Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Plasma Cannon In Review

So after watching a video on this weapon, I figured I'd hurry up and do a review of it before too many people base their thoughts on a single opinion. I was going to save this to be part of the Mordu blog, but that is looking more and more like it'll get delayed until September (you'll see why when it comes out). But anyway, before we look into the weapon, here's a bit of backstory.

So during the Mordu event, one of the goals was to blow up 100 installations in a week. Not specialized into heavies, I decided to stick to my advanced swarm launcher. The problem with this is swarms can't target neutral installations. With the best way to score killing blows, on them being to pick empty regions and play Ambush OMS, killing neutrals was needed. This led to me trying out the Plasma Cannon.

My initial reaction was similar to the one seen in Pyrex's video. The weapon felt weak and hard to aim, requiring 4 direct hits to kill an installation with a reload between shots. It was the only thing I had though, so I grinned and beared it. Thus began my journey into learning this weapon. At this point, I wasn't keeping track of my stats at all, so I just kept hammering out games with this weapon I'd previously considered a joke.

After I'd deemed myself having passed the magical 100 destructions barrier, I decided to take it into regular matches with friends as I was still unsure of my kill assist count. Having gotten used to aiming the damn thing, I figured I'd try it out in a more "real" environment. This took a lot of getting used to as the weapon plays very differently to how you figure it would do. It's somewhat fitting that it's a hybrid between being effective against everything (Gallente use "Hybrid" weapons in EVE Online). It's an anti-vehicle weapon, but isn't as good an anti-vehicle weapon as a swarm launcher. It's a 1-hit kill weapon, but isn't as good as the shotgun or sniper rifle. It's an area denial weapon, but isn't as good as the mass driver or flaylock pistol. It's a mid-range weapon, but also works up close or far away.

Once I realized this, I experimented more with different ranges and outfits. What I discovered is that the weapon itself wasn't bad, it just had a different role to anything else in Dust. The cannon fits the role of a mid-range support weapon, designed to be used from the back of a group of players. With it's arc, you can fire it over your team-mates and score kills from range. If a vehicle shows up, you're also able to do decent damage without needing to switch to an AV fit. With enough practice, you can land shots up close or far away, it just takes time. I see those "amazing long range Plasma Cannon kill" videos and remember how I hit a multitude of similar shots earlier that day. The curve is no more different than the difference between gonewild and gonewildcurvy once you're experienced with it.

Hell, even it's weaknesses are great once you see how people try to exploit them. The natural reaction from someone who survives your shot is to instantly charge into you and try to rush you down before you can reload. Seeing this, I've started putting skill points into the new commando suits. I'd tried to use shotguns a few weeks back and am now reaping the rewards. A simple switch to the shotgun after ducking behind cover and boom, dead enemy. The commando suit has several nice benefits with using the plasma cannon alongside this too. The decrease in time reloading has a big impact on your ability to project damage. You also have enough base health to survive small bursts of damage, while the loss in speed has little impact due to fighting from the back.

The cannon has it's share of annoying problems though. There's an annoying reload bug that can get you killed more often than not. The projectile is slow enough to people to dodge direct hits a lot of the time. Scoring direct hits can suffer a lot from the game's hit detection sometimes letting your shot pass through an enemy without harming them. There's also an annoying grace period after firing that delays switching weapons. With a bit more speed (20% faster or so) and a bit less post-firing delay, the weapon would be in a really great place.

It's a good weapon overall in the end. Huge skill ceiling, has a useful role to play and can stand it's ground against a variety of enemies. It's not a weapon for everyone and it's not meant to be, but I like many other cannoneers seem to have fallen under it's strange charm. It also kills anything below a heavy with a single shot (including proto gear) which is just wonderful.

I give it a B- out of 10. Needs some tweeks, but an otherwise good weapon.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Quick Update About Content In August

Been a bit quiet recently around these parts, figured I'd give some details into the near future.

Boots On The Ground

The next BOTG with be recorded on the weekend of the 10th August and will be the only episode until September. This is mostly an issue of free time, as it takes a large amount of time to actually organize the show. Once I've moved in September, I'll be able to dedicate myself more to the show. Doing even 1 show in August is a big deal on my schedule, but I don't want to leave people hanging for too long.

Other Video Content

There's another video on my channel right now that is currently unlisted until I get the go ahead from CCP that they've fixed the exploit it covers. It has the potential to break the game more so than anything else I've seen this year, so I'm not even going into details on that.

Other videos I'll upload in August include the tournament matches I'll be playing in for GIANT. Outside of those however, I won't really be doing much as far as my main channel is concerned.

There were some hiccups with another video project I've been working on, so that will be taking a lot of what little time I have outside packing and Dust.


When the exploit video goes up, I'll be doing my review of the Mordu event as well. There's a 1.3 review that will happen at some point and I might do something along the lines of thoughts on the Plasma Cannon.

I'll also be doing a blog on the format I want to use for Dust competition in the future when Gladiator features come in. It's something I'll be focusing on a lot in the future (2014), so I'll be looking into feedback on that.

