Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Pebble

Something that Goonswarm is insanely good at is messaging and propoganda.

Given the events of the past 48 hours, perhaps CCP should hire more former Goonies.  ;-)

One of my favorite Goonswarm propaganda posters is the one at left, which is an EVE Online retelling of the old "for the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost" story.  It's simple, elegant, and beautiful.  Every culture on earth has their "pebble that started the avalanche" analogy, and many cultures have more than one.

The Fearless newsletter is just such a pebble.

For the three or four of you not keeping track, about 48 hours ago as I write this, EVEnews24 posted an article that included an excerpt from what they claimed was a CCP internal newsletter that they had received about a month ago.  The excerpt was titled "Fearless" and subtitled: "Greed is Good, the Gordon Gecko issue."  EN24 spun the excerpt (you can download it here) as an official CCP position paper on micro-transactions on their three MMO properties, EVE, DUST 514, and World of Darkness.  It includes one page each on these three properties, detailing what were purported to be future plans for MT in each of those spaces.  It includes a second page for EVE detailing "pro" and "con" positions for greatly expanding the role of MT in EVE from "vanity items only" to "everything!  why not?"

A thread was created on the EVE-O forums pointing to the article and attributing all the most incendiary quotes to "EVE Lead Game Designer."  In particular, one quote was included that was particularly incendiary:
"Not all virtual purchases will focus on customization, some will simply be new items, ammunition, ships, etc. that can be purchased outright."
Given that the "official" CCP position for some time has been "MT for vanity items only", this -- if confirmed -- would represent a 180 degree shift from that position.  Further, it would seem to present evidence to the effect that CCP had been lying to the CSM and to EVE players on their future MT strategy for nearly a year.  The thread -- and corresponding threads on FHC and Kugu -- turned into rivers of flame insisting that the excerpt was a well-crafted hoax.

Except that it wasn't.  Seleene and other current and former CSM members came out to confirm that the format and title of the excerpt matched the style and length of the CCP internal company newsletter.  CCP soon sheepishly confirmed that the excerpt was the real deal.  The leaker was revealed as Helicity Boson, well-known and -respected EVE player.  He soon released the full issue of the company newsletter.

The thread on the EVE-O forums quickly grew to more than 2500 posts of player rage, and did it in less than 48 hours, making this thread one of the longest in EVE-O forum history.

In my job, I have had the opportunity to read dozens -- if not hundreds -- of internal company newsletters.  I spend a lot of time on the sites of other companies, and I can tell you, these things are not treated as particularly protected information.  You find them strewn around in cafeterias, break rooms, conference rooms, and in racks on secretary's desks and in hallways.  There are two types of internal company newsletters: official ones, that have the sanction of the company's senior management and are created by the management's staff, and unofficial ones, that are tolerated but otherwise ignored by senior management and created by the company's internal communication department to communicate and comment on company policy.

Know how you can tell the difference between these two types of newsletters?
  1. The official ones have a "quarterly message" or the like from the sponsor executive on page two of the newsletter (the unofficial ones don't).
  2. The unofficial ones are actually interesting (the official ones aren't).
Make no mistake: Fearless is a pebble.  It might start an avalanche, but it's still a pebble.  Here's the editor's LinkedIn profile.  She's been working at CCP for about three years.  Check out what isn't on her resume for her current job: leadership of a team.  She's done it in the past, so wouldn't have hesitated to list that responsibility again.  Which means she's not only editor of this newsletter, but chief writer and chief bottle-washer as well.  A company newsletter that jokes when profiling a half-dozen employees that these are "CCPers with nearly spotless prison records" hasn't exactly been run by the company executives or the legal department, know what I'm saying?  ;-)

Which means that this newsletter is articles begged from an editor, who went to people in the company, who in turn wrote about what they hope is happening and what they think is happening, not what is really happening or is planned to happen.

Again, I've seen dozens and dozens of unofficial company newsletters.  This one is only different in that it's a little more speculative and open than most, but I can assure you, having seen as many of these as I have, there isn't a company in the world that would want one of theirs published in the outside world.  Example: I have on my office credenza, right now, a company newsletter from a multi-national, but now bankrupt, trucking company.  The cover story is a serio-comic look at how to reduce driver accidents.  I say "comic" because the article is laced with extremely amusing stories of trucks that got away from their drivers, often with serious injury-producing results.  To call the newsletter "potentially embarrassing" had it ever gone public is understating the case by a great deal.  Needless to say, that newsletter was of the "unofficial" variety.

And Fearless isn't even documenting funny stories about how people were seriously injured by out-of-control big-rigs.  It's just detailing not-strategy for a video game, from a bunch of people who were in little or no position to say what the official strategy is.

So, 86 pages of fallout later, CCP tried putting out an official post on the EVE-O forums asking for calm.  That thread now has more than 5000 posts of player rage, and it did that in less than 24 hours.  It is the longest in EVE-O forum history.  For reference, the :18months: rage thread was fewer than 2000 posts total over about six weeks.

