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CCP interview with EDGE Magazine (Extended Cut)

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CCP Manifest
CCP Retirement Home
#1 - 2011-12-02 17:05:10 UTC
CCP was asked to do an interview with the amazingly awesome EDGE Magazine recently, and because of timezones and bandwidth, I ended up answering the questions myself very late one night. The two page spread is in the most recent print issue, but I figured because of the nature of the questions, some of you might have an interest in the "extended cut" of my unedited responses. Being in the ATL office (and coming from White Wolf), it's assuredly full of candor and honest personal opinions.

So here's what I sent back to EDGE, with a couple (notes) for you guys, as you can see this was pre-Crucible.
Viva la information flow.

From your perspective, at what point did it start to go wrong?

Honestly, I wouldn’t say we ever went “wrong”. Instead we were on the tail end of a long, slow turn away from where we should have been traveling. We’ve been on this EVE Online highway a while, yet even then it’s simply a dozen imperceptible, incremental degrees of shift of the wheel before you realize you’re heading east as opposed to north. The biggest singular moment, where we collectively grabbed compasses and began to reassess, was during this summer’s Incarna release. That’s when folks externally and internally were hoping, with an undeniably emphatic and increasing passion, to persuade all of CCP to shift its highest level strategic goals. Leading up to then and even a bit after, I think the “wrong” points probably came in a hundred different meetings over a long period of time where we continued to try to accomplish too many things at once and were propelled forwards at a precarious velocity by our company’s string of successes. I feel confident we’ve gone through some nasty purgatory and have emerged the other side scathed but ready to do some good.
--Yes, some internally and externally did warn of a wheel turning for years

We know that an uneasy peace was reached at the emergency meeting with the CSM, but what was agreed? What was the atmosphere like at the meeting?

While I wasn’t there, my understanding from closely following discussion of it on numerous channels, discussing separately before and after with CSM members and talking to the CCP attendees was that the atmosphere at the meeting was pretty tense to begin with as the “level” of the talks were much higher than they typically are. Emotions across the board were elevated--not in anger but more like “amped up” laden with gravitas. The CSM had very clear mandates from their constituents which mirrored a lot of their own individual concerns, many of which had been voiced for some time leading up to the summit. They collectively arrived with a united mission. Add to that an abrupt international trip and the eyes of a playerbase on the summit itself—it’s a testament to the work both that and previous CSMs had done over the years that the summer summit went as well as it did. Very serious points were laid out on both sides and yet the dialogue was conducted with a high level of professionalism and civility. The CSM stuck to their guns and did the players proud in their representation of the matters at hand.

After many hours of discussion, the air was cleared to the guarded satisfaction of those attending. The CSM and CCP each issued statements and both contributed to a video featuring the Senior Producer for EVE and the Chairman of the CSM, closing out the summit. Those three communications, sent in one “dev blog”, were important contributors to continuing the dialogue with the population of EVE outside the meeting rooms. In general, the CSM needed us to “prove” that we didn’t have nefarious (in EVE terms) plans with the introduction of microtransactions and to clarify the strategy and communication surrounding the Incarna release, which we proved to their satisfaction.

And how bad did it get? What was the effect on subscriber numbers, and therefore revenue? Was there any player interest in virtual item sales at all?

We’ve been fortunate in that, year after year for over eight years, EVE has seen healthy subscriber growth. That’s incredibly rare for the industry—almost unique actually. This past year has been no different in that trend, but we’ve slipped a bit since the summer and it’s safe to say that much of that is the shadowed effect of players reacting to where they thought we were headed with EVE coupled with the repercussions of our botched maintenance of a beloved dialogue with EVE fans.

(to be continued below)

======== o7 _CCP Manifest | Public Relations and Social Media | @ccp_manifest_

CCP Manifest
CCP Retirement Home
#2 - 2011-12-02 17:06:45 UTC
(cont'd)

Yet, I certainly wouldn’t say that losing what subscribers we did was the worst part. The worst part was knowing that, in the pursuit of CCP’s long term strategic goals, we started to see people who love EVE as much as we do become disheartened. We’ve long been a fiercely independent company that fans lauded as bucking the trend and making a game for the sake of a sort of “grand experiment” in gaming (and in some ways an experiment in human behavior). We had also enjoyed a very close relationship with almost all of our players over the years—a weirdly logical thing in the context of the unique SciFi sandbox game we all experienced together. To see some of those people we’d spent years with begin to passionately plead with us to change our direction or simply give up on EVE or even start to disassociate us as co-creators of their universe—that was the worst part. It sounds melodramatic but it’s the honest truth and the echoes of some of the blog posts to that effect haunt me to this day. Not everyone fell into those categories, but that “worst part” speaks to what we need to address. We’ve taken some drastic steps back towards the CCP of yore and are actively working on that co-creator dynamic because it’s always made for a better EVE Online. We’ve seen some good upward trends in our subscribers as a result, but that’s not really the objective. Our solemn goal is to win back the disheartened, which we plan to do starting with the winter EVE expansion.

