As mentioned in a previous post CCP launched the latest expansion for EVE Online, Incarna. Derided by some of the hardcore pod pilots and praised as an evolution by others Incarna rolled out on 21 June. Aside from the compatibility issues the new expansion presented to players with older computers, there were several issues and a pair of leaked staff emails set New Eden afire with anger, resentment and a profound sense of betrayal.
One of the main issues dealt with the price of vanity items in the new marketplace for avatar customization. The avatars for EVE are actually quite well done and textured. They are in my opinion some of the best in the MMORPG realm.
A nice avatar needs nice clothes and accessories too! Here in lies a big problem. In the marketplace the choices are rather limited and very expensive. Typical outfit costs $17.50 USD. Yes, you read right. A monthly subscription to EVE costs $14.95 a month. That of course is outrageous! In SL I’d typically buy outfits for $300-$900L which is less than $4 USD. Probably the worst example is the infamous monocle:
Would you believe it sells for $70 USD? No way Jose! This of course didn’t fly with the users. Getting people used to avatars was going to be a tough sell in the first place. For the amount of money they wanted to charge it makes more sense to collect Barbie dolls as they retain their value and over time gain value as collectors items.
Probably the most damaging event was the leaking of two CCP internal emails. You can read more about those emails here Khalia Nestune’s EVE blog. Apart from the percieved arrogance in and greed expressed in the CCP staff emails was the implied threat to enable a “Pay to Win” scheme to manifest itself in the marketplace. What is Pay to Win? It’s the ability to pay real money to buy materials that give you the advantage. In the EVE universe virtually everything is created by other players. Refined Ore, weapons, ships, ammunition, ship modules, etc.. on and on. Prices and availability are subject to market variables. The proposed “gold” items would have been created out of thin air and sold directly from CCP, bypassing the other users. CCP would pocket it without expending any effort or time. Easy Money. This would seriously screw up the economy and make it easy for players with deep pockets to make easy gains without doing the work everyone else has.
CCP then went on to make a few other mistakes. They ignored the protests for several days. One staffer who did mention it responded angrily. As a result several prominent players either withdrew or outright quit from EVE. Things were looking pretty bleak as New Eden began to falter and slow down. But, something positive has happened…..
CCP is rather unique in the game world in that they do actually listen closely to their customers. In EVE there is the Council of Stellar Management (CSM). They are composed of active players who are elected to represent their fellow players/customers. In an emergency session CCP actually flew several of the members to their headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland for a summit. You can read the results here: EVE Insider Blog
In a nutshell it boiled down to a series of miscommunications. The emails were not official policy, the silence was a bad move by CCP and they acknowledged the prices in the NEX were out of hand. Now keep in mind how Linden Labs has treated the customers of Second Life. Yes, pretty damn shabbily. Some of the changes in SL were necessary but they failed to communicate how that was so. They also introduced changes that were downright stupid and poorly thought out. Had LL bothered to communicate with the user base so much heartache could have been averted over the years.
P.S. Yes, I’ll return to EVE one day soon. When there is more to the avatar environment then just the Captain Quarters I’ll be sure to log back in.