Arnar: It's one of them. We've certainly had our share of controversies through the eight years of having the game live and some of them have spiked cancellation trends. Even with this being one of the biggest ones, the EVE playerbase has never been bigger than it is today. We've seen a very positive trend coming out of the Incarna expansion, both in terms of subscribed users and in terms of trial users. I think that gives a pretty accurate image of what the real sentiment is.
The Mittani: From the CSM perspective, we saw very detailed metrics of all of the unsub statistics. Like most MMO companies, CCP has ways of trying to see who is unsubscribing and why. What we really saw in this crisis is that new players are always going to come to EVE. Incarna is basically an expansion based around the new player experience. I don't think it's been sold as such, but in practice, Incarna revamps the tutorial, and the captain's quarters is designed to make the game as attractive to newbies as possible.
People who are new to the game don't read the forums and they don't care about microtransactions or anything like that. What we had to go to Reykjavik for was to prevent veteran players who are pillars of the community fleeing the game, because those are the people who provide a lot of the content for everyone else. And I think that we have managed that, judging from the forums in the aftermath of the crisis.
Can you say, on the record, that there will never be any non-vanity items that give a gameplay advantage sold through micro-transactions? Can EVE survive financially without them?
Arnar: I'm going to refer back to the line I gave in the statement that the investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time. Saying "never" puts me in an awkward position, as EVE has been running for eight years now and hopefully if we do our job right it's going to be running for 80 more. I don't really want to put the person doing my job 80 years from now into a position where I've promised something. But I don't see it as part of the core philosophy [of EVE]. Being able to buy an unfair advantage with money is not something I can see working for EVE.
Can EVE survive financially without [game-breaking virtual good sales]? EVE can survive pretty much anything, especially for something like game-breaking virtual good sales -- that's not something we plan on having. EVE survived very well for a length of time without even having alliances, incursions, and planetary interaction. EVE can survive a lot of things, it's really a question of progress and evolving the concept of EVE. EVE survived without the CSM for many years but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have done it. It's a step in the right direction.
The Mittani: I think the finance question is an interesting one. One of the many issues that the CSM began doing preparation work with before the Summit was that we wanted to try to independently determine the state of CCP's financials. One of the things about the playerbase of EVE that's different from any other game is that EVE attracts professionals because the game has time-based skills so you don't have to grind to go places. I put out the call through some of my contacts to have people with actual experience in reading financial reports -- auditors and stock analysts -- go over CCP's reports for the last few years. The CSM does not have access to this type of information via the meetings; maybe if we'd asked for it we would have got it, we just did independent research of our own.
My impression is that CCP is primarily doing the microtransactions in EVE not as a revenue-creation metric at all. Many other MMOs are doing microtransactions in one way or another and I think that CCP is doing it not to make money but just to learn and acquire the capacity to do it such that they aren't left in the dust as the industry changes. As you all know, the industry is shifting in toward microtransaction or hybrid models, and that's just the way it is. I don't think CCP are about to start trying to take the player's money and have that be a primary source of revenue for EVE.
Where does this revolt rank in EVE's history?
Arnar: Not to be dismissive but I think EVE has seen more defining moments than this. The first titan lost, the first alliance formed, the first proper large-scale alliance warfare, those are defining moments in EVE's history. This is a bit of noise.
The Mittani: If I understand the thrust of the question, I think that this blows the T20 scandal out of the water in terms of messes that players have been angry about with CCP. It's funny because we came out of the T20 scandal with a lot of reforms that really helped the game along. We saw the foundation of the internal affairs department, the creation of the CSM and the much heavier regulation of volunteers.
Because it was just leaks and perception, this was a much greater controversy with players being much angrier, but in terms of the actual supposed misdeeds was far less. It's kind of a funny situation, that it was all just smoke and mirrors that needed to be cleared away with better communication.
Arnar: Most of the communication issues we had were surrounding the leaked information. They weren't surrounding anything we had said or done publicly, so this wasn't really something we could prepare for. As for how will we prepare for that in the future, I don't really know if that's possible. I think going through this once allows us to understand ourselves better and understand our reactions to something like that better. So the next time, while we may not be prepared for the specific issue at hand, we'll better understand the internal communication paths that need to be activated for something like this.
Have you identified the source of the leak. If so, what action has been taken?
Arnar: I can't really speak directly to that. I'm not involved with whatever investigation may or may not be ongoing. That's being dealt with in different parts of the organisation.
It is interesting that a CCP employee risked his or her job to leak Fearless and Hilmar's email. Is it possible that the employee deliberately did so in order to influence CCP's future plans?
Arnar: This is a very leading question, a very hearsay kind of thing. I don't know what mindset the person that leaked this information was in.
The Mittani: I think it's obvious from an "I don't work for CCP so I can say whatever I want" perspective that the timing of the leaks was quite deliberate. I had access to a copy of fearless about a month before it was leaked and I said "This is gonna explode when it gets out if there's a leak within CCP," but it's actually not that big of a deal if you go through and read it line by line. What's intriguing to me was the timing of the leaks -- the fact they leaked to EVE News 24 just the day after Incarna hit. Somebody was very much waiting poised to leak this at the most dangerous time of the Incarna rollout and it seems clear to me that they do have an agenda. But that's my side; that's my take.
In the statements, the CSM mentioned the leaked e-mail while CCP avoided it. Does CCP acknowledge how much damage it did and can we ever expect an excuse?
Arnar: CCP has always fostered very open, very honest, very blunt internal communication, and also external communication. I don't really think it would be right for us to excuse the way we do business as a company, or really excuse the dialogue of internal communication.
Did the reaction of the player base to the pricing of the microtransactions surprise CCP? Are there any planned changes to current prices? How will things be priced in the future?
Arnar: One of the action points that came out of our meetings with the CSM was that we need to be more transparent in telling people about the pricing strategy behind the virtual goods store. There are low, mid and high price tiers; we have to explain to people how those price tiers work, and we need to start populating those tiers more. We actually have a devblog planned for that, which should come out at the same time as a couple of new items for the store. That should be out this week, so you'll get a lot more in-depth information on that in the next couple of days.
What are CCP's plans for the near future to deal with the continued hard feelings by some of the community?
Arnar: CCP's plans to deal with any hard feelings in the community are the same they've always been. As far as I know, we've resolved the biggest contention points that the community has right now. Anything else we'll just have to deal with on a case-by-case basis.
The Mittani: As far as the community's points of contention, the only thing that's really missing from the statements is some sort of an apology or at least an acknowledgment from Hilmar regarding his leaked mail. Politically, that's very difficult to get because he's the CEO and he probably sees no need to do that. But judging the reaction of the playerbase, we've pretty much covered every issue that went into this on the statements. I feel pretty satisfied with that.
Head over to page 3 for some fantastic questions on the CSM's influence on recent events and advance details of CCP's plans for the Noble Exchange.