Dust 514 Beta: leading the FPS race to the bottom

5 mins read

I’ve been messing around a bit with the Dust 514 Beta thanks for my PlayStation Plus subscription, and I really just have one thing to say about the experience: sigh.

I want to say from the outset that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the game: in fact, I’m having quite a bit of fun with it. Outside of the action there’s more than enough unlocks and loadouts to play with, and inside the game some of the maps have really nice designs. As someone who enjoys the challenges inherent with the sniper role within skirmish games, I’m loving the fact that some of the maps have some really great vantage points to practice my virtual killing craft.

The guns have a nice weight to them, and the thrill of a perfectly-placed sniper shot is present and correct. The atmosphere of Dust 514 is as great as you’d expect for a game set in one of the most popular MMO universes around.

But, there is absolutely nothing in this game that you won’t experience in any of a dozen other competent FPS titles. I am thoroughly sick of this me-tooing that the FPS genre is going through, and I have to say that I can’t see this genre surviving much longer in its current form. Back when likes of Call of Duty and Halo established the template FPSers with big-budget games that stood out from the pack in terms of both quality and quantity of content, and so people were willing to spend money on them – that’s why they’re such big franchises now. Those early attempts to funnel the formula down into a cheaper, budget game (such as the Modern Combat games), quickly die with no community around to support them, because the quality simply wasn’t there to sustain the most dedicated players.

It’s different now – there’s more knowledge out there on how to make these games, and it’s possible to develop a top-grade competitive FPS games and push it into a free-to-play model. It’s not just Dust 514 that is going to be supported by freemium microtransactions – there’s also the high-quality Blacklight Retribution and no doubt more to come. In terms of quality these games stand up well to the Call of Duties and Halos, and they will no doubt grab a portion of the audience for these games.

That’s going to make things difficult for Call of Duty and Halo, let alone the lesser of the traditional FPS games. Perhaps not in the short term, but longer term, who’s going to pay for a FPS when there’s a free one that’s just as much fun? We’ve already seen this race to the bottom happen in the MMO genre, with only World of Warcraft surviving as a subscription-based MMO in the face of quality free titles such as Guild Wars, Turbine’s MMOs and a host of others. And the result of that? When a developer such as Funcom with The Secret World tries to do something genuinely original, and premium-priced to support the innovation, the project fails in the market.

At some point, when you have too many people trying to walk across a frozen river, the collective weight causes cracks to appear and then everyone falls in. The likes of Call of Duty and Halo will need to try to do dramatically different things to try and keep up the massive sales numbers that are expected for those budgets (and likely alienate a lot of fans who “grew up” with these series’). As more and more freemium FPSers hit the market, the one or two per cent of players who pay for microtransactions becomes point-one and point-two of a per cent of players as all but the most hardcore of hardcore dip their toes into multiple free games at the same time.

In other words, the FPS will hit that tipping point where the genre goes from plentiful and a world of opportunity for every developer to oversaturated and a miserable time for everyone.

And I reckon that time’s going to hit sooner rather than many would like.

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  • You make a great point, but speaking as somene who's a fan- the reason I'd rather pay for a Halo or CoD over playing something free (that played comparably) is because the free game simply isn't Halo or CoD.
    Especially in terms of Halo, I happen to like the universe and the characters who inhabit it a whole lot. Playing some generic FPS, even if it's made well, just wouldn't interest me as much. Even if it was free.

    Just my two cents.

  • Agreed with you. The thing is, though, Dust plays out in a very strong universe of its own with a lot of character. For the first time playing a budget or F2P FPS, with Dust I felt like I was playing a game with some personality.

    I'm sure Halo and CoD will survive because the fan base for both franchises is so, so strong. They're like the World of Warcrafts of the FPS genre. I'm just not sure about the rest of the genre.

  • Point taken.
    I totally forgot about Dust taking place in the EVE universe by the way. Not that I know anything about that game, but how much do the themes carry over into Dust?

  • Not really hearing anything solid about the game, other than its like every other FPS, and there are too many FPS.

    The PC crowd contracting for missions which are suppose to have repercussions in both EVE and Dust don't mean anything?

  • MMO part of the game will come in upcoming patches VERY soon. They are now just testing their map generators, content streaming, all that insanely cool crap that you don't see anywhere else… and then you drop on main EVE server and conquer planets with your corporation and experience how cool EVE universe actually is… and you get tons and tons more skills and weapons and vehicles and all that stuff that is locked from beta…

    and all of it… FOR FREE… and no, its not pay to win, its perfectly well balanced microtransaction game like league of legends and world of tanks really…. been playing it for ages now (since first actual beta from fanfest) and its amazing.

  • Haven't played much of Eve either, but the game world certainly has a lot of character – really only possible for a franchise that has been around for a long time.

  • Hi Jon Snow (kudos on the name, I'm a big Game of Thrones fan too),

    You know nothing, Jon Snow (lol, not really, had to use the line). 😛

    I completely agree with what you've said there – that's the entire point I'm making here. When a free-to-play game has as much content, if not more, as any other game on the market, it's a pretty clear sign that the genre's margins are going to be squeezed to the point where only a couple can survive.

    Why pay money when you can get it all for free?