I'll also do some feedback on the Prime Cup or whatever it's called.

September Live Streams

Once I've moved, I'll be able to stream Dust. Given that, I'm planning on a few weekly shows that will be recorded live.

The first will be a show featuring a guest CPM member to hang out and answer questions. We'll be playing some casual games while we do this (maybe Flash Duel) to fill time between questions. Currently Kane has confirmed that he would like to do this, so it will definitely be happening. Not sure if other CPM members would be interested.

The second will be a weekly show going into specific parts of Dust for around 30 minutes before doing another 30 of Q&A. Topics might include specific weapons, dropsuit layouts, reviewing old matches, talking to veteran players and more. This is aimed at giving players some direction

I'll be doing some general streaming outside of those too, but my main focus for Dust content at first will be putting out those 2 pieces of content and Boots On The Ground while working on a single side project.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

What I Want To Spectate And Broadcast Dust Matches

I was originally planning on writing about the Mordu event today. But I found a massive exploit during the event that could completely break Dust and am in the process of gathering more information on it so I can get in touch with CCP.

I missed the CPM AMA while playing around with it today (as well as real life stuff), so I don't know much about what was discussed there. DS10 wrote out the first hour or so, so going off the "we take feedback given through the CPM", I'm making some requests for when they build this feature.

This is what I want as far as broadcasting tools for Dust's "Gladiator" matches.

  • 1 team to appear red and 1 appear blue with a corresponding name plate at the top.
  • Default camera pitch at 55 degrees.
  • Default camera distance at 30 meters off the ground.
  • Left control stick to move the camera on the X and Y axis.
  • Right control stick to change the camera's pitch.
  • R2 and L2 to change the camera's yaw.
  • Square to toggle player stats such as K/D/A/hacks/defends.
  • Circle to change camera back to default.
  • Triangle to toggle armour/shield/stamina bars above players and ammo for current weapon to the right of players, for example player has 64/80.
  • Holding X and pressing a d-pad button to save a camera location.
  • Pressing a d-pad button to skip to a saved camera location.
  • R1 and L1 to skip between (living) player points of view. Other possible ways to do this with these buttons.
  • Edit: Forgot to add a way to shift the Z axis. Maybe use R1 and L1 while holding x for this?

This is just some ideas, but I hope they find them useful. Broadcasting has become a key part to any competitive title and as someone who's interested in being involved with this in the future, I really want CCP to get this right.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Life Is Hard, Get Used To It

Life's a bitch.
Probably the most important thing a teacher ever told me while I was at school and something I've only come to realize the weight of recently. This cliché applies to almost anything, but in this case, I'll apply it to Dust 514 in particular. There's a few points I'll go into.

First of all, Dust will evolve over time in the same way that most multiplayer games that involve strategy at some level do. If you move into the most powerful playstyle there is in a game, the meta will shift one way or another. If something is too dominant and the game has active developer support, it will get patched to allow for competing strategies. It's almost a bad idea to invest so heavily into something too dominant because in all likelihood it will get nerfed before you can reap the rewards from the time invested into it.

To use a Dust example, the Caldari Logistics suit was straight up better at being an Assault suit that the Caldari Assault suit. Large amounts of people went straight into it with no real intention of playing a "logi" role. Considering that part of the fitting system in Dust is to allow this style of gameplay to a degree, that in itself isn't the issue. The fact that Logistics suit outperforms a dropsuit at it's named role is an issue however.

So they're nerfing the logistics suits and people are crying "woe is me". To be honest, I haven't played around much with Caldari suits beyond my recruiter militia assault, so all I can do is make a loose prediction. The new Caldari logi looks like it will do fine in a hybrid support/combat role. It will still have a large amount of high slots and the new bonuses still allow for an improved tanking capability, but it will be weaker than an assault counterpart for actual combat.

People are suggesting that we should start seeing respecs until CCP finishes balancing the game. But this won't work out in the long term and balance changes will almost always exist. That's not to say that having some form of respec system that allows players to make tweeks to their skills would be bad though. Merely that offering constant respecs until the game is "balanced" or "complete" makes the consequence of choosing your skills meaningless.

With that in mind, I'd like to go into my second point: what does Dust 514 teach it's players? Back in 2006, I read this article about what World of Warcraft was teaching it's players through it's game design. It could be said that Dust shares some of the flaws that article points out, but for now I'll look at some good things Dust teaches it's players.

The skill system teaches the importance of forward thinking. If you do some brief research before investing heavily into something, you are rewarded for doing so. It also teaches the consequences of making choices. If you choose to specialize heavily into something and that becomes weaker through some means, you have to deal with being weak until you . Someone who is more general with their skill tree has to face being weaker against a specialized player.

It isn't just the skill tree either. The social aspect of this game has a similar vibe. Do well in a public match? Maybe someone will want to invite you to their corp. Leave a corporation under poor circumstances? Get blacklisted by their alliance. Send someone an angry mail after a match?

Get put on some guy's blog!