As for virtual item sales, there’s definitely interest within the playerbase for a wide variety of things, but largely it’s been tangential to our initial offerings of vanity clothes options. A small team at CCP is carefully looking at ways to add value to the EVE experience without negatively impacting it in any way, shape or form with the mantra “the investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time” (i.e. vanity items). There will definitely be unprecedented communication with the CSM and the playerbase well before anything new is introduced to the non-player-driven virtual item side of EVE.

How much of what has happened can you attribute to the fact that there wasn't exactly a best practice guide to follow? Eve is this truly unique thing,

In some sense, we all wish there was a manual because it would save us a lot of sleepless nights and intense arguments and tough, gutsy and cerebral decisions. But in so many more ways we are glad there’s not preset best practices for what we are trying to achieve, as I don’t think anyone at CCP could abide a cookie cutter mold. It’s kind of a “reap what you sow” thing in that regard. CCP has a good rep for setting up feedback loops and working with our players to create EVE. That method is pretty directly what got us through the first few months and years of EVE’s development growth.

However, the classic story of successes infecting even the most well-meaning with hubris eventually came to pass and focus waned. Timing wise it was bad as well, as we’d spent the last couple years setting up for some longer term strategic goals. That’s always somewhat of a risk, but one we believe all EVE players will begin to see the fruits beginning now. Much of that work was relatively unsexy to players, like server architecture hardware, cleaning up code, pushing graphics more towards the future and little gains in hundreds v. hundreds of player fleet lag. At the same time there simply too many moving parts within CCP. I could provide a list of the widely varied projects I personally worked on but it’d be staggering. Yet my list pales in comparison to what CCP leadership has contended with in terms of logistics. Again though, a bit of a “reap what you sow” thing, so that’s why we are refocusing and getting “back to basics”. Our company wanderlust is over and now it’s time to come back home and toil in the fields and put the harvest on the table of all our beloved and hungry pilots.

CCP has said the steps you’ve taken were necessary for Eve, and CCP, to survive and grow. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

That’s a tough one because many of those steps were still very necessary for the long term growth of EVE. But yes, going back in time I think you’d be hard pressed to find Hilmar (our CEO) or myself or any single CCP employee wishing we hadn’t spent more time communicating more often and more openly with our players. That’s the one thing that was a critical mistake in my mind—and that’s something I and many others at CCP are making sure won’t ever happen again. You should rightfully see a different tone and frequency with our communication versus an equal sample from several months ago.

CCP has reduced headcount, and promised a reduced focus. But I assume work continues on all your previously announced projects? How are you operating day to day now? Does that mean Dust/World Of Darkness etc are facing delays?

Similar to EVE Online, DUST 514 will actually see increased focus across CCP which means our projected goals should be strengthened even more. As previously stated, World of Darkness’ reduced team will continue development in a new context while CCP focuses mainly on the EVE universe. As an independent publisher, we can thankfully still make sure World of Darkness comes out “right” instead of just shipping something that’s a fraction of what we envisioned. To that end the remaining team has been given a bit more autonomy as well, which I think is good being a White Wolfer from pre-merger.

(to be continued below)


======== o7 _CCP Manifest | Public Relations and Social Media | @ccp_manifest_

CCP Manifest
CCP Retirement Home
#3 - 2011-12-02 17:08:10 UTC
(continued)

“Day to day” it’s been a whole lot of meetings--important, honesty-laden ones where we’re fully evaluating CCP top to bottom and sideways as well in order to make sure we’re delivering the best possible games we can to our players. It’s been a difficult but necessary process and it’s being completed with a lot of sadness in our hearts as it is impossibly hard to see such talented colleagues leave CCP. The shadow of their legacy is great and we feel the resonance of their effort within our playerbase and they are a part of my thoughts on an hourly basis.


CCP has promised improvements in your day-to-day operations and community relations, and offered incentives to bring people back. What else do you have planned?

