A New Humbler CCP

Scott Tortorice

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I wanted to post this out front, but its been one of those days where I've managed a bare 15 minutes on the PC all day. Sheesh!

Anyhoo, this is interesting stuff. First, we have Hellmar making this interesting mea culpa:

Dear Followers of EVE Online,

The past few months have been very humbling for me. I’ve done much soul searching, and what follows is my sincere effort to clear the air with all of you. Please bear with me as I find my way through.

The estrangement from CCP that many of you have been feeling of late is my fault, and for that I am truly sorry. There are many contributing factors, but in the end it is I who must shoulder the responsibility for much of what has happened. In short, my zeal for pushing EVE to her true potential made me lose sight of doing the simple things right. I was impatient when I should have been cautious, defiant when I should have been conciliatory and arrogant when I should have been humble.

This soul searching took me back to when EVE was just an idea. Bringing her to life in 2003 was, in many people’s minds, impossible. But we found a way because EVE is something unique in the world. Getting her to 100,000 subscribers was an even more fantastical feat. Before long, we were launching in China, making DUST 514, merging with White Wolf to build World of Darkness, building Carbon, growing the company to 600 people, increasing our subscriber count beyond that of the population of Iceland and on and on, one resounding success after the next despite earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and even a world economic collapse.

Somewhere along the way, I began taking success for granted. As hubris set in, I became less inclined to listen to pleas for caution. Red flags raised by very smart people both at CCP and in the community went unheeded because of my stubborn refusal to allow adversity to gain purchase on our plans. Mistakes, even when they were acknowledged, often went unanalyzed, leaving the door open for them to be repeated.

You have spoken, loudly and clearly, with your words and with your actions. And there were definitely moments in recent history when I wish I would have listened more and taken a different path.

I was wrong and I admit it.

Captain’s Quarters

Without establishments and meaningful activities to engage in, forcing players into a mandatory single-player Captain’s Quarters experience was a mistake. I mentioned earlier the perils of not getting the simple things right. Removing ship spinning was a negligent oversight and a clear sign that we had fallen out of touch with our community. The interiors for Incarna were so scoped down by our launch window that CQ was essentially a prototype feature that we foolishly promoted as a full-blown expansion. We underestimated our development time, set impractical or misleading expectations, and added insult to injury by removing something in which players were emotionally invested.

I fully empathize with your disappointment in CCP. We would have been much better off positioning Incarna as an optional technology preview that interested players could have experienced and helped us to refine. The tragedy here is that the team really did build solid technology and great art to support what you can see and did it in way that sets a strong foundation for building out the rest. The fact is, in spite of our missteps, they delivered some of the most amazing interior rendering and character technology in the industry, and their efforts deserve praise. The fact we didn’t leverage their achievement more effectively is my fault.

Virtual Goods

Next we arrive at our rather underwhelming virtual goods rollout. There was hardly anything to purchase initially, let alone to put the cost of the infamous monocle in perspective. The last thing we wanted to do was create the perception that all items in the store would be in that price range. Quite frankly, it was rather pointless to begin with because we did not have a multiuser environment in which players could show off their purchases. It was another feature that we rushed out the door before it was ready.

We also didn’t do enough to assure you that this wasn’t the beginning of a “pay to win” scenario in EVE. Let me be blunt: Unless the MMO business changes radically, our virtual goods strategy for EVE Online will remain limited in scope and focus on vanity items, or as we said after the CSM visit this summer: The investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time.

Though the introduction was clearly flawed, our plans for virtual goods are intended to make your playing experience better, not to disrupt it. From a strategic perspective, we had to take these first steps because monthly subscriptions are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. The culture of online gaming is changing, just as the notion of digital ownership did with music. If we don’t evolve our technology, our game design and our revenue model, then we risk obsolescence, and we just can’t allow that to happen to EVE or to our community.

Incarna

For the same reasons, Incarna—the real one with actual meaningful gameplay in it— will be a big step towards the future. For an experience that relies so much on emergence and human interaction, it’s remarkable that it’s taken us this long to actually put a face on it. Once Incarna hits its stride, EVE will be more personal, and thus more accessible to general audiences. Visual self-expression in a virtual setting is a core psychological component of gaming; most people need to see their avatars, or something vaguely humanoid, or else they don’t connect with the game. We were behind the curve and it needs to be addressed for the sake of EVE’s longevity. We have the technology. Now we need time to add the content that will bring more meaning to the gameplay—again, without disrupting the space combat simulator that many of you are, or at least were, very much in love with—and without delaying crucial improvements that this core experience desperately needs.

