Thursday, June 30, 2011

Emergency Meeting

Day 1 of the emergency meeting is practically over. Now we have the "informal meetings" that happen over dinner and beer. (No, these are not attempts at buying us off, though I'd love that).

I won't be able to discuss some specifics of the meetings until the thing is over and we've cleared everything, but a status update is in order.

The atmosphere within the attending CSMs was relatively relaxed. Unlike other times, there was no discussion about World of Tanks or other non-CSM things however and all of the time spent yesterday was spent talking about the issues. There is general consensus on the situation with some slight nuances when it comes to specifics.

Today, we started with the "easy stuff". InCarna perception, CQ, Nex Store useability and pricing structure, we also touched up a bit on the 99 dollars program. Tension was present in growing quantities over the day, but the conversations were constructive and not overly confrontational. Points were made clearly and unequivocally, but in a decent atmosphere.

The Employees within CCP who don't participate in the meetings and knew us took the time to discuss aspects of the issues during lunch and breaks, on both sides, either appreciating our perspective or playing devil's advocate or providing mitigating (but still reasonable) points to the discussion.

As far as the meetings are concerned, progress has been made on some points, elements of answers have been found for others. Overall I deemed this day positive with one caveat I will get into after the public announcement has been made (note to self:230).

The toughest day will obviously be tomorrow, and we'll see how that goes, but considering the conversations we've had both with people who will participate to those sessions and others, I have good hope things will turn out fine. Hope I won't be proven wrong.

Sorry for not getting into the gritty details, but it would be unfair to promise or incite to rage either way until things are set in stone.

Now off for debriefing with the CSM delegates. Will update tomorrow.

PS: I don't have *real* internet access, please repost this to the appropriate channels as appropriate.
PPS: Sorry for not answering all your evemails, there was just too many to respond to individually, I read them all up to yesterday.
Stephan aka Meissa Anunthiel

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel?

It seems CCP has heard our complaints, partially at least...

CCP Zulu's latest devblog goes on in a better direction than the previous one...

While it doesn't fully address our concern, and what it does address does not do so to the extent we would want, it is apparent our message has been heard and CCP is willing to engage (again) in constructive dialog.

It may have been the case that CCPers were under pressure from top management to "stay the course" and our recent demonstrations/cancellations/posts/shooting at structures started to raise some alarms.

Either way, we've been summoned to Iceland on very short notice. Frankly I don't see the point, we could convey mostly the same thing with the skype conversations we've been having non-stop. However there's genuine added value to being present face to face when engaging in conflictual dialog, so that may be that, and also the people we are having skype conversations with may not be the same...

I just hope they don't hope they're going to change our minds by getting us some dinner or something, but I doubt that's what they plan. We've had enough interactions in the past for them to know I, for one, do not shy away from strong words when they are necessary and cannot be bought of. Considering the tone of this last message and the discussions we've had over the past days, I expect something productive to come out of it. We'll see... To recap, my position is this:

1) I don't want gold ammo, ships for $, +10% damage implants or any other form of "pay2win". I'm fine with t-shirts, ship paint jobs, corp logos on ships & outposts, that kind of non competitive thing. I want CCP to stick with that stance.

2) I want NeX price to be altered, ideally between the $2 and $5 price range for the vast majority of the items so that everyone can participate, as opposed to the to 10% richest plebs. I don't mind $150 monocles as long as everyone can participate to a significant degree.

3) I want commitment that the option not to load CQ stay in place until such time as the performance for docking & loading station environment becomes acceptable (read: 20 seconds on my machine, subjective criteria, I know :p)

4) I want clarifications on the $99 program so that fansites are not milked if they manage to recoup even the slightest bit of their cost through ads.

This is what I'll be going to Iceland with, as well as the reasons for those things. Should there be anything more to add, be sure to contact me or one of the other CSM delegates.

I'll definitely keep you posted.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

And so it continues...

