I'm coming up to my fourth Iceland trip in the last thirteen months. Each of these trips, my suitcase has come home progressively lighter on the return trip than the outgoing trip. That's because each time, I've been bringing small and large gifts for people I know I'm going to see while I'm there. For Fanfest 2014, I have some question about whether my main suitcase will be too heavy to fly. ;-)
But for Fanfest 2013, I didn't know that many people at CCP very well, so I only brought two gifts that first visit. One was for the alliance-mate who agreed to pick me up at the airport. The other was for Jon Lander, CCP Unifex.
Now I'm not going to get into what the gift was, but you can rest assured it was pretty nice. And it was given for a simple reason: as far as I'm concerned, Jon Lander saved EVE Online. To keep the record straight, I'll say that I had my doubts about this guy when he was first named to the position in December 2011. But over the following 18 months, he made a believer out of me. CCP had just come out of the harrowing summer of rage, subscriptions were falling like a meteor, and it seemed that CCP could do nothing right.
Jon Lander came in and very quietly and resolutely pulled the game out of the pit that :fearless: had driven it into, got it into the air and got it flying again. He got the troops re-energized and moving. Without him, I sincerely believe that there wouldn't be an EVE right now, or at best, it would be a shadow of its former self. He focused development on what customers wanted and then he got the teams to deliver.
Is that a strategy for long-term success? No. The apocryphal Henry Ford quote fits here: "If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses.'"
But he also came up with a development strategy that I strongly suspect will be the bedrock principle for how CCP develops games for the next ten years, and he led development through the ground-up rebuilding of one of the core systems of EVE, Crimewatch. When he left the post of Executive Producer of EVE Online last year at this time, I was upset but understood his reasons. He can talk about them if he ever cares to. But knowing what a gem he had in his hand, CCP CEO Hilmar Pétursson seems to have very sensibly given him carte blanche: work where you want, work on what you want. Hilmar clearly knew the value that Lander had brought to CCP in his previous job.
So yeah, my first ever gift to a CCP employee went to Jon Lander. So you can imagine how I feel hearing today that Jon Lander is leaving CCP. This is confirmed by his LinkedIn profile, which publicly lists his final position at CCP as a Senior Development Director... in Atlanta, after spending six months publicly rotating between CCP's mobile strategy and CCP's Valkyrie strategy. What was Lander doing in Atlanta, and what was he Senior Development Director of? That has never been announced by CCP.
In the meantime, I say farewell to a legend of EVE development. I'm still a believer. I myself will be watching very closely to see where this guy ends up. I'm sure it will be a universe worth exploring.