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Eve Developers, Player Reps Meet, Issue Statements, No Monocles Harmed

CCP released a video of two very tired people who work and/or play on Internet Spaceships…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kat_uoAvnk

…along with two statements from them which were somewhat interesting.

CCP Zulu (aka Arnar Hrafn Gylfason, Eve’s senior producer)

The investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time. The CSM, under NDA, has been presented with CCP‘s plans for continued evolution of the business model and agrees that nothing they saw breaks this principle. CCP has committed to sharing their plans with the CSM on this front on an ongoing basis.

The Mittani (aka Alexander Gianturco, Eve’s senior politician)

We believe that the situation that has unfolded in the past week has been a perfect storm of CCP communication failures, poor planning and sheer bad luck.  Most of these issues, when dealt with in isolation, were reasonably simple to discuss and resolve, but combined they transformed a series of errors into the most significant crisis the EVE community has yet experienced.

Now it’s up to the players to determine if they quit shooting their lasers at statues and resume shooting them at one another.

  • gx1080

    And the balance in The Force was restored.

    Most people will come back. Some won’t. Whatever.

    Glad for EVE players, I guess.

  • Belsameth

    Mittani is a lot younger then I thought 🙂

  • dartwick

    Basically CCP backed down – while at the same time tricking the CSMs into believing they werent serious.

    Both side are revising history and not talking about the internal email from the CEO that said “respond to what players do not what they say.”

  • Actually Mittani’s statement mentioned that email specifically.

  • Dave

    I would find the statement more convincing if they had admitted to having planned on game-affecting micro-transactions, but had realized from player reactions that it would be a mistake.

    There is too much evidence in that direction for me to buy a claim of pure miscommunications.

  • gx1080

    Sigh. CCP isn’t some monolithic entity.

    Were game-affecting transactions suggested by some workers? Of course. There’s a difference betweens plans of the company as a whole and one idea thrown around and then shot-down for being stupid.

    And I see a lot of petty nit-picking on the threadnought and here. What you people want, pinkie promises?

    • Dave

      Two sequences of events.

      Rumor Mill: “Hey, Sony is buying CCP!”
      CCP (within hours): “Completely untrue.”

      CCP (2010): We will never do game-affecting microtransactions.
      CCP (Internal Newsletter, 2011): Game-affecting microtransactions are great!
      Players: Emo! Rage! CCP, tell us this isn’t true. Tell us you aren’t going to do this
      CCP: (Crickets)
      CCP (One Week Later): We aren’t going to do game-breaking microtransactions. We will talk to the CSM about “grey areas”. We were never going to do game-breaking microtransactions! Really! These aren’t the microtransactions you’re looking for!

      Bluntly, if the CCP policy still had the bright line it had in 2010, there was *no* reason to not simply reiterate the policy instantly (as happened in the case of the Sony rumor). Ergo, there was a change in internal policy intentions.

  • dartwick

    I read the announcement I didnt watch the whole video.

    Theres something a bit sickening about it really.

    CCP Zulu looks sick himself about the whole things and Mittani is basking in self importance while being very polite.

    The whole thing is warped. From a meta perspective it makes the players appear to be self important cads over impressed with their video game power who fell for a story because CCP acted like they were important.

    Everyone looks bad.

    • Vetarnias

      At least Zulu knows he must confront the cold reality that he has bosses he is answerable to.  Mittani, whose philosophical justification is on the level of “the customer is always right”, doesn’t care a fleeping buck about any of it; he knows that if he doesn’t like what he hears from CCP, he can just quit (and convince I don’t know how many Goons to follow him). But he does like the publicity, and the power rush he gets from rubbing elbows with CCP staff in Iceland.

      Also, whom does Mittani represent in this video? The CSM? Goons? Players in general? Sorry, but if it’s the last one, there is plenty of material out there to demonstrate that his sole interest is to himself and to Goons; he does not represent players, especially not those who toil away in empire space.  