Yesterday I was informed a mail was making the rounds, purported to be from CCP Hellmar (CCP CEO). That email was really really not good, and I hoped, for the sake of trying to find solutions, that it wouldn't get released to the world... The cat is out of the bag:

In that mail (that I couldn't confirm comes from Hilmar, so it may be wrong), we hear several things:

[the latest expansion: CQ] rolls out without a hitch, is in some cases faster than what we had before, this is the pinnacle of professional achievement.
The pinnacle of professional achievement... The turd that lets me dock up in 90 seconds, has lighting issues all over the place, disabled cynojammers, broke effects in wormholes, removed implants from people's heads... Ok...
After 40 hours we have already sold 52 monocles, generating more revenue than any of the other items in the store.
 So, going by these figures, CCP made, at most, in the first 2 days 15,000$. And they call that a success.
This we have done after months of research by a group of highly competent professionals, soliciting input and perspective from thought leaders and experts in and around our industry.
And yet, a few weeks before release, they still didn't have a pricing plan to communicate to the CSM. I repeat, not that they didn't do it, they didn't HAVE it.

We went out with a decisive strategy on pricing and we will stay the course and not flip flop around or knee jerk react to the predictable.
Sooo, in essence, that says "fuck you guys, you can shout all you want, we won't budge". This explains Zulu's devblog, and paints a bleak picture as far as negociation is concerned.

However, he also says this:

I can tell you this is one of the moments where we look at what our players do and less of what they say.
Since dialog is conditioned to actions, let me ask all of you, readers, to protest in Jita, Amarr, Rens. Jetcan shuttles, shoot monuments, rename all your ships, whatever is necessary.

Also, if you have a subscription, cancel it. I don't ask you biomass your characters, I would rather see a resolution to these issues than stopping playing the game, but the only metrics CCP has easy access to is subscriber numbers. So cancel your subscription, and if you're about to lapse, buy a plex with that same CC. The non-permanence of your account will in and of itself send a strong message.

Will keep you informed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Adding napalm to the fire...

So I've spent the past 16 hours reading forums, posting in 4 languages on different forums, chatting continuously with CCP, with individual players, with my fellow CSM members. Kudos to Trebor Daehdoow, Seleene and Two Step for the continuous and constructive posts throughout the day, btw.

I've tried to put things in perspective, provide constructive feedback to CCP as to how to handle the drama. I might as well have been pissing in the wind...

After lengthy discussions, CCP finally got back to us with a draft devblog for feedback. I was baffled at what I was seeing, I couldn't believe CCP would post that after all we had talked. So I put my thinking cap on again and posted constructively in that thread, mentioning things that needed to be addressed, like "will CCP add items providing in-game advantage to the store" and "this pricing scheme will not work, change it", and asking for data on what the grand plan that was alluded to but never presented actually was.

1 hour later, while still waiting for comments on our feedback, the devblog gets posted, nearly as it was.
Needless to say, I'm fucking pissed. What have I been doing if it's to get ignored?

Specifically, the lack of comments about:

Not going to include items that provide in-game advantages (read: gold ammo) is terrible terrible news, and a total change from past comments from CCP to the CSM.

The pricing scheme, not only is it against our wishes, but it's plain retardedness from CCP as they're not going to accomplish their objective AND are going to alienate part of the playerbase in the process...

The crap performance of CQ and the stated temporary nature of the "do not load station environment" settings.

I don't know how to make CCP reason. They seem hell bent on putting their fingers in their ears and singing in unison "everything's fine and dandy, lalalalalalalalala can't hear you".

I have to think some more about this, but this doesn't smell good...

We're being consulted on the price scheme for the next batch of MT items. If it goes the way of the devblog, well don't hope for too much...

The recent CCP fuck-ups

This is a message I posted to CCP, I think it expresses my stance on the series of recent fuck-ups.

