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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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend's end

Off in Europe, this weekend is ending.  In Iceland, I'm sure this is a relief.

This has been, without question, the most cataclysmic weekend in the history of EVE Online.  Not long after I blogged last, EVE News 24 dropped another bombshell: a congratulatory message from CCP CEO Hilmar P√©tursson, sent to a CCP internal mailing list.  Out of context, this e-mail is a bland, somewhat empty string of attaboys commonly written at the C-Suite level.  I'm completely convinced of its reality.  Not only does the writing style match Hilmar's, but it's filled with exactly the sorts of things we'd expect him to say.

That said, in context, the e-mail is a bombshell because of one paragraph.  Here it is:
Currently we are seeing very predictable feedback on what we are doing. Having the perspective of having done this for a decade, I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say. Innovation takes time to set in and the predictable reaction is always to resist change.
Emphasis mine (but the same phrase was emphasized at EN24 as well).

Additional context: this e-mail was written about 40 hours after the release of Incarna.  That's noonish on June 23, Iceland time.  Therefore, this e-mail was written before the Fearless newsletter exploded across the EVE landscape (though somewhat after it was actually released).  It was also written before the "devpology" early on the 24th.  In short, it was written before any of this shit-storm happened.  So, let's try not to take the Hilmar e-mail out of context... if we can avoid it.

It didn't help, though, that when a link to the e-mail was posted to the EVE-O forums, CCP Navigator deleted the thread, stating that private communications from CCP employees were not to be shared with the public.

As a result, we know the Hilmar e-mail is genuine.

And the intent of it is clear: Hilmar knew that vanity MT, and likely the NeX prices themselves, were going to cause conflict within the EVE community.  He intended CCP to ride it out... for the wave to pass... for people to get used to it.  "This is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say," he says, clearly referencing the fact that -- despite the rage over their prices -- 50-odd monocles had been sold in the first 40 hours.  That's $80 U.S./hour, or enough money to pay the salary and benefits of two or three CCP developers.

The release of the e-mail and its attempted censorship unleashed a new wave of player rage.  The threadnaught I mentioned Friday is well past 10000 posts now and still climbing far too fast for any single human to keep up with it.  It has been read more than one million times now.  The comments thread on the Fearless devblog is itself approaching 3000 posts, making it the second-most commented-on devblog ever (only the response to the sanctum/haven nerf in April was bigger).

In context, we know that over the weekend, some 4500 EVE subscriptions have been cancelled and the number is still climbing.  That's $67,500 U.S. per month, or enough money to imperil the jobs of 15 or more CCP developers.  There's no question that CCP has to respond to "what their players are doing."(1)

And the names of some of players who have unsubbed are shattering.  Topping the list is Ombey.  Ombey was my very first introduction to what could be done with an EVE fan website.  I have a printed, laminated, and bound copy of his 2D EVE maps about two feet from me as I type this.  It was an invaluable tool to me during my EVE career.  Other key names: Angel HUN (former AT commentator and member of IT and now Raiden.), Don Pellegrino from HYDRA Reloaded, Lallante from Reikoku/BoB, Sokratesz (former CSM member)... the list goes on.  These are not casual EVE players.  These are -- you will forgive the pun -- titans of the EVE community.

CCP had to respond, and they did.  CCP Zulu wrote a second devblog called "The Realities of EVE".

It is... less than ground-breaking.

Fortunately, the first four or five paragraphs of it comes off as extremely apologetic and even a little contrite.  There's no question that the devblog was written by someone under a great deal of stress.  Even better, it comes off as much more Zulu's "voice" than the prior one, which people all the way up to CSM5 Chair Mynxee described as sounding like it was written by Zulu while someone held a gun to his head.  However, paragraph six is just goofy:
However, just to prove the point of the Fearless newsletter and give you a further understanding of what it is then there are no and never have been plans to sell "gold ammo" for Aurum. In Fearless people are arguing a point, which doesn't even have to be their view, they are debating an issue. This is another example of how information out of context is no information at all.
Those are some of the three worst-written, evasive sentences that I can imagine.  As a denial, they're very weak.  As an explanation, they're even worse.

Trebor of CSM6 quickly issued a clarification saying that:
I can tell you without fear of contradiction that "Gold ammo" is shorthand for "any non-vanity item".
Even if that is true, the fact that "there are no" and there "never have been" plans for "gold ammo", that doesn't mean "there never will be" such plans.  Sure, past tense and present tense are covered.  But what about the future?  What about non-"items", such as faction standing, attribute boosters, or even skill points?  Are they also out?  Even the name of the devblog is a little suspect.  "The realities of EVE"?  What does that even mean?

Given that the comments thread on this new devblog is already picked up 700 posts in about 2.5 hours, I'd say I'm not alone in these views.  Trebor has asked for player input for him to take to Iceland to be posted in the devblog thread.  At the risk of creating more work for him, I encourage you to do so.

