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...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Put away childish things

Using the Alliance Panel as a spring-board, let's drill down into what CCP's response to it says about them as a company.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Every company goes through stages in its life.  These stages are dominated by three types of business people.  I like to equate them to different kinds of soldiers.

In the first wave are the commandos.  In military parlance, these are the guys that operate behind enemy lines and sow the first seeds of the enemy's destruction.  Their primary advantages are speed and agility: they strike quickly and hard.  Commandos in the business sense are the entrepreneurs.  These are the guys that have a new idea, establish a new business, and develop the idea for a product.  Being a commando is exciting, and process and procedure are not as important as quick thinking and quick decision-making.  It's important for most of a commando's decisions to be right, the first time.  In business, these people might or might not have formal training.  This really isn't as important, though, as the willingness to risk and the drive to establish a new market.  Entrepreneurs make the success of a company possible.

In the second wave are the marines.  Again in military terms, these are the guys that storm the beaches, establish the first beach-heads, and start to conquer enemy territory.  Their primary advantage is resiliency: they can strike into new territory and realign their strength to fight offensively where the enemy is weak, and defensively where the enemy is strong.  Marines in the business sense are the innovators.  These are the people that take the entrepreneur's ideas and turn them into products.  They do the development and the bug-fixing that make the product supportable.  Innovators are technical leaders and often self-trained.  Still, process is important and the innovators will push the new-born company into its first flirtations with standard procedures and methodologies because those save time in the long run.  Innovators make the success of a company happen.

In the third wave are the foot-soldiers.  Once the ground is taken, these are the guys that hold it.  They occupy the territory, ensure the tributes are paid, and put down uprisings.  Their primary advantage is repeatable process: once they find the tactics that succeed, they can repeat those tactics.  Foot-soldiers in the business sense are the long-term employees drawn to a stable, successful company.  I think of them as "doers".  They take the finalized products and sell them using proven methods, apply upgrades, provide repairs.  They use metrics to ensure their methods are successful, or change strategies if the metrics show that they aren't.  They develop the customer base and position the products to fill the needs of that base.  Doers are generally professionally trained, and carry a lot of certifications.  Doers make the success of a company sustainable.

The funny thing about watching companies grow and mature is watching the migration of these three types into and out of the company.

Over time, a successful company will quickly lose its entrepreneurs.  They become bored with stagnation, frustrated with process.  They want to be out there developing new ideas.  A stable company wants to ensure the solidity of its key existing products, but entrepreneurs are born to break existing product lines in favor of new ideas.  Steve Jobs was a model entrepreneur.  Once a product is out the door, an entrepreneur is looking toward the next product that's going to make this product pointless and obsolete.  If he's not allowed to do that, he'll go somewhere where he is able to do that.  Entrepreneurs that leave will be replaced by innovators, excited to take the ideas of the entrepreneurs and build them into products.  The entrepreneurs, meanwhile, will start the cycle again, usually at a new company.

As the company becomes a long-term success, the innovators will head for the door as well.  With fewer entrepreneurs developing new ideas, there's less call for their skill in turning those ideas into products.  A few innovators will stick with you, but they'll slowly turn their attention to evolving the existing products instead of revolutionizing them.  Ironically, these long-term innovators will often become resistant to the very change they were at one time instrumental in guiding.  However, a company will lose most of their innovators, who will be drawn to first-wave companies driven by ideas, not by process.  Innovators are not happy if they're not turning idea into product.  Steve Wozniak is a model innovator.  Innovators will be replaced by doers attracted to a successful company.

Doers will stick with you and will make the success of your company long-term and sustainable.  Doers bring in professional training, process, and methodology.  However, while usually extremely successful, a company full of doers usually isn't all that interesting a place to work.  ;-)

This is a long introduction, but hopefully you see by now where I'm going with it.  CCP is, even as we watch, turning from a "second wave" company into a "third wave" company.
This speaks to a larger point. We need to revise how we showcase the culture of EVE. It was clear in some comments from attendees and internet observers that while Fanfest was a massive success there are aspects of it that we can improve upon even more.

This solemn effort has already begun. Time for us to grow up a bit.

"Internet spaceships" are often called "serious business", but increasingly they actually are serious business.
Time for us to grow up a bit, as the first response to the Alliance Panel said.  And this is no bad thing.  Certainly, there will continue to be "second wave" activities at CCP, particularly around the World of Darkness product.  And I have no doubt that there's still an entrepreneur or two hiding among CCP's ranks, even now.  But there's also a new Chief Marketing Officer and apparently a "VP of Customer Relationship Management" as well.  These, needless to say, are third wave job titles.  ;-)

A little professionalism goes a long way.  Professional third wave companies catch most embarrassing mistakes before they happen.  A third wave company would not have been struck by the summer of rage last year, for instance, because the silly communications issues and blatant mistakes that caused it would not have happened.  Third wave companies are allergic to drama and go to a lot of trouble to prevent it, or when it does happen, to manage it.  But often, they don't make these mistakes in the first place.  There's a remarkable stability of performance and lack of drama when doing business with a third wave company.  You don't expect problems with your ten-year-old refrigerator.  You just expect it to work, and you are not surprised when it does.