  • precisely, FPS needs to adapt or die in this situation because CCP is not crazy and they WILL develop this game just like they are developing EVE for more than 9 years now. And every expansion will be FREE – no DLC crap anymore, no map packs, and sharding content for people (they confirmed that and that is how EVE works)… So what is there to conclude? It is time for COD/HALO/BF/etc to give up on their reharshes every year and if anything – become either persistent game or be a great singleplayer experience which you will play once or twice and come back to DUST to continue your journey in New Eden universe that is constantly there for you and that is changing…

    Really, I've played COD competitively, BF3 for a short time as well, and they just don't pack that punch that persistent world can – in the end it all just puts you on the spot with a sign "wait for next version next year" and you are left even not wanting to invest into the game because once you buy Battlefield 3 you know Battlefield 4 will come out and all your stuff will be lost and here we go again. And I was bitter for so long about that aspect that DUST – nomatter how beta goes – will deliver and be right for a lot of players that seek that MMO persistent and harsh universe…

    And I want to be part of that.

  • I Have to Agree with Jonsnow1. Matt is taking a game that is only about a third finished, and still under NDA I might add and trying to review it like it's a finished product. That would be like trying to review a movie by watching a trailer thru a mirror.

  • I semi agree with your points, I disagree with your conclusion of dust.

    Dust is in a very basic beta compared to where it wants to be, reviewing it now is like reviewing a meal the chef hasn't made yet.

    Yes, the FPS genre is flooded, unoriginal, copied to death with only the story being different.

    Dust on the other hand is completely different. The game puts FPS at the foundation and builds upon it with rich MMO based content. Ultimately it's in constant evolution. What we started with was a basic shooter. but as you get into the game, it becomes more and more apparent that it has ties to another game, is deeply dependant on the community structure, which in turn branches out to the economy, the politics, the contracts and far more MMO Structure than an FPS.

    when I play the game and talk in IRC, we are wow'd by the stupidity of some of the players losing expensive items, the prowess of the better players achieving new records, all possible because it's not just a fps, the items we win/lose have meaning. Someone got 40 kills? that's a heck load of resources we will have cost a corp with one player alone. 10 sargaris kills? jackiechan.jpg. It all matters and even though it's a beta, we know eventually it will cost corporations, eve contracts, connections, player relations and more.

    Dust is in beta, you can review all you want, but the fact that you aren't saying where you think it will go is testament to your lack of forsight into where dust will be come launch and I think you may be eating a number of words by then.

  • Just out of interest, how far beyond the headline did you read? I'm quite clearly not reviewing the game. I'm actually considering the ramifications of a free-to-play FPS having as much, if not more content than CoD or Halo.

  • As I said to the other guy: out of interest, how far beyond the headline did you read? I'm quite clearly not reviewing the game. I'm actually considering the ramifications of a free-to-play FPS having as much, if not more content than CoD or Halo.

  • I read all of it, but when you say " there is absolutely nothing in this game that you won't experience in any of a dozen other competent FPS titles."

    you won't. It's not even released so you can't predict that, so like I said, where it ends up is not something you can predict now.

    By saying it's no different to any other game in the genre is in itself an incorrect "assumption" of something none of us have experienced yet.

    rather than talk about where the game is now, talk about where it wants to be – people will read this article, and think you are talking about where the game wants to be. which will be far different to what we have now.

  • because initially you start talking about dust, only after half of your post do you start to talk about FPS as a genre, people read " Dust 514 Beta: leading the FPS race to the bottom" first thoughts: negative review to dust 514, people then read the first paragraphs and you are talking about dust, by then the majority of readers will have concluded it's a review, sure you may not intentionally have set out for it to be, but for the first half, you are giving you're giving a non nda breaking opinion on the game, which is fine, but then expect people to voice their opinion on your post.

  • That does only reinforce the point I'm making here though – already Dust offers as much content as almost any other FPS out there. The impact that this, as a F2P game, will have on the genre when full functionality is built in will be severe.

    This piece is more about the FPS genre, and not Dust. Dust is the intro to the piece, which is why I asked the question – in no way am I passing any kind of criticism or review of this game here. 🙂

    Thanks for the input!

  • Haha, that's why I generally encourage people to read my full articles – I try to space out a topic over a full article so that I can develop ideas better. 🙂

  • I understand that your trying to talk about the ramifications on FPS, but when you use as an example a game like Dust514, while expressing opinions that seem rather negative, which is breaking so many walls in the area of what an FPS is you really do come across as being very negative. Dust514 is the very first major console FPS, it's the first game to run on, and interact with a completely different major game in real time. It's a first for CCP, their first shooter, their first console game, it's a persistant shooter. Having played in the beta since April, I can tell you personally it has come a very long way, and has further to go. Now to your point about FPS's in general. Your right games like COD and BF are doomed, because they are about to see what the future could look like. where I don't have to shell out 60 dollars plus x amount for dlc then a year or two later do again, but pay nothing at all and get a free game, then free updates once or twice a year. have my actions in said game mean something to hundreds of thousands of other people. The ramifications of the possibilities that Dust514 present to the market are almost endless. in closeing I would like to invite you and any of your readers that might want to to drop into the Dust514 irc channel, I know really out data technology, over at irc.coldfront.net #dust514 where you can not only talk to many people who are involved in the beta but also on the rare occasion some of the Developers for the game.

  • Well, I apologise if I have upset any Dust fans out there. Not my intention as I did not set out to review the game.

    I am deeply concerned by the long-term profitability of F2P games such as this, but I work on the assumption that CCP have worked out a solid monetization model.

    What I am not sold on is whether the race to the bottom with regards to game price is a good thing. If nothing else, the number of developers able to monetize a project like CCP is able to is limited, and I am not a fan in general of initiatives that remove margin from the hard work of developers and publishers.

    It shall be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  • "But, there is absolutely nothing in this game that you won't experience in any of a dozen other competent FPS titles."

    Wow, could you make a more incorrect statement? DUST 514 is the wrong FPS to accuse of being too similar to "other competent FPS titles."

    If you replaced the word "game" with the word "beta," then you wouldn't sound quite so wrong and unknowledgeable.

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