And now a very important message from DUST 514’s CPM delegate Nova Knive which we felt worthy to reproduce

The first Council of Planetary Management would like to take a moment to acknowledge the reality that most in the community are already painfully aware of – that now, more than ever, we stand at another turning point for Dust 514. With the release of 1.3 having just landed and the finishing touches being put on 1.4, everyone anxiously awaits evidence that either the game will start rising to the potential we’ve seen all along, or continue to struggle with some of the same issues that have frustrated many of us since early beta.

1.4 is the first “normal” monthly release since CCP restructured their development process following Uprising’s troubled launch. This restructuring also comes in the wake of their acknowledgement that Dust is in a very unhealthy state and needs serious work in order to get back on track. No one can say that CCP hasn’t realized that they need to step up their game in order for Dust 514 to stay competitive in today’s market. Since Uprising, CCP has been making obvious changes in the right direction, and they’ve done a pretty fair job so far at revamping their internal goals in order to tackle the most pressing problems with the time they have available. That said, the fact remains that they’re using both time and money to resolve avoidable issues that crept up over the past year, and have led to the current unhealthy state of core gameplay elements.

However, the most dangerous problems have not been fully recognized nor appreciated, despite constant calls for improvement from the community for almost two years. A lack of trust between the developers and the community continues to stand between Dust 514 and its full potential. A lack of communication also persists, and has at least been briefly acknowledged as ‘something to improve on’ multiple times by everyone we’ve approached in management. Sadly though, these acknowledgements come with only with the faintest hint of understanding pertaining to the severity of these problems.

The trust issue is not primarily reflected in communication frequency, although the two are directly related. Too many times across IRC, dev blogs, and forum posts, we’ve heard designers cite their own preferences when describing their work instead of acknowledging what they’ve been hearing from the community. And without enough trust that early player input is an essential part of examining a designed element for potential problems, CCP potentially risks that they’ll have to revisit a system again later. We’ve often seen them ask for feedback much too late in the process, after a design is finished, and well past the time when a community-spotted problem could potentially be addressed and resolved before becoming an issue on the live servers.

This cycle of releasing content, receiving negative feedback, and revising in subsequent patches is both inefficient and carries a heavy cost in community goodwill. At the same time, we don’t expect CCP’s designers to adopt a “Customer is alway right” mindset either. The proper proverb to apply here should really be “Two heads are better than one”. Instead, the failure to seek community input early in the process becomes harmful, making a vice out of a virtue. There have been cases when CCP requests that players trust their changes will be positive and not over-react prematurely…. the history of Dust has shown that requests for such trust are misplaced and undeserved in the eyes of the community, and it is too unhealthy to allow it to continue any longer.

The lack of structured communication, on the other hand, is an even easier issue to resolve….and yet we continue to receive strange and aggressive resistance to it despite many examples of success elsewhere within the company. When pressed for the reason we don’t see consistent communication from the design teams throughout the development process, we hear responses along the lines that they are simply “too busy”, or we’re asked in return if we’d prefer to have fewer improvements to the game, accompanied by greater amounts of explanation. But we all know this is a false choice that we should never have to make, as greater amounts of communication can only lead to an improved product in the end.

The peer review process is a crucial stage of design of any kind. Without seeking input from others in the design field AND the end user, no product will ever be as good as it could be. The solution here is simple – the public (or at the very least; The CPM) needs to be considered a peer, for the purposes of design review. We’re not asking for designers to write extra material and take extra time, we’re asking them to share the same proposals they have to pitch to their team internally, and asking for our input as well. This isn’t a request for additional labor, it is a request for transparency.

While the resistance here may be that community discussion “slows the process down”, it’s a simple fact that any communication upfront necessary to bring a feature to a healthy place will displace many times its own weight down the road should a design need to be fixed because of a preventable problem. Efficiency demands that community engagement shouldn’t seen as taking a designer away from his daily duties, but as an essential part of them. Small amounts of time spent communicating with the community each day can save CCP weeks, possibly months worth of work down the line.

No one can deny that CCP is repeating work on game systems they’ve previously designed, released, and found problems with – problems that in most cases were quickly identified and repeatedly brought up by the community throughout the beta period. There’s also no denying that the need to rework any part of a product usually means that time and manpower was wasted initially. We’re now seeing CCP fix many of these gameplay issues, but if they do not fix the core community engagement problems that allowed those issues to take root in the first place, we’ll find ourselves back in the same unhealthy place time and time again.

This isn’t to say there aren’t a few shining examples of teams working to improve this situation. A few have stepped forward and taken full advantage of the feedback process, and have shown marked improvements in their area of the game. As a result, they become instantly beloved by the community. A few have worked with the CPM and taken feedback from our meetings to heart, coming back to us with massively improved results. However, we simply cannot afford to leave this up to individual efforts. Communication needs to be both standardized and endorsed by management as a “standard operating practice”, and applied consistently across the entire development structure..

A proper, standardized communication platform should consist of the following minimum critical elements: Patch notes no later than a week in advance of a release, dev blogs for the major feature changes that require the most explanation, and stickied forum posts with follow-up participation from devs for upcoming feature changes that have yet to reach code freeze. The first two elements of this communication platform have begun to fall in place, but the third is sorely lacking, and it continues to create an unnecessary backlog for designers and unnecessary toxicity for the community teams to manage. Players consistently find stickied forum posts insulting if they’re posted up after the time has passed when anything can be changed before a release, as if their opinions are being asked for only as a token gesture.