There’s a healthy cargohold of plans we haven’t yet revealed, but we need to go through a bit more refocusing first before we’re ready to talk about them. I can say that this winter expansion will be the first step back to the EVE and CCP of olde--that I am looking forward to like you have no idea. One of the coolest things CCP has ever done is that we’re going to put ships that our fans have designed directly in the game. That’s indicative of the sort of promise we’re very serious about making come true: showing love for EVE. We plan to carry that through into the spring with EVE and on into later next year with DUST 514 and more stuff happening in the shared universe.

It's a bit of a stretch, but how do you think current affairs have affected what's happened this year? It's been a year of civilian unrest: Arab pring, London riots, Occupy Wall Street. Blockades at trade points...do you see parallels? Does this not suggest that Eve is, not just a community, but an economy, a society in and of itself?

I wouldn’t point towards real world political events as “inspiring” EVE players to action—the similarities are more of a coincidence in that regard even if drawing metaphorical parallels is very very tempting. I see the united “uprising” as part of the natural and continued maturation of internet phenomena. It’s so much easier for people to connect and share information than it ever has been before. The ability for one voice or opinion to be instantly magnified in the hearts of so many is now staggering. That common chord for a shared experience is a few seconds away as opposed to days, weeks or months. With EVE, it’s important for me to accentuate this in my official capacity as social media and public relations guy. We love to elevate those doing Cool Stuff ™ in EVE. In a single, shared universe it is also important to help foster social connections. I crave it. Yet, in times of discontent you see political entities rise to fame as quickly if not more so than in times of “happiness”. It’s an amazing phenomenon and something that we as developers must contend with: EVE pilots all seem to find their moment of fame, great or small.

I would agree with you that EVE is a unique society that’s distinctly different than even a lifestyle or genre. The number of EVE players is larger than the entire population of CCP’s country headquarters: Iceland. But in a more nuanced manner, the game design actually rewards social relationships. In doing so EVE inherently equates the quality of those relationships with the overall game experience—from the highest level diplomacy to the chance communications between people in local chat. Each player has the ability to craft the “quality” of EVE through the combined force of their will/imagination and their social skills. Accordingly, there are so many real world parallels between social systems in EVE and those in RL that it boggles the mind. So yes, you hit it on the head there—EVE is a true virtual society.


And as such, despite the events of this year, are you still proud of what you've created?

We had some stumbles on the CCP journey during the past year or so and I am very the aware of the quality of our communication versus what it should have been.

But am I proud in what CCP has created in terms of EVE? Emphatically and resolutely yes. In terms of where we are going with EVE? Without a doubt, yes.

I will spare you the litany of marketing speak I typically am called to adorn such answers with and leave quite simple: EVE Online is an amazing amazing game.


(continued below)



======== o7 _CCP Manifest | Public Relations and Social Media | @ccp_manifest_

CCP Manifest
CCP Retirement Home
#4 - 2011-12-02 17:09:04 UTC  |  Edited by: CCP Manifest
What lessons can other people learn from this in terms of community management? You have given Eve's community unprecedented freedom, and from that, control and power - has that not now proven to be dangerous?

I think “community management”, as it has been named, is sort of a misnomer in any entertainment or service industry. It’s so clinical and bureaucratic and to a certain degree demeans what players or customers have to offer. “Community development” more likely.

I think the takeaway from our experience with the CSM and our players and Fanfest and EVE itself is that, while we have a unique relationship with our players in the industry because of the inherent nature of EVE, there is in fact a distinct direction companies of any type should heed: there is no valid reason not to empower your customers or to allow them freedom in voicing their opinions. It makes for a better product, it makes them happier and it makes things simply more fun and interesting. Some amongst them may voice some outlandish position just to be contrary, but there is so much more generative dialogue on the other side to balance it out--especially in the instances of players yelling “BS”. Sure, there are also times when the technical or business realities might crash down on the hopes of your vocal customers, but that’s a storm you should weather in an honest dialogue with them.

There are also ways in which your customers will improve your product that you would never in a million years have possibly dreamed of. They will remake some of the coolest, craziest things out of whatever you bring to them and their observations and creations will ring so viscerally true with another one of your customers that they will both feel like a part of something bigger. It sounds kind of silly for something as “serious” as internet spaceships, but it’s true. You see it all the time as smart, talented marketers harness the power of social networks and “mashups” and testimonials.

EVE has always been a social network, the so-called “society” we talked about earlier. To pretend it’s something else is to try to wrestle an unwilling populace into a life they don’t want. Just like in the real world, they will either emigrate, rise up against you or just be quietly discontent to a point where they don’t contribute any more to the people around them. Each of those eventualities is bad. Very bad.

