Blog Banter 28: CCP, the CSM, and the future

Sep
13

With CrazyKinux recently retiring his blog and hanging up his coat as the “blogfather”, several cornerstones of the blogging community were relocated to a new home. Rixx Javix took it upon himself to maintain the Blog Pack, and now Seismic Stan stepped up to keep the Blog Banters going. That makes Blog Banter 28 the first set up by our new host, and right off the bat we’re getting a very hot topic to discuss:

In recent months, the relationship between CCP and it’s customers has been the subject of some controversy. The player-elected Council of Stellar Management has played a key role in these events, but not for the first time they are finding CCP difficult to deal with. What effect will CCP’s recent strategies have on the future of EVE Online and it’s player-base? What part can and should the CSM play in shaping that future? How best can EVE Online’s continued health and growth be assured?

For those of you who aren’t too sure what this about now — didn’t CCP give us a dev blog in which an accord was reached? — you best read Seismic Stan’s post, as it has a good amount of resources, before continuing on. All read up, or know exactly what this is about? Good, here we go then.

First off, this Banter is a bit on the late side. One of the reasons being my dad getting remarried at the end of the week, so I’ve been out and about to get everything ready for myself, from a dress to makeup to dropping by the tanning salon. The other reason, however, ties in perfectly with this topic. My motivation for EVE seem to have hit an all time low. From experience I know that summer is a terrible period in online gaming, because even the most die-hard players cannot say no to sunshine outdoor activities a nice BBQ. But this summer has been particularly bad, and then not just because most days were filled with rain, though that may have made made have rubbed in the issue a bit extra. There is a big loss of faith in CCP amongst my alliance members, myself included, and that results in activity dwindling. “I just don’t feel like internet spaceships anymore”, several people told me. Others simply filed an absence due to work, real life, or plain out lack of motivation. And sure, some of them will be truthful, there are jobs that are just not able to combine well with gaming, especially if you also have a family and social life to maintain, but if you really like a game you will find the time to play it, believe me. Currently Ghost Festival has about half its members on some kind of leave, and even the core players who are on every day are spending less time logged in on average. And this is a trend I only see continuing unless something is done about the cause.

Normally, I’d not post those numbers, because they don’t exactly help recruitment along. Or people will conclude that I must simply be failing as a CEO / Co-Executor. Well, I can tell you with confidence that this is not the case, or at least what mistakes I am making are not at the core of the problem. I’ve prodded enough members who I know are frank in their judgement and asked them, so unless everyone is out to kiss my behind or dead afraid of me, I think I did my homework right.

I have been discussing the issue to great length in the last few days, and there are certain things that keep returning. First off is the fact that we are a niche corporation / alliance. In fact, just slapping roleplay on anything already cuts your recruitment pool quite a bit, unless you take a really light approach to it, which on a sidenote is the only way to continue going if you reach a particular size like CVA or U’K. Then there is the fact we live out in 0.0, and then not the sov kind, but the NPC kind. That’s right, we’re a roleplaying alliance that bases out of Curse, you know that region most people know as the place alliances go to die, or use as a staging point, or grumble about because it requires an extra cyno to get from here to there. Welcome to niche play.

However, recruitment is not really the issue, we’re overall seeing a decrease in applications made but nothing that we didn’t see every summer already. Nor do people cite any particular issues with how we operate. Yes, we have a new neighbor that lost their sov and is now running around the neighborhood like they own it, but that’s something we’ve seen before. And it’s quite certainly going to be temporary, because alliances who consciously decide to live in Curse are few and between. It’s also my experience that once a sov player, always a sov player, which explains why losing sov can be a killing blow. It’s kinda hard to go back from there. This is just Curse being Curse and we’ve learned to deal with the eb and flow and carve our own path through that.

When going over what I will call “annoyances” like a former sov holder or the unprobable nerf or the summer activity slump, when digging in deeper, the core of the problem seems to be there is a whole lot of uncertainty going on which traces back to the current state of the game. The drama may have well passed, but it still lingers in the back of everyone’s minds. This ranges from performance issues with Incarna — though the recent patch that fixed load times and system temperatures has done a lot, but we did lose people due to not being able to replace hardware — to the NeX prices to there still being only one CQ to patches that patch patches which are fixing patches that broke patches (I feel for QA here) to the stagnant nature of flying in space. And even though we were presented a nice dev blog with 0.0 design guidelines which I wrote about previously, these are only guidelines, and long term at that, meaning that for the time being we have to make the best of what we do have. Fair enough, people knew when they joined what we do, and that would be quite alright, if only people were still motivated to do it. Not to mention that the things that Incarna brought are not things that will keep players entertained all day.

Ok, let me show you some numbers, which you may have seen over at Jester’s Trek and in The Mittani’s Kugutsumen announcement. Unlike the latter, I will link both images, as I feel they must be viewed together to really understand what is going on. Not that I disagree with what Mittens is saying, on the contrary, I just want to broaden the scope a bit to make the point even clearer.

EVE Logged-in Players (rolling averages)
EVE Online Average Logged-in Players 2011

The first image is a total view, going from 2006 over to 2011, with the red lines being the changing of the year. It’s rather obvious, but I’ll state it extra that means that summer sits halfway in between those red lines. More on that later. The second image is a view of the current half-and-a-bit year. Now, go ahead and compare the two. See how summer is nearly always offset by an expansion releasing, except in 2009 where timing was a bit awkward but where the winter expansion made well up for it. See how Tyrannis shook up last summer. And most importantly, see what didn’t happen right after Incarna. Now ok, the graph doesn’t a whole lot further after Incarna, but if you look at how soon spikes in activity occur after a patch, it should have to have been visible on this chart!

