Friday, October 28, 2011

Video: In development: CCP Art Department part I

Here is one amazing video by CCP that shows us exciting thing that will appear in EVE Online, but for sure you can expect to see some of those even in DUST 514! Imagine viewing nebulae from your Warbarge and all the new exciting graphical improvements that both DUST and EVE players can enjoy in the upcoming winter expansion that will be vital for merging two games together slowly but surely! Enjoy this first video from the series and expect more!

Dev Blog: Scaling the Universe of DUST 514

Brand new dev blog post by Lin Luo is up on PlayStation Blog! Or here:
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I am a Server Architect on DUST 514 and, in this devblog, I would like to cover at a high level some of the online technical aspects of DUST 514, including the challenges we have met and the approaches we have taken in handling them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Develop Online: DUST 514 is "the PS3's most important game"

Another look at DUST 514, another discovery how the game perhaps will change the world of gaming forever. Take a look at this huge article, and perhaps you will learn something more!
Rob Crossley at develop takes an in-depth look at CCP's upcoming shooter in "DUST 514: The PS3's most important game". He writes, "DUST 514 is part of a remarkable and unique online network, with no script and new stories told every day. It is a promising experiment in how console games can grow if developers are given direct access to their customers. It is an entirely new way to play on PS3 and - with Sony taking a cut of virtual currency purchases - could usher in a unique revenue model." Read it here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

So you just got into DUST 514 beta...

...and what is the first thing you do? What is your duty now? That is very interesting question for people that never actually beta tested a game before (or tested it wrong), and especially an MMOFPS.

Being a beta tester of a true beta version of the game (not promotional demo that most of the companies do nowdays and call it "beta") is great responsibility. I for one, tested quite a lot MMO games in the past and I know what some of the beta testers look like, so let's go through some of the dos and don'ts if you happen to be invited into a potential genre-changing game that needs testing:

First type of testers is those guys that don't really care about reporting bugs, posting on forums or giving any feedback on the game and are there just to feel like they are playing demo version of a game that will be soon out so they consider it a "head start" for them because they want to be best of the best when the game launches straight away and just hit headshots. No. You are not here to play the game for a bit and then brag to your friends that you played the beta of the game that they really want as well. You are here to play the game for a long time, spot the bugs, glitches and problems with the game and help the dev team develop the solution with you.


Second type is those guys that play the game for short period of time but they spot those ugly textures or silly looking NPCs that don't look right, or the gun that does not sound properly or does not sound at all, or any of those things that are common for the beta and that everyone already reported once but they just did not bother to search the forums so they make a new thread about it saying that the game doesn't look pretty, or some UI elements look like they were from 2001. No. Get over those things. You are here to test actual game, and what that means is that you want to find gamebreaking bugs, essential gameplay elements that you may think are missing or are not done as you would expect, or just post something you think that at some point is not generally well designed. After that, keep an eye out on your post and wait for dev team to reply and try to understand them. This is beta, and developers want more than anyone for their game to look awesome and feel great.

Third - those people that tweet community managers (or anyone that's on twitter and somehow connected to the game - sometimes even hiring managers) constantly about features they want implemented or asking if they are working on something or maybe want release date of the game. No. That is not going to happen on Twitter. Those people are on twitter to give you updates, forward you to some more complex sites where you can discuss such things and most probably will never answer your complex question (or important question to everyone) in 140 characters or less. They simply don't say those things to one person and just forget about it because if it is important they will make general announcement about that and everyone will be happy. Try to know your places on the internet and what those places are used for.

Fourth. Well, those guys are overextending themselves. They come to the right place, they do the right things in terms of testing but then they post walls of text explaining their gaming history, their pet names and what they had for breakfast this morning. No. Try to be focused on the issue. You do have good feedback but you simply add too much noise to the good stuff so sometimes people don't even bother reading your post because they see where you are going with it from the beginning and that there may not even be something useful in the end.

Fifth! This guy comes on the forums and starts complaining that DUST 514 does not look (or feel or anything) like MAG or Battlefield 3, or Crash Bandicoot. Stop that. No. You simply do not understand that this game does not have to be anything that you played before. Surely there are some great FPS games out there, but they are not developed by CCP are they? Are they MMOFPS? They are way different than this, and you have to get into the beta with an open mind for new ideas and features and awkwardness in the first few days of playtesting.