It shows, too, that in the era of games as services - of which you are at the forefront - you can't just ship one project and move on to another. How does this affect your plans for growth, and what do you think it means for the industry when so many resources have to remain on project one despite work on project two?

Diminishing support for a single project in order to move on to another has never been a part of the mindset of CCP as a creator of virtual worlds. We’ve often repeated the phrase “EVE FOREVER”, which in our hearts serves the purpose of saying we know the EVE universe has simply massive potential for exponential growth. “EVE FOREVER” is also a solemn promise to NEVER leave it behind or put a “skeleton crew” on developing it. In fact, there have always been more people working on EVE than the year prior (to match our growth) and our continuous expansion releases for over eight years show that. Betting on a massive cash influx at launch with diminished returns isn’t CCP’s style and isn’t the way to best create a successful MMO in my opinion.

You’re quite right to point out that MMOs are a service, regardless of the business model, and that’s the best part about them. The resources and effort required to build and maintain them is significant, as called out in the latter half of your question. MMOs are complex, terrifying technical and design problems with proportionately amazing potential. They can offer a ridiculous amount of continuous entertainment if a developer is willing to tend to them.

CCP’s strategic flaw during the recent past wasn’t that we tried to “fire and forget” on EVE. It was that we tried to keep firing at the same pace on multiple projects without quite maintaining our deadly accuracy on all fronts. CCP has done some pretty ingenious things to address multi-product problems, the most significant of which was developing what is essentially a fourth product called Carbon--a core infrastructure for use on all our projects to speed up development and share advantages earned in each project with the others. But in the end, we’d simply stretched ourselves too thin. That’s a phenomenon we as a company had tried to fix as soon as possible before it became a dire problem. The first fruits of our refocus can already be seen in our dialogue with players about the Winter 2011 EVE expansion, with much more to come in the future.



And that's it folks. Back to the world of my brand new capsuleer and changing diapers (and sneaking in a login or two to cause mayhem)!

======== o7 _CCP Manifest | Public Relations and Social Media | @ccp_manifest_

Zagdul
Aliastra
Gallente Federation
#5 - 2011-12-02 17:15:09 UTC
I've always viewed EVE as a blank canvas.

This patch is the first time I've felt that CCP as a company has begun to actually apply paint to it. Now you need to add the details and continue to grow on them. Keep at this pace and you'll continue to dominate the space MMO market without trying.

Do this and projects like World of Darkness will come very easy to you since your baby EVE will grow and walk on it's own without the need for much effort.

Good luck with the summer expansion. I hope you guys have started working on it now. I would love to see what you guys could do with a 6 month development cycle as opposed to the 7? week one you had for Crucible.

Dual Pane idea: Click!

CCP Please Implement

EL TITAN
Project Manhattan
Mercenary Coalition
#6 - 2011-12-02 17:16:02 UTC
first
EL TITAN
Project Manhattan
Mercenary Coalition
#7 - 2011-12-02 17:16:19 UTC
EL TITAN wrote:
first


dammit second
Gogela
Freeport Exploration
Loosely Affiliated Pirates Alliance
#8 - 2011-12-02 17:23:10 UTC
second third

Signatures should be used responsibly...

Archare
Aliastra
Gallente Federation
#9 - 2011-12-02 17:27:25 UTC  |  Edited by: Archare
Good stuff... question tho... With the new carbon framework. I remember this was being touted as "underlying improvements to the architecture" and some other techno words. Does this mean that making new features, and changing/improving existing ones in eve are now easier?
thoth rothschild
Aliastra
Gallente Federation
#10 - 2011-12-02 17:34:52 UTC
With this patch you gave eve "personality". Eve has more emotions. Cyno, trails, nebulae, logo's on ships. That feels good. That feels closer. The more you get to personalization, customization and intuitive the better teh pproduct gets !.
MMO market is a community and a lot of people feel lost in a world of 100000 others. To give some more room for ego and emotions is a good path.
Darrow Hill
Vodka and Vice
#11 - 2011-12-02 17:40:50 UTC
Brevity, dude.

BREVITY.

Quote:
Instead we were on the tail end of a long, slow turn away from where we should have been traveling. We’ve been on this EVE Online highway a while, yet even then it’s simply a dozen imperceptible, incremental degrees of shift of the wheel before you realize you’re heading east as opposed to north. The biggest singular moment, where we collectively grabbed compasses and began to reassess, was during this summer’s Incarna release.