Balancing passes deserve special consideration here, because we’ve consistently heard that balance work is not tied to a code freeze, theoretically being something they could iterate much more rapidly on than other systems. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen resistance to using this powerful tool. Either way, there is enormous potential here being squandered. If CCP can indeed make more subtle balance adjustments on a week-to-week basis, until they hit a “sweet spot”, then this should be done.

If for whatever reason this isn’t viable (and they choose instead to include all balance work in a monthly 1.X release) than the same standard should be applied for other feature changes – proposed balancing work (including all affected stats) need to be posted and discussed prior to code freeze. This is the communication standard that CCP has set for itself elsewhere in the company, and the standard that the community expects out of Shanghai as well, especially where balance is concerned. CCP can draw upon their own experience with Eve Online to examine the incredible progress that can be achieved with proper communication and community involvement when making balance adjustments.

In the end, we’re all in this together. CCP has at its disposal hundreds, if not thousands of players who are able, willing, and ready to do whatever it takes to help improve Dust 514, asking no more from CCP than a chance to participate. The deep levels of interaction between player and developer have been one of the keys to the success of Eve Online that has earned CCP the devout following they have gathered over the past decade. This success is something CCP needs strive to emulate with Dust 514 to foster that same strong relationship with their customers, encouraging them to keep playing and spending money for years to come.

In the meantime, there is no sense in sugarcoating either the fact that the community’s patience is at an end, and the attitude problems that have created the current situation remain unchanged. We request, again, that someone in management step up and take public responsibility for ensuring consistent communication moving forward – for the health of the game, and the health of the community. Swift action is necessary in order to successfully convince the community that their participation is still necessary and relevant to Dust 514’s future.

At the time of this writing, a very loose commitment has been given to better involve the CPM more closely in planning stages, but we want to impress upon CCP the severity of the larger communication problems and trust issues at hand. Without substance or detail, a simple pledge to communicate more often is frankly not good enough to dissipate our fears and concerns. As a council, we cannot afford to sit idle without hearing concrete plans to for improvement. We are told that there are meetings in the works to form such plans,and we look forward to hearing from CCP regarding this and working with them to create a solid foundation moving forward.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

The members of the Council of Planetary Management

- Nova Knife

You can read the rest of the thread here, along a positive update made by Nova Knife

14 Comments

  1. Dust is Dead

    For fucks sake, stop flogging a dead horse. This article is pure damage control, trying to save something that is already dead. Do everyone a favour and cease development for the shit console market and stick to what you are good at. Retards.

    August 13, 2013 at 7:21 pm Reply
  2. Crazyharry

    The problems they are having with dust514 are exactly the same problems they have with eve online. They where only lucky with eve online that they had a great idea that alot of people liked and wanted to pay for. So they had time to shape it in a better product. If they started with eve online the same way they started with it back around 2000 it would have ended like it is ending with dust514 now.
    So conlusion: nothing has changed and ccp is still making the same mistakes. So goodluck with all the other games you want to develop.

    August 13, 2013 at 7:33 pm Reply
    1. Billbo

      FYI you don’t release unfinished products on the console market! Esp. If it an FPS.

      August 13, 2013 at 8:11 pm Reply
  3. 2.4

    All your suggestions isn’t tied with mircotransactions, thus the developer will continue to ignore it’s community!

    EA employees and business model of “Fuck you, pay up bitches!” Has already infiltrated CCP Games.

    It’s only a matter of time before this transitions to EVE…

    August 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm Reply
  4. Captain Obvious

    What’s that you say? CCP don’t listen to the paying customer? What’s the 514 equivalent of rioting at Jita?

    August 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm Reply
    1. 2.4

      Don’t play…

      August 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm Reply
  5. Billbo

    DUST was DOA at E3 2013. The game is dead looking forward to Destiny.

    August 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm Reply
  6. GrouchyOldGamer

    What you really want to give a struggling game a boast get the player group appointed by CCP to slag the developers off in public. They’ll turn it into COD soon chaps chill out.

    August 13, 2013 at 8:24 pm Reply
  7. F dust

    Just stop playing. Call for a boycott on micro transactions. Hopefully the CEO of ccp will resign

    August 13, 2013 at 8:54 pm Reply
  8. BS

    DUST is dead, just deal with it and move staff to work on EvE

    August 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm Reply
    1. meeeeee

      Eve if it dies, the staff wont go to eve, stop thinking that dust takes devs away from eve,no they are just devs for another game which will have to leave if the game dies

      August 14, 2013 at 10:15 am Reply
  9. Kara

    I would play Dust every day if it was on PC, and with the new consoles coming out why not make it cross platform or is that to much work CCP?

    August 14, 2013 at 4:29 am Reply
  10. Uncle Sheamus

    ne;dr

    August 14, 2013 at 10:21 am Reply
  11. NoTech

    Well, Dust 514 would have a chance, if it had a broader player base. But
    taking Sony’s money to bring it out PS(X) exclusively was one of the
    first and final coffin nails for this project.
    Eve can’t be played on a console and Dust can’t be played on a PC, wonder which “bright light” came up with that idea?

    August 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm Reply

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