Sixth is the devil. He basically combines everyone so far. He does not understand anything and he isn't there to even troll, because he is not able to do that. His usual post would be: 
"...but this is not acceptable. Battlefield/whatever had better graphics, mechanics and it felt a lot more awesome than this DUST thing. Seriously CCP, if you don't do something about this game soon it is never going to fly, and I'm not going to play that junk. If this is your beta I can't even imagine how final game is going to look like lolz. (etc)"

Hopefully, the beta testers will be people who love CCP, who understand that beta is beta and who want to help developers fix their mistakes (but not redesign the entire game) and ship one solid game that nobody has ever seen before in that kind of light. You also need to understand that CCP does stand behind their ideas just like an artist stands behind his creations, and he will almost never recreate the entire thing just because you generally don't like it.

If you are upset about a certain mechanic in game, don't try to suggest complete removal straight away. Developers always have reason behind something they implement, and you have to have to think like them sometimes in order to understand the perhaps hidden need for it. Don't rush ahead - and say that you want this thing exactly the same from some thing you played before, and don't - please don't treat developers like they have absolutely no idea what they were making for years before you ever heard about the game. Patience!

Try to be constructive, good mannered, and above everything - try to respect the game that you play, because not everyone have that opportunity and give your best to make it shine. DUST 514 will make a great community of extraordinary players, and beta will be the perfect start to build it up directly in-game. Together with your beta test pals and CCP you have the opportunity to make one great MMOFPS game and love it for years to come. Don't throw that away.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Press Release - CCP Focuses On The EVE Universe

Just now, CCP press release went out! Take a look at their plans for the near future:
At CCP we have been working hard to expand the gaming landscape by applying the knowledge and expertise we've built up with EVE Online to create a new experience within the EVE Universe in DUST 514, as well as a new video game franchise in World of Darkness.

During the last few months, as evidenced by our interaction with the community, we made some missteps on that journey.

As we reexamine our outward relations, we are also taking time to reevaluate our internal goals. In doing so, we have come to the conclusion that we are attempting too many things for a company our size. Developing EVE expansions, DUST 514 and World of Darkness has stretched our resources too thin.

Rather than allowing this to persist, we have made the decision to sharpen our focus. Sadly, this means reducing our staff. We estimate that around twenty percent of global positions will be affected by this process. These will be predominantly in our Atlanta, GA office, although select positions in our Reykjavik, Iceland office will be affected.

We are very sad to lose some of our talented and dedicated colleagues to this necessary process. Naturally we are making every effort within our means to help them find alternative employment. Decisions like these are difficult for all those involved and extraordinarily sad for all of those whose lives are affected.

Following this reorganization, we must do a better job by focusing on these priorities:
  • For the immediate future, our mission is to enrich the vast EVE Universe by strengthening the continuous development of EVE Online while preparing to bring DUST 514 to market on the PS3. We do this in order to realize our ambitious and challenging plan of joining the two in a cross-platform, truly massive online world.
  • World of Darkness will continue development with a significantly reduced team. This team will continue to iterate and expand on the gameplay and systems they have designed. We will also redeploy creative teams in Atlanta to support the launch of DUST 514. 
This will enable us to accelerate timeframes for new features and increase our ability to respond to community needs. The fruits of this realignment will be seen as early as this winter with the upcoming EVE Online expansions and the launch of DUST 514 private trials.

We understand how an announcement such as this can be perceived by our community and industry peers. We feel it is important to clearly address two questions that might arise.

First, EVE Online is in good health. Our subscriber numbers are higher today than they were a year ago. Unlike many other MMO's on the market, we have continued to grow year-on-year since launch in 2003. However, over the past two months, our subscribers have gone down from their peak this summer. We attribute this to our own mistakes and poor communications with our players. We are correcting that now.

Second, World of Darkness lives on. Its concepts are revolutionary. CCP continues to believe that it will alter the landscape of the MMO as significantly as EVE has done but we need more time to continue to develop them before dedicating the substantial resources required to bring this experience to market.

As an innovator in the industry, CCP has never shied away from tough decisions, remaining agile to allow for shifts in production, technology and gaming trends since even before the launch of EVE Online. While our decision to refocus is a solemn one, it will benefit our players through a renewed commitment to the EVE Universe and its fans.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Slicing DUST 514 Wallpaper


Here is another wallpaper, this time combining HD game screenshots with the official logo and "one universe one war" theme. I hope you enjoy it, and that you will decorate your desktop with it for at least some time! You can download it here in 1920x1080 or just click on the image.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New DUST Chronicle - "The Collection"

Today, we get another DUST chronicle, this time from CCP Headfirst! Enjoy.