You thought about this way too long.
Opertone
Deep Core Mining Inc.
Caldari State
#12 - 2011-12-02 17:41:15 UTC
lost post

To me eve always has been scientific. It is not another hack and slash MMO.

Eve has many aspects of human society - gender, bloodlines, genetic traits, racial heritage, politics, markets, economics, industry, science, technology, industry, psychology, social groups, communication.

Eve is unique form of gaming and should continue expand that feature. It welcomes thinking and socializing, more human input this universe get, more precious gameworld becomes.

This post sums up why the 'best' work with DCM inc.

WARP DRIVE makes eve boring

really - add warping align time 300% on gun aggression and eve becomes great again

Myxx
Brave Newbies Inc.
#13 - 2011-12-02 17:44:20 UTC
... That was a pretty great read, I'll admit.
Michus Danether
Deep Core Mining Inc.
Caldari State
#14 - 2011-12-02 17:58:13 UTC
CCP Manifest, best manifest.

Also: "Community Development" is such a good choice of job title. Good job.
Kuronaga
Fatal Absolution
Bleeding Sun Conglomerate
#15 - 2011-12-02 18:44:38 UTC  |  Edited by: Kuronaga
Interweb rage has the attention span of a fish, you can stop apologizing now.

Also, where's my establishments? I want to open a bar and roleplay a black version of that guy from cheers.

My CQ isn't big enough to do Black Frasier.
Karn Dulake
Doomheim
#16 - 2011-12-02 18:59:44 UTC
You ******


Why did you not just answer the questions rather than the slimy, backhanded way you said very little


Just admit

1. You went for the isk and did not develop the game sufficiently concentrating on the other two titles

2. A lot of your player base quit and many of those who were left were cashing out using there wealth to buy plexes instead of hard cash which bump up the PLEX price.

3. We realised that the cash flow was starting to diminsh and we are not as bullet proof as we thought we are so we made some changes for the better and we have learned our lesson the hard way

I dont normally troll, but when i do i do it on General Discussion.
Kuronaga
Fatal Absolution
Bleeding Sun Conglomerate
#17 - 2011-12-02 19:11:40 UTC
Karn Dulake wrote:
You ******


Why did you not just answer the questions rather than the slimy, backhanded way you said very little


Just admit

1. You went for the isk and did not develop the game sufficiently concentrating on the other two titles

2. A lot of your player base quit and many of those who were left were cashing out using there wealth to buy plexes instead of hard cash which bump up the PLEX price.

3. We realised that the cash flow was starting to diminsh and we are not as bullet proof as we thought we are so we made some changes for the better and we have learned our lesson the hard way




I stand corrected. The mad is powerful with this one.
Myxx
Brave Newbies Inc.
#18 - 2011-12-02 19:38:34 UTC
Karn Dulake wrote:
You ******


Why did you not just answer the questions rather than the slimy, backhanded way you said very little


Just admit

1. You went for the isk and did not develop the game sufficiently concentrating on the other two titles

2. A lot of your player base quit and many of those who were left were cashing out using there wealth to buy plexes instead of hard cash which bump up the PLEX price.

3. We realised that the cash flow was starting to diminsh and we are not as bullet proof as we thought we are so we made some changes for the better and we have learned our lesson the hard way


Holding a grudge with CCP won't do any good. They've done more than most other companies would even consider. I think we ought to give them the benefit of the doubt, albiet cautiously and wait and see if they continue with this renewed streak of doing well.

In other words, calm the **** down.
CCP Manifest
CCP Retirement Home
#19 - 2011-12-02 20:31:20 UTC
Karn Dulake wrote:
You ******


Man, you gave me 6 stars. Awesome, thanks internet guy!


Darrow Hill wrote:
Brevity, dude.

BREVITY.


Yeah I know. I like the written word, and pretty much this was a free flow, stream of consciousness interview since I didn't have much time to edit it, so perhaps I need to get a lobotomy to reduce my "natural" wordcount.

I know that'd please Karn.

======== o7 _CCP Manifest | Public Relations and Social Media | @ccp_manifest_

Nova Fox
Novafox Shipyards
#20 - 2011-12-02 20:47:32 UTC  |  Edited by: Nova Fox
Also magazine editors go in and edit things for you.

BTW why isnt this stickied for a month? It should be as its more of a community relations thing such as the ccp apology letter.

And thanks for providing another bucket to douse the fire.

Unlike the earlier accidental things that added fuel.

Dust 514's CPM 1 Iron Wolf Saber Eve mail me about Dust 514 issues.

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