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EVE Online General Article: Post-CSM Summit Press Conference Report

By Michael Bitton on July 06, 2011

The recent launch of EVE Online’s in-game store, the Noble Exchange or NeX, was fraught with controversy. Some astronomical virtual goods prices, coupled with the leak of an internal CCP Games newsletter that stirred the EVE community into an even greater frenzy, have made the last couple of weeks hectic for both the EVE Online community as well as CCP Games.

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To set things right, CCP Games invited the Council of Stellar Management, a council made up of (and elected by) players selected to act as their voice to developer CCP Games, out to CCP Games headquarters in Iceland for an emergency meeting to discuss the brouhaha. Both CCP Games and the CSM released statements over the weekend signaling that both sides came away from the discussions pleased.

The story doesn’t end there though, and how could it? There were still questions left in players’ minds, and likely some additional ones as a result of the statements released. To address at least some of those questions, CCP Games arranged for a follow-up press conference so that us curious cats in the press could do our best to get you the answers.

EVE Online Senior Producer Arnrar “CCP Zulu” Gylfason and Council of Stellar Management Chairman Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco were on hand at today’s press conference and things kicked off with an interesting question regarding whether or not the CSM will call for CCP Games’ CEO Hilmar Pétursson to step down.

CSM Chairman Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco felt such a call wouldn’t accomplish a “good goddamned thing” and would be the “height of foolishness and a tremendous waste of political capital.” Alex does concede that he was enraged when he first read the leaked e-mail and he believes the EVE community would still like to see an apology from Hilmar, but there is also more to the e-mail story.  Alex contends that following each and every expansion to the game it’s normal practice for Hilmar to send out an internal e-mail to the team that serves as kind of a “pep talk”. While the average worker at CCP Games was not involved in rolling out the Noble Exchange, many of them were feeling “beaten down”, and Hilmar’s e-mail was “clearly intended as a pep talk to make the best of an ugly situation” .

While said e-mail was intended for one purpose, the e-mail also stated that CCP Games was going to give greater consideration to the way players react in terms of action over what they say. Alex stated that the EVE Online community took that to heart and demonstrated their capability to respond with action and not only words by mass canceling their game accounts. As a result, Alex points out, players have learned that “when players begin to react to a controversy at the level of unsubscribing from the game CCP listens and CCP listens very quickly”.

CCP was also pushed on some of the language found in the recently released statement, namely the mention that “game breaking” items or enhancements would not be sold on the Noble Exchange.  Many in the community have found this language somewhat vague and it has created many additional questions since, such as whether or not items that serve purely functional or convenience purposes would also be considered “game breaking.” CCP Zulu responds first with the example of PLEX-to-ISK trades, something EVE players have been doing for some time now.  Arnar notes that while PLEX-to-ISK trades are basically players buying ISK in the game for real money, the ISK isn’t being generated out of CCP servers by the sale but is coming directly out of the player economy, players aren’t buying ISK directly from CCP, and he feels that this is something to be mindful of. Zulu also clarified that maintaining this “player arbitrage” was a key factor in determining the sorts of things they do with the Noble Exchange stating, “…whatever we do, and whatever parts of the game it touches that this player arbitrage remain. That there is not a magical appearance or vanishing of items by CCP, that this is more player driven.”

The broader discussion of what is or isn’t “game breaking” was deemed too lengthy a topic for the venue but Zulu did note that this topic was something discussed at length during the two-day CSM summit and that the CSM basically got a chance to see where CCP was going with the plan and approved of that direction.

Alex appeared to approve of Zulu’s assessment of the talks, but he also took a moment to remind concerned players that as a player he was very publicly vocal in terms of going up against CCP even prior to being Chairman of the CSM and that they would continue to “guard the players’ interests” going forward should something appear on the Noble Exchange that is considered “game breaking.”

But can CCP Games survive without resorting to selling “non-vanity” items that give players some sort of advantage? Zulu offers an interesting response: “The investment of money should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time. Saying never, that puts me in an awkward position. EVE has been running for eight years now, hoping, we do our jobs right it’s going to be running for 80 more. I don’t want to put the person doing my job 80 years from now into a position where I’ve promised something. I don’t see it as part of the core philosophy of being able to buy an unfair advantage with money, that’s not something I see work for EVE.”

Addressing the specific notion of whether or not EVE could actually survive taking this stance, Zulu asserts that EVE has survived many things ranging from not having alliances or even a CSM, but it’s more about being a “question of progress” and “evolving the concept that is EVE.”

Aside from concerns over what will make up the NeX inventory, players also balked at the pricing of some of the items in the store. Dubbed “Monoclegate” by some, players sharply decried the existence of an $80 monocle that could be purchased in the NeX, and that coupled with the leaked memo fueled fears that the exorbitant pricing seen so far would be a continuing trend. To address these concerns, CCP Zulu offered a small preview of a dev blog that CCP will be releasing possibly over the next few days (along with a couple of new NeX items) that should make the company’s plans along these lines a bit more transparent. Zulu explains that there are three tiers to their pricing strategy, a low tier, a mid tier, and a high tier, and items found in each will have varied prices, with a more in-depth explanation to appear in the upcoming dev blog.

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