As all of the other soldiers in his regiment easily jumped over the crevice, Cennet stopped suddenly, not out of any sense of fear, but rather from an inexplicable bout of fascination. Rising up from the deep crack in the uneven obsidian terrain was a red-hot cyclone of burning cinders. Far below the surface of the desolate battlefield was a churning torrent of molten rock. Despite the other running soldiers, distant explosions lighting up the horizon, and gunfire zipping past just over his head, Cennet stared into the scalding river of lava for several seconds, time he really didn’t have to spare.

When another soldier in his unit clapped him on the back as he passed, Cennet was roused from his trance and his attention locked back on target. He followed the rest of the formation to the top of a twisted rise of porous black rock overlooking a nightmarish scene of heavy combat taking place on a shifting arena of partially solidified volcanic rock. Several hundred meters away, he could just make out the lead ranks of the enemy force.

Cennet took up position behind a piece of the rock that jutted straight up, kneeling as he double-checked the clip in his assault rifle. He watched as the two soldiers immediately adjacent to him stood up and emptied their clips to suppress the enemy advance, knowing it would be his turn to stand and pick out individual targets as soon as their rounds were complete. He was already up when their weapons ran dry, having attentively counted each bullet they fired to anticipate his action.

The first thing he saw through the scope of his rifle was the face of an armored helmet looking down a barrel at him from across the field. A heartbeat later, he felt a sucking tightness compress his abdomen as a tungsten slug quietly entered and exited his body. Staggering backwards, he dropped his rifle and looked down at the gaping wound, the blood pouring out over his hands. As many of his companions looked on, some shaking their heads slowly, Cennet turned and limped away from the front line.

With his mind reeling from blood loss and his insides screaming in agony, he managed to walk for several minutes until he once again found himself staring down into the crevice. The promise of blissful oblivion was addicting, far too enticing for him to refute how much he needed it. Without a second thought, he leaned forward and silently tumbled down into the rolling lava.

Monday, October 10, 2011

CCP Executive Producer on what's ahead with DUST 514

Today, we get hit by an awesome interview with Brandon Laurino, directly from PlayStation Blog! Full interview is either here, or on their site. Take your pick!

DUST 514 Interview: Changing Console Shooters Forever

DUST 514's Executive Producer Brandon Laurino recently spoke with PlayStation.Blog about how CCP is changing console shooters, and drops the first hints about the DUST 514 Private Trials. Read the DUST interview at PlayStation.Blog here.

PS.Blog: With EVE Online, CCP already has a huge, engaged community. Why are you now trying to break into the console FPS market?

Brandon: EVE Online is an incredibly deep MMO and, for better or worse, that comes with a typical perception that it is complicated. The common joke is that you have to overcome a ‘learning cliff’ to get involved. Part of the thinking behind DUST 514 is to address those preconceptions; we accept that there is a barrier to entry with something as deep as EVE Online and we wanted to make it more accessible, providing another portal and dimension into the EVE universe. What’s more accessible to a gamer in this day and age than a shooter?

Why did you specifically choose PlayStation as your partner in making that happen?

Brandon: Obviously, we were attracted to the power and the feature set of PlayStation 3, but it really came down to Sony’s willingness to work with us in bringing an MMO to the platform. There have been attempts to bring MMO games to consoles in the past but we believe we’re now in a position to do it properly, using existing features on PS3 and the PlayStation Network, and collaboratively developing new features to support our vision.

Can you elaborate on your vision for a ‘proper’ MMO?

Brandon: We’re breaking so much ground with DUST 514: we’re not only building a full console MMO; we’re building one that feeds into another MMO on a completely different platform [PC]. We’re breaking more ground by bringing the microtransaction business model to a console shooter for the first time. All of this was inconceivable not too long ago, and it’s the partnership between CCP and Sony that’s finally making it happen.

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Talking about the connectivity between DUST 514 and EVE Online, is this something that’s going to most benefit EVE players or is there equal benefit to those players first experiencing the universe through DUST 514?

