Go read it in full. I'll wait.
OK, first thing. This interview is really just an extension of Hilmar's very public falling on his sword 16 days ago. Has it really been so short a time? Yes. It really has. I don't know about you, but that devblog feels like it was released an age ago. In particular, Hilmar says three times, in three different ways, that he feels accountable for the decisions that he had to make for the survival of the company. The big, big question is going to be how clearly that feeling of accountability is going to translate itself to the managers below Hilmar.
Trebor asked the question this way on his own blog and it really is a key question:
Are you really sincere about this change of direction by CCP, or do you consider the refocusing on EVE just a temporary bump in the road?This is just gut instinct on my part, but I personally feel like the message is going to get through loud and clear. This is a major refocus, not a speed-bump. My gut instinct does have one small basis in fact: one of the people let go was CCP Hammerhead, aka Noah Ward. Ward, you'll recall, was not only the main champion of Incarna, he was also what appeared to be the main champion of metric-focused game design and of pigeon-holing players into groups and designing Skinner boxes for their play styles.
A lot of people seem to be sad to see him go.
I have to be honest with you: I'm not one of them.
I think letting him go was the right move. He was a major driver that took EVE down what we can now see was the wrong road. But whether you think I'm right or wrong about this, one thing is clear enough: it signals a major shift in CCP policy, not a minor speed-bump. So while Trebor's question was right on and kudos to him for asking it, I think we've got a pretty good idea of what the answer to it is.
If you doubt it, go re-read Hilmar's answer to the questions about the NeX store and about Establishments. That answer seems to underline the fact that we shouldn't expect to see Establishments for a good, long while. If the focus is being removed from the NeX, it stands to reason that the focus is also being removed from the main reason for the NeX: the clothes that we'd be able to show off to each other in the Establishments. I think there's a damn good chance at this point that we're going to see the Establishments code moved to the DUST platform and the concept introduced there first, where micro-transactions were built into the game design right from day one.
Hell, at no point during the interview does Hilmar even use the word "establishments".
When asked about developers specifically tasked to EVE, Hilmar had this to say:
So I would say we have never had as many people adding direct product value to Eve. We're way more focused on that than we've ever been. The really big change here is that we're now more focused on the classical Eve experience that people have come to know and love. That's the go-forward plan.
I've heard a lot of unsubstantiated rumors from various sources indicating that the EVE team was hit harder than the World of Darkness team by the lay-offs. Honestly, even if that's true (and I have serious doubts), I think it's just as likely that the best of both teams were kept and those developers that were on WoD that survived are going to find themselves retasked in pretty short order. So, even if that rumor has some truth to it, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's a non-issue.
What is an issue, though, is the overall feel of the interview from start to finish: this is a man that has -- at least temporarily -- lost his mojo. The interview really underlines something that I had been feeling, but couldn't really put into words. Now I can. When it came out, I called the devblog by CCP Zulu a "love letter", and that's what it is. But that phrase "love letter" has a second, darker context when used in this way. It represents a ploy that's just a little bit... desperate.
The list of things going into the winter expansion is a practically a wish-list of player desires going back years, and that's no bad thing. But CCP has always put out its best expansions when it has swung for the fences, aiming at their own vision. For many years, Kevin Smith was one of my favorite writers and directors. Then he put out a movie called Jersey Girl. He later revealed that it was supposed to be the movie that launched him out of the niche director market and into the mainstream consciousness as a major comedy writer. He was looking for an order of magnitude jump in his fan-base. He tried again with a second movie a couple of years later. It didn't happen then either, and it shattered his confidence. He's never recovered, and his career has been in a death spiral ever since.
Don't get me wrong: the winter expansion has a lot of really exciting, fun stuff in it. It's stuff that the players have asked for, and that's no bad thing. I'm as excited about a lot of these features as anyone.
But not a single player asked for Apocrypha. There needs to be a balance between what we as players want, and CCP blowing our socks off with what they want.
So let's collectively hope that Hilmar and the rest of CCP gets their mojo back in short order.
P.S. There was a fire-cracker of a question asked in this interview about CSM6, but I think that question and its response deserves its own blog post. But don't look for it any time soon. I want to think on that one a bit.