At CCP we have been working hard to expand the gaming landscape by applying the knowledge and expertise we’ve built up with EVE Online to create a new experience within the EVE Universe in DUST 514, as well as a new video game franchise in World of Darkness.
During the last few months, as evidenced by our interaction with the community, we made some missteps on that journey.
As we reexamine our outward relations, we are also taking time to reevaluate our internal goals. In doing so, we have come to the conclusion that we are attempting too many things for a company our size. Developing EVE expansions, DUST 514 and World of Darkness has stretched our resources too thin.
The investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time. The CSM, under NDA, has been presented with CCP‘s plans for continued evolution of the business model and agrees that nothing they saw breaks this principle. CCP has committed to sharing their plans with the CSM on this front on an ongoing basis.
The Mittani (aka Alexander Gianturco, Eve’s senior politician)
We believe that the situation that has unfolded in the past week has been a perfect storm of CCP communication failures, poor planning and sheer bad luck. Most of these issues, when dealt with in isolation, were reasonably simple to discuss and resolve, but combined they transformed a series of errors into the most significant crisis the EVE community has yet experienced.
Now it’s up to the players to determine if they quit shooting their lasers at statues and resume shooting them at one another.
“There is a pretty overwhelming perception amongst EVE players that these changes are bad. I think they’re brilliant, but our players don’t. We’re going to face an uphill struggle, and the reason many of us never talk about this publically is that we’d be burned at the stake by the players.”
– Kristoffer Touborg, from the leaked “Fearless” internal CCP discussion pamphlet
Eve’s current woes are interesting for a number of reasons. Let’s run through them quickly.
First, the Eve playerbase feels both empowered and angry. They feel very much as though they should have a voice in how the game is run. CCP has not disagreed with this, and their “Council of Stellar Management” player advisory council is currently winging its way to Iceland, at CCP’s expense (and knowing the expense of last-minute airline reservations, more than cancelling any benefit from selling virtual monocles). We’ve seen player protests in MMOs before, but this is the first overt player riot – enabled in part by Eve’s own strengths of being a unitary server game so that if, say, someone decides it’s a good idea to shoot up a statue commemorating the in-game NPC leaders as a political gesture, it can get legs.
In-game political ownership, and a sense of that extending out of the game into the game’s corporate management, is not new to Eve – virtual worlds in general elicit that sense of ownership. (See the fury at Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE changes, or Prokofy Neva’s various writings demanding that Linden Lab not be permitted to run their own product without some sort of oversight). Part of the bargain of setting people loose to build your world for you – or more accurately, the social constructs that help build that world – is that those people tend to value their labor more than yours. And they should. Without the value added by its players, Eve is a spreadsheet simulator, Second Life is literally nothing whatsoever and Star Wars Galaxies is, well, post-NGE Star Wars Galaxies.
The NGE is illustrative here as well, in that, like that ill-fated attempt by SOE to move Star Wars Galaxies in a more mainstream direction, CCP appears to have plans for its MMOs that Eve players aren’t very interested in. Eve is a very hardcore, complicated, and most importantly, abstract game. The great majority of Eve players don’t care about monocles, they care about extracting 3% more efficiency out of their missile launcher speeds. The drama about $25 virtual shirts and $60 virtual monocles in the item store is amusing, the “walking in a small room in your spaceship” feature Incarna added to justify said item store is also amusing, but what enrages Eve players is the thought that they might have to pay $50 – or $5 – tomorrow to get that 3% missile launcher efficiency. Or worse, that someone else would. That was the part of the leaked internal discussion/propaganda leaflet that so enraged the Eve playerbase, where one member of the “point/counterpoint” discussion advocated exactly that. And that was why an Eve producer posting to the official blog finally said, point blank, in an attempt to calm the rioting, “there are no and never have been plans to sell “gold ammo”” (contradicting another section of said leaked document which said explicitly that ammunition sales were in fact under consideration).
Still, the fact remains – CCP introduced an item shop to Eve, a game which very vehemently did not need, nor want one. They patched in ambulatory avatars, in a game where most players ever appear only as abstract radar widgets, specifically to support that item shop. CCP is taking their game in places that their players do not want it to go. And the players know this. And they are angry.
To state the brutally obvious: this is not how to handle microtransactions. In fact, this is probably a textbook case in how NOT to handle microtransactions (a story that has been written already, actually). And in a hardcore abstract game such as Eve, I’m not sure microtransactions can even work, at least without alienating almost every player Eve currently has – in other words, an NGE-style extinction level event. And CCP is not a stupid company. They have one of the most successful independently-run MMOs in the market today. They effectively own the niche of PvP virtual worlds, to the point that fans are angry at the realization they have nowhere else to go.