      That reminds me of some of the comments in that other thread, as players seem to be more willing to delude themselves into thinking that there is a social contract in EVE.  Not in the actual EVE universe, which is pretty much all that Hobbes used to warn against in the first place, but between CCP and players.  Sorry to break it to you, EVE players: No, CCP has no “social contract” with you.  They are a business, whose sole reason for existence is profit. I’m sure that if you read through the EVE EULA (or whatever they call it), it will do as every other MMO EULA and state explicitly that it offers a service whose terms can be changed at any moment without justification.  As far as “social contracts” go, it’s close to banana-republic level.  The sole obligation on CCP’s part is to provide this service once it has billed you; your sole decision is whether to take it or leave it. You don’t have to do business with CCP if you don’t want to, even though that means no blowing up of spaceships.

      But go ahead, keep on claiming that a “social contract” exists between you and CCP; it’s always good for a laugh. Think about it: even *Goons* have been conned by this notion, if Mittani is to be believed.  Attaboy, CCP.

      • JuJutsu

        True but irrelevant. There is no enforceable ‘social contract’ between company and customer. But if customers believe that there is it can be beneficial to the company; even accountants recognize the value of such an intangible asset http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodwill_(accounting) . If customers believe that such a ‘social contract’ has been violated bad things can happen.

  • Sinij

    >>>The investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time.

    This is weasel speak, this DOES NOT say that CCP will only sell cosmetic items.

    • JuJutsu

      “It is CCP‘s plan that the Noble Exchange (NeX store) will be used for the sale of vanity items only. There are no plans, and have been no plans, as per previous communication and CSM meetings, to introduce the sale of game breaking items or enhancements in the NeX store.”

      You didn’t actually read the blurb they released did you?

  • Brask

    *sigh*

    This should be an example of a company going to impressive lengths to understand and react to their usersbase.  But no, the internet refuses to accept any face saving measures!  We want blood!

  • Sinij

    I did, please highlight the part where they say “vanity only”.

    “Game breaking”, “unfair advantage” are all judgment calls. Selling someone mods/ships that could be aquired through in-game means is not exactly unfair advantage or game breaking, such items are already exist in the game.

    • JuJutsu

      “It is CCP‘s plan that the Noble Exchange (NeX store) will be used for the sale of vanity items only.”
      Jeebus, it’s in my reply. What part of “…the sale of vanity items only.” do you not understand?

  • gx1080

    Sinij:

    “We are convinced that CCP has no plans to introduce any game-affecting
    virtual goods, only pure vanity items such as clothing and ship skins.”

    Is on the CSM statements, under the statements of the producer. Try reading before nerdraging for a change.

  • Aufero

    I thought this covered why they haven’t said “never” about non-vanity item sales pretty well:
    http://treborofthecsm.blogspot.com/2011/07/potter-stuart-and-purchase-of-insurance.html

    How they managed to turn the launch of a bunch of new features into an utter customer relations fiasco is another story.

  • John Smith

    Too bad no community appeasement or funny video is legally binding, and you will soon enough find things that you feel are inappropriate or game breaking coming to a cash shop near you. The mob is appeased with the death of the gladiator,  but nothing has really changed. They developed a system for a cash shop, they put time and money into. They are going to use it whether you like it or not. It might not be put in today, it might not be put in tomorrow, but it will be implemented and people will use it. This is the problem with opening the door to cash shops. You can not stop them once you allow them in any shape or form. From account services spawn vanity items, from vanity items spawn items that give an advantage. It is only a matter of time.

  • Brask

    Why not then quit when that line *is* crossed?

    I mean, by that logic, any change at all to the game shows that you may one day get a cash shop.  Cause it is only through patches that a cash shop could be added!  If we stopped all patches, we’d stop the inevitable slide into cash shops!

    One day the developers will abandon you and betray your principles.  But this is not the day!

