Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Happy Guy Fawkes' Night!

It's Guy Fawkes' Night in England, a traditional night of celebration when we let off fireworks and light bonfires. It commemorates an attempt in 1605 to blow up our houses of parliament when our King was addressing it.

It's a somewhat ambiguous celebration. Originally the celebration was ordered to celebrate the escape of the King from assassination but over time Guy has attracted more and more sympathy and many modern English people see the festivities as an anarchist celebration that someone had the balls to have a go at our rulers.

Guido Fawkes: Hero or villain?

It got me thinking about why I quite like the idea of someone taking on our ruling government (in a somewhat abstract and sentimental way, in a real situation murder of our MPs and monarch would almost certainly see a military coup followed by a police state with people like me rounded up merely for mentioning the A word); why I like the notion of someone challenging government but I'm less happy with the notion of players challenging CCP.

There's a spectrum. At one end there's the state with its surveillance, military and police forces, rule of law, legislative powers, taxes. At the other end there's the person with whatever rights and freedoms we and our ancestors have managed to wrestle for ourselves. Because the state is so materially powerful it's important to limit the state's power and challenge it when it attempts to increase its reach. Because an individual is so powerless it's important that we defend the rights of other individuals to pursue their lives and business as they wish.

What about a company? Is a company a monolithic overmind that needs to be reigned back or is it a small frail entity that should be free to pursue its own direction without excessive criticism complaint and customer-organised direct action?

CCP is even wierder because there's the real/virtual split - in the game universe they have divine powers, conjuring anything they wish, banishing anyone from the universe they choose. But in the real world they're a small/medium business with a not particularly solid financial footing dependent on enthusiasm of hardworking and underpaid staff.

And that's why I'm uncomfortable with the level of player rebellion that's become normal in the Eve universe. Take, to pick an obvious example, CCP Fozzie. My impression is that in addition to doing a normal working day he's highly active on the CCP forums, on other areas of the Eve community like Reddit and Twitter, works longer hours than he's required to, and when he's not working he plays Eve or talks about Eve. To my amusement at a recent SCL even on the day when he wasn't scheduled to be there he was crawling under the desk fixing tech stuff. He even contacted a fan podcast recently and asked to appear so that he could correct a misunderstanding. The man eats lives and breathes Eve.

And he's not unusual - many people in CCP work hard and turn up to events and fanmeets outside their official work time. The games industry pays its people low compared to what people of their skills would get in mainstream businesses. Pays them low and works them hard. They run on enthusiasm, on passion for the hobby-turned-job.

Do we want to beat the enthusiasm out of Fozzie and his colleagues?

I don't have simple answers because it's a complex problem. TAGN made the very good point in comments on an earlier post of mine that Monoclegate wasn't simply about monocles, it was also a protest about the direction Eve was taking (off spaceships and towards walking in stations). Most Eve players are pretty glad they righted the ship so to speak, doing a lot more space focused game development, such as ship rebalancing and CCP Seagull's awesome space colonisation master plan.

But Monoclegate was also a crisis that revealed the company as horribly financially overextended, drove away a chunk of the playerbase and led directly to the laying off of 200 staff. Not many small businesses survive that kind of crisis. The company could have died.


Do I hate walking in stations so much that I'd rather have no Eve than the Eve we would have gotten had they stayed on the Incarna track? No, I certainly don't.

And if Eve does ever close down some day I think the unmanageable rebelliousness of the community may have something to do with it. Especially if it continues to escalate as players perceive they get rewarded for making ultimatums and protests and incorporate such behaviour into the Eve metagame, a way to win against rival players.

Be careful on Fireworks Night. Sometimes people have an accident with the fireworks and get very badly burned.


  1. Imagine the game without those dissenting voices .... and then Incarna comes along and no one protests, no monuments get blown up, and no threadnaughts appear. Then CCP as a corporation dies, not with an explosion of player rage, but in a dwindling sigh as no one cares to play anymore.

    There is a line to draw, but we aren't near it.

    If there is a culture of protest in Eve, then it's because the past actions of a company whose official policy is HTFU caused it to blossom. When you don't actually take outside opinions into consideration, when every decision is my way or highway, you invite a backlash. CCP reaps want it sows.

