It has been a long week.
This was my first CSM summit, my first time in Iceland, and my first time getting to meet many of CCP’s development and business staff. It was also my first time getting to meet, in person, many of the personalities – and more important, the people behind the characters – in EVE that I had long been watching from afar. It was fascinating to see how this diverse group of players – players from around the world, different backgrounds, even if many were from the same EVE culture – worked together and with a design team that was equally diverse. It was a unique experience and one I won’t soon forget.
The meeting minutes will be released in a few weeks, so players will get to see what we talked about and the different things that were addressed. I won’t go into details about that – even if I could, some of what we talked about are covered by the non-disclosure agreement, and so my hands are tied (so are The Judge’s). What I can tell you are my impressions, and my views on some of the things that happened while we were here with CCP.
First, there’s one thing that didn’t happen – and that was action on the part of the CSM to get any specific players banned from the game. There was some controversy at the start of the week that has since blown over in the wake of CCP’s acquisition (more on that later), but the bottom line was the timing on that event coincided with the summit and was not the result of the summit. The CSM does not and has not had any undue influence on specific CCP decisions on player violations of their internal policies – both CCP and the CSM recognize that would be inappropriate. This was made abundantly clear to us on multiple occasions, and it remains true now. So when you see the folks peddling those conspiracy theories, don’t take them at face value. From what I have seen, much of what they are saying is merely trying to distract from the legitimate bad behavior of those who earned themselves removal from our community.
Regarding our meetings on substantive EVE issues, the meetings were frank and collaborative, and even sometimes contentious. One thing that I appreciated about CCP was their willingness to not only absorb our criticism but to think about it thoughtfully and work with us to come up with solutions that would likely be acceptable to all. This happened throughout the summit. The entire week felt like a roller coaster ride at times – we’d feel good, then bad, then good again – as different meetings and different conversations happened, and issues arose, were debated, and the process played itself.
I know many players were concerned with the in-game political makeup of this CSM – the jokes about this being a “Goon Meet” in Iceland, for instance, and the lack of player representatives with significant experience in some areas of gameplay. However, one thing that I was pleased to see was that, outside of some good-natured ribbing, this CSM got along and kept the good of EVE and the entire community as our guiding principle, divorced from any of our parochial political concerns. There was never any talk of “is this good for PanFam” or “is this good for the Imperium” – it was always what was good for EVE. That also made an impression on CCP, knowing our backgrounds as they did. When an entire group of players from diverse backgrounds can come together and say the #1 issue we wanted to see resolved one that had almost no impact on any of us, that was very persuasive.
Now, to be clear, it is still too soon to be sure – I won’t feel entirely sure until I see patch notes. I feel optimistic that if CCP continues to follow through on the issues we presented and collaborated on, this CSM will go down in EVE history as one of the most consequential and impactful CSMs ever – and mainly in ways that most EVE players will be pleased with.
That leaves the elephant in the room: CCP’s acquisition by Asian MMO maker Pearl Abyss. Like the rest of EVE, we awoke Thursday morning to the press releases from CCP and PA announcing the sale of the company. I remember breakfast that morning, where a few of us huddled together discussing what we thought the impact would be and what our concerns were. And the first session we had that morning was a meeting with Hillmar Pétursson, CCP’s CEO.
That, alone, should tell our players something. Less than an hour after the announcement of the sale of the company – when many CCP employees (but not all) were first learning of the sale – the CEO of the company took an hour to sit down and talk with the representatives of the player community. Can you imagine EA, Blizzard, Bungie, or some other game company doing that? Going to the players first, before even talking to some of the staff? It was a powerful signal to us that Hillmar and CCP cared about the community and that this sale of the company wasn’t a “sell out.”
As can be expected, we all had concerns. We peppered Hilmar with a variety of questions, many of which are the same as those the community has now – would CCP retain creative control, what was the potential for outside influence from PA, what would this mean for monetization in EVE, what was the potential impact on CCP staff in Iceland and around the world, and many others. In each instance, we were given direct answers without hesitation, weasel words or other kinds of political obfuscation. Given what I do for a living, I can smell that kind of bullshit from a mile away, and our meeting was refreshingly free of it.
Much of the concern I had regarding the sale was allayed both by our meeting with Hillmar, my private conversations with him later in the day, as well as the behavior of the CCP team and our understanding of the deal as it was made public, through interviews and articles in the gaming media.
Bottom line, at least for me, is that from all indications, Pearl Abyss is making a long-term investment in a gaming company that shares many similarities, and one with a unique, successful anchor IP, solid corporate fundamentals and growth potential. It seems clear that they wanted to diversify their portfolio – one of the most common things in acquisitions these days, and one that’s been repeated over and over in the video game market in the last ten years. Frankly, CCP being bought not by a venture capitalist firm or private equity makes me feel better about the deal because PA understands the gaming industry – these are fellow gamers – and understands the unique cultures that MMO games create within their player base. They know EVE’s history, they know CCP’s culture, and they appear – based on their CEO’s comments – to recognize that CCP understands its player base and won’t go beyond the cultural boundaries CPP already has. So far, I’m willing to accept at face value the repeated statements from both sides of this deal that CCP will remain an independent studio, able to make their own decisions on their IPs. The good news is that CCP knows where the boundaries are when it comes to things like monetization, and they have shown they can make EVE’s version profitable without fundamentally changing what EVE is. PA would be incredibly foolish to try to force another model onto a system that is already working. They made a considerable investment in buying EVE, and it’s clear, both by the size and the structure of that investment that they consider it to be a long-term one. That should alleviate some of the significant player fears we had seen across social media since the announcement yesterday.
As for that player response and the tone we’ve seen throughout the community, I told CCP Guard today that I was happy to see it. While I think much of the consternation, fear, and memeing is unnecessary at this point – nobody can predict the future, and the cries of impending doom and the inevitability of gold ammo and weeb cat ears on everybody’s avatar are just silly – it is a testament to how much the players love this game. Players want some change, but they don’t want radical change, especially radical change imposed by outsiders who don’t understand what EVE is and why it has been a success. No matter how often we joke that “EVE is dying,” everybody in this community is committed to EVE surviving. We love this game, and it has become a part of our lives in a way that is intensely personal, which makes the inherent uncertainty around a change of this magnitude unsettling for everybody.
Fear that the game could change in ways we don’t want is understandable. We have all invested much in this game – time, money, emotion – and we don’t want to lose that. But we also need to be level-headed and rational. Now is the time for watchful waiting, not hashtag activism, and I am going to do my best to lead by example in that regard.
That’s one of the reasons why I chose to run for CSM. I love this game, and I want to see it, and CCP remains successful so that it can keep being a part of my life and the lives of my friends and fellow players for many years to come. While I don’t know what the future holds, I am willing to adopt a wait and see approach for this sale, while at the same time doing everything I can as a member of the community and as a player representative on the CSM to make sure that EVE remains the game we know and love today. I am 100% confident that my colleagues on the CSM agree with this view, and we will not sit by idly if we feel that CCP is going down the wrong path. The players should demand nothing less from us and CCP should expect nothing less. As I said in my campaign video, we represent the players to CCP, not the other way around. We aren’t CCP’s cheerleaders, and we won’t hesitate to make it clear when we think they’ve made a mistake.
As I prepare to leave Iceland and continue reflecting on what we did here, I am pleased to have been a part of it. I’ve learned a lot about CCP and EVE, told a lot of stories about American politics and spent many a late night building relationships with my fellow players and those who keep EVE going strong. As I said before, I am optimistic that when all is said and done, we will have a list of solid accomplishments for the player base that will help keep EVE strong for many years into the future.