Thursday, October 24, 2013

Vehicle Combat in Dust514: A Future Vision

While the CPM has had some good meetings with the new Executive Producer, we are still awaiting a statement from CCP and I am withholding comment about the recent internal proceedings until we see that statement delivered.

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share some of what's been on my mind recently regarding the game itself.  I initially posted a brief version of the following to CCP on Skype along with the full-length description on our internal forums.  However, the concept is important enough to me that I wanted to share it with all of you as well.  Especially for those of you that play Dust514, its important for you to know what kinds of ideas your representatives are championing.  [Note that this is not specific feedback for the current rebalance slated for Uprising 1.7, but rather the next few steps needed to blow the vehicle combat in Dust 514 wide open and into some really compelling design space.]

Without further ado:

I believe what's ultimately missing in Dust514 is a true MMO-style combat system. Dust has enormous potential as an "MMOFPS" not just in the way it ties with EVE, but all the way down to the core combat. When you think about it, most of the tools are in place for a "sandbox" combat system with lots of room for creativity by allowing players to combine elements of the traditional MMO "holy trinity" - Tanking/DPS/Healing.*

There are three fundamental changes in particular that I see necessary to facilitate/activate such a system:

1.) Move vehicle repair modules to a turret. Moving them isn't really needed, existing modules could be maintained and a turret repair simply added.

2.) Allow vehicle tanking modules to be operated by a passenger. This could be as simple as an option to assign on-board module control to a passenger of choice, so solo drivers could retain full control of their ability to mitigate damage

3.) Remove fixed turret slots, and use a larger pool of high/low slots along with a hardpoint system to keep players from mounting multiple large weapons on an HAV, or large weapons on a dropship. Hardpoints would be a simple number of allowed small or large turrets per vehicle - but the important part here is allowing players to forgo a turret in favor of additional tank or utility.

The third fix alone addresses another major issue with vehicles as they stand today - the lack of strong roles. Instead of trying to nail down the ideal role for every vehicle, why not give them to players as canvasses to be painted on? There needs to be a damn good reason for this much customization (it comes at the cost of the learning curve, after all), and so the design team misses a huge opportunity here if they don't allow players themselves to define how they want to use the vehicles (or even dropsuits) given to them.

The end goal should really be a near-infinite amount of combinations of repair/support/tanking/DPS gameplay...across both infantry AND vehicles. Want a super-tough HAV that doesn't dish out damage at all, but is a tough turtle that crawls along and keeps a few squad members alive using small repair turrets? Easy.
Want a fast dropship with no tank but more small turrets for your crazy suicidal squadmates to man and rain fire? Done. Want to create a new meta around mutliple 3-man teams of spider-linked HAV's (one driver/DPS, one tanker, one healer on the small turret)? You can even create the "Holy Trinity" in a single vehicle. Or, alternative, fit one for solo work and do it all yourself. No one is ever forced to play any particular way, and creativity and teamwork become the ticket to greatness.

I know this probably sounds scary and overwhelming to Dust's design team - but I really think its important to consider the instant depth this game would gain when WE come up with the innovative tactics that we can't right now with vehicles drifting further in the direction of being merely "dropsuits with wheels". In my opinion, Dust 514 should derive its challenge from innovating ways to counter opposing player creativity - and not just devolve into another wall of twitch skill overcome through endless practice.

This, to me, is what I really hope CCP Rouge considers as he moves this project forward. MMO depth can be added in many more ways beyond simply expanding the EVE-link! It can be achieved moment-to-moment in combat by giving players tools to create new tactics with.  By now everyone mostly has an optimal way to use each item, suit, or vehicle - and this reality should really be seen as a design flaw to improve upon if the goal is to bring the full power of EVE's customization into the FPS world.

The sooner the developers reach towards the "sandbox" in day-to-day game play - the more rapidly we players end up providing each other with more "content".   Other shooters on the market wouldn't be able to touch this level of flexibility - in most contemporary games players are stuck waiting for a new map, item, or feature to provide them with a brand new experience when they log in. If CCP makes Dust514 a true sandbox shooter - it takes pressure off their own content creators because we will end up making the game constantly fresh for ourselves. This design ethos has worked really well in EVE Online, and it only requires periodic skilled rebalance effort to continually rekindle the fire.