    • John Smith

      arguing the absurd does not make you right. If I pay for a box and a subscription game, I expect access to all content, one way or the other. People seem to forget that f2p and p2p and suppose to be diametrically opposed. Cash shops have no business in a game you pay a box fee or monthly fee for. But people pay it anyways because hey. It’s just 1 dollar man. Then it became, hey, it’s just 5 dollars, then 10, then 20, and now we are paying 60 for monocles and god knows what else they have in the works. The fact is, it doesnt matter if we all boycott and quit and only 1 person pays a 100 dollars for a pixel advantage. Once the system is in place, that 100 dollars represents 100% profit. No distribution costs. No taxes. No inventory or warehousing fees. No production fees. Cash shops literally print money, it’s bloody ridiculous that both the players and the government have allowed them to exist in any way, shape, or form. It’s every businesses wetdream to have this kind of cash flow model. They are literally making “goods” from thin air.

  • Little surprise that CCP is backpedaling, but restoration of player confidence is usually pretty tricky.  EVE Online does have an advantage of being the only game in town.  (Perpetuum Online is a somewhat weak imitation.)

    If I’m reading this right, CCP is claiming it was just a miscommunication, the pointy-haired-boss at work.  Me, I think they were communicating just fine, but the folk who were empowered to call the shots saw a lot of money dangling out there and decided to ignore the naysayers. Because that’s the one thing pointy-haired folk know how to do consistently enough to get promoted.

    Either way, this rigamarole was somebody not knowing where the line was painted and finding it, big time.

  • Brask

    You do realize a “Social Contract” doesn’t belong in the EULA?  That would be a legal contract.

    A social contract between the players and the company does and can exist without any form of legal paperwork. Indeed, existence of legal paperwork is often seen as evidence that there *isn’t* a social contract.

    Because, unlike the hapless citizens of a banana republic, the players of Eve have a quite strong and viable method of exercising their displeasure.

  • gx1080

    Vetarnias, Mitanni represents those who voted from him, and I don’t think that there’s that many Goons (defined as people with a Something Awful account who play EVE Online and belong to Goonswarm) anyways, given that there’s several other powers of equal size in Null Sec space alone.

    About social contracts, the definition of what is acceptable RMT and what isn’t from the point of view of the playerbase isn’t defined on the EULA. So yeah.

  • Brask

    1) I did not raise the banana republic spectre.
    2) It is not 100% profit.  Monocles only have value if the rest of the game exists, along with a social structure in the game which makes it worthwhile for players to own said monocles.  I could build a cash shop and sell monocles at $60 each, but I won’t have a license to print money.  Because no one would care.  The monocle sales can only occur so long as they keep the servers up.  So long as they keep the game interesting for the player base.

    It is a strange argument that somehow monthly subs should prohibit cash shops, as if the two are forms of antimatter.  Have you ever been to a baseball game?  Does the price of the ticket include the food and beer at the confectionery?  Do the prices of those hot dogs properly reflect the cost of materials that goes into them?  Do movie theaters provide free popcorn?  I strongly suspect the cost of the popcorn at a movie theater is pretty darn near zero.

    But look, someone else has already done some research on this issue for me!

    http://www.physorg.com/news122917253.html

    TL;DR: cash shops act as a subsidization for the core experience, allowing those who stick to the monthly fee to get more money for their dollar.  A successful cash shop can thus transition into a cheaper monthly fee (down to f2p) or instead into higher quality experience (ie, you get a $20/month exp for only $10/month)

    • rage

       Except they don’t. You are telling me that the 20 dollar pets in aion are subsidizing the game’s production? Production that was already done over seas and is being translated by the cheapest third party ncsoft can find? What complete and utter nonsense. You are telling me that world of war craft, generating millions of dollars in profits, needs to be subsidized further in order for them to product additional content even though their own quarterly reports and internal documents show them having a planned scedual for content updates that stretch out for a decade? It’s pure profit. Reskinning items and giving them new abilities are things I use to do in 5 minutes for sphere servers for uo when I was a kid. Change a flag here, change an id there… It takes zero effort, zero skill. A monkey could quite literally do it.

