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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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The lost gem

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.


  1. "I myself will be watching very closely to see where this guy ends up."

    Please post something here and let us know when you find out.

    When other prominent names left CCP I wasn't too bothered. Some of them were good and had a good impact on EvE. Others less so. But this is different. JL completely turned EvE's direction and development around.

    JL essentially prevented a CCP failscade.

    I just hope he imparted enough wisdom and culture into CCP that they can continue to benefit from him for many years to come, god forbid that CCP slide back into their old habits. Let's hope that he's incarnated somewhere in CCP :p

  2. Wild guess: he was sent to Atlanta to check whether the WoD trainwreck could be saved or don't, as a last favor for the company.

    On the other hand, listening to the customers is killing EVE in a different way than the previous development strategy (if there was any). And CCP doens't seems to be willing to do anything about the simple ugly fact that EVE is unliveable for 99% of the players in the world and EVE has already drained the pool of one-per-centers.

    1. My guess:

      He/his family/both, didn't want to live in Iceland anymore, and wanted to move back to the US. He went to hand in his resignation when Hilmar suggest he transfer to their Atlanta office instead, and take a look, as you suggested, at WoD. The situation was evaluated from a business point of view, some lay-offs were made. Six months later(?) production is shutdown, all lay-offs are made, Lander no longer has a reason to work for CCP.

      Stands to reason to me.

    2. "move back to the US"

      "Stands to reason to me."

      lol. You haven't got a clue.

    3. WoD had nothing to do with it.

      Jon left Iceland to work on mobile game/app development for CCP, and this work was going to be done in Atlanta, because both the business end and development end of the mobile stuff would be easier to do in the US.

      The Atlanta office is being shutdown for cost-savings reasons, so Jon had the option of moving back to Iceland or leaving CCP. There are no open senior positions currently at CCP in Iceland, so he would be taking a demotion and probably a pay cut if he went back. Not a good career move.

    4. Isn't there one rather conspicuous senior position open? Namely, the one he previously occupied?

      I can't blame him for not wanting to occupy it again, though. I can remember him saying something to that effect when he stepped down as EP.

      At any rate, he'll land on his feet, and I'm interested to see who's lucky enough to land him.

    5. Jon's previous job as Executive Producer of EVE Online is indeed still open. It's been on the CCP jobs page on their website for many months.


    6. @Jester: Hilmar'rs announcement was on May 2013, exactly.

      I don't know whether is good or bad that CCP can function without someone in the EP for almost a year... I know that CCP whatshisname has been doubling as EP, but nonetheless the EVE project is literaly headless, and has been for longer than a year.

  3. I was not happy to see him go.

    Given that he had a rep as the turnaround artist, I wonder if his leaving has anything to do with, say with his being assigned to ATL to fix WoD and reporting back that there's nothing worth salvaging. It's not what they wanted him to do, and it's certainly not what the C-suite wanted to hear. and so the best thing to do was get out. Amicable, no hard feelings, etc., etc.

    I mean, EVE's founding personality was behind WoD. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be Lander giving that presentation to CCP management.

    I'll also take note of where he lands.

  4. I met him at the UK meet with soundwave and guard. A genuinely nice guy, very astute. He was pleasant company, but he was there to do a job and balanced the two roles extremely well. I too consider Eve would be in a much worse state without his intervention and guidance through the bad times of the summer of rage. I wish him well but I am sure he will get snapped up. Where that leaves Eve going we shall see... but as a WH PvP'er and null sec shooterupper the industry changes dont interest me. Ill keep training skills and keep playing d3 and watch_dogs when it comes out. Maybe xmas expac for POS?

  5. I wish him the best. CCP won't be able to replace him with ease. I can't see anyone else on the front ranks at the moment who could step into his shoes (and fill them)

  6. His transition out of Senior Producer into the nebulous "Mobile Development" space last year never made much sense. This is another sad development for CCP. But I will also speculate he chose to leave at this exact juncture because there IS NO EVE MOBILE to be revealed at fanfest. He guaranteed that, didn't he?

    1. The mobile development space was going to be a push to get into the casual gaming arena, as well as create mobile apps for EVE Online.

      However, due to CCP's not-so-stellar financial situation, the lower-key projects at CCP being done in Atlanta, in addition to WoD, were sent back to Iceland to be put on the backburner, incl. the mobile development project.

  7. This isn't just sad news, it is disturbing. It reeks of failure, whose failure does not really matter. You don't go quietly into the night unless there is shame to conceal. Otherwise you reap what you've laboured to sow.

  8. And we still have some NDA bombshells to drop at fanfest as well according to both Jester and others.

    What has happened in the ten years Hilmar has been CEO besides EVE being released? Something that fell over the line after the first CEO Sigurður Arnljótsson's raised the cash.

    - White Wolf merger then the extended, painful kill off of WoD.
    - Incarna jeans fiasco with 20% staff layoff.
    - DOA Dust 514 with who knows what future besides players needing to endure vegetables from CCP - maybe that's large carrots up the players butts?
    - Ongoing losses, write downs.
    - EVE performance at grid lock - so much for the massive battles/single shard marketing angle.
    - Mobile strategy nowhere to be seen. Remember how awesome "Capsuleer" was FIVE YEARS AGO and it spluttered out because CCP could not get their 3rd party act together?
    - How's CREST travelling?
    - Valkyrie a complete unknown at this point, but seems fairly niche.
    - A terrible player community - forums patrolled by thugs and rent-a-cops bent on damage control and misdirection. i.e. CCP Falcon's denials of WoD's demise.

    And prior to that as CTO Hilmar would have likely had a hand in the single threaded call.

    I think for Hilmar it's been ten years of equal measure of hype and apology.

    No wonder so many key people are heading for the exit.

    1. I second the horrible player community. Pretty sad when it isn't even worth the time to post on the official forums.

      The recent industry dev blogs are a total shit show too. Is anyone dumb enough to believe that the number of subscribers will be up this summer based on revamped industry changes that most people in industry don't care for?

      Now the game has lost arguably the best developer it has ever had.

      Is anyone steering this boat?

    2. How CCP Falcon still has his job is an outrage. His callous lies surrounding the demise of WoD was a disgrace and reportedly gave false hope to White Wolf employees.

      He basically took them to the bonus round.

    3. > Is anyone dumb enough to believe that the number of subscribers will be up this summer based on revamped industry changes that most people in industry don't care for?

      Erm... if that's your standard, I'm curious who you're calling dumb. Summer numbers are basically never very good... so it's a good time for 'maintenance'-focused work.

      > His callous lies surrounding the demise of WoD was a disgrace and reportedly gave false hope to White Wolf employees

      I haven't actually heard that from any of the employees I actually know... but I've heard tons of white-knighting on the forums. I guess this is just the fashionable thing for Eve players to rage about this week?

    4. Year over year numbers are going to take a beating, you moron. Let me know if I need to dumb the discussion down any further for you.

  9. His LinkedIn profile states "Working with the World of Darkness team to help them bring the product into full production."

    I don't know if Jon has updated it since your initial blog post, but that seems to be a pretty clear answer to your question 'what was he doing in Atlanta and what was he Senior Development Director of?'

    It seems strange that he would move his whole family to Atlanta only to recommend the project's cancellation a matter of months later (he is from the UK, so they wouldn't relocate to the US lightly).

    If the WoD cancellation was a decision made higher up, then Unifex (saviour of Eve to many) deserves better treatment than that from CCP, if he was let go having moved out there for WoD. I am surprised they were not able to retain him in some way.

    But after his recent tour around CCP (Core tech, Eve, Mobile, Valkyre, WoD), perhaps he was just high and dry with no chair left to sit on when the music stopped.

    1. Possibly, or it might just be as simple as his family as a whole came to the decision that enough moving around was enough. He has a wife and two daughters remember. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think his wife and kids were in Iceland when he worked there, so he only saw probably only saw them every couple of weeks, flying to England and back for a few days.

      Then getting shuffled around putting out fires or whatnot in the UK and the US, that puts even more strain on your personal/family life. Whatever happened in his position in the US, he obviously upped and moved his family out there. I expect he assumed it would be somewhat long term as a result.

      Upping and moving around all the time is hard enough on a single person, let alone a family man who has to think of his wife and kids well being.

      My guess is he got offered to move back to the UK or Iceland, but he and his family said "fuck no, not moving or being an afk father again".

      I can only guess that this is a recurring problem at CCP. The pool of game dev talent that they can draw on is hugely reduced by the fact that they are based in Iceland. There just aren't that many people I'd imagine, especially older/experienced ones who tend to have families, that are willing to move to a rock in the middle of the Atlantic where they speak a language no one else in the world does.

  10. Every day, a little bit more, CCP and Eve slip into an ever-decreasing niche market.
    I am SURE that the recent decline in online players is SOLELY dependent on ESO being released, and when the numbers stay low over the next few months, the fact that it is summer will be responsible for that.

    People play Eve to build an empire, large or small. The fact that at every turn they are stymied by either the cartels in null sec, or by the dev's hammering at their gameplay in high sec, seems lost on CCP. The CSM is relishing the fact that they have made the game much harder for a largest segment of their player base, and that is just plain insane to longterm health.

    Is the continuing loss of longterm dev's part of a power-play by a group within CCP to drive out the people that recognize that killing your largest player base is nuts, or rats fleeing a ship, or just normal business, I have no idea.

    But I am sure that the slow bleeding will continue, and the sub base will slowly slip away. I can't wait until SC comes out and CCP can truly reap what they have sown.

    1. lol. oh, Dins. every day you look more and more like that crazy old guy on the corner with a placard saying "the end is NIGH!"

    2. Ok Dinsdale, facts of life time.

      "he fact that at every turn they are stymied by either the cartels in null sec"

      You have not once ever shown your evidence for cartel like behavior in nulsec. And you've also failed to show how even if such a thing exists why it would be bad for the game.

      "dev's hammering at their gameplay in high sec"

      You are not MEANT to have gameplay in highsec. the game is INTENDED to drive you into more lucrative areas of space. By applying pressure to this element of the game CCP intend to push you into other places. If you want to keep playing in the newbie themepark, that's up to you - it is afterall a sandbox. But CCP are in no way obliged to make such an existence lucrative in the slightest. The overwhelming majority of players (not pilot accounts) enjoy the fruits of eve outside of highsec. This is fairly self evident. Highsec is a place for newbies and trade alts - and even if as you assert the majority of the player base live in highsec (which is contrary to the message CCP is giving us both directly and indirectly in terms of how they are managing their game), CCP do not have to make it easier for you to continue playing like this.

      "largest segment of their player base, and that is just plain insane to longterm health."

      This assumes CCP is stupid. Worse, it assumes that those who have a stake in CCP are stupid. Occams razor applies - CCP is making it more lucrative for anywhere BUT highsec because doing so is the best thing for their bottom line and their business model. Also your assertions that it is the "largest segment of their player base" is based on what? pilots living in a particular area of space? because in eve people don't have alts right?

      "Is the continuing loss of longterm dev's part of a power-play by a group within CCP to drive out the people that recognize that killing your largest player base is nuts, or rats fleeing a ship, or just normal business, I have no idea."

      Let's not forget that you hated many of these devs because they were GOONS WHO ARE TRYING TO TAKE OVER THE GAME BY RUINING HIGHSEC FOR RMT... but how about a simpler explaination - a group of people hired on or around the same time have decided to move on with their lives. Most people spend at most 5 years working for a single company these days. It is more likely that the current crop of devs are moving on to other opportunities.

    3. The highsec->lowsec->sov null progression model is old and deprecated. CCP doesn't follow it anymore; if there are any holdouts in Iceland, they should get with the program.

      The problems they are addressing now are:

      1) that whole huge parts of their game haven't been touched since they were first written in 2003 and 2004. They are retiring technical debt and modernizing the game--both in terms of UI and of code--as quickly as possible.

      2) They are taking the opportunity to fix a lot of lopsided gameplay. EVE is not just a ship PVP game, but there are whole swaths of its landscape where that's what it's reduced to, and whole other segments that are freighters and traders online. People have adapted to it, but that doesn't mean it's a good system.

      High sec is just a wee little bit large to be considered merely a newbie starter area. The goal is to have every part of space be viable, just different.

      Just to pick one example: everyone knows that you make more money in nullsec, right? Except that that's only true of PVE. If you want to make the real money you make it from other players... in high sec. Some of the richest moguls in the game made their trillions in Jita. They might happen to be senior staff in nullsec alliances, but null is not where they made their ISK. It's not where they made your fleet ship, for that matter.

      The root problem is that the game is in a bad state of repair, and nearly every part of space will have to change in the course of fixing it. It's not just sov that needs overhaul. In fact, one could argue that there's no point trying to fix sov when the rest of the game is in the shape it's in.

    4. Excellent points in the prior post. My problem with the whole endeavour is that CCP is trying to herd players to different areas of space by making it more lucrative. When you do that sort of thing, you either use a carrot or a stick. I, as well as many of my in game friends, have yet to see the carrot. I only see the stick. I have no doubt that CCP thinks they are using a carrot but they aren't, they refuse to recognize that the biggest problem is the null sec playerbase. It is full of worthless assholes who magically transform CCP's carrot to a stick.

  11. There's no point speculating about the reasons for or cause of Lander's departure, although his terse goodbye on Twitter was curious. I agree with you, Jester, about his impact and accomplishments at CCP and that his departure is a loss for the company. However, I hope this culminates in a big move forward for him professionally and personally. With his talents and personable demeanor, he should hit the ground running and perhaps we will hear of his new adventures very soon.

  12. I am very disappointed (and worried) about the slow bleeding of “hi staff” at CCP offices. If you did a quick search you will see that several member who was in key positions leave for others games or companies. And not, I am not overreacting. This is not a good sight for EVE. I really hope that CCP make a big announcement at fanfest and clearly stated the health of the game, because it is preoccupant. It is not a speculation, it is a fact.

    1. The worrying point is not just that top staff leaves -it's that some aren't being replaced.

  13. EVE may not be dying, but CCP sure seems to be. Here's to a smooth acquisition by King.com games.

    1. Heh. If *they* bought it, I would definitely cancel my accounts. ::shudder::

      It's weird if CCP are that inflexible about where an employee is based, particularly if s/he's at Jon Lander's pay grade. Even the much older and more traditional company I work for (which was resistant to telecommuting for a long time) has people working from home 5-10 timezones away from HQ. And these aren't super high level tech folks, either.

      Puzzling that CCP would be less progressive.

      I hope he and the others who were laid off land somewhere fun and stable.

  14. probably just burnt out is all. needs a fresh start somewhere else without the history

  15. I remember when Jon Lander presented at Fanfest two years ago. It was a stunning performance, and everyone in the room knew that it was he who saved our game and our community. When he was finished, and had announced that he was moving on to another position, everyone rose and gave Jon a long, heartfelt standing ovation. It was an emotional moment - I'll never forget it.

    I wish him all the best in his future endeavors, where ever they may be.

  16. I wonder how much longer CCP is going to keep its main development team in Iceland. I would think that they are limiting thier supply of good developers by doing so.

  17. @Jester .. i keep coming back to your blog for good heartfelt writing such as this .. please keep delivering this stuff :)

    @ Jon Lander .. best of wishes to you and your family on finding your next gig

    I will say it raises concerns from someone very experienced in the dynamics of a technology company when the most important assets walk out the door time and again.

    Its time to consider who's at the helm and where are they really trying to go? Hopefully the board of directors has a stake in the game here and wont continue to drop the ball.


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