Rebalancing is much, much cheaper than producing entirely new toys - and by moving to this system the developers would gain a huge multiplier on the impact of their time spent tweaking gear performance. Enabling this level of combat depth should actually make for less work for the Shanghai studio in the long run, not more.
That's not at all to say there won't be a need for new items and vehicles - only that there is tremendous value in creating game objects that can be played with like wooden blocks, rather than a puzzle with a single solution.

*And yes, I'm quite aware that most of the time "Holy Trinity" is used as a perjorative and a design rut that many MMO's are trying to migrate away from, but I use it here only to highlight three distinct jobs that players can provide each other if given the proper tools - and the value that they would bring to an FPS game.  This extends to other roles such as crowd control as well - Dust514 has a huge place for electronic warfare in its future if given the opportunity.


  1. great ideas. one of the main aspects of vehicle change must be finite ammo supples. vehicles cant have unlimited supplies of ammo, this encourages what we see in regards to them attacking every supply depot.

    1. And supply depots would become even more important to control.

  2. Such a bad blog

    Here we have an infantry player talking about vehicles while CCP nerfs them consistantly, buffs AV and also we have the CPM making topics about how 'proto vehicles would be bad and OP' and in general infantry crying over vehicles anyways when they have proto AV to combat the basic vehicles in this game

    1. No, its like having a logi dropsuit with a rep tool on it except you cant use it and you need a 2nd player to pull the gun out for you and they have to use it - bad idea

    2. No again, i cant control who is in my tank to begin with and cant get rid if they jump in and why should it take 2 ppl to control a tank when it takes 1 to blow it up because lolproto AV with no teamwork?

    3. We wanted freedom to do that anyways but CCP in there wisdom have now decided that standard tanks will have less slots so less choices because less mods

    1. 1.) I never said it would be a requirement, only an option.

      2.) Who ever said we SHOULDN'T be able to control who gets in our vehicles? I'd love to see more locking/booting options so that we can control who we bring on board. This post is by no means a comprehensive list of all things that should be done for vehicles, nor it is THE balance fix that needs to be done right now. This is conceptual and forward-thinking.

      3.) The reduction in slots is one of the major issues with the proposed rebalance - it absolutely limits creativity and variety directly. Again, you must not have read carefully where I explicitly made clear that this is not a blog about what needs to be done for 1.7

      The CPM has a meeting early next week with CCP Wolfman where I hope we'll be discussing the rebalance effort in progress. If you want to actually discuss the issues at hand you're welcome to join us in my ongoing Skype chat: I will advise you to read the rules (more carefully than you did my blog post) and leave the silly ad hominem attacks at the door.

  3. Interesting ideas here Hans but as you noted in your latest comment, locking options are fundamental before adding options to delegate important vehicle roles to passengers.

    These sorts of changes may be things that would be well suited to higher tier vehicles, which will have more slots and the versatility we all crave but making them require more than one person to truly be effective, thus stopping them from just being super strong versions of the standard tanks.

    I get the impression from what I've heard from Wolfman and the devs that they wanted to take vehicles all right back and find them defined roles on the battlefield and it looks like they've done that by limiting the slot diversity on th standard variants. They will now be able to look at allowing them more choices with further developed tiers/roles in future.

    1. Yeah, that's the impression I have for the upcoming vehicle reboot. I don't mind each race having a focused HAV and maybe a unique LAV or derpship. That adds character to the battlefield.

      However, the rest of the vehicles should be very customizable like Hans proposed in this post. Maybe make them less durable compared to the more limited varients.

  4. We're at, what, two weeks overdue on that statement?

    :ccp: /o\

  5. I completely agree with this post. I would also mention that capacitors are critical for the future of vehicles in DUST. They are so simple, and yet add a whole extra dimension to gameplay. They can also be used as a balancing device as it would open up the opportunity for E-war in the future. Having this level of depth would truly put DUST in a league of its own above other popular FPS games. It also might draw in some EVE players, and likewise make DUST mercs more interested in trying EVE.