Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When No Doesn't Mean No: Update

There's a flurry of reaction to my last post about the Eve fracas. (Or is it a rumpus?)

Brian "Psychochild" Green, in comments says to be careful:

It's also kind of unfortunate that this was "leaked". Often developers discuss a design topic openly to get information. It might be that design issues are discussed with direct, declarative statements in the company culture. "Not all virtual purchases will focus on customization:" might really be a suggestion. Hard to say how an Icelandic company's culture affects the discussions.

The first article, the "pro" and "con" definitely felt this way. I considered the possibility of the second, written by the Director of Content, as advocacy, but it's hard to support that. Given his name and where the magazine states that he lives, he's clearly a native English speaker as well. I don't think it was advocacy.

Brian also mentions another issue:

One comment: Here's a company where getting scammed in the game is not against the rules, and even allowed. So, you're surprised when they compare something to prostitution and don't find it to be a negative? :)

Dang, there's a big difference between doing stuff in-game and out. Which is why I (and most Eve players from what I can tell) still think that account hacking, keylogging, client mods and so forth are unacceptable.

Last Friday CCP Zulu posted on his blog:


Therefore we dedicated an entire issue to exactly that topic. It‘s worth mentioning that the topic of the issue was "Greed is good?" as a way to ask a question that would then be debated back and forth and often exaggerated purposefully to draw contrasts and make points. The result of that is now widely available on the internet.
[I got that the point of the magazine was debate, by the way. I simply could not reconcile the tone of one article with advocacy, as opposed to, done deal]

The opinions and views expressed in Fearless are just that; opinions and views. They are not CCP policy nor are they a reliable source of CCP views as a company. The employees who submitted articles to that newsletter did exactly what they were asked to do, write about theories and opinions from an exaggerated stand.

While it‘s perfectly fine to disagree and attack CCP over policies or actions we take, we think it‘s not cool how individuals that work here have been called out and dragged through the mud due to something they wrote in the internal company newsletter. Seriously, these people were doing their jobs and do not deserve the hate and shitstorm being pointed at them.

Well, I read the issue of Fearless and responded to it. I mentioned by name the authors of articles. I expressed my feelings in a way that was direct, but less abusive than what you will see in Jita local in any given 5 minute period.

The tone of CCP Zulu's post is pretty defensive. After that came an email purported to be from CCP President Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, sent to a mailing list called ccp-global. This looks like an internal memo, but since it's provenance is very unclear, I'm not going to reprint it. The tone of it is "We did a great job, and don't worry about the pushback, it will die down, it always does." He goes on to say that they have sold 52 monocles so far.

If you don't understand that this is an internal memo, it looks like the most tone-deaf message ever written, comparing well with "Well, despite an unfortunate disturbance at tonight's performance of An American Cousin, the gate receipts are way, way up!"

Today CCP Zulu has another blog post up. It begins:

The tone and demeanor of my blog on Friday did not correctly portray my emotions towards the community and player base at large. I love and respect EVE and its community on a level that's hard to really do justice in words. However I let my frustration take charge of me, fueled by emotions that had built up due to a breach of trust we at CCP have been experiencing over the past few days. I know that sounds ironic considering those are the exact same feelings you have been having towards CCP.

For that I am sorry.

He goes on to announce that they will be holding a special meeting with CSM (the player representative's council) to discuss this issue. I presume the "breach of trust" he mentions refers to the leak of not only the issue of Fearless, but Peterssun's internal email.

Ok, my other commenter on the last post, Sara Pickell, has an interesting hypothesis. She begins

Your also taking as rote someone who was completely ignored in the actual implementation as we have it. Paragraph 3 is literally him suggesting the polar opposite of the current pricing structure.

Hmm, start small and innocuous and widespread. Which isn't what happened. Fair point. That seemed odd to me, too. Sara goes on to note a progression in the language.

"we must sell our units of virtual currency" - "First, we don’t want to" - "Instead, we
want to" - "we will most

If you pay attention, the times when he gets the most technical and becomes the most confident he uses the least strong language. The last one was a strong contender for answering a problem he clearly understood well and he used his softest language.