      You people are embracing a path that is going to ruin everything. I heard microsoft was planning on integrating their gaming platform into their next os. We could potentially be looking at a monthly fee for our god damn operating systems. This kind of thinking can not be tolerated at any level. Is getting what you pay for such a horrible thing? Why do we encourage this nonsense?

  • Personally, I’m in favor of cash shops, but as an alternative to subscriptions, not a supplementation of them.

    The problem as I see it is that, if you’re paying a monthly subscription for a game, you’re being gouged for $15/mo (or whatever) regardless of how much you play it.  If you get distracted by things and don’t play it at all for that month?  You’re still charged $15.  You’d be surprised how many people are charged because they’re too lazy to cancel. Furthermore, you’ll feel obligated to play it because you’re currently subscribed to it, which leads to less overall gameplay diversity you can make time for.   Bottom line: In a subscription-based model, the developer’s goal is to force you to stick around for as long as possible.

    A cash shop, on the other hand, is a purchase that requires two things.  First, that you’re actually interested enough in the game to play it.  Second, that you’re not only playing it but interested enough to buy things that extend or supplement that play.  If you decide to stop playing the game, you don’t have to do anything, you keep everything you’ve bought and can just stop playing it, ready to pick it up again whenever you want.  Bottom line: In a cash-shop based model, the developer’s goal is to make the game fun enough that you’re willing to play it and buy cash shop supplements for it.

    It’s not exactly rocket science to tell which you’d rather the developers be incentivized to make: a game that drags you around by the nose for months, or a game that is fun enough that you want to keep playing it.  Besides, when you’re paying$15/mo, you’re actually paying $180 a year (although many MMOs give reduced rates for longer subscription periods). Why would you think paying $50 in a cash shop, once, is worse? If you’re a developer, would you rather have $50 once from 1M players brought in under a no-obligation model, or a $180 average (if we assume the average player was willing to play a year) from the 100k players who were willing to obligate themselves to a monthly subscription? Cash shops are in everybody’s best interests… unless the developers screw up the implementation. For example:

    1. Don’t charge the player a subscription and then, on top of that, charge them for vital and regularly used services via the cash shop.  A player who is paying $15/mo figures you’re obligated to give them adequate recompense for that monthly subscription. You can get away with a wholly cosmetic item, like a sparkly mount, but when you’re charging $25 for character transfers and moving people’s characters around in server merges without their permission, that’s being a dick and they all know it. 

    2. Don’t charge for major in-game advantages.  A temporary experience bonus is okay because, due to the differing amount of time players have to play, that play field isn’t going to be balanced anyway.  However, a monocle that grants you a stacking bonus you can’t get anywhere else, that’s putting the dollar ahead of the sanctity of the game play, and not a whole lot of players are going to stand for it. You can’t make the best game-impacting items something available only via the cash shop (e.g. fastest mount, hardest-hitting weapon, permanent combat buffs you can’t get any other way) without the players feeling the whole play experience is cheapened.

    Trouble is, it’s a very fine line.  Pointy-haired bosses won’t be able to see it.  They’ll ignore game developers who tell them otherwise because they can’t believe there’s such a thing as “sanctity of the game play.”  They end up killing or severely injuring the goose that lays the golden eggs.  That’s what CCP has done to EVE Online here.

    You know, I think CCP could make a mint if they went F2P with cash shop.  Why?  Because you can already purchase credits for other players.  (PLEX, as they call it.)  Now, imagine all those little armchair corporate types out there responding to a massive influx of 10X the players they’d get in a P2P system.  They’re going to want to exercise control over them.  How are they going to do it?  By buying plex left and right. Even better, make it so that, instead of $15/mo to advance all the characters on an account, it’s a flat charge of ISK to have that character’s skill points to increase per month. Not only will there suddenly be a big reason to buy PLEX, but you’ll have a nice ISK sink (lord knows they need one) and the players will only be charged for as many characters as they’re actually using. It’ll also make multiboxing easier, and personally I think EVE Online is a game that needs to be multiboxed to be remotely interesting to play (not to mention it’ll even the playing field versus all the players that already do).

