Thank you very much everyone for placing me on CSM 6 and now on CSM 7 where I am currently serving as the Chairman! If you would like to contact me directly, do not hesitate to just send me an eve mail in game. Keep your eyes here and watch for new posts.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Black Friday

Amarr - Thousands of players gather at trade hubs all over EVE.
I woke up this morning to find the forums even more afire with rage about Incarna, the "Fearless" newsletter, and the Virtual Goods store. I could tell in a few minutes that I wasn't going to get anything else done today.

So, I've spent most of the last 12 hours answering player questions, trying to give CCP good feedback on the issues, trying to get them to see how bad things have gotten. My fellow CSMs were doing the same.

Late in the day, we were presented with a draft devblog, and asked to comment on it. With the exception of the removal of a rather unfortunate analogy, that draft was essentially identical to what was just published.

None of CSM's concerns -- the ones the players were asking about -- were addressed; in particular:
  • Will non-vanity virtual goods be introduced?
  • Will CCP change their virtual goods pricing strategy?
  • Will the CQ remain optional, or will it eventually be forced on the players?
To say that CSM is disappointed in this devblog would be an understatement. Incredulous is more like it.

Based on the devblog, and my impressions from the conversations I have had in recent days, it is my opinion that CCP has decided upon a strategy with respect to virtual goods and Incarna, and that they are going to fearlessly implement it regardless of feedback from CSM or the players.

Our words, and yours, on this issue seem to be worthless. Only our actions have any weight.

I am carefully considering what to do next as I mull all this over.

Good Morning, CCP

Hobbits don't deserve the Precioussss!
Last night, CCP Pann started a new thread on the EVE General forums.  CCP Pann is CCP PR & Communications Director Valerie Massey.

An overdue apology and request for parley

The thread is about to pass 130 pages.  The actual number of CCP replies in the thread has been crushed by an avalanche of player response.  This morning, I've gone back to work trying to get CCP to engage.  

This was my Good Morning post to CCP on the CSM forums:
I saw this SO MANY times when I worked there - you seem so busy trying to come up with a 'strategy' to deal with the community that by the time you release something, it looks like exactly what it is - a strategy (not all the time, but a lot of it). Time after time when there was something I or another person in GD could have resolved with a couple sentences, we were told over and over to not say anything.  So while you are having meetings repeating the internal messaging to each other until you believe it, the community you should be just openly talking to feels more and more ignored.

You guys know you do this, as a company. There is no divide between strategic direction and internal messaging. The Fearless newsletter is internal 'kool-aid' that most people swallow without even a second thought. Because it's an official internal newsletter, large numbers of CCP employees assume that whatever in it is written by smart people that are in touch with the players.  If 'Fearless' says something, it's obviously backed up by lots of research and must be true, right?

I've worked here and many forget, all too often, that CCP is not an island. You are connected to many places and events where you are object of study through your actions and statements alike. What CCP has a tendency of presenting as "research" to validate decisions, is research which suffers just like everything else from the relentless quest to just affirm your own desires, wishes and wants. People CAN see that, because you go everywhere with it. Those who do not 'get' the messaging can punch through it and see the gaps between what you say, how you roll with it, and what you do with it often regardless of it.

CCP seems to forget that many of its customers are professionals in their own right. Bankers, lawyers, venture capital managers, CEO's, CFO's, and so forth. You're at a point where you are no longer validating any research or metrics whatsoever, even those outside this forum can see through the divide between what you say and what you are actually DOING. BTW, you guys should really read this as well:
Dierdra Vaal's post

Remember him?  Three time CSM member, past chairman?  He's also the guy that did the Excellence presentation that upset so many apple carts last year and woke people up.

There needs to be another wake up call.  We want to help, not make it worse, but as Stephan says, you guys have got to look outside of your own borders and accept the reality that nothing short of brutal honesty, and perhaps even taking a step back, is going to help.

Best Summary so far

I've also pointed CCP to Tippa's excellent summary and post:

Everyone should read those and post the links everywhere possible.

