Monday, 24 October 2011

Recent Events

My, it's been a while, hasn't it? In my defence, I was hired by CCP at FanFest and shortly thereafter required to go to radio silence.

I am one of the 20%. Last Wednesday, I lost a job I loved, working for a noble cause with people I came to care for dearly.

All any of us wanted was to help make EVE, Dust, and WoD the best they could be. And you better believe I'm still playing the game now. The people, the community and the team behind it all mean a hell of a lot to me.

I am now going to be very blunt and give you an insider's perspective on the events of the past few months.

Let's start with Monoclegate: the massive, public flap over the introduction of the NeX store and several corporate communications being leaked.

I don't like the Noble Exchange. Pricing aside, the contents are ugly and not worth paying money for. I'm perfectly of the mind that if you don't like it, you don't buy it. The threat of including items that would actively affect the game, however, is something I can get onboard protesting. Here's why:

Many MMOs have gone free to play with microtransactions providing goods and services: access to expansion content, gear, shiny things to decorate ingame houses, whatever. A lot of these things have an effect on your ingame stats; I shall call these things "Bonussed Gear" beacause "Gold Ammo" is misleading. Yet nowhere has there been such an outcry against these until it was a possible addition to EVE. The reasoning behind this is simple. Most MMOs provide PVP on a selective, optional basis. Many players never touch the PVP zones; their Bonussed Gear is used against NPCs. Those people who do PVP are guaranteed to be on an even standing with other PVPers there because they have all bought Bonussed Gear. There is no inequality.

EVE, on the other hand, was built on the concept of all PVP all the time. By clicking that Undock button, you're accepting the risk of nonconsensual PVP. Every time you open the market window or contracts, you're accepting the risk of being scammed. Every time you talk to another player, you're accepting the risk that they might not be playing nice. Bonussed Gear, paid for with real money in EVE, would be used against players who had not made the same investment; conversely, it can be lost as easily as anything else if the other, non-bonussed players are better or get the drop on you. EVE's balance is such that a pack of newbies can overwhelm an experienced player, and unlike in other games, Bonussed Gear in EVE would not be as much of an automatic win-button. The loss would not only be time and effort -- as with all current losses in EVE -- but also a paycheque.

(As an aside, I am aware of the MT uses in World of Tanks, APB: Reloaded and other PVP-based games; these games were designed/redesigned around a MT model that puts all players on an even standing and the only thing you can potentially "lose" is bonussed ammo.)

I felt -- still feel -- that the EVE is Real motto does not need to be boulstered by costing players real money to enjoy it. EVE is already Real: the loss I felt when I was unable to play the game as I have done since 2007, unable to socialise with the ingame family I've become a part of, made that abundantly clear. Every time someone rages after losing a ship, or being scammed, or having their corp swept out from under their feet because they trusted the wrong person, it proves EVE is Real.

Now that that's out of the way with, let's talk about the players' reaction to all of this.

You people are rude, when your ire is up. You're so eager to shoot the messengers, you seem to forget that they're only messengers; the message is coming from higher up, from people you never interact with avatar-to-avatar. Raging at the GMs, insulting the Community team, blasting vitriol at Content developers who are trying to create something fun for you with spontaneous live events... this is not the behaviour of adults. It hurts us, it makes us wonder why we try to do good things for you with a game we all love.

Contrary to popular belief, the developers do play EVE. We just can't tell you who our characters are, for very good reasons. I logged into EVE almost every day, for at least an hour or two. For over a month, I had to maintain my silence, close chat windows, and run the game like a solo RPG because I could not in good conscience join a conversation anywhere. Try to put yourselves in our shoes: we're just people, trying to improve a game we love, and we're being abused verbally for it.

The layoffs worry me.

Let me put this in perspective: after all the shit heaped on us over the summer, things were beginning to look up. We'd had an internal reshuffle which was frustrating but gave us hope that the new teams would be able to deliver what we were promising. There were new initiatives that had everyone thinking positively. I felt that, if we could pull all of this off the way we were planning, it could completely revitalise EVE and bring back at least a little of the old game I started playing four years ago. Morale was high, people were really putting their backs into it again. It was going to be Apocrypha 2.0.

And then the sucker-punch was delivered.

I was just an intern with the Content department; I knew if the shit hit the fan, I was expendable, but I was willing to take that risk because EVE means a lot to me. What makes me sad, and angry and worried is that many others who were let go were counting on that job security. We were told we were alright only a few weeks ago, people were getting ready for the office move by buying new houses closer to Decatur, moving to new apartments, getting their kids' schools sorted out. And all of a sudden, the company we poured heart and soul into has told us it can't keep us on.

Some of these people have been here for YEARS and were right in the middle of important projects for the upcoming expansions. They know more about their part of game development than anyone else in the company. I've seen a lot of, "Great! CCP should stop working on WoD and focus more on EVE." I've got a news flash for you: the WoD teams, EVE teams and Dust teams were almost entirely separated from each other. Letting go of dedicated WoD devs won't improve EVE or Dust. It'll just push WoD development back by a significant margin.

Telling CCP to drop WoD for EVE is like asking the Content team at DragonCon when hybrid turrets are going to be fixed. One does not affect the other.

Speaking of the Content team, it's been decimated. They (not I, I wasn't offered this) were told they had to either move to Iceland or accept severance. Most took severance because they have responsibilities here: children in school, spouses with careers, rental agreements and bills and car payments. These are people who were working on the most content-heavy drive CCP has ever pursued. Now they're gone, and everyone's happy that CCP is refocussing? The mechanics end of the game may be in good shape for a while yet, but anything requiring more multi-disciplinary work will suffer.

Will I continue to play EVE? Yes.
Will I continue to check CCP's hiring lists for Content Writer openings? Damn straight.
Will I worry that, because of this last setback, CCP won't be able to pick up the pieces?

Unfortunately, yes. Only time will tell if they can pull through it.

You can cancel your paid accounts, switch only to PLEX, get rid of unnecessary alt accounts, boycott the NeX. I don't care if you're paying money or not.

But please, if nothing else, try to support the people who are working on EVE, Dust and WoD. If you truly care about the future of any of these games, don't rage at the people who only want the same as you do. The support of the community is integral to the success of the game.

And keep blogging. They hear you.