Thursday, September 22, 2011

Begun, the Feature War Has

CCP's announcement that EVE development will be refocused, is, of course, reason for celebration.

But don't get cocky, bittervet. This is not victory, it's just the opening shot in the war -- the Feature War.

The real battle in the Feature War will be fought over how the ammo -- the newly available development resources made available by this "refocusing" -- will be used.

Right now in a sinister conference room, arguments are being made that it should be spent on :awesome: flashiness and exploding planets.

Meanwhile, a plucky band of rebel developers champions a radical proposition -- that development should be refocused on fixing existing problems in the game. Stuff like POS's, the user interface, mining and manufacturing, Sov, and a host of other annoyances that plague the current community.

The Feature War is raging now... the decisions will be made soon... and your voice in this thread provides ammo to one side or the other.

Make your voice heard. This threadnaught can be the ultimate power in the EVE universe. I suggest you use it.

Victory? Victory you say? Master Bittervet, not victory. The shroud of the :awesome: side has fallen. Begun the Feature War has.

PS to Zulu: This is not the blog we're looking for.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Behind the Power Curve and into the Coffin Corner

In aviation, being behind the power curve or in the coffin corner are bad things. When you're behind the power curve, even applying full power won't make the airplane gain altitude, and when you're in the coffin corner, even a tiny course correction can send the plane into a catastrophic spin.

The current CSM -- as well as the previous CSM, which I also served on, and many engaged players in the community --  have become increasingly concerned about the future of Flying-in-Space component of EVE. As CCP continues to devote lots of time and effort to their new projects -- World of Darkness, DUST, and Incarna (aka "Walking in Stations") -- the core game, the game that their players signed up to play, and their only real source of income, has been increasingly neglected and starved for development resources.

Getting CCP to put more resources into FiS has been a core issue for CSM for a long time, but it seemed like an impossible task. CCP upper management appeared to be focused on an agressive expansion strategy, leveraging their experience with EVE to help develop their new games. Indeed, a lot of the development effort on EVE outside of the visible FiS work has been devoted to projects that help them with their other games.

For example, World of Darkness is an avatar game, and Incarna is avatars in EVE. So a lot of the work done on Incarna is synergistic with World of Darkness. Similarly, the "Carbon" platform development work CCP has spent a lot of time on makes it easier to share code between the various games.

Up to a point, this is (from a long-term perspective) a good thing. The problem is that if you push this too hard, and put too much of your resources into it, you risk starving the cash cow. And, of course, there's the risk that unforeseen problems will conspire against you.

This may well be what has happened. If Jester's infamous PCU chart is a good proxy for EVE subscription trends, then Incarna is probably failing to meet expectations, and that is very worrying.

As I see it, CCP is at a crossroads. They can either double-down on their current strategy, put all their resources into their new projects, accept the huge risk that EVE subscription numbers will stall and plummet to the ground, and hope they can get their new games on the market quickly enough to keep the company flying.

Or they can refocus their available resources back on EVE FiS -- light the afterburners, if you will -- revitalize their cash cow (accepting that this will delay World of Darkness), and then use that as a basis for expansion. Obviously, this is the choice EVE players would prefer.

CCP is not yet behind the power curve, and they're not yet in the coffin corner. They can still make a big course correction.

Let's hope the Pilot-in-Command is Fearless.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Minutes of the Scandal of the Minutes

Over the past month or so, players have been asking -- more and more pointedly -- what's going on with the minutes of the Emergency summit.

Here's the story so far -- the minutes of the minutes, if you will.

After the Emergency summit concluded, a CCP staff member made a summary transcription based on recordings of the session. CSM quickly took these and did a basic editing pass, making sure they had all the important facts right and that CSM opinions -- and the manner in which they were expressed -- were properly recorded.

Based on prior experience, I did not expect any significant problems with the minutes; at most, a few minor things might get NDA'd or made less specific.

However, after a considerable delay, what we got back from CCP was quite disturbing. The minutes had been significantly rewritten by a senior CCP employee (who will remain nameless because we are not sure if this was done on this person's own initiative or on orders from higher-up. It was not, I am happy to say, either of the CSM's advocates inside CCP, Xhagen and Diagoras, who were on vacation at the time). What has been euphemistically referred to in public as issues of "tone" was in fact a major rewrite which grossly softened the severity of CSM's concerns and criticism of CCP.

Furthermore, we were told that CCP's position was that the minutes were a "joint report", as opposed to what minutes have traditionally been -- a report by the CSM to the community about the meeting.

The CSM was unanimously outraged. CCP was attempting to put their words in our mouths; in effect, turning us into unpaid spokesclones for the CCP PR and Marketing departments.

We informed CCP that this was totally unacceptable, and that if they had problems with our draft, they should specify them individually and we would attempt to address them. We were quite happy to make sure that their concerns, opinions and explanations were properly represented, just as we have always done in previous minutes.

This request was repeatedly ignored; instead, CCP kept offering minor revisions of their draft that did nothing to address our concerns.

When he returned from vacation, CCP Xhagen attempted to break the impasse with another draft that addressed some CSM concerns. I carefully compared it with our original draft, made the needed changes to ensure that the CSM's voice was unadulterated, left CCP's replies untouched (after all, I would not want to be accused of putting words in their mouths!) and submitted it to both CCP and CSM for comment.

It has been over a week, and we haven't gotten an answer yet as to what issues, if any, CCP has with our draft.

The bottom line for me is that in order for CSM to be effective (and useful to CCP!), it must be an independent voice that can express player concerns and communicate CCP's responses back to the community. How ironic that, after seeing just how well that can work back in June, some people in CCP want to muzzle the CSM.