Looking at the second image then, we can see much higher the impact certain things have. What were the only spikes for Incarna? The riots and uproar, and then the time around where some positive dev blogs appeared. Fun fact for the readers, of all the blog posts I made in the last year, the one I did where I called out EN24 on creating / feeding the mass hysteria received double the amount of views any other post this year did. Yes, most of my writing is as niche as my alliance is, and I assume my readers are people interested in some way in that niche, so either that post must have broken me out of the  usual niche (pretty sure it did!) or my usual readers must care a great deal for post-Incarna woes. Likely a mix of both, especially taking into account all posts on Incarna have been doing really well.

I’m not conjuring up these conclusions out of thin air, and neither is it a sentiment trapped within the borders of the usual crowd I play with. Three CSM members have written or blogged about this (Mittens, Seleene, Trebor) and likely more have forum posted, but I avoid the forums like the plague. Yes even the fancy new ones ain’t doing it for me, which shows that design isn’t everything (even though I secretly am fond of the like button). The fact that CCP has messed up, and that the aftermath of that is being felt and has a negative impact on the game, is a reality. And it is one that must not be ignored.

So, to answer the first banter questions, I feel CCP’s recent strategies have a negative impact on the playerbase. As for the CSM, I used to once have faith in the process, but what with CSM members have been revealing about the missing emergency minutes, and Seleene’s account of it, I think Mittens and his (unintended?) media campaign are going to have a much bigger effect. I’m a fan of playing things by the book when they can be done, but right now, I feel a revolution might be more in order. CCP may say that things are going as they should, but honestly, I don’t think they mean what they say. Yes, decisions were made in a past in a very different era (see Iceland’s role in the banking bubble), and it may be hard to let go of great visions that indeed would be truly great when achieved. The question however is if this is still feasible? I have great ideas that would be truly great when achieved for Ghost Festival and Naraka too. It’d be amazing to create the equivalent of what CVA had with Providence, but for Angel roleplayers. But I know damn well enough that such an idea is foolish to chase when you are at a stage where you realistically can only support small gang roams and mission running.

The kicker is that the investments have already been made, that DUST is going to release, that the WoD MMO is being developed, and that we now have Incarna. And yes, sometimes you have to force certain concepts down people’s throats because they will lead to greatness in the future. But that means you have to be able to cope with the losses of those who will simply not take it. And that is just bad when likely your business strategy was built upon numbers from previous years which looked a whole lot more optimistic and may today be a lot more forgiving if not everyone was a lot more prudent about their expenses.

I am of the opinion that at the end of the day, while a company owns a game and is thus entitled to do with it as it pleases, it is still a good idea to develop what players really want. And the Incarna numbers show that either players did not want this, or rather so far it’s been very lackluster. And that is a sentiment I share. While I like my CQ, certainly now it runs smoothly so I don’t have to stare at the dreaded door, I’d have been a lot happier with new things to keep me going through the summer. They’d have given a distraction, and something to work with other players on. Instead we got something we can all bitch about. And that’s a poor ground to build or maintain a corporation on.

So what about the future? My plan is to stick around and do all those things I’ve never really had or made time for before. If EVE is really “dying” then why not make the best of it while it lasts? That should fill up the time until the winter, where I expect / hope / pray that we will see good things again. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for any changes that will improve our situation in Curse, be it directly or indirectly. I’ll take what I can get. Maybe by then CCP manages to restore the faith of players, but that is going to mean that first off this current mess needs to see a definite end (at the very least, the minutes have to be released in a way that the CSM is pleased), and that a move forward must be made. We got a bunch of optimistic dev blogs, but it’s high time we get to see establishments, contraband, and some starting details on 0.0. And what if winter doesn’t bring anything good? Well, we’ll see about it then. There’s SWTOR, GW2 and D3 on the horizon, and maybe it is time for a change of scenery. But damn, that’s not how I’d want it to be. I would like EVE to be part of my gaming diet then, instead of dropped. Though if it happens, I suppose at least I’ll be ready for it.

Related posts:

  1. Blog Banter 29: Immersion in EVE
  2. Blog banter #18: The many sides of me
  3. Blog Banter 30: NPC nullsec non-Dev Blog
  4. Blog banter #23: The Incarna effect
  5. Blog banter #26: EVE shines, and not just visually
 
  • Pingback: Space politics « EVE's parity bit

  • http://paritybit.wordpress.com paritybit

    I think the problem with Incarna is that it isn't really Incarna. It's a room with no view. It's a room that you see in every station you visit. It's not interesting at all except from a new player perspective. I am looking forward to the real Incarna very much, unlike many of the most vocal people out there (the entire CSM included). We (bloggers) and our brother and sister forum warriors are not representative of the entire player base. Neither is the CSM representative of the player base. I think that, along with the fact that the ideals behind the CSM have been forgotten, is the problem.

    • http://www.naraka-alliance.net/myrhial Myrhial Arkenath

      Yep, establishments and the future will be received better, I bet, and the NeX store will run better too when looks are not just for oneself anymore. I do hope for more -space- content though, because I doubt we'll reach the stage any time soon where stations will become a fulltime way to pass the time in EVE.

      As for the CSM representing the player base, yes and no. It's true, those who speak up are only a shard of all the players, but one could also say that those who don't generally are happy enough with what is happening, or are otherwise not caring enough to speak up. But true, there is also the silent mass who disappears over changes they don't like. It's a tricky thing.

      The ideals behind the CSM, not too sure about that, you'll have to elaborate I guess :)

      • http://paritybit.wordpress.com paritybit

        I elaborated on my blog; I am not much of a self-promoter though, so I didn't link it.

        I think the silent group have desires, they just don't know or care enough to try to influence CCP's direction. I talk to players all the time who don't read or care about forums, blogs or any of the other community outlets.