Other CSM Replies

My fellow CSM delegate,Meissa Anunthiel, has made a post on his own blog about this as well:

The recent CCP fuck-ups

I will keep you all updated as best I can.  It seems everyone at CCP is in meetings this morning.  :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pic of the Day

There is so much stuff going on right now that it's hard to pick out which subject to write about.  I'll probably throw something together later today.  For now, I just wanted to share what is probably the funniest picture of Incarna that I've seen yet:

I love that show!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

MegaTransactions & Incarna 1.0

This is how a lot of players feel today.
Well, it's here. I've written about Incarna in a couple of previous blog entries:

I think it's safe to say that CCP's messaging to the community has been a bit off lately, yet even past mis-steps pale in comparison to what has taken place in the past few weeks leading up to the Incarna release.

My last blog entry spoke about the :$99: fiasco, which is still floating about for someone to step in and resolve. During the finals of the Alliance Tournament, CCP Zulu was on EVE TV and was directly asked about this situation. To his credit he responded well but the thing most latched onto was his statement that CCP had to charge something for this program (Dev Blog linkage). His specific quote was, "Not $99, but a 'token' payment." I've since posted on the CSM internal forums:

"Arnar - I suggest that you call the next blog, "99 Cents!" and make that your token payment."

Whether or not my advice is heeded remains to be seen. I will be fair and say that it's been a pretty busy last week or two with the tournament wrapping up this weekend and then Incarna rolling out yesterday, but now CCP may be in real trouble for trying to possibly do too much at once.

Incarna 1.0 has a lot of new stuff in it but, and I'm being pretty gentle here, there's a lot of problems. It goes beyond the usual batch of big patch issues with many more players than usual having issues with things as simple as just getting the client to download or patch properly. There is also quite a lot of noise being made with regard to how hard your video card has to work with the new client, with CCP partner's NVIDIA getting dedicated instruction sets and ATI cards being left in the cold.  I'll write more about the performance issues in another day or two, but right now I want to hit the main point of this blog and what this release will forever be infamously remembered for - :monoclegate:.

Deal wif it!
So the servers go up last night and everyone rushes to click on the new in game store so they can, at long last, buy some new stuff for their space dolls. The excitement is quickly crushed by a quick browsing of the available items:

Exchange Rate: 3500 AUR = 1 PLEX = $17.50 = 400 mil isk in Jita:
  • Looking Glass Ocular implant – 12k AUR = 3.5 PLEX = $61.25 = 1.4 Bil ISK
  • Men’s ‘Sterling’ Dress Shirt – 3.6k AUR = 1.02 PLEX = $18.00 = 411 Mil ISK
  • Women’s ‘Sterling’ Dress Blouse – 3.2K AUR = .91 PLEX = $16.00 -> 364 Mil ISK
  • Men’s ‘Comando’ Pants – 3k AUR = .85 PLEX = $15 = 340 Mil ISK
  • Women “Impress” Skirt – 3.6k AUR = 1.02 PLEX = $18.00 = 411 Mil ISK
  • Women’s ‘Sterling’ Dress Blouse P – 4.4k AUR = 1.25 PLEX = $22.00 = 504 Mil ISK
  • Men’s ‘Precision’ Boots – 1k AUR = 0.28 PLEX = $5.00 = 112 Mil ISK
  • Women’s ‘Greave’ Knee-Boots – 2.4K AUR = 0.68 PLEX = $12.00 = 272 Mil ISK
Given that 1 PLEX converts to 3,500 AUR, the "monocle" is worth about 1,35 Billion ISK in PLEX prices.  That's a bit more than 3 months gametime  and anywhere from $50 - $70 in RL money depending on what conversion rate you are using. 

First off, none of this looks like it's aimed at new players.  Second, I've long wondered what the actual prices were going to be.  My joke was wondering if we'd end up paying for morphite sunglasses that cost as much as a battle cruiser.  It seems I wasn't thinking big enough!  The idea that a pair of BOOTS would cost as much as multiple, fully fit battleships is not just immersion breaking, it's just... how can this even make sense?

