Friday, September 13, 2013

DUST 514: The Dark Side of 1.4

Before I continue with my DUST tutorial, it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the things that don't endear me to the game, now at version 1.4. Despite the fact that I've been playing for all of a month (or maybe because of it), I have definitely formed some very strong opinions about things that I see as just plain wrong about the game.


This is the single biggest problem with DUST. Current matchmaking results in heavily unbalanced team matchups and lead to something called "Proto-stomping."

Proto-stomping occurs when players who have been playing this game the longest (many from the original closed betas last summer) come online with their best prototype dropsuits and weapons and just stomp the shit out of the other team. As near as I can tell, this happens because DUST's matchmaking wasn't taking into account the total "attack power" of a team prior to the most recent 1.4 patch.

Post-patch, Scotty (the new matchmaking AI) still has a lot of bugs and issues. While Scotty now appears to be trying to balance out teams by their hitting power, this is occurring on a team based level - which in my opinion doesn't offer enough granularity. You can have a whole team of people equipped in average equipment paired up with a team full of people with low end equipment and one proto-equipped squad. That proto-equipped team will likely still murder you.

As a beginner player, if you get placed into a team where many people are running advanced and proto gear, you're likely to also get killed repeatedly as the team on the other side will have many players you just can't kill. Let's not forget the arbitrary 1500 War Point cap for beginner players to be promoted out of Academy (training grounds) into the general populace. I see this as perhaps the single biggest reason for proto-stomping. People proto-stomp because they can get a lot of points from easy kills to keep leveling up their characters.

As I see it, the only way matchmaking can be fixed is for the AI to gain greater granularity all around. Instead of matching up teams by total attack power, they need to make sure that each side is balanced down to the individual player level. Proto teams should be matched up against other proto teams and they can have at it. I think less people will be tempted to proto-stomp (due to the ISK cost of the equipment involved) when they know they are likely to incur a huge financial risk by playing this way.

Next, I think that points gained in battle should be relative to the player. If you are in proto gear and kill a newbie you should get less points because it was an easy kill. But if you get killed by a newbie in proto gear, the newbie should get more points because you're worth more. This will also dissuade proto-stomping because people in proto-gear won't be able to quickly grind points by preying on weaker players.

Finally, I think that new players need to be able to remain in Academy far longer than the 1500 War Point cap. I think that number should be closer to 20000 minimum or perhaps have a time limit such as a few weeks in Academy matches. This gives players a chance to learn the intricacies of the game and continue to be competitive against other people that are similarly matched in gear and ability. New players should be given an option to play in Academy matches or venture out into the general populace as they see fit.

Vehicular Manslaughter

One of the biggest complaints prior to the 1.4 patch was what was commonly referred to as "murder-taxis." Murder-taxis are LAVs, basically jeeps, that are driven around by players and used to hit other players for kills. In my 30 days of playing, I've seen players rack up ridiculous numbers of kills per game many times in the 20's and up mainly by driving around in a jeep. Get a clue! DUST is a FIRST PERSON SHOOTER, not GTA on steroids!

Post 1.4, the effect of the murder-taxi has been toned down a bit. Where you used to be able to kill people at almost any speed by hitting them, now murder-taxis need to be traveling at full speed in order to kill. While this is a big improvement, it doesn't go far enough in my view.

What happens to a moving vehicle when they hit a man sized object at speed? They get totaled - that's what happens in the real world. These murder-taxis are hitting players in armored and shielded dropsuits. You'd think they should take a lot more damage than what they are taking now. I have no issue if you get killed being run over by a tank, because that makes sense. But getting killed by a LAV and then watching that jeep merrily drive away makes my blood boil.

I will state the obvious again: DUST is primarily a shooter and people should play it that way. LAV's are support vehicles, and they should be used to support other ground vehicles and provide fast ground transport for troops. If a player decides to hit an armored and shielded opponent, the LAV should take the appropriate amount of damage based on speed of impact, up to the point where a full speed hit on a single player could possibly total the LAV. Again this should dissuade people from driving their way through a shooting game.


Being a shooter, DUST will basically survive or fail based on the balancing of the various weapons available to players. Post 1.4, there are issues with two weapons: Mass Drivers and Laser rifles. Prior to the 1.4 patch, laser rifles had iron sights and were not nearly as powerful as they are now post 1.4. Now, you get a nice laser dot that tells you where your shot will land, and the power of laser rifles has been amped up.

My main character is running an advanced medium assault suit. It has just over 400 points in armor and 160 shields. I find myself getting killed with about a half-dozen on target hits by laser rifles. That just doesn't feel right. I have two starter characters in basic suits and they get killed with about 3 decent hits! If you make the laser rifle easier to hit with, you should reduce the damage so it takes more hits to kill.

Another weapon that continues to grief all current players are mass drivers. They are basically grenade launchers. However, in their current form they might as well be highly mobile tank turrets. The cycle rate, ammo count and splash damage combine to allow basically one player in a strategic location to wipe out entire squads.

I don't mind the splash damage because grenades do splash damage, I can live with that. If you take a direct hit from a grenade you die. But I can't live with the fact that you can plaster an area with about 2 mass driver shots per second. It doesn't take much skill to kill with a mass driver, and the current setup allows a player running a mass driver to rack up a lot of kills very quickly.

In my opinion, they should reduce the cycle rate to about 1/2 to 1/3 what it is now, reduce the ammo count and also increase loading times for the weapons in order to balance them out. These restrictions will ensure that you will actually need more skill to kill with this weapon rather than being able to kill by taking pot shots at other players.

There are other issues and bugs, but they are understandable given that the game is provided free of charge and that it is continually being patched, changed and hopefully improved. Despite these concerns and my personal play experience, I have generally enjoyed this game. It is my hope that CCP do a better job listening to the concerns of players and dealing with them in a timely manner. 

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