    If CCP wants to never again be in financial extremity then listening to the players that pay money in exchange for entertainment is a good place to start. Can you imagine any other form of entertainment telling it's customer base to HTFU? The funny thing about all of the controversies in Eve is that all of them (100%) could have been avoided by listening to experienced voices in the game and getting outside the corporate offices for information.

    1. But they're not telling the customers to HTFU are they? They've accommodated customer protest every time.

      Now football, there's a game that tells customers to htfu. Think the ref got a decision wrong? Tough. Pretty popular though.

      Literature's another form of entertainment that tells customers to htfu. Think Macbeth should have more fart jokes? Ain't gonna happen.

    2. Football doesn't tell the paying customers to HTFU, The NFL bends over backwards to put football onto every TV, phone, and PC it can. It provides every format and spends every moment looking to improve the viewer experience. As for the ref getting a call wrong --- Last year the NFL thought we'll fire all the union refs and bring in replacements --- viewer anger over the officiating brought the NFL billionaire owners to change their views --- go figure protest works. Have you seen the rule changes to protect players --- especially quarterbacks ... that's not love, kindness, and concern, that's a desire by fans to see offense and the NFL responds to that.

      The problem with CCP isn't that they don't accommodate player protest. The problem is that they refuse to do anything but respond to protest. The vast majority of the issues that engender protests are exactly the ones the the CSM either expressly warns them about or they derp full speed ahead on without talking to anyone. It shouldn't be hard to see that in order to get to a point of less protest and turmoil requires CCP to make very simple changes to their SOP. Blasting monuments and rage threadnaughts don't help the game or the players but I don't think CCP will get anywhere by arguing that their paying customers should complain less ... they have to build positive PR.

      A lot of times the negative is the only thing out there because no really positive CCP face presents an argument. Telling your customers that you can't present an opinion until you talk to a lawyer isn't a confidence builder. Days after the Somerblink issue was decided and still no official word, really??? Something is better than nothing. And oftentimes CCP offers up nothing.

      I don't support protesting for the sake of protest .. but both Incarna and the Somerblink issues were issues that carried to the ultimate conclusion could easily have changed the nature of the game in a bad direction and could just have easily killed the company.

      While I hate the thought that 200 people lost their jobs after Incarna the fact remains that the responsibility for building a company and managing finances to support those jobs doesn't fall on the customers, it was Hilmar's responsibility. Incarna was a clear Institutional Failure with capital letters. As someone paying for (4) accounts for 6 years I don't think it's my fault they weren't spending the money I gave them wisely. There are a lot of hard working and loyal people working for CCP and I hope that their hard-headed management doesn't keep running them into brick walls.

    3. Sorry for the long winded reply .. late night with lots of coffee...

  2. Well first off, football is a different sport here and believe me they really don't listen to fans.

    Regarding protest there's a balance and there's a danger of tipping past the happy medium, not least because there's a cognitive dissonance where because CCP is effectively God within there game people perhaps challenge them as if they were all-powerful in real life, like we'd challenge a government or such.

    I really don't like player ultimatums like DNSBlack's. In sellling his character for real cash he was basically saying ban me if you dare and of course they didn't dare. That's an example of too much player power I think and likely to demoralise a company.

    No need to apologise for length :)

  3. I think a lot of it has to do with terrible communication on CCP's part. Example: at Vegas 13, I was at the Community Roundtable with Gargant, Sabrewing, and Guard. They solicited lots of input from us, but gave virtually ZERO feedback. It was limited to "We'll look into that, "I'll take it under advisement," etc.
    Note that nobody was attacking or raging at them, everyone who was there was there to provide positive input and be helpful...even with a room full of players who wanted to help them make their community tools and thus their game better, they still couldn't let their hair down and drop the poker-face routine.
    They need a class in how communication is supposed to work: I give input, you provide feedback. You don't provide feedback, eventually I stop talking to the living wall... :-/

    1. Hmm, it's an interesting one.

      A lot of the development process is necessarily secret and under wraps. Also ideas given at a player meet will often be mere seeds for designer creativity and the actual implementation may be radically different.

      I guess it depends on the dev. Fozzie recently shouted out a player for thinking of the interceptors should get bubble immunity idea. But it's not always so simple.

      Can you imagine the drama if a dev shouted out the goons for the destructible high sec pocos idea?