Brandon: It runs both ways – you can be sure that we’re very conscious of that in our design, we run through all the different use cases constantly to ensure its well rounded. EVE Online players can continue playing just the way they are and new players can jump into DUST 514 and get a traditional shooter experience, if that’s what they like. There are aspects that are consistent between the two platforms, such as in-game currency, and there are ways that EVE Online players can impact events in DUST 514 and vice versa, all without harming the overall ecosystem.
Because we have this living universe we call EVE – a single shard server, where all EVE Online players and all DUST 514 players are literally in the same universe, not a bunch of split instances, with a huge variety of dynamics and interdependencies within the ecosystem of the sandbox we’ve created – people playing DUST 514 and people playing EVE Online are essentially providing user generated content for each other, just by their sheer presence and their actions in the game world. To give an example, for a player fighting on a planet surfaces in DUST 514, the actions of the EVE Online players can trigger epic moments and provide support that is completely user-driven. Similarly, a DUST 514 player could trigger an event from the ground and do something spectacular in EVE Online. This emergent behaviour and gameplay is only possible with our level of connectivity. These are the broad strokes, the gameplay and interactions run a lot deeper than that.

In that case, what’s to stop an EVE Online veteran blowing my corporation out of space?

Brandon: We have some rules of engagement that ensure nothing drastic happens without some kind of fair warning and time to prepare, this is basically carried over and expanded upon from large scale player-driven warfare in EVE Online, where sometimes users are coordinating battles involving tens of thousands of players at once. Additionally, there are things that you can earn or build, independently in DUST 514 and / or EVE Online, or collaboratively between the two, that will mitigate those scenarios.

Putting the philosophy to one side for a moment, what is DUST 514 going to be like to play when you’re on the ground, in battle?

Brandon: Essentially it’s a vehicular combat game on an extremely large scale, and then when you move into installations and outposts, it’s more infantry based. We’re using Unreal Engine 3 and we’ve incorporated a Mega Terrain engine into it that lets us create huge levels with varied terrain, with a vast array of vehicles ranging from buggies to tanks to aircraft. Typically, you would use vehicles to traverse the landscape and engage in closer combat when you deploy into outposts, but there is a huge amount of tactical freedom, way outside of those broad examples.

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There’s some familiarity for players of shooters in that we have general classes or playstyles that we’ve worked out, such as light infantry and heavy weapons, but we’re hesitant to label them that way because we have something called the Fitting system – something that has been entirely ported over from EVE Online – where you can attach all manner of weapons and equipment to your character and your vehicles. It’s better to think of it like the character systems found in the deepest role-playing games; you can have the broad classes that are familiar to shooter fans, but there is massive freedom to expand on or go totally outside of them.

What’s the plan for expanding content in DUST 514?

Brandon: Right off the bat, we have literally thousands of in-game items built into the system; likewise, in terms of scale, you’re looking at a conflict taking place across thousands of planets, so we’re not just talking a dozen maps – we’re talking an entire universe of planets and areas of engagement within them. That’s the difference in scale we’re looking at here, and taking our experience with EVE Online and also, some inspiration found in the best microtransaction based MMOs, social and mobile games, and we’ve set up our workflow so that we can iterate and add new content very quickly. In terms of scale, depth and volume of content, DUST 514 will easily be the biggest multiplayer FPS on the market – also by virtue of being an MMOFPS, not just an FPS.

Talk us though how your beta is going to work.

Brandon: Just as we have done with EVE Online, we’re going to be telling a story with each of the events that happen in our game. To give a bit of context, in EVE Online you play as the pilot of a spaceship – a capsuleer – and in DUST 514 you play as a mercenary on the ground. It’s going to be a bit weird if, all of a sudden, we release the DUST 514 beta and all these mercenaries suddenly show up in the EVE universe, so the setting is that the first small group of players that get access to the Private Trials will be the first trial of this new mercenary technology in the context of EVE Online. Just as you’re helping to test the game in the real world, in the EVE world you’re taking part in war games organised to test this new mercenary technology.
With our Private Trials – we’re not calling it a Beta, but Private Trials in both the real world and the EVE fiction – we’re not taking the usual “on / off” method of rolling out a build and then taking it back and tweaking it, then rolling it out again; when we roll out with those first few users we are introducing mercenary technology to EVE, our “game as a service begins”, and the story will continue from there as that technology develops, further empowering the DUST 514 mercenaries from test subjects in war games to ultimately allowing them to take hold of their own future. It’s what we call a thematic rollout.

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There will be people out there who will look at DUST 514 and assume it’s an EVE Online spin-off. How would you counter that?