A Humbler, Stronger CCP

I’m sharing these revelations with you now because it’s taken this long to transform them into action. From all this self-reflection, a genesis of renewal has taken root, a personal and professional commitment to restore the partnership of trust upon which our success depends, and a plan that sets the foundation for us to sensibly guide EVE to her fullest potential. In the coming days and weeks, the details of this plan and what it means for you will be unveiled. Part of what led us down this path is the fact we have not communicated well. This blog, and those that will follow, will hopefully demonstrate our conviction to transparency.

Good things are coming. They always do when you learn from your mistakes. In 2007, we faced a similar crisis of confidence, and it resulted in the creation of the CSM. We’re a better company because of it. In the last months, we’ve taken a hard look at everything, including my leadership. What I can say for now is that we’ve taken action to ensure these mistakes are never repeated. We have reexamined our processes, hired experienced industry professionals for key leadership positions, reassessed our priorities, moved personnel around and, above all else, recognized our limitations.

For me, the most frustrating aspect of this is that after all this time, as far as EVE has come and in spite of everything that’s happened, I fervently believe with all my heart that we’ve not even scratched the surface of EVE’s potential. My personal failing is not reconciling that passion with pragmatism. We’ve been trying to expand the EVE universe in several directions at once, and I need to do a better job of pursuing that vision without diluting or marginalizing the things that are great—or could be great—about the game right now. Nullsec space needs to be fixed. Factional warfare needs to be fixed. The game needs new ships. We need to do a better job of nurturing our new players and making EVE the intriguing, boundless universe it has the potential to be.

We really do have something that no one else has. EVE is still unique in the real and virtual world. This is our vision for her, and we want so badly to take you there. But getting there is not an entitlement. It will take hard work, open communication and, above all else, collaboration with you. The greatest lesson for me is the realization that EVE belongs to you, and we at CCP are just the hosts of your experience. When we channel our passion for EVE constructively, we can make this vision a reality together.

But enough talk from me. We all know that much quoted phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do,” that will make the difference here. From now on, CCP will focus on doing what we say and saying what we do. That is the path to restoring trust and moving forward.

Regards,
Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO
CCP Hellmar
Don't know if this is good or bad, but that letter reads like a carbon copy of NetFlix CEO Reed Hastings creepy apology. :D I hope Hellma isn't taking cues from NetFlix! :paperbag:

I find it interesting that Hellmar basically concedes that Incarna was a tech demo!

I think the most important part of his letter, though, is this statement:

From a strategic perspective, we had to take these first steps because monthly subscriptions are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. The culture of online gaming is changing, just as the notion of digital ownership did with music. If we don’t evolve our technology, our game design and our revenue model, then we risk obsolescence, and we just can’t allow that to happen to EVE or to our community.
Guys, if that doesn't sound like F2P is coming sometime in the future, I don't know what would. I think CCP is just taking their time about it, getting their legal ducks in a row (as you pointed out, Don), and making sure the transition will be as spotless and painless as possible.

Personally, I think EVE is one of the few MMOs that should go F2P. I would expect that EVE, being a thoroughly unique MMO at this point, could reasonably expect such a financial model to be wildly successful. EVE has a mystique that dime-a-dozen, hack and slash MMOs lack. If they were to throw the doors wide open, I'd bet Tranquility would be flooded and brought to its knees during the first week or two. :) It would then drop off as the kids lost interest and patience, but I suspect the overall pop would probably remain doubled what it is now, with a virtual flood of currency (pun intended) from micro-transactions filling their coffers. Keep in mind that I'm not necessarily saying this would be good for gameplay, just that it would probably be a win for CCP.

