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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Friday, September 2, 2011

Proof positive

I'm starting to see a real improvement in EVE's GM team, and with direct dev and CCP employee interaction with players in-game, over this summer.

I have pretty frequent interactions with the game's GMs for whatever reason.  When I checked last night, I wasn't surprised to learn that I've written more than 30 petitions over the years regarding issues as disparate as EVE's Buddy system to bot reports to bugged content.  When I first started playing EVE, those interactions were very positive.  GMs were responsive, eager to support their customers, and the results of those petitions were fair.  You got a real sense that something was happening behind the scenes when you petitioned something, and that petitions were being reviewed for ways to improve both GM interaction with players and the game itself.

The Buddy system petition I wrote is a good example of this.  I sent a RL friend a Buddy invite to EVE some three years ago.  He started playing it and liked it, but not really understanding how the account system worked, ended up purchasing his first month of play-time over Steam.  Not knowing this is what he had done, and not understanding why he was telling me "Yes, I subscribed" but I wasn't seeing my free month of play-time, I petitioned it.  The GM got beneath it and explained to me what happened.  He could have easily said, "since your friend subscribed via Steam, I'm afraid I can't credit you the game-time."  He didn't.  He agreed there was ample evidence that I had brought a new player to the EVE universe -- the spirit of the Buddy program -- and credited me the time.

It was a positive, pro-customer experience.  I was happy to rate the response as a "10" in the GM's customer survey system and went about my business.

Later, though, the spirit of CCP's programs clearly got lost in the GM's attempts to become more procedural and process-oriented rather than customer-oriented.  The strict letter of the law soon became what counted, not the intent.  For a stretch of nearly two years there, nearly every petition I submitted was responded to by a form letter and then immediately closed, whether I was happy or not.  An excellent example of a GM response during this time period happened during the horrid lag-fests that struck the server not long after Dominion was released.  I purchased a set of four BPOs from a distant station, but the market glitched and I didn't receive the BPOs.  A moment later, the server crashed.  When the server came back up, I logged back in, and seeing neither the BPOs in my hangar or the money deducted from my wallet, purchased the BPOs again, got them into cargo, un-docked and headed for my destination.

About 20 minutes later, the money was deducted from my wallet a second time and a second set of those BPOs were deposited in the distant hangar.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of other people were affected in much the same way with their own market orders.  It appeared to affect only a relatively small number of people in a relatively confined area, but was still a major problem.  But instead of addressing it, the response to my petition was that while, yes, I had received items I didn't want or need, and yes, it was clearly the game's fault, I should just shut up and put them up on the market to get my ISK back.  The petition was then closed before I could so much as respond.  I had purchased those BPOs to complete a set; there was no demand for them and I ended up taking quite a loss on them before I could get anyone to buy them.

Pro-customer response?  Not so much.

These kinds of responses from the GMs came to a head this spring, when Vuk Lau lost a super-cap under less-than-ideal circumstances and the GM response was dismissive at best and downright contemptuous at worst.

That seems to be changing this summer.

As recently as this August, there have been GM responses to petitions that haven't been ideal... but at least you can again see wheels turning in the background.  The GMs are digging into the why behind things instead of just reading off canned resposnes that get tickets out of their queues as quickly as possible.  The answer might still be "no" sometimes, but at least they're saying why.  The spirit of the law is again taking hold from the letter.  And even if the answer is "no", they're at least giving you the opportunity to respond before they close the ticket with your name on it and you can see that there are at least reasons for why they're doing what they do.

I had another two more opportunities to submit petitions in the last month or so, and my experiences with the GM team have been quite different from last year.  Just this week, I was in an HQ incursion fleet where the site failed to pay the ISK reward to any of the members of the fleet involved.  This was doubly aggravating because our HQ fleet had lost a ship in the midst of this incursion.  Without that ISK, reimbursing the pilot that lost his ship is problematic.  I petitioned it providing strong supporting data and encouraged the rest of the HQ fleet to do the same.  Two GMs got involved in the issue, which tripped my "uh oh" flag, but they apparently investigated it, looked at my supporting data, and agreed that the game itself had caused the problem.  I was paid the ISK due me, and checking with other members of the fleet confirmed that others in the fleet that had petitioned the bug were receiving the same treatment.  My other petition this month was handled in an equally positive manner.  And the bugged HQ petition was handled in under two days while the Incarna 1.1 patch was going in!

Chatting about the petition with a group of players in chat confirmed that many of them are seeing the same things I am: a GM team that is more responsive to player needs.

So, we're not quite at the pro-active GM community team that I'd like to see yet (more Live Events, please, for instance), but responsiveness is up, and as I said, the GMs seem to be more interested in the spirit of the law rather than the letter.  Both of these are positive signs.  Keep it going!

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