Hell if you get the mental tone right, it sounds a lot like satire... Holy shit, I think it is satire... Wow... just... wow.

I think Sara is right. Satire is very tricky business and depends on the audience and the comic being on the same page, and having some trust. As well as some very precise tonal indicators. Way back when I was a brand-new professor, I had an inclination to joke when students asked me what would be on the midterm, "Oh, if you can do all the problems in Chapters 1-10 in less than 30 minutes, you'll probably pass..." Nobody laughed at these jokes. So I developed a rule which I stated: "Students don't find jokes about tests to be funny."

I've had lots of occasion to refer to this rule in the past few weeks. Lous CK has a joke that goes like this, "I would never rape a woman unless I had a good reason, like I wanted to have sex with her and she didn't want to." I find this funny, but discussions in the past week or two indicate that many women don't find it the least bit funny. The humor depends on understanding that the point of view is exaggerated and offered for mockery.

In yet another example, I went to see Jonathon Coulton in a live performance in early 2009 in San Francisco. (JoCo is a musical humorist, or is he a humorous songwriter and performer?) The show was fronted by Paul and Storm, another duo combining music and humor. In one of Paul and Storm's songs, the punch line in one verse was based on the van that the Mexican was driving was full of illegal aliens.

Said punch line was met with stony silence on the part of the audience, and that included me. "Aww, come on! It's satire!" called out Paul and Storm. More stony silence. They moved on, and the rest of their act was enjoyed by all. At the time, I thought to myself, "They have no idea how painful the immigration debate has been here in California over the years, have they?" Some jokes just don't work with some audiences.

At least here in America, we are used to corporations taking every advantage of us that they can. There is little that is sacred to them, and when we buy a car, for example, they love to keep adding things on that we must buy. There are no human feelings that go unexploited. For example, someone's love for his family turns into a need for expensive life insurance.

And during the last two-plus years, the unemployment rate has seen lots of Eve players out of work due to no fault of their own. The ones that have kept their jobs have very likely seen their hours stretched while their pay been as stagnant as that pond just outside of Qeynos. The one with the meteorite in it. And we are also accustomed to corporations not so much outright lying but exercising creative loopholes. And sometimes outright lying, and worse.

Make no mistake, Eve players love Eve, and are terrified that CCP will try to exploit that love, and ruin the game in the process. So, this joke isn't funny. However, it wasn't meant for them.

I assign about an 90% probability to the article in question being satire, and meant ironically. It's only 90% because living 3 million years has given me some skepticism about everything. (The fabulous red hair doesn't make me skeptical, just sexy).

If it's really satire, then it's very reassuring, by the way. It shows that it was expected that every CCP employee would understand immediately that the program described - the selling of ammo, ships and faction through RMT - was way beyond anything CCP had any intention of doing. As Gandalf would say, "That's a very comforting thought."

Update: Corrected spelling from "Sarah" to "Sara" Pickell.


Anonymous Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Well, yes, there are differences between what happens in game and what happens outside. I was saying that perhaps the points of view of various CCP employees might not match your point of view. Really, though, what I was trying to say was expressed better in a tweet:

"Kinda funny, CCP taught us to be amoral bastards, and now I'm freaking out because they're being amoral bastards."

(Thanks to The Ancient Gaming Noob for pointing that out.)

BTW, it's "Sara".

But, I do appreciate your point of view. I'm looking at this from a complete outsider's point of view and taking a rather academic view of it. I appreciate you sharing your feelings, even if I suspect you're mostly oding this as a chance to rant. :)

12:18 AM  
Blogger Toldain said...

@Brian I think emotion - feelings - are a very important aspect of communications. Too often I've hidden them not just from other people, but from myself.

I think that CCP Zulu, and probably most of the CCP team, utterly failed to grasp that most of the player base felt betrayed by them.

I think this is likely because in their heads there was no betrayal. Cognitive Dissonance and all that.

But another reason is the failure of the player base to communicate clearly. Some others did. Eventually CCP got the message: "Breach of trust".

In the meantime, they had their own breach of trust to deal with - someone leaking their internal communications. Ugliness abounds, and for some, the breach will never be repaired.

Yeah, those posts were pretty ranty, which is why they were long.

2:12 PM  

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