Thursday, November 29, 2012

Unparalleled access . . . or not

     Lots of publicly active players are quick to use words like "unprecedented" and "unparalleled"(they mean the  same thing anyway . . ) when they talk about the relationship and communication between Eve players and CCP, and therefore we should tread lightly, out of respect, when using that "unparalleled" access.  I think they (the proclaimers) need to get out more.

     Two games that immediately come to mind that had far better communication between the devs and the players are Blade Mistress and Tale in the Desert.  There have been other titles that I have been involved with/played that had equal or better access than Eve players do to CCP, and other players who have been around the PC game world for a while could likely come up with a bunch of titles too.  Maybe these advocates are hoping to get a little CCP public expose and garner a few CCP browny points to spend at a later date, at some unanticipated place or time, like, maybe being some/one of the official player podcast commentators at an upcoming fanfest.

     If CCP wants their game to fly, literally, they need to get their heads out of their asses, collectively.  How many work at CCP?  300 or so?  For every CCP employee, busy toiling away in one of their little super-teams of developmental goodness, on some specific part of Eve, there are tens, dozens and possibly hundreds of players that are more expert on how to USE said specific part of Eve, than ANY CCP dev will EVER be.  Why?  Because someone who codes all day, and has a history of some of the truly boneheaded decisions that CCP has made, has demonstrated time and again that they really know fuck all about the game they are building.

     For any particular project, anywhere in the world, there are three distinct steps and three distinct kind of people.  Designers, builders and users.  I have been building shit for over 40 years.  I have been designing those same projects/things for nearly the same amount of time.  More often than not, I usually have also been the one using said item(s).  It isn't what I planned, it just ended up that way.  That gives me a perspective that not everyone has.  A simple analogy is a race car.  The dude that engineered the car, and the guy that actually fabricated the car, are most likely not the dudes who are going to drive it at top performance.  Sometimes you get a person who can do a combination of two of those things, and sometimes you can be lucky and come across a person who is decent at all three.  A large number of CCP projects and their devs have demonstrated on multiple occasions, that they don't play Eve (or at least no where near as much as they infer), and have no clue at all about the actual game play.  Some devs are pretty switched on, but lots aren't.  That's where listening to players comes in.

     Players don't need to worry about how the game is designed or coded, all they have to do is worry about how it plays.  Many players spend as much, or possibly more, time each day playing Eve, as the devs do working on it.  They are experts in how the game plays, and if CCP is too fucking stupid, or arrogant to acknowledge that, they will see their game carry on with the flat line, and then a subscription decline as players get tired of one fucked up change after the other.  If CCP is too closed minded to understand that the keenest of the players are looking to keep the game they love improving, they deserve to tank.  If CCP can't see that players are offering advice on nerfs, to THEMSELVES, only the most arrogant dev would ignore that.  That's what happens though.  That's what IS happening.  It happened with that stupid captain's quarters.  It happened with the null anomaly nerf.  It happened with that stupid fucking inventory.  It happened with factional warfare.  It happened with the war decs.  It happened multiple times before all of these too.  Page after page after page of PLAYER and CUSTOMER complaints on the Eve-O forum (another predominantly useless turd of a feature) and the devs and they sycophantic GMs and ISDs edit and delete and lock anything that really calls CCP out on their stupidity.  Stupidity that could have been averted, had they listened.

     I said it before.  CCP is quite likely not able to deal with their creation anymore.  They should be extremely grateful that they have such a loyal and mature player base, even through and in spite of, their most massive fuck-ups.  It's not hard for them to go through their player comments and see that they're not a bunch of min-maxxing whiners looking for easy mode, yet time and again, they don't listen.  If they get so far down the pipe of a particular development feature or process that they decide it's "too late" to stop it, and it turns out to be fucked, that's their fault.  Their problem and their poor process.  In all my years of development, fabrication and production, every time I have seen the "it's too late" scenario marched out, it has ALWAYS been based on the fact that someone is trying to cover their ass for the wasted time and money.  In the world of development and fabrication, there's no such thing as "too late", just too arrogant.

     Eve players don't need to fawn over the devs lest they get pissed off and stop listening.  Lots of them already don't listen.  The devs should be thanking their lucky stars that THEY have unparalleled access to players who take a "game", THEIR game, as serious as they do and are interested in developing the game for the  long haul.  If CCP is really smart, they'll acknowledge and accept the fact that they may be the designers and coders, but they really have no clue about the game play, that is a big step forward.  Even the fact that they are the designers and coders is completely useless if the direction they are going is completely unplayable or unpalatable to their customers.  Players aren't driving the bus, and don't need to, but if a player knows the road and tells the driver that the bridge is out, that might be a smart time to listen.  CCP has their ideas about the direction they want to go with their game, and rightly so, but if they allow too many of their employees to walk around with their heads up their asses, they'll be following their vision into red ink.

     So, maybe I was wrong.  I think there IS unparalleled access.  The unparalleled access is how a game company has thousands of far more expert users of their product than themselves, who are bound and determined to make the game work, regardless of how bad CCP tries to fuck it up.

     Maybe, fire Greyscale (who doesn't play Eve at all), and give that job to the ship balancing dude.  He'd do a better job at moving Eve forward, and might even be able to go back and fix all the shit that Greyscale has fucked up.  That would also be "unprecedented", but a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. This post seems.... rather close to home. And if I didn't know better, I would swear at one point you were talking about someone I happen to know. Well. :)

    "So, maybe I was wrong. I think there IS unparalleled access. The unparalleled access is how a game company has thousands of far more expert users of their product than themselves, who are bound and determined to make the game work, regardless of how bad CCP tries to fuck it up."
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    This is what I really mean when I say unparalleled access. This is what I mean when I write a players guide to CCP Dev interaction.

    It's just a matter of direction and purpose. I don't expect CCP people to always (or ever) take time out of their work day to talk to us. Frankly, they just are not paid to do it. It's a bottom up view that in my mind is the way it needs to be for any real change. So when they DO take time to talk to players then I do feel that is unprecedented with in the overall gaming industry and with in situation we have for this game. I want to encourage more players to engage the developers and I want more CCP employee's to engage their customers. And I do feel like this is a special, unique and unparalleled activity that we can all participate in.

    Ultimately my approach is to try to show and highlight the value of talking to players. Of embracing "unparalleled access" for both CCP and player. Increasing the count of people participating in a meaningful and useful manner is only going to make things better.

    It's not the only approach for sure. But it's the one that fuels me to help so I just roll with it. In the end, for whatever reason motivated them to do so, if CCP Dev's talk to players then we all win.

    In fact, after typing this out and thinking on it a bit more I think I'll also start working on the top down approach while continuing the top up. Thanks for the insightful perspective!