This is in the thread asking for calm, and asking for people to -- you know -- maybe put down their torches and pitchforks for a minute.  ;-)

Every bit of player rage about Incarna, :$99:, monocles, and Scorpions for Aurum is coming out, all at once.  Hundreds of people are unsubscribing EVE over this.  Unfortunately, the writer -- CCP Pann -- made the mistake of saying the following:
As I see it, the chief complaint is regarding the high cost of goods in the Nobel Market.
...which unfortunately kind of proves that CCP really doesn't get where the rage is coming from or why.

And yet, none of what's in the newsletter has actually happened, and none of it is in any sort of official future plan for EVE Online.

Fearless is a pebble.  But it's a pebble made of freakin' anti-matter, tossed down the mountain at exactly the wrong moment for CCP.

So... yeah.  CCP really has to work on their communications a little.  Ironic that this communications issue was caused by communications.


By the way, here's some of the fallout from this and responses to it:
Tippia has posted a fantastic analysis of the overall situation.  It's long and technical and brutally complicated and still worth every minute of your time:
     http://eve.beyondreality.se/NeXCQResponse.html
Helicity Boson (the runner of Hulkageddon) was banned from EVE.  CCP claims it wasn't because of the leak, but because he threatened one of their employees:
     http://pastebin.com/NtRB9bin
Liang Nuren, a noted CCP white knight, was also banned from EVE.  Only reason given that I've seen is because he posted a "Free Helicity Boson" poster where CCP could see it:
     http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1536859
John Turbefield, who wrote the "Microtransactions in EVE are bad, mkay?" position in the Greed is Good newsletter has himself a pointless but fun hero worship thread on the EVE-O forums:
     http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1534841
Meissa, easily the quietest of the CSM members, breaks his silence in a big big way with a long, really good post:
     http://meissaanunthiel.blogspot.com/2011/06/recent-ccp-fuck-ups.html
Seleene put up a much shorter post:
     http://seleenes-sandbox.blogspot.com/2011/06/good-morning-ccp.html
Tobiaz is asking everyone unsubscribes from EVE over this issue to make themselves known, and he'll track you.  As of this writing, the number is -421 subscriptions from 179 people:
     http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1536495
The Mittani has posted in the threadnaught, but unfortunately, his post is both inaccurate (CCP Soundwave isn't "EVE Lead Game Designer", but he's hardly "just some mook" either) and half-hearted at best:
     http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1536065&page=176#5252
CCP Fallout gets testy.  Can't imagine why:
     http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1536956&page=1#10
CCP Fallout expands on her testy post:
     http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1536956&page=2#56

As I write this, CCP has promised an official response in an hour or less.  Should be fun reading.

EDIT (24/Jun/2011): The official response is out.  The associated comments thread hit 900 posts of rage in about an hour, and so looks to completely dwarf the thread above as the new EVE-O threadnaught record holder before the weekend's over.  I'll post my own comments on the devblog in the next day or so.  The major unanswered question: will there be non-vanity items in the NeX someday?  "No answer" sounds suspiciously like "yes" in this context...

6 comments:

  1. The guy who wrote the pro-MT piece in the internal newsletter is a goon.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1sdTzj9iac

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think it should be pointed out that the title of the Fearless issue was 'Greed is Good?' with a question mark, which subtly changes the undertone of the whole thing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a former player who tries to keep up with the news, I have to say that I'm simultaneously glad and disgusted and definitely not surprised about the whole situation. Not unlike prison rules, the absence of any answer can be easily construed as consent.

    I'm sure there's a quaint image tucked in somewhere in the failblog of a "fatcat" type resting on a pile of money as the building he is in burns down to the ground. That fatcat is CCP, and that building is the community that seems frazzled and ready to break.

    ReplyDelete
  4. here we go again: Zulu comes on around page 19 (out of the now 96-page threadmageddon)http://www.eveonline.com/ingameboard.asp?a=topic&threadID=1537164&page=19#541 He comments on how including answers to the concerns of players and not merely a damage-control type post on the initial fallout would have just "muddled" the message.

    No sir. Muddling the message is taking this long to answer a yes or no question in regards to the purchase of non-vanity items (read: spaceships/ammo).

    Here's a game developer who truly does not understand his base. Eve is, arguably, one of the toughest MMOs to play. It requires commitment, demands curiosity and forces the player to not just survive but thrive on their own thoughtful decisions. The crowd that plays at any level beyond missioning is capable of reading and understanding the meaning of the words "yes or no". Zulu seems to disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Mmh does any1 read and noticed in Fearless (page 10) the majority of "employee satisfaction" rating is decreasing and is lowest in 2011 ?
    So for me it looks that CCP top managment is not only screwing us players, but also their employees are not that happy with company as before....

    ReplyDelete

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