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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Flipside

I want to take one more pass at the CCP lay-off topic before I leave it alone, because I feel like something's being missed.(1)

Last month, I wrote a pair of posts looking at CCP's "refocusing and reprioritization" devblog from an alarmist's view and an optimist's view.  I'm going to do the same thing in this post, but don't worry: this is short enough that it'll fit easily into one blog post.  And indeed, there are two equally correct ways to look at this lay-off in terms of EVE's future going forward.

The truth, however, is going to end up being somewhere in the middle.

Seleene, a former CCP employee, lays out one view (edited slightly):
Even with the 20% layoffs, CCP is still much bigger than it was in the past when the company was solely focused on one product...  With no Incarna or MT bullshit to distract them, and with ALL of the remaining resources devoted to EVE development? Even bad math says that the number of people / teams working on EVE is about to triple or quadruple. That equates to the potential for an Apochrypha-like expansion every 6 months.
And this is absolutely true.  We've been told for months how many teams CCP had working on EVE.  We were told that several teams were "loaned" to the Incarna effort and that after :18months: were over, that flying-in-spaceships would be getting them back.  I'm hearing reliable rumors from virtually every source I have that while FiS, DUST, and even some very limited WoD development will be continuing, it's Incarna and establishments that are going on the far back burner.

New players will be shown the Captain's Quarters, to be sure, but it looks like that is going to serve as just a more gentle introduction into the game.  Once you figure out where Corp recruiting and the Agent Finder (which is excellent, by the way) and Planetary Interaction and ship fitting are in the normal EVE interface, it seems expected for now that you'll dial back or eliminate your use of CQ.

Therefore, that should indeed leave a hell of a lot more people free to work on FiS, which should result in a lot more development for it.  So that's one view, and it's totally valid.  It's also a view that CCP has publicly embraced, with CCP Soundwave stating:
We used to have very rich expansions, and that's what we're going back to. The number of people working on things related to flying in space has probably tripled, so we are ready to start delivering a load of content.
"Let's go back to doing what we are good at," he adds in the same interview.  Great stuff.

Now let's flip the coin.

In a well-written blog post written by Shae Tiann of Veto, she reveals "I am one of the 20%."  I encourage you to go out and give it a read.  It's worth your time.

Now that you've read it, I want to focus on the second half of it.  The first half, regarding the NeX and what Shae calls "Bonused Gear" and its effect on non-consensual PvP, is a very important topic that's going to become even more important as this year draws to a close.  Still, it's not something I want to cover right now.  No, I want to stick to the other half, regarding the lay-off itself.  Here's the key phrase:
Some of these people have been here for YEARS and were right in the middle of important projects for the upcoming expansions. They know more about their part of game development than anyone else in the company.

When you have a lay-off, particularly one that takes place very quickly with little notice as this one was, you lose a ton of what's called "tribal knowledge."  The phrase is just a tiny bit condescending-sounding, but is accurately describes things in a company that are known only to a few, that generally are not documented and are only kept in someone's head.  EVE is chock-full of tribal knowledge, and I'd bet money that CCP is as well.  And when you lose those people, you lose that tribal knowledge.

The net result of this is that while Seleene's statement that the FiS team is sure to grow rapidly, I'm not sure we should expect great things from this expanded EVE team right away.  They're going to need some time to discover, account for, and adjust for all that's been lost.  And that's before you take the morale hit that the team is taking into consideration.  As Shae correctly points out, a lot of CCP employees are getting it from both ends right now: from management, cutting costs, and from players themselves, raging at the situation, or raging at CCP, or simply unsubscribing (again).

In the meantime, CCP is doing what they can do right now: filling the existing player's wish list.  I've talked about that already.

There was a widely circulated article in Massively the other day that included information provided by one or more insiders affected by or familiar with the lay-offs.  Most of the information in that article was stuff that we already knew.  More was (understandably) bitter insider railing against management that is still "talking down" to players.  Over the years, I've come to learn that I need to take these sorts of things with a very large grain of salt.  The insider doing the talking is almost certainly extremely angry at what he's been put through.  Still, one quote struck me as both insightful and probably true:
"All prior release planning is basically in the trash."
Yeah... that one I can believe.

So expect good things to come from EVE, by all means.  Just don't expect them fast.


(1) Before I start, full disclosure: the blog I'm going to reference in this post is written by a member of Veto alliance, who are blue to Rote Kapelle, of which I am a member.

8 comments:

  1. Just to reference my previous comment from a previous blog entry: patience is key from players here. Impatience just makes us look like whiny, entitled brats and that's hardly the sort of attitude that we want to send to the players that CCP uses to get their feedback from the playerbase. If you like Eve Online, keep a sharp eye for what's going on, don't give quarter, but support them.

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  2. Most of the layoffs occurred in Atlanta, though. And the only EVE teams in Atlanta were the WiS teams.

    So the only "tribal knowledge" being lost was knowledge to be put on the far back burner. (Those expansions Shai talks about were WiS expansions.)

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  3. Incidentally, there's a modern term for that tribal knowledge: Transactive Memory, and some of the studies done around it are pretty interesting.

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  4. If these people werent documenting what they know they werent doing their jobs properly...

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  5. I will not be unsubbing and I wouldn't dream of doing that at this point. The things coming down the pipe are exciting, I appreciate this refocus and I like this CSM. I may have lapsed back during the trouble, I may only log in to set skills until the update goes live, but CCP have my money until it does and I see where it goes. Unsubscribing right now as some sort of punishment for doing everything right is ridiculous and ill considered.

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  6. There's an even more modern term for "tribal knowledge". Institutional Memory. Or that's what it was called when I was first exposed to corporate life some 25 years ago. Accurate then, and accurate now. Minus the buzzword factor :)

    @Anonymous 1317: What Jester and Shae are talking about here is not documentation. Rather, it's knowledge of how things work at an instinctive, almost non-conscious level that develops over the course of time. It's that intimate knowledge of all the little idiosyncrasies and unwritten interactions, both personal and technical, that accumulate over time within any organization.

    These are things that, by their very nature, cannot be documented nor duplicated. At best, the broad scope can be passed on from mentor to student (or master to journeyman, if you will), but learning the details can only be accomplished through time. It's the reason why (to use a military reference) an experienced NCO is worth more than 10 highly-educated-but-inexperienced officers; that experienced NCO knows how things *really* work, the stuff that can never be put into official documentation, for a variety of reasons. People with that kind of experience are the backbone of any organization and losing them always hurts. Even if every conceivable measure available to pass on their knowledge was taken.

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  7. Jester- is WiS going to be killed now?

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  8. I am not a CCP decision-maker, but if I had to guess, I'd say the answer is "no". WiS isn't dead. But I wouldn't look for any WiS in 2012 at this point.

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