The great divide between EVE's players and developers

Once upon a time, there was a game about internet spaceships set in a vast galaxy, just waiting to be explored and conquered. It wasn't a huge game in terms of subscribers, in fact it was quite niche, but its small following was devoted. The size of the community allowed the developers to really interact with them and refine the game. The devs were approachable, open, and direct. In many respects, the players and developers were friends. All seemed well in the internet spaceships game, until the player base's numbers grew, and so did the collective din of their voices. The developers soon found they had to be careful about what they said to the players, in case they'd be accused of going back on their word somewhere down the line. At the same time, the game company grew to handle all of these new faces. As with most internet communities, the ever-growing numbers of players became more and more hostile, and the developers grew more and more silent...

Then, a developer -- let's call him "t20" -- used his knowledge of the game to cheat a little. Some players received an unfair advantage over others because of this lapse of judgment, and it was revealed publicly. The players became enraged. The developers were embarrassed and apologetic. Many players left the game, or at least loudly professed that they would. Many perceived that the developers, seen as a whole, were untrustworthy. Given how bad this situation was, and seeing no real way to change these perceptions, the game's creators had to accept that this was how things were. The people who built up the game from nothing saw little recourse but to withdraw even further from the very community which was so vital to their success. Does our story end there?

Unfortunately, for the time being, this story still has an unhappy ending -- mostly for the players but almost certainly for the devs as well. CCP's situation, really its public relations nightmare, is that they've been walking on eggshells for a very long time. Most any time a change is announced, the players react with waves of forum venom and unholy emo rage. Such changes, specifically the carrier nerf, often prompt members of the community to loudly ask, "Does CCP even play the same game we do?" But at the same time, some players are uneasy that the devs do in fact play alongside them, albeit in the guise of a player's avatar and with a moniker that doesn't begin with "CCP."

The perceived situation of CCP Games being out of touch with how we actually play the game may improve in the coming years through the player-elected Council of Stellar Management (CSM), but some players have been taking the view that the devs should 'keep their pimp hand strong', as it once was, and not get bullied by subscribers. The actions of t20, seen as a betrayal of trust by the EVE community, may have been seen in the same light by CCP themselves. If this is the case (and it probably was), we'll likely never know. Regardless, there is a great divide now between the developers and the community, and much of the closeness between EVE's creators and its players is gone.

For an interesting angle on the player-developer dynamic, be sure to check out Winterblink's "Separation of Developer and Community," written from the perspective of someone who's been playing the game since the beginning. Winterblink laments that some of the magic of EVE has been lost given how the community has changed over time, and says,"It's somewhat ironic really, when the same community that wants more developer involvement presents itself as a hostile environment for such communication to occur."

Do you think this great divide between the developers and the players was inevitable as the game has grown, and in light of some of CCP's public relations issues, or is this something that can be improved over time? Should an MMO's developers keep some distance between themselves and their community?
This article was originally published on Massively.