However, the devblog does specify that the CSM has been called to Iceland this coming Thursday and Friday for an unprecedented emergency session to focus on this issue.  So far, I see confirmations from Mittens, Trebor, and Meissa that they are definitely going.  I haven't seen confirmation from Seleene yet, nor from the other five CSM6 full members.  Given the extremely short notice, it seems very likely that there will either be a lot of alternate CSM members in attendance or possibly even only a partial slate of CSM members.  We'll have to see.

EDIT (27/Jun/2011): According to two step, the attendees of this emergency session will be full CSM members Mittens, Trebor, Meissa, Draco Lasa, and White Tree; and alt CSM members two step, Elise Randolph and Darius III.

I personally would like to thank the members of CSM6 that are able to attend this session for their extraordinary dedication, and hope the session is productive.

But, yeah.  The drama hasn't ended.  This is -- if anything -- merely a short pause.

(1) Incidentally, if we assume that this rage is cutting across a spectrum of average EVE players, this post might be the best survey ever done of the number of EVE accounts per average EVE player.  2.25, if you're curious.  That means that there are about 140-150 thousand EVE players controlling those 325,000 or so EVE accounts.


  1. Didn't realize you had made a post, and my comment on the matter went on the previous blog entry. But I agree with what you are saying.

  2. Trebor also said that:

    When CSM was asked for input on the devblog, I was concerned about this wording. Here is the alternate wording that I suggested, which I believe expresses the essence of CCP Zulu's intent:

    However, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. Despite the impression given by the "point-counterpoint" debate that appeared in the Fearless newsletter, there have never at any time been any plans to sell "gold ammo" or any other game-affecting goods for Aurum.

    ...for some reason that change didn't make it to the released version. It makes me wonder and leaves room for many questions. The blog didn't say anything about future either, just about presence and past.

    Why can't they simply say that there is no and there WILL NOT BE any non-vanity items in aur shop.

    Seem rather odd to me... will wait the CSM meeting and take it from there. These dev blogs aren't helping much.

  3. Zulu responds. Again. And attempt number 3 in his latest blog is neither apology nor declaration. Instead we're meandering through the chasm of doubt that CCP devs seem to dwell in. Some limbo of infinite possibilities which I'm sure they can treasure as developers, but represents a trying purgatory for their paying customers.

    There's no way to go about it other than this: Zulu will not rule out the possibility of non-vanity purchases through the new currency system and store. Instead we get padded answers that seem delicately written to be a fallback position for things that may happen "down the line". Maybe Zulu got so accustomed to the idea of talking down to us, the paying peasants, that he forgot quite a few of us can read and understand the implication of making some kind of a mission statement without passing the present tense.

    If Zulu would just stop being asinine and spell it out: "no non-vanity purchases for game-altering items, ever" I think the community could go to rest knowing the job is done. However, as it stands now, it seems like we are just winding up for another threadnaught with the newest of these so-called explanations garnering a cheerful 600 replies and 28,000 views.

    The cherry on top is, in many ways, the (assumed) all-encompassing nature of the postings by their originator. The latest blog goes by the title of "The Realities of Eve". I'm sorry, what? Zulu would have to conjure up some serious dev magic to describe all that is wrong in this game in less than 10 pages, single spaced, 12-font typing.

    The disaffected and the bitter will quickly dismiss the more human aspect of this story. Somewhere inside of CCP there is a voice of dissent trying to warn us of the changes going on within. We don't know who they are, or how many, but employees at CCP have been leaking this information with deliberate intent. Some of them may actually have the clue that Zulu is missing when it comes to knowing what it is the community wants and needs from the developers. They, in turn, perhaps also have a better understanding of who it is that pays the heating bills during those cold icelandic winters.

    My two accounts remain cancelled. Well played Zulu, but this peasant is tired of putting food on your table.

  4. If Zulu had written that CCP 'never will' sell non-vanity items, I would not have believed it. Call me cynical, but I don't trust companies to keep past promises if they are faced with financial pressures - and none of us knows what the MMO market situation is going to be one year from now.

    I think the importants parts of that blog are the acknowledgement that communications has been handled badly by CCP; and that CCP finally! engages the CSM. Everything else - "This is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning".

  5. Even Brendan has lost most of his faith, so no wonder it is hard to chew the lastest blog... http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/06/26/eve-evolved-the-day-that-eve-online-died/

  6. "The comments thread on the Fearless devblog is itself approaching 3000 posts, making it the second-most commented-on devblog ever (only the response to the sanctum/haven nerf in April was bigger)."

    ... and of course THAT thread made them change it back to the way it was. Oh wait.

    Game companies change stuff. Players rage. Company continues. Rage abates. Repeat.

    The only thing different about EVE compared any other MMO is that the players are convinced, every time, that THIS time it's going to be different.

  7. They don't want to say, "never, ever" because then in a year or so when they've got people asking for - nay *demanding* - "gold ammo", they can do so.

    This is part of being "agile" and "flexible" and "fearless". "Never ever" statements are for scared, fearful, inflexible companies.

    It really is a case of looking at what they're not saying.


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