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Dust 514: meet the man who aims to take CCP’s shooter into a new age

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 10:32 GMT By Dave Cook

Dust 514 is a long-term project and CCP Games has just employed its new steward. VG247′s Dave Cook meets executive producer and veteran of the free-to-play scene Jean-Charles Gaudechon to talk about what happens next.

Jean-Charles Gaudechon knows the free-to-play space well. For starters, he was integral in both leading and launching Need for Speed World, Battlefield Heroes and Battlefield Play 4 Free during his decade-long tenure at EA. Today, he is executive producer at CCP Games, working along the DUST 514 team. Together he hopes they can help the PS3 shooter reach new heights and achieve the same long-tail success as its sister game Eve Online.

Eve Online is a hard act to follow however, even for its creator CCP. The MMO is famed for its moments of legendary emergent gameplay, forged by a dedicated fan base that have stuck with it for over ten years. We hear constantly that the key to holding a player-base is in delivering constant updates, but to explain the process in such basic terms is to do the craft of MMO-building a grave disservice. The online landscape remains a puzzle, but Gaudechon relishes the challenge.

Speaking with me over the phone, he shared some insight into his own work history, and how it will help DUST 514 weather the storm wrought by the fierce MMO pack. As part of extending his own knowledge of the free-to-play space, Gaudechon worked with EA in Singapore to help develop games like FIFA Online. It’s a territory that has seen mass uptake of free titles over the years, so it was something of a trial by fire. Once satisfied he returned to Vancouver to launch Need for Speed World, then relocated to Europe to assist DICE with its free launches.

“That was up to about two weeks ago,” Gaudechon explained, bringing his life story up to present day. “What made me join CCP Games was – for me – the opportunity to leave EA. I have only good things to say about EA but an opportunity to join a company like CCP and to take on a product like DUST 514, which capitalises on all the stuff that I’ve learned and done on these types of product, was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s a company I’ve always been extremely impressed by.”

When DUST 514 launched in May this year, it was met with mixed-to-average scores from critics. However, even the harshest of naysayers championed the game’s mass potential. Like Eve Online, the shooter has a solid enough foundation for the team at CCP Shanghai to build upon. It’s easy to forget that games like this – and of course, Eve Online – are iterative, organically evolving experiences that take time and resources to improve.

Gaudechon stressed that the emergence on free-to-play economies has been the most significant change in the MMO market across the last ten years, followed closely by the rise of triple-a experiences in the sector. On the second point, he told me that he very much sees DUST 514 at the forefront of MMO production quality. “This is also why I’m impressed with CCP,” he added, “to be the first ones pushing on something like that, which is very difficult.”

He stressed that the quality gap between sub-par $70 blockbuster games out there today and free triple-a experiences is getting smaller, then added, “I can tell you that when you see DUST as what it is today, and what it’s going to become, it’s probably going to close that gap.” This isn’t simply a case of developers trying to ape the big console titles out there, but the market now demands a better breed of free game. Simply pumping out weak, free experiences no longer cuts it in the market. It’s possible that many of those games are now doomed to fail from the start.

However, as we’ve seen in the console arena, triple-a budgets are inflating at an alarming rate. I asked Gaudechon if this is also true for the free space, and if it could see competition grow fierce over time. “Probably,” he replied, “but for the best reasons. That’s because at the end of the day you need to think about the quality of your product, no matter if you’re going for $70 or for free.”

He added, “When we look at DUST 514; when you look at the depth, the fiction and everything that game has to offer, it is an incredibly rich offering that is free to download. It’s free but it’s not a charity. But the whole point is that if you have a reason and a strong motivation for people to spend a buck, to make your experience better, nicer or X, Y, Z, then yes, we have a really strong model and a really strong product to offer. To me, that’s really important.”

This is where games like Eve Online and DUST 514 can run into potential trouble. They both open with harsh learning curves thanks to their open-ended, emergent nature. CCP has recently started hosting regular training sessions in Eve Online to ease newcomers into the fold, while the DUST 514 Uprising 1.5 update added new tutorials and greater accessibility into the mix. Guiding players in this manner can go a long way in capturing more potential spenders, and ultimately, keep the game afloat longer.

Beyond Uprising, Gaudechon hopes to further hone DUST 514′s opening hours to trim the fat and get players right into the visceral action as soon as possible. The meta-game that exists between the shooter and Eve Online is also not as apparent from the start as he’d like, so this will also be appraised moving forward. He explained, “The way I see it – and it’s one of the big battles for me across the next weeks, months and probably years – will be to add a whole new start of the game that gives you that first few hours, or even first two days to really kind of understand and get into that fiction, that deep experience.

“I could go on for hours abut the stuff I realise about the game, like an employment mechanic that makes you come back to your buddies to play together. That’s extremely important. I could go on but that start will remain a priority for us.” It’s refreshing to see someone run head-first into a new team with such a desire to bring abut positive change, although we both agreed that like Eve Online, the world of DUST 514 is emergent to the point that rolling updates cannot be planned as far in advance as they can in other MMOs. As ever, the community dictates content.

“To be honest I see that as a blessing,” Gaudechon stressed and added, “I see it as a tremendous asset more than a problem. On top of that, having to adjust or road-map at all is a blessing for that type of game. That’s why I’ve never seen a company like CCP bond as much with its community and they listen to their community. I’ve been here for five days and the word community has been mentioned more than any other word. If there’s one company that listens to what they want or tries to follow, it’s CCP.

“They push it even further, because it’s players writing their own stories, and [CCP is] offering all the tools for it, which is unbelievable and unique to any kind of online experience. This is what we’re striving towards for DUST too, so again, yeah that world and that universe and no matter how much it evolves organically or fast, I think it’s a blessing.”

It will be interesting to watch how DUST 514 evolves over time based on the habits of its player-base. It leaves a large question mark over the MMO’s future – and there’s still the question of whether or not its coming to PS4 – but it’s clear that such a transformation won’t happen over night. In Gaudechon however, it has a new steward, and we’ll keep an eye on how he helps progress DUST from this point.

Where do you think DUST 514 might go in years to come? Let us know what you think below.

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    Lego Dimensions is likely getting a few unannounced content packs. One of which is themed around Valve’s Portal. A set of unannounced content packs for the upcoming Lego Dimensions have been revealed by US retailer Walmart. The listings include packs for The Simpsons, Scooby Doo and Jurassic World, and most interestingly, Portal. The listings have […]

  • This is the most authentic recreation of GTA 2 in real life ever

    Affordable drones have many uses. Most of them are not nearly as exciting as recreating GTA 2 in real life. I am surprised it took us this long, but someone has finally captured footage using a drone that resembles the protagonist’s experience in the classic GTA 2. These aren’t just shots of cars from a […]

  • PlayStation 4 sales reach 2m in the UK

    Sony has sold 2 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the UK, faster than it did with the PlayStation 2 – the company’s best-selling machine in the country. MCVUK is reporting that as of last weekend, 2 million PlayStation 4s have been sold in the UK. The data is based on GfK Chart-Track estimates. This makes […]

  • H1Z1 gets female characters, skin colour options planned

    In an effort to improve diversity in the game, H1Z1 developer has added female characters. Female survivors can now be found throughout the world of H1Z1. Developer Daybreak added the new feature in a patch released last Friday. You will be able to choose a female avatar in the main game and in Battle Royale. […]

  • Possible teaser site for Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi’s new game opens

    Either Castlevania creator Koji “IGA” Igarashi is working on a soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter for his new game, or someone is pulling an elaborate prank. At PAX Prime last year, during Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9 panel, a flyer was handed out to attendees that showed what appeared to be a 2D game of some sort with […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for May 5: Heroic and Nightfall strikes detailed

    Tuesday is here and Destiny’s weekly reset is also here. Bungie announced that your weekly Destiny grind has now begun. The Nightfall and Heroic strikes are now live too. This week’s strike is Winter’s Run. Rainbow burn is back for the Nightfall, which means you do more damage with all elemental weapons, but also receive […]

  • PC version of Project Cars delayed in Australia due to severe weather

    Recent weather conditions in Sydney, Australia are responsible for a slight delay of the PC version of Project Cars in the country. Sydney recently suffered from storms that caused flooding in some areas. One of those is the place where publisher Namco Bandai was storing PC copies of Project Cars. The stock was “severely damaged,” […]

  • Twitch’s new process makes it easier for streamers to appeal flagged content

    Twitch has updated its appeals process concerning videos that have been flagged by the audio ID system. Towards the end of last year, Twitch introduced a new audio recognition system that scans archived streams and automatically mutes the audio whenever copyright music is identified. The system has been in-use ever since and Twitch has today […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a day one patch, but it’s not a major one

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will indeed have a day one patch, to make the first-time experience as smooth as possible. Like many modern games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will have its day one patch. According to the developer however, it wasn’t born out of necessity. Miles Tost, level designer at developer CD Projekt […]

  • CoD: Advanced Warfare owners get free pistol today

    Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games is adding a new pistol to the game, free to all players. The M1 Irons is a new pistol that comes to Advanced Warfare starting today. The weapon is offered as a thank you gift from the developer. Sledgehammer says the Irons is good at range and packs a punch. […]

  • Fall down the Skullgirls Big Band music video rabbit hole with me

    Skullgirls is a pretty amazing fighting game, but did you know it’s also a passable music creation suite? Earlier today I was idly perusing an episode of PlayStation Underground showing off Skullgirls 2nd Encore, a re-release of the indie fighter packing in loads of new features and coming to PS4 – with full cross-play! – […]

  • The many uses of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood’s pipe weapon

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood adds a sick new weapon to BJ’s arsenal: a pipe. In Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a pipe is not just a pipe. Not only can you bash nazis with it, you can use it to climb walls, reach hatches, and even break through some walls. Plus? You can dual wield it. […]

  • Mortal Kombat X teaser gives first look at Predator

    Mortal Kombat X’s next celebrity guest was teased during the latest Kast. Today’s Mortal Kombat X Kast was mostly about all about Jason, but also included a very brief nod to Predator. You can watch the full livestream to see the tease in situ if you’re really keen, but IGN shared this convenient edit: There’s […]

  • Rock Band 4 has count-ins, drum fills and vocal harmonies

    Rock Band 4 will more closely emulate the feeling of being a real musician with some neat personalisation touches. For Rock Band 4, Harmonix elected to double down on player ownership of their experience rather than technical precision. To this end, it has implemented a number of cool new features. I am wildly envious of […]

  • Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, Lost Planet 3 developer shuttered

    Spark Unlimited has gone down with all hands. The Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Lost Planet 3 developer has been shuttered and all staff laid off. Chief technical officer John Butrovich confirmed the news in a statement issued to IGN. “Spark Unlimited is closing as a video game developer. The ongoing opportunities for smaller mobile […]

  • PS Now subscription available on PlayStation 3 this month, Vita coming soon

    PlayStation Now’s all you can eat service has finally been dated for PS3. Subscriptions to PS Now, Sony’s cloud-based gaming service, will be available on PS3 from May 12 in the US. The all you can eat package will also be made available on select Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players on the same date. […]

  • GTA 5 is even better with a gravity gun

    GTA 5 modders have made a dream come true, adding a gravity gun to your arsenal of mayhem-causing weaponry. GTA 5 isn’t ready for this. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun, but the poor old Los Santos po po can’t deal with the resulting carnage at all. If Rockstar were ever […]

  • “Mod makers should be able to make money from their creations,” says DOOM creator

    DOOM co-creator John Romero has weighed in on the paid mods debate. Paid mods are a hot issue right now. For years, Valve has been enabling content creators to make money from their work on Counter-strike: Global offensive, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2, but when it partnered with Bethesda to offer the same for […]

  • Watch WRC driver Kevin Abbring smash through a DIRT Rally challenge

    WRC driver Kevin Abbring has been participating in Dirt Rally’s daily events – and kicking ass. Dirt Rally seems to have ticked one of the most difficult to attain boxes of racing development – creating something professional drivers like to play, and which rewards their years of experience. Codemasters published the video below showing Hyundai […]

  • Mortal Kombat X patch to bring PC version up to console standard

    Mortal Kombat X PC will be fixed tomorrow, NetherRealm has promised. The PC version of Mortal Kombat X has come under fire for poor performance, including stuttering frame rate and bugs as plenty. About 45 minutes into a recent Twitch stream, NetherRealm boss Ed Boon said an update will drop tomorrow to address many of […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: all new Crucible maps detailed

    Destiny’s House of Wolves DLC will add four new maps to the Crucible, the game’s competitive multiplayer mode. Let’s take a look at all of them. Alex brings you new footage showing all of the four maps that will drop with House of Wolves. He goes over the layout, landmarks, gameplay styles, and other important […]

  • Custom Xbox One Star Wars controllers look very tempting

    Microsoft is celebrating May 4 by showing off concept designs for Star Wars-themed Xbox One controllers. May 4 is of course Star Wars Day and the controller concepts you’re about to see are just that, concepts. Or at least that’s what they said they are. There are four designs and they don’t look very practical. […]

  • Project Cars launch trailer is an anthology of race cars, set to the beats of Deadmau5

    Project Cars comes out this week and there’s just enough time for one last trailer. Project Cars, Slightly Mad Studios’ ambitious racer that has been in development for ages, is finally coming out this week. The racer received plenty of changes throughout its development based on community feedback and the final product will be in […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront dev reveals planet Sullust

    Sullust, a planet that has not been previously shown, will be featured in one of Star Wars Battlefront’s maps. Star Wars Battlefront developer DICE revealed today that planet Sullust will be one of the game’s locations. The planet was mentioned in the films and other Star Wars works, but was only shown today. DICE posted […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: Tower vendor changes

    House of Wolves will change the inventory of some of Destiny’s vendors and add new roles to others. Here’s everything that has been announced so far. You know that House of Wolves will bring a new social space to the game in the form of The Reef. But did you also know that the good […]

  • Nintendo apologises for Amiibo shortages, will reissue some out-of-stock figures

    Nintendo released a statement today to apologise for fan’s frustrations in finding some Amiibo figures and promised to handle distribution better going forward. Nintendo has been criticised recently for its lack of communication when it comes to new Amiibo figures. Something which has lead fans to not know if certain figures are limited to some […]