DUST 514 exclusive interview – Creative Director talks about the evolution of PlayStation’s flagship F2P shooter

With a huge update for DUST 514 launching this week and a brand new Executive Producer at the helm, CCP Games’ free-to-play PlayStation exclusive shooter continues to evolve.

PSU met up with Creative Director Atli Mar to discuss the current roadmap, update 1.5 and the future for PlayStation’s most ambitious shooter.

PSU: We were at EVE Fanfest this year and saw a hefty roadmap laid out in the ‘Advancing the Core’ presentation and the various DUST 514 and CCP Presents keynotes. When Uprising launched to a mixed reception, some drastic changes were made. The plan of releasing 3-4 updates a year turned into the deployment of rapid-fire monthly updates which seem to focus on core gameplay. How much of that roadmap (and its near/mid/distant future time frames) has changed?
Atli: We are still committed to realizing the full vision of DUST 514 and some of the features that the community has been vocal about getting sooner rather than later, such as player trading, more resources between EVE and DUST and an improved Planetary Conquest system and game modes, are all on their way. The fact is though, the core game needs to be improved and doing that takes a lot of effort. It is definitely helping a lot being able to respond to community feedback as fast as we are, with the monthly release cadence and all that, but we have more work to do until the core game is proper.

PSU: The first few updates were released in a time of change as CCP assumingly made drastic changes to the way it works on content via the monthly updates. In an interview at Fanfest, executive producer Brandon Laurino told us that the velocity in which the team could create content was growing exponentially. Did shifting to the monthly approach slow this down at all?
Atli: Not at all. The new Research SI, Craters Terrain, and upcoming Production SI and a brand new terrain, along with a massive across the board shader and texture improvement the artists have made are all good examples of this increased velocity.

PSU: How are you personally finding the monthly approach? What are the advantages and disadvantages from a development point of view?
Atli: There aren’t many downsides in my personal opinion. It’s of course been a bit bumpy, as the launch of 1.4 made very clear, but that is not a bad thing as long as we learn something from it. We have learned a lot in the last few months after we switched to the monthly release cadence. We’ve had to harden our processes, quality assurance, and overall pipelines into Sony’s QA system. This is a fantastic thing for the game and the team.

PSU: Are the rapid-fire updates here to stay or do you intend to shift back to the 3-4 updates a year model later on?
Atli: The monthly updates will be with us for the foreseeable future, but we have already retasked a couple of teams onto the next expansion. We are hoping to be able to reveal more details on what they are working on at EVE Vegas, later in October.

PSU: One of the key features of the 1.5 update is the objective based tutorial system that aims to help new gamers learn the ropes. Aside from this new objective based tutorial, what else do you think is required to make the game more approachable to newcomers?
Atli: The squad finder is a big one. It’s so much simpler to group up with likeminded individuals to shoot other likeminded individuals in the face. This is a feature not only for the more initiated but for newcomers as well. We are very excited to see the reception to it.

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PSU: Does CCP intend to augment the tutorial system in the future with more advanced areas such as active/passive module applications for vehicles for example?
Atli: We aim to add to the tutorial in our monthly releases. We need to see how this task based NPE system works, and how the community respond to it, and iterate from there.

PSU: One of the other substantial improvements coming in 1.5 includes the changes to corporation management with around half a dozen new roles added that allow for things like the delegation of corporate finances, recruitment etc. Do you anticipate console gamers getting into corporate structure as much as EVE gamers have?
Atli: Just like in EVE, managing a corporation is not for everyone, but we do already see a similar group of enablers that have taken on the responsibility of inspiring other mercs and lead them to war or profit. The corporations are also shared between the two games, and over time the need for corporations to operate both in space and on planets (and elsewhere) will increase.

PSU: Without going into details, where do you envisage corporate management going in the future? Are further developments on the roadmap or are you waiting for player feedback and data analysis before going deeper?
Atli: We are definitely expanding on the corporations moving forward and Team True Grit is already cooking some cool stuff.

PSU: Originally 1.5 was going to bring a complete overhaul of the vehicle system, stripping back everything to the basics and then adding things back in a more balanced way. This was postponed until 1.6 if I remember correctly. What are some of the issues that CCP identified with vehicle gameplay in DUST 514 that led to the descision to do this?
Atli: We needed to give some of the changes planned for 1.5 more more attention, so we moved them to a later release. We are also working on a new cooking system (cooking is what we call the process of taking source assets and preparing them for deployment) that gives us much more flexibility in patching the game. Due to these factors, we decided to focus 1.6 on bug fixing and engine enhancements. Uprising 1.7 is larger in scope than we had planned, but the wait will be worth it.

PSU: Can you talk a bit about what we can expect in 1.6 and beyond, aside from the vehicle overhaul?
Atli: Uprising 1.6 will be a focused release, with a host of bug fixes and performance improvements. This gives us more time to harden features and systems that will go out in 1.7.

Many thanks to Atli for taking time out to speak with PSU. To learn more about DUST 514 read the PSU review.