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.

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.


  1. Excellent write-up, Seleene. Sorry for you guys on the CSM to have to be humiliated this way.

  2. * I'll not use a single € to buy PLEXs for Virtual Goods.
    * I'll not replace my laptop with a high performance gaming machine just to have a better chat client or 2nd life.

  3. Spend ten minutes working out how much a minor alliance would have to spend in euros/dollars to buy plex to convert to isk acquire a titan and supercarrier fleet to even be in the same system as bdci's. And you think the price of monocles is worth a second of thought in comparison?

  4. @Myn - My corp's space navy consists of a lot of very old ships that pre-date this kind of madness. Regardless, issues like this have nothing to do with whatever Corp or alliance someone is in. I'm speaking my opinion as both a player and a CSM rep. There is nothing sane about these numbers. What is even more frustrating is how certain elements in CCP are thinking everything is awesome because the CSM liked it when the fact is we weren't consulted at all about the particulars.

  5. I read the internal newsletter .. I shrugged .. from a sales and marketing perspective it was all stuff that needed written down and contrasted to understand and weigh up. Putting both sides of the argument and the subtle differences in the expectations and how they can be managed of the dust and wod players was a good read.
    The absolute detachment from the game as it is played and denial in the bittervet community on failheap is as nauseating as CCP's unnerring ability to stand in dogshit every time they clean their shoes.
    This game has been run by Macrotransactions since before I joined it in 2005. As players we were selling GTCs to buy capital component BPOs, capital alts and spy alts. Our friends and allies have been engaged in criminal hacking, tax evasion and fraud that whole time too.
    As a former designer you KNOW the game is broken AS A GAME on so many levels and yet you are joining in with all this noise about utter trivia that CCP will fix as they get the hang of it. Indignation is good .. but indignation about things that matter is better.

    sorry to rant on your blog but I was at work and didn't have MSN to rant on your phone :p

  6. It's quite sad really that CCP missed the more obvious problem with micro-transactions. Only 10% or so of WoW's player base brought the sparkle-pony. A $2b a year game made $25m from it (which is enough to utterly bankroll Dust's development but that's by the by).

    Eve has 300k subs (give or take). If only 10% of us MT stuff (once it's at sane prices), it's going to be a pittance. Going cap in hand and asking for an extra few $ a month subs wise would net more; frankly EVE players would squirm but pay a slightly increased sub to save the game.

    The downs syndrome effect is highly annoying, seriously. I had my avatars all set up nicely before and then I had to go play with the character creator (repeatedly). The least I expect is it to sodding look roughly the same; it's not like the creator's model is all that static whilst fiddling with it either. I'll take a drop in quality for speed of rendering but the hell? I've gone from god of space to crayola eater.

    Frankly turning off CQ and being shown the proverbial door is just the icing on the cake. I know CCP are paranoid about letting us faff with the client (god knows why, russians tear it a new backside with gay abandon... alegedly) but would a "Select background PNG file" box have been THAT much of a risk... really?

  7. I honestly have no words anymore for this debacle, I'm just going to spend as little time in dock as possible so I can look at the parts of the expansion they did do right, i.e. the turrets.

  8. Good post.

    CCP marketing at this point is an absolute disaster. Either they aren't being heard internally, or they have absolutely no idea what they are doing. The decision to charge $70 for a virtual monocle should have been an obvious PR boondoggle, regardless of the business strategy. Whatever boost CCP hoped to get from having avatars is being short circuited by their lack of planning and foresight.

    At this point CCP doesn't seem capable of doing 2 legitimate expansions a year. Is there any hope in lobbying for them to go the way of 1 big annual feature expansion and multiple balancing/fixes?

  9. I can still afford popcorn.

    Good thing too.

    Gonna be needing a lot of it here in WH space watching this disaster unfold.

  10. "@ccphammer: I went over my bandwidth limit at home so I can't download the patch and buy a $70 monocle"

    That went over twitter? That's trolling the trolls. Combine "OMG Incarna update is huge" with "OMG monocle is $70" -> lulz.

  11. All I can tell you is that despite all the awesomeness listed above, I was really baffled to realize I couldn't even type my password to enter the game as soon as the patch came out.

    Loads of those character creation bugs are also present in Captain's Quarters, even though the good looks as mentioned are NOT:

    A few minutes later I just turned it off.

    Also, I made my PIs and a few secs later: crash, eve client was simply gone.

    Playing on a Mac with an ATi card seems... inadvisable atm.

    So far, I have been busy, but the first 30 minutes and only ones I played of Incarna were... pathetic.