How refreshing would it be to think of EVE that way?  A game that... you know... just works how you expect it to, every single time?  This is the biggest benefit to a third wave company.

Being a third wave company has its downsides as well, though.  Early in my career working with a second wave company, one of the managers of that company regaled us with a story about how he had hired a professional football team's cheerleaders to entertain the top sales people at a large company function.  This is the sort of thing that does not happen at a third wave company.  ;-)  Third wave companies that try to act like second wave companies often come out looking quite ridiculous.

Know what else doesn't happen at a third wave company?  This doesn't happen at a third wave company.  Nor does this.  Those are things that tend to draw complaints.  Time to grow up a bit.

Here's the real question, though.  As CCP grows and matures as a company, and particularly if DUST 514 succeeds as I suspect it will, the company is going to have be very careful about alienating an existing customer base that has grown used to a certain CCP culture.  "EVE Online has grown to a maturation point where such behavior and such a forum are not appropriate," the first statement about the Alliance Panel said.  "A 'frat house' type presentation style may have been well-matched for a younger EVE Online, when there was a smaller community roaming the stars."  The implication is clear: we're about to be joined by a much larger community.  They might not be able to handle our 'frat house' culture.  ;-)

That's the challenge facing CCP as spring 2012 becomes summer 2012.  And the first test of this is 25 days away.  But that's my next post.  For now,

Selah.

16 comments:

  1. Brace yourself for the inevitable slew of 'World of EVECraft' comments.

    There's a lot of us - not just Goons and friends - who like playing the bad guy. I hope that isn't in danger.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Time to break out the "pledge hats", tar, and feathers, I think.

    Also, I dunno. Reading reviews on glassdoor (I think you were the one who originally mentioned that?? If so thanks, great info to be found there on companies), it seems like even as recently as a handful of months ago, CCP was still very much a "first-gen" company, at least in business attitude and model.

    Personally, I don't think it's a question of first, second, or third-gen, -wave, whatever. I think it's an example of poor business practice and deliberate attempts at "countering" the normal business culture and norms... and yet somehow CCP has succeeded, marginally, IN SPITE OF their rectal-cranial insertion, not because of it. :-/

    I predict that with the DUST/Sony deal and an IPO obviously on the horizon, that they are way in over their heads, and this will become widely advertised knowledge as soon as that IPO hits.

    The next expansion after Inferno is already named, though CCP doesn't realize it yet.
    EVE Online: Failscade Imminent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If DUST 514 is a success, CCP won't have to rely solely on EvE to survive. So I think they'll make sure they don't lose money on EvE, but they'll keep it stable to show mainstream gamers how hardcore CCP once were.

      Delete
    2. "IF DUST514 is a success" is a HUGE conditional upon which to mount an argument.

      And, as for EVE being hardcore, I dunno. Granted only been around 2 yrs, but everything I've read/heard/etc from "old-timers" of 5+ years, EVE is basically "carebear-land" now, and NOT just in hisec. :-/ So yeah. CCP has been consistently "softening the fuck down" (STFD ... new term of week Jester? If you don't, I will lol) even since I've joined 2 yrs ago. So yeah. Showcasing "hardcore" isn't what CCP is about anymore.

      The bottom line is, that's all they care about: the bottom line. Money. Keeping the ink as deep black as they can, and lining their pockets with it.

      Delete
  3. It looks to me like the course has been set a few years ago. The real question is: will CCP manage to follow it without doing another stupid mistake along the way?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I strongly believe that CCP will need to grow up without alienating their existing fan base/subscribers. If they manage to pull that off, they're in the clear and EvE will be that place we love for years to come.

    The biggest problem I see is that CSM 7 will have the burden of New Eden on their shoulders. Without Mittens, with Dust coming up and with the expected "grow up" thingie being shoved down the throats of existing EvE players, it will be up to them to keep CCP on a path that manages to satisfy the not-enough-bitter vets and the new blood.

    Will be a most interesting year, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - Mittens is primarily responsible for lighting off the fuse of "the expected 'grow up' thingie being shoved down the throats of existing EvE players".

      Is he the only player who engages in immature, drunken, and stupid behavior? Of course not.

      Is he the idiot, however, who managed to do so, in public, as the newly elected head of the CSM, in front of an audience and cameras, and a live stream over the Internet? Damn straight.

