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, July 3, 2011

Never say never again

A little slide-show has been going around the Internet that you might want to take a look at.  It's written by a video game producer and talks about how developers can introduce P2W (pay to win) micro-transactions into their game to enhance their product revenue without breaking their game.  A lot of people have been curious about whether CCP has been taking this presentation to heart, particularly given that it includes an analogy about how much people pay to play golf (when golf is their hobby), the very same analogy that was used in the Fearless newsletter to talk about this topic.

CCP and the CSM have reached an "accord" regarding P2W, and the announcement was made public yesterday.

The accord is extremely positive.  A lot of people are asking why the CSM had to go to Iceland to get CCP to say these things, but I'm not.  It's clear that the CSM had to push CCP pretty hard to get this statement to go as far as it did.  So again, I'm pleased with the statement.  But there's a lot of reasons to be nervous about it, too.

The devblog is 1300 words or so.  The associated video is ten minutes long and has even more words.  But really, only 50 of those words matter, the ones that address the big yellow question: "Will CCP ever sell non-vanity items for AUR?"

CCP's answer, in 50 words (reproduced in my blog post yesterday), is "no*".

The asterisk?  Well, the other 49 words are qualifiers, terms, and conditions: small print.  CCP doesn't want to say "never".  The other 1250 words in the devblog, including the entirety of the CSM response, are pretty much irrelevant.  The movie Troy is not particularly good, but it does have some terrific dialogue.  When Paris offers to fight Menelaus for Helen's hand and thereby put an end to the Trojan War before it begins, Andromache comments wryly to Hector, Paris's brother, that "50,000 Greeks did not cross the sea to watch your brother fight."  In a similar fashion, I'd say that the CSM did not cross the sea to talk about ship spinning and poor CCP communications.

Trebor, CSM6's current public voice on the forums, gives two arguments in his blog for why CCP can't say they will "never" put P2W into EVE.  First, he states that there's a "problem of demarcation."  He states that when he asks ten players what P2W means, he gets ten different answers.  Fine.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  But not everyone is entitled to their own facts.  There is a correct answer on where this demarcation line is, and Evelgrivion states it on FHC:
If paying CCP money lets you acquire an advantage that cannot be gained without the expenditure of additional real life money, on your part or on someone else's, it is not acceptable. If paying CCP means someone can acquire game affecting goods without the expenditure of time, on your part or someone else's, it is not acceptable.
That's the line, all right.  Trebor (and the rest of the CSM), please take note.

Even beyond this, though, it was interesting to me how much the joint statement and the attending video relied on qualifiers.  The statements and video don't talk about gaining an advantage in EVE from paying for it.  They talk about gaining "unfair" advantage, or "game-breaking" advantage.  Those qualifiers are always used.  In the video, there's an amusing exchange where Zulu states that you can still get unfair advantage for spending a lot of time in EVE Online, but you should get unfair advantage for spending a lot of money.

And of course, those qualifiers speak to the second reason Trebor says CCP can't use the word "never": they don't know the future.  Again, fair enough.  I haven't said that I'm "never" going to subscribe to EVE Online again, because I don't know the future, either.  But, I think it would have been better to flat out state this than to use obvious escape clauses to keep from using the word "never".  I pointed to the escape clause in my previous blog post.  CCP has said that "there are no" and there "have been no" plans to introduce "game-breaking items or enhancements in the NeX store."  One escape clause is that they do not say "there will be no" such plans.  The other escape clause is that they use the phrase "NeX store".

Global Agenda has several MT stores.  One deals directly with cosmetic enhancements and does not have weapons.  Another has both.  Four others have weapons, but do not have cosmetic enhancements.  So, this language gives CCP the option at a later date to include a non-NeX store MT option in their game.  It's a fine bit of weasel-wording.  And it's built on top of the use of the phrase "game-breaking" to describe the advantages that can or can't be bought.  There "are no plans" and "have been no plans" for such advantages, but "there won't be plans in the future" is not included.  Never say never.

Therefore, CCP can -- in the future -- open a second non-NeX MT store to sell in-game advantages, as long as those advantages aren't "unfair" or "game-breaking"... and still keep to this agreement.

So, I would have felt better with a less weasel-worded set of statements.  And so would have Vile Rat, who came out in public and said the accord didn't go far enough.

Now, with all of that said, as I said at the top of this blog post, I am satisfied that the CSM got the strongest statement that it was possible to get out of CCP.  And I do believe that CCP is actively sincere in their penitence over this issue.  Strangely enough, I think the most convincing element of this apology to me was Zulu's emotions evident in the video with The Mittani.  There's no question that he's actively upset and stressed out over this.

So again, my congratulations and thanks to the members of CSM6 that were able to drop everything and fly to Iceland on three days notice to help CCP with this crisis.  You did the very best job possible, and did it under exceedingly tough circumstances.

The threadnaught has been closed and locked at about 13,500 posts.  The new threadnaught, as I write this, has about a thousand.  It's probably too early to say if the accord is going to have the intended effect of cooling player rage and getting the thousands of unsubbed accounts resubscribed.

Am I going to resub?  No, because my reasons for unsubbing had nothing to do with this issue.  But if you unsubbed over this issue, then I think you can feel confident that CCP is going to stick to this agreement*.

1 comment:

  1. Evel's definition of the dividing line is a reasonable start (one I and several people I have talked to at CCP are comfortable with), but there are still grey areas. That's what makes it so difficult.

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