The conspiracy theory one is tempted to indulge in, then, given that brutally obvious fact – is CCP, in fact, intentionally forcing an extinction level event? Do they want to alienate the hardcore playerbase that helped give the company the motto “harden the f*ck up”?
I suspect CCP can still recover player good will and staunch the bleeding of what anecdotally are already a significant number of cancelled accounts – but it needs to be done quickly.
“The most visible example of another game introducing virtual goods sales is certainly LOTRO. It is worth pointing out though that they made almost everything microtransaction based and at the same time removed subscription fees. Because other games with very different communities and very different gameplay styles are able to do something it doesn’t mean we can do the same thing with the same levels of success.”
“More revenue is of course an aim, but making our customers feel like they are being “double billed” to be able to play on the same level as others is just a step too far.”
– John Turbefield, from the leaked “Fearless” internal CCP discussion pamphlet
The Eve player base responded with the calm demeanor you’d expect by, um, literally rioting. The devs responded with, uh, yeah.
People have been shocked by the price range in the NeX store, but you should remember that we are talking about clothes. Look at the clothes you are currently wearing in real life. Do you have any specific brands? Did you choose it because it was better quality than a no-name brand? Assume for a short while that you are wearing a pair of $1,000 jeans from some exclusive Japanese boutique shop. Why would you want to wear a pair of $1,000 jeans when you can get perfectly similar jeans for under $50? What do other people think about you when they see you wearing them? For some you will look like the sad culmination of vainness while others will admire you and think you are the coolest thing since sliced bread. Whichever it is, it is clear that by wearing clothes you are expressing yourself and that the price is one of the many dimensions that clothes possess to do that in addition to style and fit. You don’t need to buy expensive clothes. In fact you don’t need to buy any clothes. Whatever you choose to do reflects what you are and what you want others to think you are.
If you do not buy a $60 monocle A LOSER IS YOU. So there you go.
Naturally, we have caught the attention of the world. Only a few weeks ago we revealed more information about DUST 514 and now we have done it again by committing to our core purpose as a company by redefining assumptions. After 40 hours we have already sold 52 monocles, generating more revenue than any of the other items in the store.
Currently we are seeing _very predictable feedback_ on what we are doing. Having the perspective of having done this for a decade, I can tell you that this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say.
Or, as Hilmar The Very Savvy Business Cat says…
But the best/worst part, that makes me really hope for Petturson’s sake that this is some clever troll of a forgery or possibly the work of a very drunk Icelandic summer pub crawl, is this line:
But we have done more, not only have we redefined the production quality one can apply to virtual worlds with the beautiful Incarna but we have also defined what it really means to make virtual reality more meaningful than real life when it comes to launching our new virtual goods currency, Aurum.
I…. what was that, Hilmar The Cat That Leverages Synergy?
The announcement, with the trailer tagline of “one universe, one war”, came at the end of a talk about the history of CCP. It left many GDC Europe keynote attendees — perhaps expecting an announcement for World Of Darkness, CCP’s other rumored project — significantly surprised.
The trailer, with slick in-game graphics, showcased a space station and then impressive first-person shooter gameplay. Petursson said that Dust 514 is “our take on a console MMO”, and was made after the company “looked hard at what people wanted to do on consoles”.
In fact, when Dust 514 launches, the map of EVE, currently divined only by player structures owned in the PC game, will also take into account infantry successes and failures within the console game. Players in the PC MMO can “fund mercenaries and give them goals” in the console title.
CCP’s Petursson hope that “these communities will meld over time”, expecting specific Dust 514 corporations to start with, but eventually social structures that bridge across the two. He quipped of the new game and the relationship between the two titles: “While the fleet does the flying, the infantry does the dying.”
On three shiny floors of a former fish factory is CCP, a company best known in computer gaming for Eve Online, which has 300,000 participants all over the world – as many inhabitants as Iceland itself. However, restrictions on access to foreign currency for individuals and businesses and on foreign investment into Iceland are making life difficult. “To make new games, we need foreign investors,” says Eyjolfur Gudmundsson, formerly an assistant professor at the University of Akureyri, who supervises Eve’s virtual economy. “The present currency restrictions are putting us in a straitjacket. We are in talks with the government, but if we can’t let capital in, we might be compelled to leave Iceland, even though this would be against our wishes.”
No word on if this is a lock-stock-and-barrel move or, more likely, Eve’s ‘headquarters’ moving to offshore offices, as hinted by a CCP developer in a related thread. CCP is one of Iceland’s more successful companies, so changing its mailing address to Bermuda would be kinda a big deal.