charge)
  • A thing that does something to help (smoke grenade, CCTV camera, radar box)
  • A perk
  • Another perk
  • A third one if you are lucky
That is seven choices. Why doesn't Titanfall or Call of Duty give you 12 slots with endless options to put ion them like DUST? Because it gets too complicated and the majority of FPS players don't want this level of customisation. 

There is no PG, no CPU in most other FPS games. Eve players love this. I am sure many DUST players (those that stuck with it) love it. But if you want the masses playing Project Legion we are going to need to tone down the complexity.

Am I saying DUST needs to be dumbed down? Absolutely. Either that or find another payment model. Micro-transactions won't work when you cater to a niche market.


  1. I was a PS3 gamer. I was watching Sony's E3 presentation years ago and they mentioned Dust and it's interaction with this spaceship game called Eve. I decided to check Eve out while I waited for dust and got hooked. When Dust finally came out I quickly gave up. In shooters with a skill tree, I normally can see all possibilities and plan where I want to go. Dust did not have the ability to layout the skill tree then and I don't think I can now. Also as you said, fitting was a pain as I couldn't see what works before committing. The game really needed an EFT and an EveMON and neither lend themselves to consoles

    Long story short, I agree with pretty much everything you said about dust, but am thankful for it letting me find Eve

  2. Your third and fifth paragraphs are both a brilliant deconstruction of DUST 514 and also a devastating statement on why Project Legion will fail.

    DUST 514 showed "F2P" and "long-term skills-based progression" are fundamentally incompatible.

  3. (I apologize if this turns out to be a double-comment)

    And it should probably be noted that not all EVE players want the EVE complexity all the time. Spending hours in EFT is not quite worth it if you then can't find opponents to actually fly your theory-crafted fit against.

    I am not willing to go as far as Jester in declaring 'F2P' and 'long-term skill progression' fundamentally incompatible… yet. But it is true that for Project Legion to succeed, it has to embody the instant-on-action, gain-xp-even-when-losing mindset. Legion's connection to EVE could be through lore, and maybe strategic interaction with the EVE universe; but the game play itself needs to be FPS.

  4. If people don't like the matchmaking in Dust I have a hard time seeing how their experience in a game like COD is different. The TTK is nothing in those other FPS games. It's not a popular statement, but there isn't another FPS that even remotely approaches Dust. I'll never understand the hate for the game. The development decisions around the time of the release were head scratching for sure, but Dust is/was a great game and Legion will be amazing IF they decide to release on the PS4 at the same time they release it on PC.

  5. Sounds like DUST is exactly like EVE - newbs have no chance against veterans thanks to the bad game mechanics they ported from EVE. In truth, almost *nothing* about EVE Online makes any sense. They call it a sandbox, as if you can do whatever you want. Nothing could be further from the truth and I suspect DUST is exactly the same. The ridiculous favoritism towards pirates is a big part of EVE's decline but the 100% passive training is also a huge turnoff. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever and is one of the worst systems imaginable. A 50/50 split between passive and active skill gains, however, DOES make sense and would be incredible. Up-and-comers would motivated to play constantly and buy every possible shortcut for gaining SP but wouldn't feel shortchanged if they only played casually. Shortcuts from the cash store make FTP games a ton of cash - probably most of their income, honestly. CCP could retool EVE and DUST to take full advantage of the people who have more cash than patience. In a way they already have since PLEX can buy ISK, which in turn buys skill boosting gear. If they took this a bit further it might mean that an addicted player with deep pockets could catch up with three year vets in a year, but if you're determined to save your company, do what you have to do. To placate the old timers who earned it the hard way the devs could create a series of "accomplishments" that would identify the most prolific spenders..perhaps a series of badges that look like increasingly fancy dollar signs (LOL). In my experience only a small number of power levelers would be discouraged by the idea that others would know they bought some of their progress. CCP has always depended on passive training to sell subscriptions but people have figured out that they will NEVER catch up to the vets this way. Something needs to change and I think a hybrid SP gain system is the most direct and fair way of addressing the ever-shrinking player retention.