Of course, you could argue that the whole PLEX system is already a form of F2P. In fact, it always struck me as weird that CCP never played up the PLEX system more than it already has. I personally find the idea that financial success in the game can help pay for your subscription (i.e., F2P) to be a wonderfully innovative approach. But CCP acts like it wants to keep it under wraps for some reason. It's one of those muddled ideas that CCP has been struggling with either due to a lack of commitment, or fear of a massive backlash from the grogs.


Moving on, we have this dev post about this winter's expansion:

We hinted that we’re up to something big. Following Hilmars letter to the community it’s time to unveil the first step of actions we’re taking.

As we said we are planning something unparalleled. A significant part of that plan is the immediate refocusing of all the EVE development teams on EVE’s core gameplay: spaceships.

More programmers, more testers, more designers and more artists than ever working on bringing you meaningful and engaging improvements and additions to EVE.

Before we can elaborate on long term effect we will need further internal planning to take place and we will keep you updated on that progress. However the short term effect of this refocus will be evident immediately in dev-blogs coming out in the next days and weeks and in actual changes hitting our test servers. Right now we're going to give you a high level sneak peek of the winter 2011 expansion. The specific deployment date has not been set in stone but it will be on Tranquility well before Christmas.

EVE Online´s Winter 2011 expansion will be themed around improvements to warfare and PVP. We will be talking more specifically about each of the features and items in the coming weeks but, for now, here‘s an overview of what functionality, systems and gameplay we‘re going to improve and add to.

Hybrid weapons balancing
Factional warfare
Assault ships
Capital ship balancing
New T2 modules
Starbase logistics management
New EWAR-Drones
T2 Rigs manufacturing
Ship spinning
New font
More captains quarters
Time dilation

I want to make it clear that this is not a final list. As we go through design and implementation phases some things may require more work than initially expected and others may not hold water in the design phase and therefore may not make it into this particular expansion. Similarly some things might get added to the list. We will keep you updated on our progress every step of the way because, as Hilmar said, communication is one of the things we are dedicated to improve.

It‘s time to get serious about these spaceships.

Arnar Hrafn Gylfason
Senior Producer of EVE Online
I would have liked to have seen some SP changes, too. :OHNO: Oh well. Maybe next time.
 

Dr Zaius

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That letter, while long overdue, is exactly what many players (and some press representatives, like me) have been pushing for for a very long time. CCP needs to get back to its roots, which is the FIS (flying in space) part of EVE Online. I, like most other players, am not opposed to WiS (walking in stations), however, it can't come at the expense of what made EVE interesting in the first place. It's a major relief to hear CCP's top man say this.

It's equally gratifying to hear CCP Hellmar acknowledge that it was our mass protests and relentless pressure that finally forced CCP to stop and reassess. There were many, many naysayers on the EVE forums who continually bashed those of us who were being critical as "whiners" or "bitter vets," and encouraged us over and over again to just sell everything and quit the game for good. And, sadly, the ridiculous overuse of the NDA as a weapon of mass censorship when it comes to all matters involving the CSM only served to further reinforce the perception that the protesters were only wasting their time and whining. Misleading statistics were trotted out and arguments presented to paint the picture that the protesters were an extremely small, shrill, and unreasonable group of players intent on complaining just for the sake of complaining.

Well apparently there were enough of us who canceled accounts and voted with our feet to finally bring CCP to its senses. The fact that CCP Hellmar felt compelled to shift the company's focus and post that apology speaks volumes.

I hope CCP is sincere in its declaration to move in a new direction and communicate better with the players. Time will tell.
 

Scott Tortorice

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Good editorial on the new direction of CCP here:

http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/10/09/eve-evolved-looking-forward-to-the-winter-expansion/
In a recent letter to the players, CCP CEO Hilmar laments that somewhere along the line, things changed for the worse. The CCP of today bears little resemblance to the "little indie studio that could" of 2003, not just housing over 600 employees in offices around the world but also developing upcoming MMOs DUST 514 and World of Darkness. Resources are spread thin, and EVE Online has suffered for it. Last month I looked back at the blockbuster Apocrypha expansion and asked why every expansion since then has cut down on the in-space development players want. Hilmar's letter and its accompanying devblog answered that question this week with a solid plan for iteration on flying in space features during the winter development period.

In this week's EVE Evolved, I look forward to the winter expansion and explain why each of the issues being tackled in the coming expansion is a big deal to players.
 
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