The word is out and it's already being picked up on around the web:

There's even a thread in the Steam Forums about it.

It's not surprising to see this popping up in the online trades and being discussed on various forums, but then Lead Game Designer Noah Ward sent this out on Twitter this morning:
"@ccphammer: I went over my bandwidth limit at home so I can't download the patch and buy a $70 monocle"
I'm... not really sure what to say about that other than it sure looks like he's trolling his own company! Then you have this thing:

The circle of lif-... wait, what?
I keep looking at this picture and am continually amazed at how overly complex it is.  It makes me think that the whole AUR concept was a bit off to begin with.

One thing I want to be crystal clear on though - the CSM was NOT asked or consulted on any of the prices in the Noble Exchange store.  We asked and were told that they were not finalized.  We floated a few thoughts at the summit, heads nodded a bit and that was the end of it.  So wherever this marketing scheme came from, the CSM did not play a part in it (even tho we wanted to).  As CSM Chairman Mittani just said on Twitter:
"NeX is insane. My Lowe costs less than a monocle and fires rape-bullets in WoT. They didn't ask for price advice. Oops!"
Not so good damage control

CCP Zinfendel, who is the head of Global Marketing, decided to hop into the help channel last night and I posted the relevant parts of the log here:

The quote that got most people riled up was this one:
CCP Zinfandel > Some people treat EVE Online not as a video game but as a hobby. They enjoy investing in their hobby and find that it makes them feel more connected with their hobby. We want to support that for those players who want it.
I've taken my case to the CSM internal forums where I've asked how these kind of statemens are expected to win anyone over and if "veteran players" are supposed to see the logic therein. Personally, I'm not investing 40 dollars into fake clothes and I'm actually a player than can afford to do it. I know guys that have been playing for years and still have to grind for their PLEX's so they can actually PLAY the game. Where the hell are they supposed to come up with the money to participate in this?

Put plainly, the prices in the AUR store are RIDICULOUS.

As of a couple hours ago, Zinfandel has informed the CSM that he's working on a big forum post about pricing and will run it by us before it goes public. This is my current reply to CCP on this issue and I'm waiting to see what they have to say -
I'm honestly baffled at not only these prices but the seeming surprise with which it's been met by CCP. I cannot for the life of me understand why you didn't at least run the prices by the CSM considering the amount of other shit that WAS run by us. What really gets me is that there's only a couple reasons for this:

1.) You knew that you wanted to price things this high and intentionally did not run this by the CSM because you knew our reaction would be negative.

2.) You did not know / agree internally what the prices were going to be until literally the morning of deployment, thus could not share them.

Either one is "not good", but judging from the reactions I've seen on twitter these prices weren't exactly expected by a lot of CCPers either (I'm certain a lot of them didn't know). So now you are in a situation where you are having to explain it in public to both the community and a good number of people in the company you work for.
Other members of the CSM have chimed in in agreement and we're waiting to see how all of this is explained.

What happened to my face??

Another (minor?) thing that has folks all 'mad' is that their carefully sculpted avatars don't seem to look quite the same in the Captain's Closet as they do in their portraits.  Here's one of the better examples:

OMG please don't hurt me!
Lots of folks are complaining that their characters look really sad or upset, dubbing it 'the emo effect.'  Heh.

Turning it all off

Lastly, there are a lot of people that, due to the aforementioned performance problems or just plain not giving a damn, have elected to turn thier Captian's Closet... ummm, Quarters off.  There's even a massive thread on the official forums about it that keeps growing:

When you decide to 'turn it off', then all of the Incarna content is replaced by this:

Halp! I am stuck in the ventilation shaft!!

Cripes, that's pretty depressing. So, the end result is that you get to stare at a static picture with no ship spinning.  It's a special irony that my main character remains trapped in her Nyx without having to worry about couches and big screen TV's lowering her frame rate. I'd planned to get her into a station so she could try on a proper skirt and heels, but now I think I'll just wait a bit.