      Thanks to this fool, *all* EvE players have now been painted with the same "immature and irresponsible behavior" paintbrush, and will have to deal with the repercussions.

      CSM 7, in particular, will need to be on their best behavior, in order to be taken seriously, as a continued source of valid, and mature, player feedback. Another slip up, and you can bet that CCP will be phasing out the CSM, as a bad PR risk.

      Delete
    2. I respectfully disagree. What lighted off the fuse was a combination of things I`m going to list:
      - CCP going full bore retard on Dust and WoD - they barely made it out alive economically out of 2011 and I suspect Dust is the life buoy for EvE.
      - CCP becoming bros with Sony - this comes directly from the Dust development; Sony cannot afford an immature playerbase that think software developers should develop what they want, regardless of the viability of the ideas; Sony is a giant compared even to large corporations, CCP is the underdog here;
      - players and the "summer of rage" -> basically acting like angry children whose toys were taken away - it always seems that EvE players forget that expansions in this game are free of charge and every EvE player since 2005 yelled their lungs out for WiS;
      - CCP again for making the summer of rage possible by releasing an unfinished expansion and acting retarded on microtransactions.

      I hold Mittens in high regard for only one reason -> he managed to shake things up and guide CSM 6 into having an important word to say for EvE's development. CSM 6 is responsible for Crucible, period, if it weren't for them, we'd have Incarna 2.0.

      I disapprove of what he did, it was distasteful to say the least and can be argued to be illegal in some countries.

      And I stand by my opinion, CSM 7 has to push hard and help CCP steer through the coming storm, whilst making sure they don't fsck up themselves.

      Because make no mistake, if stuff hits the fan, Sony will damage control the hell out of CCP.

      Delete
  5. It's interesting how the commandos/marines/infantry classification maps to the CMMI model.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, war is the oldest profession in the world. I think by now they'd have it down to a science.

      The interesting thing about the military is the HR work they do at the front. They go out of their way to create microcosms of personality types suited to a specific task. Someone joining gets a technical test to see what possible jobs they can do, and a personality test to see where they fit in. Based on those they decide where to slot that person. You could be technically sound in an area where they need people, but if you don't fit the type of personality they think are best suited to it, you get bounced somewhere else. The loss in technical acumen you could have contributed to the first team is seen as cross training to shore up a possible weakness in the second.

      They've more or less codified what Jester was talking about. The commandos aren't commandos from training. They were commandos before they ever joined, they just gave them the skillset to go with the mindset. And that goes throughout the entire military. If a company ever figures out how to create a toolbox as well as the military does, they'll take over the world.

      Delete
  6. I believe you have hit it squarely once again Jester...

    This is exactly what I have been pondering since I heard of the deal w/Sony. CCP will find you cannot date an older, sophisticated and moar experienced woman and act the fool over dinner, she will tired of it quickly and, either you change or you will go home alone.

    I will not join the doomsayers of which the EVE Blog comments sections and the forums are rife with... If anything, this paradigm shift will do exactly as Jester suggests, it will ensure EVE’s stability and serve to protect it from negative market turns and influences… but, at a price, and I am not sure just what that price may be…

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice analysis.

    Yes, it seems clear that CCP's official response to Mittens' breach of conduct is indicative of the ways things will be going from now on. The good ol' days of getting away with all sorts of immature and frat-like behavior, while skating the edges of the EULA, are pretty much done. The major crackdowns on bots and RMTs are also fairly indicative that the finance/legal/bizdev hats are taking a bit more control.

    Will CCP manage an IPO? Hmm... good question. A lot will depend on the Dust 514 roll out.

    Personally, I think it is more likely that CCP's investors are manuevering the company for a Sony buyout, at some point. The newly released Japanense client and the Dust 514 exclusive on PS3 raises a few flags.

    ReplyDelete
  8. ummm...

    What happens when third wave companies make mistakes?

    Like, say, EA.

    I don't know, corporations aren't static THINGS, they change and grow and shrink and die based on the market around them. And I don't think video games is inherently a stable enough market in with a company just settles down and does the same thing.

    Well except activision. And man, honestly, I hate activision. Their business process completely relies on others making innovation, which they then buy and make until no longer profitable. And even they are not immune to controversy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Notice they're still in business? Exactly my point.

      Delete
  9. If DUST is successful, CCP will no longer need Eve.

    ReplyDelete
  10. it has been a long while since you wrote and I originally read this post. But recently I came across something that made me rethink.


    I don't think modern gaming companies can easily survive a lack of innovates. As an entertainment industry, gaming really requires constantly new IP, outside exceptions like WoW and EVE. Though Activision is certainly riding out it's franchises, companies like EA are withering for the lack of new ideas. To be a successful game developer, you need people producing new IP, or innovating old IP constantly. Without it, your company will struggle.

    ReplyDelete