    • Zardoz

      ” you don’t have to do anything, you keep everything you’ve bought and
      can just stop playing it, ready to pick it up again whenever you want. ”
      But that is completely wrong. Cash shop games function in the same way as subscription games. Those supplimental items are offered in 1 5 15 30 60 90 day varients, often at the same price or more than their subscription counter part, and typically you need more than 1 time limited item to fully access the content. The reason f2p games are popular with the developers are that they make more money than subscription games. People may say they are playing f2p as a free game, but then they go and buy cash shop items from another player who is subsidizing their subscription. 10 people may pay nothing but there is an 11th guy out there typically paying their subs. This is not only unheard of but outright illegal in p2p games, with their hypocritical stance on real money transactions. pay 2 play will always be the better deal for players, no matter what kind of ingame decay is introduced.

    • Sinij

      In a cash-shop based model, the developer’s goal is to make initial game
      fun enough that you play just long enough to feel invested and rest of the game so agonizing that you have no choice but to buy cash shop supplements
      for it.

      • Whatev

        I heard Zynga has solved what economists refer to as the “expenditure minimization” problem here.

  • Vetarnias

    @Geldonyetich

    I think you’re being a bit harsh on the subscription model.  Yeah, the appeal of that model, to a publisher, is to put in every incentive to keep you subscribed, whether you play the game or not; but beyond this, I guess it would depend on the particulars of the game design itself. I know World of Warcraft gets cited all the time, but I don’t think it’s a particularly bad offender here, apart from that whole treadmill/addiction thing, on which it is guilty as charged; no, I’m looking for a real culprit, one where gear/item/property decay is involved, forcing you to log in on a regular basis.

    The closest I can think of is Wurm Online, though I only played it on the so-called “unlimited trial server” (on which skills are capped and where decay is 3x what it is on the subscription servers).  Pretty much everything decays there: tools, inventory items, walls, fences, food, boats. You even have to harvest your crops every day, or they rot away.  It was so bad that I even saw some established players offering to subsidize the fee of players wanting to try the subscription servers in exchange for acting as little more than indentured servants.  

    The real problem with subscription is probably that pricing hasn’t changed since 1997, while game budgets soared.  Unfortunately, since the standard of living hasn’t exactly been mirroring game budgets, you wouldn’t find many takers if you started charging $20 a month or more.

    Hence the appeal of “free to play”. You’re not forcing anyone to pay anything, but you sure expect the average for all your players to be well upwards of $15/month.  I agree with you that it’s all about correctly implementing it, but there are no safeguards for players that the game won’t turn into “pay to win” at some point.  Asian games are notorious for screwing over their players with game-breaking cash shop items. You just have to fetch my review of Uncharted Waters Online for an example; in that case, just one such item did away with six months of natural in-game development, and the shop grew to the point where it encouraged you to spend hundreds of dollars. When it ceased to be subtle about it, the veterans left.  

    You say you don’t mind introducing cash shop items under a subscription plan, provided they do not affect the game balance; I object to even that.  I’m paying the subscription, I’m expecting to get access to everything in the game, and what’s more, I am expecting that everything in the game will be obtained as a result of in-game actions.  I don’t really care for the EVE monocle being offered for $70, even if you can buy it with a certain amount of ISK; it cheapens it as a prestige item if you can just buy it in the item shop.

    As far as EVE is concerned, I don’t think multiboxing ought to be made easier; it’s the kind of in-game behaviour that should be eradicated. But then, I know it’s a battle I couldn’t win, so I just wash my hands of EVE and its players.

  • Brask

    The $20 pets are probably still paying off Tabula Resa.