Thoughts and feelings on the CCP layoffs

Oct
19

icon46_01So, I was making a bit of a start on a post on the recent dev blog about PI, but instead I’ve opted for a topic change, because this honestly is higher on my care list right now. Yes, I am talking about the layoffs at CCP. If you didn’t read it already and just felt your heart skip a beat — my initial reaction when I saw a tweet linking it — please go and read up. Now when you’re up to speed, I’ll go over some quotes from the article.

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.

Emphasis mine. Not to say “I told you so”, and it should really be “we, the community, told you so” because I’m sure not alone in this sentiment (thank goodness!). That is as close I’ll go to saying it as well, because today is a black day where gloating is not in order, nor is that sentence meant to be read as gloating. Things have not been going well, we’ve felt it, and numbers have shown it eventually. This may have all worked well a few years ago, in a better economy, yet even then it already seemed like something you’d want at least two whole companies for. I think that even industry behemoth Blizzard wouldn’t chance to do this had they the staff size of CCP. I’ve always had high respect for CCP for being unconventional, but you have to keep your feet on the ground and pick priorities and be realistic about what you can and cannot do.

Rather than allowing this to persist, we have made the decision to sharpen our focus. Sadly, this means reducing our staff. We estimate that around twenty percent of global positions will be affected by this process. These will be predominantly in our Atlanta, GA office, although select positions in our Reykjavik, Iceland office will be affected.

We are very sad to lose some of our talented and dedicated colleagues to this necessary process. Naturally we are making every effort within our means to help them find alternative employment. Decisions like these are difficult for all those involved and extraordinarily sad for all of those whose lives are affected.

This makes sense, for lack of a better word, when you read on further that WoD is getting the biggest cut. But at least one CCP’er — the lovely CCP Fallout — tweeted what looks to be a goodbye. This makes me sad, she was a great community representative and did so much for us. I’ve seen her help players over Twitter without probably even needing to do it as part of her job. Not to mention I adore her for being a proper cat lady. I had a bad feeling already a while ago when CCP Zymurgist — who is also lovely, don’t get me wrong! — took over the community mailings that us fansites get. I had hoped this meant Fallout had either been shuffled to another team, or was on vacation, or maybe even sought to leave of her own accord. While the latter is of course still possible, and would have been sad news none the less, it just hits me personally because despite all CCP staff being a crucial part to the whole, one does grow fond of particular individuals. And with CCP recruiting for their player base, there are a few CCPers I know from before they were on the staff, and who’d I be especially sad for if they got laid off, because I know they enjoy their job a lot. Yes, no job is perfect, and they likely have off-days too, but motivated individuals who do their work other than for the money, are rare and should be treasured. Thus, it is a shame when a mix of economical weather and company decisions makes it that they have to move on. I’m crossing my fingers and toes here, but with 20% staff layoffs, chances are others I know (better) may turn out to be hit as well.

Following this reorganization, we must do a better job by focusing on these priorities:

  • For the immediate future, our mission is to enrich the vast EVE Universe by strengthening the continuous development of EVE Online while preparing to bring DUST 514 to market on the PS3. We do this in order to realize our ambitious and challenging plan of joining the two in a cross-platform, truly massive online world.
  • World of Darkness will continue development with a significantly reduced team. This team will continue to iterate and expand on the gameplay and systems they have designed. We will also redeploy creative teams in Atlanta to support the launch of DUST 514.

This will enable us to accelerate timeframes for new features and increase our ability to respond to community needs. The fruits of this realignment will be seen as early as this winter with the upcoming EVE Online expansions and the launch of DUST 514 private trials.

I know it is not feasible, but personally, I’d have rather had WoD than DUST. Of course, I am a biased non-PS3 owner who isn’t really looking forward to having to buy a console if I want to play a console game that links into my favorite MMO. I think some WoD fans may rejoice a bit as they weren’t too happy with certain aspects of the game thus far, but things like perma-death and all really had me interested. Money has to be made however, there is a deal with Sony which can’t just be broken, and who knows maybe DUST will really start new trends and hopefully bring CCP the funds to continue doing great things. Time will tell.

This will enable us to accelerate timeframes for new features and increase our ability to respond to community needs. The fruits of this realignment will be seen as early as this winter with the upcoming EVE Online expansions and the launch of DUST 514 private trials.

I am glad CCP came to their senses before it is too late, and they business-wise made a hard but sound decision here, but I hope it will be worth it. I didn’t get around writing that PI blog today, and I hope that is just an isolated thing I don’t agree with, but more on that soon. There are some good changes coming, finally all the racial quarters are ready to be implemented, we’re getting user-friendliness in the form of a new font, cap ship issues are getting addressed in what I as the person either getting hotdropped or shooting at them feels is fair without trying to be too biased about it, so it’s not all bad and we shouldn’t let this spoil the game because then it will indeed have all been for nothing. Some goodies, like the return of ship spinning as an integrated part of the experience rather than just an alternative, are already deployed, too. Yet, I remain critical, both in the positive and negative sense, and I hope to continue to be able to write about EVE in months from now, and would be especially delighted if I could write something (mostly) positive then and look back upon this as a though medicine that saved the patient rather than the beginning of the end.

First, EVE Online is in good health. Our subscriber numbers are higher today than they were a year ago. Unlike many other MMO’s on the market, we have continued to grow year-on-year since launch in 2003. However, over the past two months, our subscribers have gone down from their peak this summer. We attribute this to our own mistakes and poor communications with our players. We are correcting that now.

Second, World of Darkness lives on. Its concepts are revolutionary. CCP continues to believe that it will alter the landscape of the MMO as significantly as EVE has done but we need more time to continue to develop them before dedicating the substantial resources required to bring this experience to market.

As an innovator in the industry, CCP has never shied away from tough decisions, remaining agile to allow for shifts in production, technology and gaming trends since even before the launch of EVE Online. While our decision to refocus is a solemn one, it will benefit our players through a renewed commitment to the EVE Universe and its fans.

Honest words, despite the positive let’s-not-cause-panic wrapping around it. I am glad that CCP continues to recognize this has been the worst summer ever  — both my own experience and official numbers confirm this — and that they are learning from it. I’m going to start repeating myself at this point, so for now I’ll go back to being glued to Twitter, and carry those that worked hard and now have to move on within my thoughts. I am grateful for the work they did, and I wish them the very best in what their future brings. One door closes and another opens, I am sure of it.

Addition: And there goes CCP MaidenSteel. Having known her as a player and remaining good friends until this day, here is where it really felt like a kick in the guts. I can say for certain she gave her very best for that job, and I know the struggle she made to get there. My heart goes out to her, as she is such a talented writer. Bah, this makes today even sadder than it already was.

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