I've never been all that fashionable.
I've decided that I came down on the wrong side of the SOMER Blink debate, particularly as it applies to the reward of 30 Ishukone Watch Scorpions to employees of that organization. It's not that I don't value their contribution to the community. I absolutely do! But CCP giving SOMER Blink this reward -- only the second player organization to receive it -- was a poor choice. I said this in my initial post about this debate.
The problem, however, was that initial post got caught up in a side issue: whether CCP has the right to reward community leaders. I still think they do! But I treated who received this particular reward as the side issue. The more I think about this and the more I read player concerns about it, the more I realize that SOMER Blink receiving this reward isn't a side issue on this matter.
It's the main issue. It's the only issue that really matters.
CCP has posted their first response to player concerns on this matter. Please go out and read it if you have not already.
Reading their statement in this context, I believe CCP is also caught up in side issues. CCP Guard and the rest of the team that wrote this response did a lovely job of covering these side issues, but side issues they are. They avoided the main issue and lots and lots of players in the thread have (rightly) called them on it. Guard is one of my top five favorite people at CCP and watching him having to respond to the same question over and over again in the thread -- "why SOMER?!" -- is painful.
I received a few dozen comments to my blog post on the issue, and I tried to respond to every salient point that was raised. But only two people directly EVE mailed me about this issue. One of those EVE mails was very short. The other, from EVE player Rob Crowley, was quite long. But his EVE mail was so impassioned, detailed, and well-reasoned that I responded to him in kind with a lengthy response. Now most of what he wrote, most of what I wrote back, and most of his second response is also -- quite frankly -- about side issues. But he raised one argument that I simply can't ignore (which I've edited somewhat for clarity):
Now for the hopefully compelling argument why it is wrong:And he's right. That's a compelling argument. I can't think of and I have not seen from CCP any argument which refutes that. DNSBLACK, an EVE player I respect a lot, makes a very similar -- and equally compelling -- argument in an OpEd posted on EVE News 24. Go give that a read as well.
The core element of EVE which sets it apart from other games is its sandbox nature where players can do (to a degree) whatever they want and compete with other players. Paraphrasing one of the higher-up devs recently (might have been Unifex): "The players are at the helm. They decide where the game goes." So in order to provide such a sandbox it is important that CCP does not unnecessarily meddle around with it. This means that in particular they can't mess with the inter-player competition by supporting one group of players.
Somer is run for-profit within the sandbox and therefore in direct in-game competition with all kinds of similar lotteries, gambling or betting services. CCP directly supported Somer twice by giving them massive in-game valuables to auction off and by giving them the very valuable IScorps (those were worth ~20b a piece when Somer got them, it doesn't matter how much they'll be worth in a year when CCP has given out more, because of the secrecy people didn't even know back then that there would be so many more of them). On top of that they also endorsed the service and claimed that it's legitimate on the forums.
All of this is directly supporting Somer and therefore directly hurting everyone competing with Somer. It's a distortion of competition and therefore damaging the very core of the sandbox.
But I can simplify the argument: it was wrong for CCP to provide an in-game advantage to one player organization over another player organization, regardless of why they did. That's the main issue here. If CCP wanted to reward SOMER Blink, they should have been rewarded outside the game in some fashion, and that reward and the reason for it should have been made immediately public to the community. When the CSM is brought to Iceland for the Winter Summit and this topic comes up, that's what I'll be saying to CCP. I thank CCP profusely for making it clear that the CSM will be engaged on this issue and they'll have more to say on this matter.
So consider this a partial retraction, or as is fashionable in the U.S. to say, a "walking back" of my original position. My thanks to DNSBLACK and to Rob Crowley for their input, as well as everyone who commented on the original post. I still think I got what I said about the side issues (in particular CCP's rights and the fact this should have been public in the first place) mostly right, but I was dead wrong in not seeing and not properly responding to the main issue. And I do still think Xander Phoena is silly for thinking my first post was in any way influenced by a conflict of interest (sorry, Xander).
Anyone who wishes to make Jell-O analogies may do so... now.