EVE Online Controversy Continues as Goon Leadership Responds to CCP Blast
A day after CCP issued its findings, as well as a scathing counter-attack against some of its EVE Online playerbase, amid mounting criticism over alleged developer bias, the main in-game faction behind that criticism expressed dismay over the company's veiled legal threats and offered more examples of purportedly prejudicial treatment.
In an open letter to CCP, the leadership of GoonFleet, an in-game corporation leading the GoonSwarm alliance comprising over 4,000 players, struck a serious and sober tone not often associated with the goon gaming community.
The letter acknowledges that CCP's explanation as to why a developer briefly joined a GoonSwarm corporation could be valid, but that the company's allegedly defensive and unresponsive behavior, such as ignoring initial inquiries, left much to be desired.
The letter also pressed the point that the company has poor guidelines for inhibiting biased interactions between certain players and developers:
While this may not be your intention your reliance on outside volunteers compromises your integrity in this. You cannot monitor their communications. You cannot determine that they aren't feeding information to their friends or other entities based on their personal bias. You are relying on unpaid volunteers without any checks that we are aware of in place to stop the flow of information outward.
The corporation's leaders also honed in on one issue not touched upon by CCP's investigation findings:
A BoB member claims to have an MSN contact for a developer, minutes later a developer is on the ISD IRC screaming at the reporter. 3 hours later the reporter is banned. You never did address the IRC incident or the timing. You managed to just deflect the allegations under a shield of "we had complaints and this was coming".
The letter sharply rejected CCP's own accusations that criticism of its administration of EVE Online was a maliciously-planned attack designed to smear the company and sabotage its assets:
Originally we were going to post about these issues on the EVE forum to bring them to light and then wait for CCP's response. CCP's response to this was to delete the letter...
Once it became clear that CCP was going to attempt to bury the issue through deleting the thread our members responded via the only avenue open to them, they made posts...By throwing such a bright spotlight on the issue we did something that an email to the IA department would not do. We forced CCP to respond in a swift and public manner and for this we make no apologies.
GoonFleet further said CCP's accusations about denial of service attacks were "silly," claiming that the forums were responsive until brought offline by the company itself "when it became apparent they would not be able to moderate the accusations away."
In a final, yet repeated, complaint, the letter bemoans the alleged close ties between the MMOG's developers and a powerful in-game faction, Band of Brothers. It also alleges a CCP employee's job was implicitly threatened when he began fraternizing with goon members, with no similar prohibitions on other in-game factions.
The letter concludes, in part, "We are not asking for a day by day log of everything that goes on in CCP, but we are asking that CCP take further steps to increase its transparency. ... Until the perception of bias goes away and steps are taken to make sure it doesn't come back we will continue to make sure that issues are brought into the light."
Even though I haven't played the game, nor do I ever intend to, CCP seems to be hiding something. Their responses are extremely defensive and their tendency to delete threads instead of locking them looks like an act of desperation.
Most companies, from a business sense, would simply not allow their employees to play the game; especially after they got caught red handed previously. It's safe to say that it wasn't the first time. I mean, the carelessness of the guy who did get caught was reflective of an environment that condoned that sort of behavior (or turned a blind eye to it, at least). If it was truly out of the ordinary, they would have fired him for misconduct. But hey, what do I know? Maybe CCP likes this kind of attention.
As a side note, I initially thought EVE was like Wing Commander, but massively multi-player. Then I learned that it was one of those games where success is equivalent to the time invested. Anybody know if an MMO space combat game with a Wing Commander control scheme is in the works? Privateer was one of my most favorite games.
Echolocating, Jumpgate was similiar to a Wing Commander MMO. It has its flaws but a lot of people - including one of our Escapist staffers - have enjoyed it.
(Full disclosure: I was involved in community management for Jumpgate from 2002 to 2006).
Success is not really equivalent to time invested, though, in the traditional MMO sense. Your skills keep training even when you are no longer logged in. It's not a space combat simulator in the sense that you are piloting a ship from the cockpit perspective, but it is certainly a space-based game with its own set of combat tactics and strategies. The visceral "winner take all" model of PVP is truly awesome and I used to spend weeks at a time solo and squad hunting throughout regions of the galaxy wreaking havoc.
In my opinion what's ruined the game is the introduction of supercapitals and super lag. The main appeal of Eve Online is that it is on one shard, but that's kind of meaningless when it can't support battles that are on the kind of scale one gets with a single shard universe.
These battles are now dominated by supercapitals, which are huge, ridiculously expensive ships only players with 2+ years of training can fly, and which literally obliterate entire fleets instantly with almost zero invulernability. CCP seems to making some patches to reduce its efficacy, but the fundamental lag problem in 0.0 PVP remains, as does the fact that running small squads or solo hunting has little impact in a game universe where you now need to field 50 capital ships just to hold your station.
