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Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: A Space Odyssey

Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave Bowman: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark

This is the first I've written concerning the CSM minutes being so long in publishing. It'll likely be the last. I personally don't care if they ever come out. In my estimation, CCP will only publish what CCP wants the world to know, and that's the end of it. The minutes don't matter. In that regard, CCP Dolan has my sympathy. I know how that game's played. He's piggy in the middle. He's no doubt made a personal pledge to the CSM concerning the minutes, but he never realized he's ghost writing for the board: Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson, David Fialkow, Sigurður Ólafsson, Stephan Wieck, Birgir Már Ragnarsson, and last but not least Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. In the end, the board will have published only what the board wants published. CCP Dolan only gets to do all the edits. Man, I do not envy you.

But let's get back to the minutes themselves. The reason the minutes don't matter is the CSM isn't CCP's method to ensure they create outstanding content. It's their method for not committing another Incarna. If you think the board members, who represent the 484 shareholders (as of December 31, 2012) who've sunk millions of dollars into CCP, will use the the CSM in any other fashion, you really are into science fiction. Those 484 shareholders have far more at stake than any mere subscriber or their elected representatives - even if there are theoretically half a million of us.

And we've put ourselves into this position. We've proven to them that we, the subscribers, are an unreliable business partner. How you ask? Just look at what we did about Incarna. We acted in about the most infantile manner possible. We threw a temper tantrum and glorified it as some form of revolt. From a business perspective it was revolting all right. Yes, we got our point across. Then they got their point across. How many CCP employees lost their jobs over that debacle? Every damn one of you who unsubscribed an account in protest are as much to blame for them losing their jobs as the person who approved Incarna. I was ashamed of being an EVE Online subscriber that day, even though I did not participate in the unpleasantness that was Burn Jita Riots. (EDIT: So sue me, I've got the flu and this blog is free so, meh. You only prove my point.)

The only good thing to come from that event is CCP is much more cautious than before. There will be no promises made that are not easy to keep. Why? Because of the second way we as a subscriber base show our immaturity. You know, as a parent I completely get CCP's issue with promises. You say anything to a child about anything, anything at all, and it instantly becomes a promise. Later on, if things change and you don't do as you said you would, you'll get the infamous, "But you promised!" tantrum. That certainly has happened to CCP in regards to EVE Online. Now hasn't it? I don't blame CCP for not wanting to get burned again: burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me.

And that brings me to both the quote at the top of this post and the title. First the quote. It's pretty much how I see our present relationship with CCP. In case you don't get it, we the subscribers are Dave Bowman. CCP has far too much at stake to allow us to be serious stake holders in their future. We'd just burn the stake and then whine about the fire being the wrong color. I honestly believe CCP has more sense than to ever allow that to happen. CSM suggestions are just that, suggestions. In the end they won't change the direction CCP has chosen to take as a business.

Don't get me wrong, the CSM is very important. It's just not important for the reasons most subscribers want to believe. I've no problem with that - unless some of those who don't get it start acting out again and CSM members take up "the cause." Then I think the CSM should be immediately disbanded. So long as the CSM serves CCP's needs, not the players so called needs, there's no problem with it. And that being the case, the minutes are irrelevant. Think about that.

That brings me to the title. What originally got me thinking about all this was Hilmar's interview with Wired UK, in which he stated the company's goal was, "to make virtual reality more meaningful than real life." It wasn't the "virtual reality" part of that statement which got my double-take. It was the "real life" part. There is an unintentional double entendre in that statement that is both profound and potentially tragic.

To us the subscribers, EVE Online is just a game. It's virtual reality. And according to the quote, it's not yet more meaningful than real life. But to every board member, every shareholder, and every CCP employee, their real life depends on our virtual reality. The food they buy with the money we pay them is real. Their mortgage payment is real. Their childrens' looming college tuition is real. And all of it depends on a virtual reality world that exists at the whim of notoriously impulsive subscribers whose most lauded play styles exhibit a tendency toward immorality. When real life depends on virtual reality being more meaningful to the likes of us, that truly is a space odyssey. Keep the pod bay doors closed CCP. This mission is too important for you to let your subscribers jeopardize it.

Fly Careful

3 comments:

  1. First, completely agree... may even weigh in in moar detail later but minor correction...
    "Burn Jita" was not about Incarna, it was a planned and announced Gewn Bread-n-Circus for the gooney masses... what yer talkin about has been set down in our emergent lore as the "Incarna Riots", which took place at all 4 major trade hubs and the no-longer-orbital Caldarii Titan, the most widely publicized being the monument shoot in Jita... and yea, I took part and shootzed at de momuments and Titan, but not due to Incarna just... you know... cause I was dere!! =] They started it... =\

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  2. First, I think you conflated "Burn Jita" with the "Jita Riots", as the other poster here noted. (As it happened, I was unsubbed for completely unrelated reasons at the time.)

    My main objection, however, is that you write as if CCP is entitled to our money, or at least, that CCP's employees are entitled to their jobs. Based on the comments from various people, hitting them in the balance sheet really is the only way to get their attention. So, from that perspective, rage-unsubbing is exactly the right thing to do if you really care about the change. That said, I agree with you on the purpose of the CSM. It is, essentially, an elected focus group, a fact that I think we pretty much agree on. Where we diverge, I think is on whether that means they exist to merely say, "yes, this is acceptable" or "no, this is unacceptable", whereas I think they're more of a tap into the subconscous of the average EVE player. In the latter form, they absolutely do have the right to take up "the cause", whatever it might be. CCP is also well within their rights to ignore it. While players don't have a stake in the success of EVE Online as a business venture, they absolutely have a stake in EVE Online as a thing that it's worth their time to spend money on. If we aren't willing and able to determine that it isn't worth our money, then there's no accountability for CCP to make something that, well, is worth our money to pay for.

    In the case of Incarna, I always understood the reaction as "this is *it*?" more than "you promised!" Since I was unsubbed at the time, though, maybe I am wrong. I, for one, have never been impressed by captains' quarters and promptly turned it off as soon as I realized I could do so: all it did was slow down station load. If that's really all that was in that release, I'd absolutely have that reaction.

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  3. I'm sorry, Mab, but you're dead wrong on blaming players for the job losses at CCP over Incarna. CCP isn't entitled to my money. If they put out what I feel is a sufficiently crappy product, or treat customers in a manner that I feel is wrong, the only effective recourse I have is to withdraw my business. Job losses, even the collapse of the company, are the sole responsibility of the guy at the top, the CEO, Hilmar. If his customers get that pissed off because of bad decisions he made and they choose to become ex-customers, the blame is entirely his.

    As for the CSM, I both agree and disagree with you. On the one hand, yes, the CSM will exist only so long as CCP thinks it gains a net benefit. Currently, the CSM are acting as non-paid market consultants for CCP and they seem to be doing a decent job at it.

    The thing is, the CSM really is there to serve the players' needs. It wouldn't exist if it weren't for the T20 scandal. The CSM's whole raison d'etre is to hold CCPs feet to the fire, as Hilmar himself has stated on several occasions. If that's not looking out for the players' needs/interests, I don't know what is.

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Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.