I'll be focusing more on the performance aspects of this patch in my next blog as, despite all of the above, there are some serious patch-related issues that go beyond just how much $$$ guys are willing to spend to dress up their space dollies.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The $99 feedback loop

The Jessica Video Booth - Only $99!
I feel that the CSM has made some progress in helping CCP with messaging and it's been useful in a few cases already.  So here's a good example of what happens when the CSM is caught off guard (none of us really know what to say so we can't even help) and something pretty major gets tossed on the grill:

[Dev Blog] Monetizing 3rd Party Apps

This is the main comment thread. (33 pages in about 24 hours, up to 45 now)

Here is the thread on FHC.

A couple of interesting highlights:

Even Chribba is mad: LINKAGE

Decent summary post for lots of players: LINKAGE

I think it's fair to say that the message CCP is trying to put out there right now umm... isn't working. While there are plenty of posts and comments about what's going on, I thought I'd answer a question that seems to be on a lot of people's minds:
Does anyone know what goes on in CCP when one of the shitstorm threadnaughts of rage hit? Are they vOv,  "Yawn, trivial..." or are they, "Oh fuck, there go more subs!" ?
Well, generally it's directly proportional to the subject matter. In most cases (game balance, etc...), most folks don't even bother to concern themselves if it doesn't directly have something to do with THEIR job. The 'not my problem' syndrome is a common thing in most companies, but it doesn't really translate well when dealing with an online gaming community.  The day to day lack of familiarity with the people you work for (the subscribers) can lead people to make some pretty epic PR snafus.  This becomes quite amusing after a couple weeks of rage when a 'higher up' mentions that the community is upset about something. "Huh? What? But everything is going great I thought? Look at my new lines of code...."

This isn't just a ground level effect either. It goes all the way up in the sense that upper management doesn't (understandably) have time to read threadnaughts or do as much community interaction as they would like, so they are forced to rely on others for their information flow. More often than not, the community concerns / rage are glossed over so as to appear temporary or minimal. "Yeah, a vocal minority said some stuff but we're awesome and everything will be awesome."

Part of the disconnect is that as the company has grown, they have hired a lot more people that see their work as nothing more than a way to earn a below average salary. The average CCP employee does not follow the pulse of the community and does not log into TQ to do anything other than change skills or say, "I flew a bomber last night so I PVP'd this month." There are some very good people there that do their jobs as best they can but EVE is just that to them - a job. They do what their superiors tell them to do.

So when it comes time for actual messaging to the community, these same people are writing dev blogs about some thing that they are working on with no real concept of how it might affect the bigger picture or the community at large. No one that was actively engaged in this community could read some of the past few dev blogs and not walk away thinking :psyccp: .

Our never boring CSM Chairman, The Mittani, had this to day about it all:
"I think the island culture has to do with it. It's very easy to develop a consensus about how the world works when you're in a rinky-dink town like Reykjavik (which is lovely, but it's fucking tiny) and you drink with/hang out with/bump into your coworkers all the goddamned time.

Iceland also has a very charming culture of Just Not Giving A Fuck About Trivial Shit. 'Trivial Shit' in the Icelandic view seems to include smashing glasses in the street, pissing on walls like you just don't care in front of other people, parking your car in a way which blocks traffic/parking your car on a sidewalk, and just doing basically whatever the fuck you feel like because you're on an island full of fucking supermodels and there's nothing to do but drink, fuck, do drugs and party.

It's a great island, but there's a serious cultural disconnect between Reyk and the rest of reality."
Basically, the people at CCP who want to avoid PR disasters like this one have been using the CSM as a filter recently, but this latest batch of nonsense came completely out of the blue and it shows. Hopefully they will learn from this. I've raised this issue / blog on the internal CSM forums. If anything good comes of that, I'll let you all know. I hope after the weekend we'll see some better messaging emerge.