[note: There's nice things about the latest release. I like the turret effects, other than lighting it's nice to walk about in CQ, the new NPE & Aura is awesome, the integration for new player recruitment is great and I get reports that it accomplishes its goal.]
Hello CCP,

For the past 3 years as a member of the CSM I've been extremely constructive with you guys, even on things I disagreed with.
I like to think we've been a nice group of people to have conversations with so far, and overall trustworthy (we've had our moments, but heh). We disagree, but the discussions have led to more good results than not. We reach compromises and understand one another after discussing and we helped you both reach better decisions and communicate those better...

For that reason I don't understand the lack of communication to us about a series of things...
I've never had issues defending CCP's position publicly, even when I don't always agree with everything as long as I agree with the plan, I even went so far as publicly defend the objective behind the anomaly nerf, because I was willing to recognize that I may be wrong in the assertion that it wouldn't lead to the desired goal and I agreed with the goal (So far I was right by the way). One thing I don't like is being deceived, lied to, manipulated and otherwise ignored (that last bit is hubris, but forgive a man his ego :p).

The recent strings of fuck-ups fall in these category and each individually would be bad, but the series of it gets me irked.

Let's talk about $99.
When in Iceland, we were presented with a nice program. One that would let 3rd party application developers get access to more stuff than they have now, for a token fee (for a dev, $99 is nothing), and that people would be able to monetize their apps through that license. Then you publish the devblog and it looks like it's going to be mandatory (you didn't mention that), that you plan on taxing fansites who make money through advertising and that there's going to be no extra APIs or stuff. You'd think we'd be interested in knowing that...
There's been Eve fansites for 8 years, so the "IP dilution" thesis doesn't hold water. It can't be money grabbing, so what is it? Are you trying to tone down negative PR that sometimes comes from fansites and partners? I don't get it...

Then there's AURUM.
I don't give a shit about monocles or people having them. I care about you creating an experience that few will be able to take part in. That's both foolish in terms of resource spending and in terms of reception (not even talking about how much money you'll be able to make). First when we talked about it, you called it "microtransactions". Turns out it's MACROtransactions. Relabeling it "Virtual Goods" post facto does not really mitigate the fact that it's a drastic change in direction from what we initially talked about. We ASKED you for pricing values during the meeting in Iceland, you said it was being studied, we asked you to come back to us when you'd know, you said you would... You didn't... I explained my position on the relative value of items in the other thread, so I'm not going to repeat it now. But let me just say this: When you spend so much time and effort developing something, it'd be nice if more than 2% of the population could take part in it. "Have" and "Have nots" is not how you want to go with this. Create expensive items, sure, make them all cost an arm and a leg, not ok... Not for me... You mentionned having a plan. I'm still waiting to see it. Or at least have Dr.Eyjog or another economist come forward and say it makes sense. Because frankly from this point of view, it looks like there's no plan, that pricing scheme was thrown together 2 days before release without consulting anyone. Please show me that it's not the case.

Then there's Zinfandel's saying the CSM approved of the direct AURUM to scorpion conversion when we said the exact opposite. We, as a compromise, agreed that it wouldn't be too bad for 2 weeks. I'm sure it was a honest mistake, after all Rick engaged us quite constructively and meaningfully (thanks Zinfandel, don't stop), but it still leaves a sour taste...

Then there's InCarna part 1 of 2 aka CQ.
The performance is terrible, despite Zulu's assurance that docking would take the same time as it did before. And yeah, I'm aware there's the "turn off station environment" temporary solution. And I say temporary, because that's what Zulu said. This leaves me wondering "will I be stuck with 90 seconds docking time in december?". That would be totally unacceptable, and I'm waiting for an answer on that one. I understand software development, I know that sometimes unrealistic expectations have been set, but a clarification on the (new) acceptance criteria is definitely necessary.
Oh, side note, the lighting is not what it should be. I'll put that in the bug category.
And I'm still annoyed at being stuck with a verokhior character and no ability to change bloodline, as are many others. This isn't going to increase immersion (your stated objective) when people are forced into a character look they didn't pick.

