EVE Online’s developers, CCP, have produced a formal, written reply to the community about the recent accusations of developer collusion with players and other problems. Before I begin to nitpick I would like to applaud CCP for going to the effort and it’s a good start. Note, I say start. This is the second controversy to come from EVE Online, the first being referred to in an earlier post here and in many other places. They handled the first complaint so poorly back then that players are going to have a hard time swallowing what is a better effort by CCP to engage with the community.
This is made more complex by the fact that as the first complaint played out CCP first denied all wrongdoing by one of their staff, only to have their staff member come out and admit to cheating. CCP then said that they sort of knew about this problem, but that it was so far in the past that it didn’t really matter, and anyway, it had already been dealt with. Sort of. Not good enough. Never lie to your customers.
The formal reply is mostly fine except for two important points:
- Never ever threaten your customers with legal action, or even hint at it. Or even put the word “lawyer” near “we will talk to” in a public message. I don’t care if you write “we will talk to our lawyers about giving everyone cakes and soda!”, the mention of lawyers does not belong in public broadcasts to paying customers. It makes you look like you’re on the defensive and it makes you look stupid. Who sues their customers?
- Make sure you address all of your customer’s concerns if you’re going to go to the effort to write up a big reply. Conspicuously absent from CCP’s reply to their players is any resolution to the revealed fact that some players have access to the developers via MSN, whereas other players do not have any accesses, and that one player seemingly used this access to speed up a complaint which got a volunteer fired. CCP need to talk about this, but don’t. Why? People worry.
There have been some interesting replies to this comment from CCP. Lum, on his blog brokentoys.org, has an excellent writeup on the post and his thoughts about CCP’s handling of the whole affair. The Goons, who were force to unleash the “threadonaught” (all of their members posting to the EVE Online forums) to get these problems to CCP’s attention have written up a fairly detailed reply to CCP that is also worth a read. I have to admit I am a little worried that the Goons are coming across more sane than CCP right now. It must scare the hell out of the Goons as well.
I also find it surprising that CCP have failed to learn the lessons (and instilled them in their staff) that many folks, myself included, learned a years ago when managing game communities. Namely:
- You never delete threads unless you absolutely have to. You merge, lock, edit, etc, but you never delete. Deleting, as Lum says, makes you look like you’re hiding something. It’s better to flame and abuse your customers than to delete their comments (it’s also more fun). Some dork could be posting pictures of his poo, doesn’t matter. You lock it, you edit it, you flame the guy for doing it (public flaming from a dev is a good thing sometimes), but you don’t delete it. Your fans will start to wonder “hell, what was in those poo pics the devs are so scared of!?”.
- You reply quickly to problems. Even if it’s just a “we’re going to look into it”. Wekeend timings are absolutely no excuse, it’s when your players are playing, communicating and talking. For CCP to correlate weekend activity with supposed deliberate attempt to denial of service them is just silly and speaks to their immaturity in dealing with these problems. How hard would it have been to merge and lock the original threads and say “we’ll be in touch with the people raising this issue and we’ll look at investigating when we’re back from the weekend”? Not hard at all CCP.
- In a team-based PVP game make sure if you’re talking to one side you are also talking to the other. If the devs have BOB members on MSN, they need to make sure they have a couple of Goons on MSN also. Failure to obey this rule means one group will use their access to you as a weapon against other players. You end up coming out looking like crap.
Sadly, CCP got played by BOB on this last point in particular, and the sad thing is I don’t think CCP even realise it. Some BOB members have been nurturing the “we’re special” attitude for a long time (evidenced by many of the posts from certain senior members), and hinting at special status on the forum. When called on possible MSN access a BOB member (DBP) wheeled out the fact that BOB members routinely talked to their friends at CCP as some sort of natural occurance and everyone else should just live with it. The implication was clearly that BOB were special, and that is just how things work. Of course, the deeper implication is “We’re better than you, that’s why we get attention from CCP”.
Naturally, the rest of the community were livid at the idea of BOB having any form of access to developers that the main body of the community did not have (hell, even other big-name leaders). Worse, CCP staff have been threatened with job termination for pursuing any relation with other parts of the community, but apparently not when it comes to friendships with BOB (you can read more about this in the Goon reply).
Developers are rock stars to their customers. If you show any kind of favouritism whatsoever you will find yourself used by your fans and it will reflect badly on you. Fans can not resist the urge to boast about their special dev access to other players. By giving one set of fans this access you end up creating the rod with which your fans will beat you. If CCP want to engage with customers they need to do so very widely, or not at all. I don’t think anyone would object to CCP talking to the top 20 corps in the game, but just one team is not on.
Silly CCP. They’re losing customers because of their failure to think and act carefully and with consideration.