Brandon: We’re not thinking of it in that way at all, I suppose is the easiest way to respond to that. The EVE universe is comprised of three experiences: one is the classic EVE Online play, “flying in space” or what we call FIS; there’s WIS or “walking in stations”, where you can now get out of your ship and explore the interiors of space stations; and the final piece is DUST 514 and we’ve nicknamed that SIF, or “shooting in face”. None of those three are spin-offs, they’re experiences of equal value that can be played independently or fully connected. If you’re connected then you’re going to get the rich emergent gameplay that runs through all three.

We have so much to talk about, much of which is new territory for me. Is there anything we haven’t mentioned that you really want to get across to our PlayStation.Blog readers?

Brandon: I hope it comes through that what we’re developing is a truly new experience on PS3 – on consoles in general. It is the deepest shooter with the richest universe ever conceived and, on top of that, by bringing to market an MMO with microtransactions, we could be changing the face of console gaming forever. This is groundbreaking stuff, but user choice is at the core – it’s playing the game however you want to play it. If you want a quick experience, you have it; if you’re looking for something deeper, it’s there. If you want to pay a very small amount of money to play, you can; if you want to be heavily invested, you can do that too. We’re providing a more extensive array of options than has ever been seen in a console game.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Testing... testing! One two three.

Today, we will take a look at process of implementing patches before actually having them on the live (Tranquility) server. This process is important to understand because it may be used for DUST 514 as well, and therefore you may like to know this ahead of time!

Test servers are places where both players and developers tryout new patches before they actually deploy them on the main one. Purpose of it is of course bug fixing, feedback, and often a lot of fun since you can afford to lose everything since it is not in any way connected to the "real world" or Tranquility. Often, CCP is using their non-public test servers to test out events, features that can only be tested on actual servers etc. Great example of new feature that came out recently to our attention in EVE Online dev blog was Time Dilation Video that showed upcoming change to the game when there are just way too many people on one node, and how CCP decided to slow down time on that specific place so players have more enjoyable "epic battle" experience.

Now, we will take a look at various servers and how they work and what they are for, taken from evelopedia:


Public test server: Singularity
The public test server, Singularity (or Sisi), is open to all players. It's purpose is to try out new features, normally the next major patch for Tranquility will be tested on this server. Character information is replicated (=mirrored) to the Singularity server every few months, but keep in mind that if your account got created after the last replication, you will not be able to access the server.

Gameplay mechanics and playing environments may be quite different from what you're used to on Tranquility. Here, the world is constantly changing.

Details and instructions for accessing Singularity can be found on the Singularity page.

Semi-public test server: Duality

Duality is a semi-public test server for EVE Online that is used by both CCP developers and EVE players to test changes and new features before they are released to the Tranquility server. Duality differs from Singularity in that it is an event server, meaning that it is focused on organized events like mass tests and playtests coordinated by CCP. Only during this events is Duality available to players, the rest of the time it will be in VIP mode and only CCP developers and ISD BH volunteers will be able to access it. In some cases Duality will be very close to Tranquility (maybe running even the same client), for example when testing server code changes in a mass test, in other cases it might be used to test features, which are still months from being published to Tranquility.

Details and instructions for accessing Duality can be found on the Duality page.

Test server rules

Please read the test server rules before logging to any (semi-)public test server.
GM support is not available on any test server. Enter at your own risk!

Non-public test servers

CCP operates several other test server beside Singularity and Duality, but these additional test server are not accessible by the public. Most of them are for developing and testing new features, while several other servers run older versions of EVE and are used for reference (for example to verify when specific bug was introduced).

Well-known non-public test servers:
  • Multiplicity is normally used for hotfix testing and usually runs the TQ code. In the past it was sometimes used for public tests, but this is no longer needed since Duality was added. It's DB is also normally quite outdated and slow, which made public tests difficult.
  • Chaos is the primary development test-server and nearly all new features are tested first on this server. Chaos was a public test-server ages ago.
For those that check eve-offline (server status page), they will also notice "Serenity" server, which is Chinese EVE Online server. Serenity was always planned to be a separate server. To run an MMO in China requires an operator's license and also requires the servers to be located in China, hence the split.

I hope you now have bit clearer image on how upcoming features are being tested and through which hoops it has to go before it hits TQ (Tranquility)! If you have any question regarding the test servers, comment below!