Then, there's the nice PDF document...
The Stoffer/John thing: The point of the exercise was to show 2 different end of the spectrum when it comes to player perception about virtual goods, I get that. Different opinions are good to be able to reach sensible decisions.
What I don't get is how you can, in May 2011, after CSM 5 spent so much fucking time tell you we don't want that shit, plan on releasing "straight aurum to ships" and "ammunition". We told you time and time again SPECIFICALLY we don't want that. We named it, we don't want gold ammo. And the kicker for me is: you agreed, repeatedly! You said you wouldn't do it, then you still plan on doing it? I resent being lied to.

For Stoffer's sake, I'll address some of his points:
I already have controlled spending, I have a *SUBSCRIPTION* I already pay for the stuff. You want to add that kind of controlled spending you're talking about, then remove the subscription and go full retard. One thing you'll find out is that spending may increase, but playerbase will decrease. Income isn't everything, if I play a game where 30,000 people each spend 200$ a month, it's not a game I want to play, because unlike World of Tanks or LOTRO or DDO, Eve is extremely competitive and puts players against one another in a permanent world, as opposed to players against the environment or repeats of matches without consequences, and, let me repeat, has LASTING effects (that's one of your marketing points as I recall, you leave your mark on the world).
And no you're not going to be burnt at the stake for talking to us. Some go ballistic, but haven't we been able to hold constructive discussions in the past when we first talked about microtx? Haven't we given you ideas about what would be well received and what wouldn't?
Stoffer mentions "and if you don't like it, you can just buy a PLEX". Well, can you check the ISK income growth of the 30% of the playerbase who buy PLEXes today? How many of them can afford to buy more than one.

I think PLEXes are brilliant, they give an opportunity for people who are time rich and real money poor to play the game, and they do, and those people participate in making Eve a vibrant place with lots of people in it interacting. I'll repeat my point: $ income isn't the only metric. Would you think it acceptable to lose 50% of the playerbase if the remaining 50% pay twice more? I wouldn't.

I don't claim to have the answer to every question about these topics, these are my perceptions, maybe they're right, maybe they're not, but at the very least they're not gut reactions. As I told Kurt about something else, I'm willing to wear a pink tutu and post a youtube video apologizing for being wrong, but given how little I like tutus, this is not likely...

Now that I've expressed why I'm pissed, would you please be so kind in the future to at least talk to us and present these things before they have a chance to provide more and more drama, because one thing is certain, we may not be economist or game designers, but when it comes down to gauging player perception (at least in the short & medium terms), you suck, we don't...

Edit: And my stance with regards to pricing is this:

On the positive side, the items are nice looking and the store works fine. Now...

Where's the magic strategy? What data have you used to back it up? Why haven't we been consulted?
How do you expect to justify price differences between random items when, for the average player, it's going to be a case of "default clothing" vs "vanity clothing", and not a case of "this vanity clothing" vs "that vanity clothing". In essence you're not going to be able to justify a price difference between the items because the perceived value is "has one" vs "doesn't have one".
I don't give a rat's ass about a monocle costing $70, it could cost $200 and I wouldn't care, the problem is you put the barrier of entry too high, and there lies the problem with creating perceived value for your $70 shit, because too few people are going to participate.

It's supposed to be MICROtransactions, not MACROtransactions ffs. At least that's what you presented it to us as initially, renaming it "virtual goods" does not alter the fact.

This, compounded with the mischaracterization of our stance with the scorpion (I'll attribute it to oversight rather than intentionally trying to have us rubber stamp something we don't approve of) makes me really unhappy about the whole current situation.

You may have better ideas as to what the economic reasoning is behind this but if so I'd *LOVE* to hear them...

Another CSM member whose opinion is worth reading: