THE DUST QUESTION
The greatest challenge CCP faces today is simple: how do we make people care about DUST? Unfortunately, CCP doesn't seem to know the answer and doesn't seem to be willing to experiment. Uprising has come and gone, promising a great revitalization of the game. Instead, it delivered numerous issues, removed functionality (anyone else missing corp battles?), and added a few "more of the same" weapons and vehicles that see either little use or little impact. Ah, but they introduced the start of a metagame to DUST! Surely that keeps the game interesting and exciting, right? Wrong. Within a month, DUST returned to the horribly familiar boring grind that existed in the latter half of Chromosome. DUST needs some help if it's going to support healthy growth and an interested community.
It's time to wake up, CCP. Stop daydreaming. Planetary Conquest in its current form has failed. Corporations and alliances are abandoning their districts, leaving them to be snatched by whoever is left. Imperfects have exited, and my own corporation is following suit. Planetary Conquest simply doesn't provide the reason for a metagame that the dedicated groups crave.
There's certainly no DUST-ISK benefit. It costs 80 million DUST-ISK to purchase a clone pack for one attack, if you don't hold a district to supply you with clones. Speaking from a Goonfeet perspective, if we were not attacked on any of our three districts and free to just generate clones for DUST-ISK, we'd make about 24 million DUST-ISK a day. In order to finance one attack, we'd have to sit back and not be attacked for four days straight. To put it another way, three districts generating income cannot support defending a single district every other day by clone costs alone. Introducing the costs of the equipment and vehicles that are fielded in PC only makes it worse.
There's no enjoyment benefit either. Or rather, not much of one. Other than potentially fighting a competent and well-equipped team, a Planetary Conquest battle looks and feels like a public skirmish game. A stacked skirmish game with a coordinated team, but a skirmish game nonetheless. You go through the exact same motions and do the exact same thing. The only difference is that your teammates will be a lot more competent. It's nice, but with six-man squads, you can already get almost the same result in public battles.
As for awoxing, the novelty's worn off. Though Grief University set the DUST PC community ablaze, the fire's calmed down. Awoxing was adopted by other groups and used until the novelty wore off. Major groups aren't invested in their districts nearly enough to guarantee they'll fight during an awox, and CCP's band-aid solution to PC team administration killed all but the most dedicated awoxing attempts.
If Planetary Conquest is unable to pull in players and make them invested in the game they play, what is? To be honest, not much. Faction Warfare, though improved in Uprising with the astounding ability to choose your own team, is still insufficiently differentiated from public matches. A DUST player can't receive and use EVE-ISK or LP. They can't turn a system by themselves. The FW match itself is, like PC, just another skirmish match. Beyond FW and PC, DUST players have generic matchmaking battles in four similar game modes.
DUST is a rather generic FPS with several grating flaws, developed by a studio with what appears to be little experience or willingness to take risks. It has no real reason for players to continue playing, nothing that makes the game important or gets players invested other than promises of a rosy red future. Everything is "far off" or "in our plans." EVE survived, no, thrived in this mindset because it had a niche. In EVE, you can do almost whatever you want with your space ship. The EVE metagame puts most MMOs to shame, and the emergent gameplay encouraged by CCP would get players banned if attempted within the worlds of their competitors. EVE can afford to wait. DUST is not EVE. DUST cannot wait. CCP, break something now. Experiment. Make it matter, or watch as it fades away like dust in the wind.