EVE Online's CCP promises technical fixes, rebuffs item prices scandal and plans to add more expensive items in the future

Chris Perry at

Station Attack

Players are rioting in the space-streets, fake monocles are being sold for almost five-months' playtime, and EVE Online players are all-around pissed with CCP, the developer of their favorite MMO. Backed up against the wall in a situation like this, it takes a lot of self-confidence to say that it's all just "communication issues."

But just yesterday morning, CCP held a teleconference with several members of the press to discuss the controversy surrounding the launch Incarna and did just that. Following the emergency weekend player council meeting, where CCP flew all CSM members to Iceland to meet with the developers, the joint-press conference was presented by Arnar Gylfason (CCP Zulu), Senior Producer for EVE Online and Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco, chairman of the Council of Stellar Management (CSM). Over the course of an hour, we heard restrained, direct facts from Gylfason, and blunt, honest opinions from Gianturco.

You can find the joint messages that came out of an emergency CSM summit in Reykjavik here, or just skip to all the juicy facts in our analysis below.

CCP's not budging
It quickly became apparent as Gylfason answered questions about the controversy that CCP was not going to offer apologizes for their design choices, as far as the technological changes to the game and the idea of introducting micro-transactions in the Noble Exchange goes. In fact, when he introduced himself to begin the discussion, Gylfason described the problems occurring with the Incarna launch as a “communication [issue].”

Somewhat surprisingly, the CSM chairman echoed CCP's opinion of player outrage. In his opening comments, Gianturco said that the whole controversy was a “perception problem, created out of the leaks and the Noble Exchange roll out.” He mentioned later in the conference that “all of this could have been avoided with better communication. [CCP is] terrible with communicating with the playerbase, and they have a habit of creating controversies. If you have a decent discussion with proper context, you realize that the controversy is not there.” He was also very clear that the CSM is relieved with what they heard in Reykjavik, and are confident that CCP has no intention to add game-breaking items to the Noble Exchange.

The big points:

  • The CSM has been shown plans (under NDA) for the future of the Noble Exchange and its pricing tier structure (low, mid, and high-priced items). According to Gianturco, they're not worried by what they saw. They're convinced there will be no game-breaking items to be sold in the store.
  • However, there will be items added to the Noble Exchange in the future that will be more expensive than the current king of coin: The Looking Glass Ocular Implant (Monocle).
  • On the more technical side of things, the fan-loved “spinning ship” hangar mode, which lets players manipulate and spin their ships while docked, will be returning sometime in the future. What that will look like is unknown (very few details were given), but it must be seamless with the rest of the game, according to Gylfason.
  • CCP assured that technical issues with the Captain's Quarters are being looked at, but no specifics or timetable were given.
  • A dev diary will be released in the next few days that will outline the pricing structure and explain how it works and will introduce some of the new items that will be available in the Noble Exchange in the near future.

 
What I think
It's very interesting to see how CCP is handling the players' mistrust and unrest that was stirred up by this issue. It takes real balls to come out and say that this was just a communication issue when thousands of players are voicing their extreme displeasure in the forums and through in-game protests. CCP is quick to mention that their initial reaction was flawed, and to promise that if anything of this sort happens again, they'll have a better structure in place to deal with it, but it was still a major problem. Gianturco clearly said that the CSM didn't pull any punches during their meetings, and really let CCP know about all of their unhappiness with everything that's come out recently. But it sounds like he's been converted by CCP's argument.

No spinning ships here!

Now, while I know that I'll never be buying a $70 monocle, I can appreciate and respect CCP's choice to have it in their game. As Gianturco mentioned during the event, it doesn't matter if they charge “$20,000 for a monocle for a space Barbie.” It only matters that they keep “gold out of the sandbox.” The majority of the CSM seems to be more concerned about the Incarna technology changes and how that affects the gameplay experience than the in-game store fiasco, and I think that's the right attitude to take. As long as the technical issues are dealt with and the RMT items stay only as a personal preference of appearance, CCP can still save this expansion.

My favorite quote from this teleconference is from Gianturco, when he told us that if CCP had been better with their communication, most of this controversy would have “vanished in a puff of logic.” I think that I have to agree with him. Although a part of me is embarrassed that a game I play would charge $70 for a vanity item, I can't deny the fact that, as hard is it may be, players can still earn this in-game if they want to. By purchasing PLEX with ISK (in game currency, which can be earned by playing) and then converting that to Aurum, players don't ever have to spend any real world money. That being said, it's only a small portion of the player population that's going to do that, and it would take nearly a billion ISK.

Is EVE at risk of coming to total ruin? No way.

We have a promise that the technical issues plaguing Incarna will be fixed, but no specific details yet (beyond the addition of the spinning ship hangar and the removal of the disabled Incarna door),so we'll have to wait and see what CCP comes up with.

In the end, the CSM appears to be fairly happy with the result of their discussions with CCP, and at this point, I am too. It sounds like it was a perfect storm of missteps, from the leaking of the CCP CEO's email to the release of the internal newsletter, that caused this massive uproar among players. But now that the dust is settling, we can see what CCP's true intentions are and what they have planned for players. Although we may not agree with the prices that they're choosing, and feel a little gouged because of it, we still want to travel the stars. Every game has growing pains, and EVE has had some seriously painful ones before, and these certainly won't be the last. We may lose some some players along the way, but as long as CCP keeps the lines of communication open and CSM keeps them honest, there's no doubt that we can recover from this blow, and live to scheme each other out of billions of ISKs another day.