I can definitely see Eve suffering from Babylon 5 syndrome, being much, much harder for newcomers to appreciate than those who've been with it for years. Honestly, this was the problem I had with it, when i tried to start up an account over half a year ago. I just couldn't imagine spending the time it would take to get trained and become competitive. IO can't imagine how they're going to rectify the need to keep long time players interested with making it appealing to newcomers.
As for the current debacle, I know they've lost face, but i don't see banning employees from playing as a reasonable option. You want to developers to play their game. Not only does it ensure that they stay interested in what they've created (and will continue to create) but it's the onmly way they'll know for sure how the game feels to play. I think Eve has benefitted more from the developers' involvement in the world than it has sufferred.
But where to draw the line? It seems like the Goons make some extremely valid points in their Open Letter. I hope the dialogue continues in a reasonable way. Dev versus Community flame wars are never productive.
It seems to me that if supercapitals are a big balancing issue, they need to go the Star Wars route and make them all have tiny, critical vulnerabilities that only small ships can exploit.
Can't wait for the Eve NGE. That should be exciting.
Granted, the Goonies aren't exactly the friendliest of folks in game, but they made several major valid points. To an outsider looking at both sides of this, reading both sides of the forums, and reading articles about it here in Escapist, it really "looks and feels like" improprieties have occured and are still occuring at CCP. Some actual improprieties were at first covered up until Kugu (however you spell it) brought them to light (and was banned for it). Actions by CCP then made themselves to look even more guilty, more accusations occured and the ball just kept on rolling and it got worse, not better. Neither side in the matter seems to be totally without blame and neither side wants to give in. The only *logical* solution would be for CCP employees and associates to leave the "live" game, NOT play the game unless it's on the test server, and to keep their noses out of corp matters. Either that or you reset every character to 0 learning points, 0 ISK, and put us into rookie ships and we start all over (like that's going to happen!)
To CCP: Problems and improprieties have occured (known fact!), please fix the problems in a fair and open manner (Leave the Viking philosophies and egos out of it!), and let us continue playing EVE and putting money in your pockets. If you don't do it in that manner, people will leave EVE and you will be eating sardines in tomato sauce again. It is a very unwise business practice to tick off your customers. No customers, no money... HELLO!
To Goonies: Thanks for trying to keep CCP honest. I may not like you guys in game, but you've got some respect points from me here.
Yeah, I just don't believe CCP's claim that they have to play in the live game to make it better. They've obviously made it worse by doing so. Such a statement really makes CCP look like a bunch of EVE addicts who just can't get enough of their own game. It's a destructive level of enthusiasm.
Does CCP get 3 strikes or something? They already have one. It's just too bad that you have to illegally hack into their systems to call the strikes.
I suspect that the internal investigation group that keeps CCP in line will have to cough up something damning to earn the player's trust. With all the theatrics, I wouldn't be surprised if CCP staged a new scandal only for their internal investigations to "save the day" before any serious damage was caused. You gotta earn the respect of the players somehow... isn't that what the investigation committee is for in the first place? ;-)
The issue is not CCP playing in the live game. It's genuinely a good thing for the developers to play in the live game. They are absolutely correct in their belief that only by truly playing a game can the developer be able to understand the real experience of the players.
The issue, rather, seems to be CCP playing in the live game from only one side. The allegations are that they favor a particular guild. Imagine if there was documented evidence that Blizzard played Alliance in WoW, and no documented evidence that they played Horde. Players would scream that this demonstrates bias and so on.
I'm going to go all David Brin here and recommend that CCP adopt a strategy of total transparency: All developer characters are revealed as such on the official site with a list of the character, the developer, and the guild affiliation. These characters would have chat logs monitored by the internal review team at CCP to ensure that they were not taking any acts of favoritism.
I bet if CCP did this, they'd be able to show that they have some characters that are independent, some characters in all the major corps, some characters in minor corps, some characters in their own dev-run corps, and so on. (And if they can't, then there really is a problem, and it should be corrected).
In such a transparent situation, CCP devs won't have a play experience exactly the same as a player because they'll be (in)famous, but it'll be close enough for the needs of play balance, and they overall will be better served than in a situation where they are constantly charged with bias.
I've only been playing EVE for a little over a year now, and I was just recently been invited into a corp that has 0.0 space access, but from what little I have seen and read in-game, and a lot of what I have read on various boards, there is a *LOT* of finger pointing going on and the majority of it concerns the integrity and honesty of the CCP staff (the supposed referees of the game). Are we paying CCP for the priviledge of letting them blow us out of the sky for their perverse pleasure and we don't know better?
I do know this, people will leave and the game will fold if the situation doesn't get resolved and resolved in an open and honest manner with minimal room for questioning of motives, etc. CCP needs to chew a little crow, take shot to the ego, and go overboard on the Honesty and Integrity. But in return the Hard Core EVE populations who have a stake in this need to back off and give CCP the benefit of the doubt and the time to work out the problems. If CCP doesn't... Money can talk and money can walk. Vote with your wallet. If this doesn't occur, CCP will have ruined the game, not the players. The ball is in CCP's court.