I'd agree with CCP lessening this to a degree though (it is a game). EVE has the ability to remap your learning capabilities, so Dust players getting the ability to refund a skill every x months would help prevent people getting completely screwed. So long as choices continue to matter, then I'm fine with what CCP decide to do.

Last of all, don't throw money at a company based on what they say they "could do" unless you're willing to live with not getting any return on that investment. If Kickstarter has shown us anything over the past year, it's that companies will talk big, with few actually delivering on their set goals.

Money should be used to purchase goods and services, not hopes. People who spent money on Dust to "support CCP" and were then angry with what they got out of it are simply self entitled. You were given tangible benefits from you purchases. If they don't meet with your expectations, then you should simply not purchase said benefits again and move on with your life one way or another. If you can get a refund, then all the power to you.

You can sit around complaining and feeling sorry for yourself about this all you want, but you're only going to make yourself miserable and piss off those around you. If you want to do this, you're free to. Just don't expect people to think highly of you in return however. I'd advise that you instead take what you've learned from this experience and use it to your advantage in the future.

CCP aren't innocent in all this and have made numerous mistakes along the way. Incorrect skill descriptions, obvious balance issues, poorly handling the game's release (merc packs), a lack of communication with the playerbase (exceptions include True Grit) and a rushed feel to features.

But they've been slowly moving in the right direction more recently however. Only time will tell how this turns out, so I guess you could go outside and enjoy the sun in the meantime. There isn't much point doing something if it's just making you miserable, because life's a bitch and you should really just make the most of it.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Thoughts On 1.2 So Far

Been really busy over the past couple weeks so haven't had much of a chance to do anything except work. With the triple skill point week though, I've made an effort to try out the 1.2 patch with the time I do have to spare. There will possibly be another one after this going into more details, but here's some initial thoughts.

Framerate and Performance (tangent ahead)

Dust now runs at a solid 30 frames a second on the console side it seems. This is a huge improvement over previous implementations and the audio issue causing the problem has been fixed according to the CPM members I've talked to.

The downside to all this is the poor server side framerate/connectivity has been unmasked by this client side improvement. Before it wasn't as obvious because sometimes you weren't entirely sure if it was just your console lagging or the server, but now it's obvious that there is some game impacting problems. The thing is though, I don't think this is an issue that can actually be "solved". Dust matches are hosted on CCP servers and those have to be located somewhere on the planet. As long as people are playing together from different parts of the world, you'll have latency issues.

What this means in practice, is moving targets won't be exactly where the game tells you they are at times. With an issue like this, certain weapons and dropsuits benefit more than others. In Dust's case, area of effect weapons (mass drivers, flaylocks) remain at almost 100% power because they don't rely on direct hits. I'm hearing a lot of people having huge success with flaylocks right now (despite being nerfed in 1.2) and this is part of why. Automatic weapons such as the assault rifle and the submachine gun are still OK in this environment because they rely less on being 100% accurate and their natural spread of fire will allow shots to still hit their targets. The guns that really get hurt by this though are single fire weapons such as shotguns and pistols. Those rely on the enemy being exactly in the right place when you click to fire. I don't think I've died to a shotgun while I've been moving correctly to counter it since the update.

Anyway, that's enough of a tangent for one blog. Hopefully CCP can improve on this, but until the internet is powered by Quantum Entanglement Communicators, we'll just have to live with it.

Weapon Ranges and Falloff

This is one of the best changes to the game so far. Bullets now travel much further than they did pre-1.2 with a reduction in damage over distance. This changes the way many weapons operate as they are no longer limited to short range. The most notable cases seem to be the pistol and the submachine gun, which can actually be used effectively at range now.

The short end of the stick goes to the shotgun though. It only seems to be effective at short range against targets that aren't moving or are moving in a straight line. I used one for a few matches in 1.2, but it just doesn't have any range compared to the other options you get. Maybe scouts will still use this, but I can't see much of a reason to personally use one right now.


I wrote a blog a while back about this subject and I'm glad CCP didn't make any changes to LAVs yet. It's obvious at this point that something needs to be done, as their countermeasures seem to be struggling against the more expensive fits. Enough time has passed since their buff though, that CCP can gauge their relative power to everything else in the game and can start making adjustments based on that information.

Personally I'd like to see impact damage from running people over, more velocity required to kill people and Logistic LAVs made slower to differentiate them from their Scout counterparts.

The Rest

Nanite injectors work most of the time now and people are shifting back into using them again. Being able to move straight away after being injected is really nice too.

Strafe sprinting is way too fast, not exactly sure what happened there to result in such a change. It makes me wonder if we'll see someone called CCP Krieger pop up on the forums soon.

New female avatar walk animation is better than the old one.

The radar changing depending on your speed is really annoying. I didn't get a chance to see if I could turn that off yet. If not, then I'd really like to be able to.


Uprising 1.2 is a good step forward and I'm enjoying the game a lot more now because of it. It's far from perfect, but the core gameplay is in a better place and the new direction from CCP Shanghai leaves me with high hopes for the future.

In the mean time, here's some fun I had with a drop uplink spawn.