A letter to the followers of EVE
Dear Followers of EVE Online,
The past few months have been very humbling for me. I’ve done much soul searching, and what follows is my sincere effort to clear the air with all of you. Please bear with me as I find my way through.
The estrangement from CCP that many of you have been feeling of late is my fault, and for that I am truly sorry. There are many contributing factors, but in the end it is I who must shoulder the responsibility for much of what has happened. In short, my zeal for pushing EVE to her true potential made me lose sight of doing the simple things right. I was impatient when I should have been cautious, defiant when I should have been conciliatory and arrogant when I should have been humble.
This soul searching took me back to when EVE was just an idea. Bringing her to life in 2003 was, in many people’s minds, impossible. But we found a way because EVE is something unique in the world. Getting her to 100,000 subscribers was an even more fantastical feat. Before long, we were launching in China, making DUST 514, merging with White Wolf to build World of Darkness, building Carbon, growing the company to 600 people, increasing our subscriber count beyond that of the population of Iceland and on and on, one resounding success after the next despite earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and even a world economic collapse.
Somewhere along the way, I began taking success for granted. As hubris set in, I became less inclined to listen to pleas for caution. Red flags raised by very smart people both at CCP and in the community went unheeded because of my stubborn refusal to allow adversity to gain purchase on our plans. Mistakes, even when they were acknowledged, often went unanalyzed, leaving the door open for them to be repeated.
You have spoken, loudly and clearly, with your words and with your actions. And there were definitely moments in recent history when I wish I would have listened more and taken a different path.
I was wrong and I admit it.
Without establishments and meaningful activities to engage in, forcing players into a mandatory single-player Captain’s Quarters experience was a mistake. I mentioned earlier the perils of not getting the simple things right. Removing ship spinning was a negligent oversight and a clear sign that we had fallen out of touch with our community. The interiors for Incarna were so scoped down by our launch window that CQ was essentially a prototype feature that we foolishly promoted as a full-blown expansion. We underestimated our development time, set impractical or misleading expectations, and added insult to injury by removing something in which players were emotionally invested.
I fully empathize with your disappointment in CCP. We would have been much better off positioning Incarna as an optional technology preview that interested players could have experienced and helped us to refine. The tragedy here is that the team really did build solid technology and great art to support what you can see and did it in way that sets a strong foundation for building out the rest. The fact is, in spite of our missteps, they delivered some of the most amazing interior rendering and character technology in the industry, and their efforts deserve praise. The fact we didn’t leverage their achievement more effectively is my fault.
Next we arrive at our rather underwhelming virtual goods rollout. There was hardly anything to purchase initially, let alone to put the cost of the infamous monocle in perspective. The last thing we wanted to do was create the perception that all items in the store would be in that price range. Quite frankly, it was rather pointless to begin with because we did not have a multiuser environment in which players could show off their purchases. It was another feature that we rushed out the door before it was ready.
We also didn’t do enough to assure you that this wasn’t the beginning of a “pay to win” scenario in EVE. Let me be blunt: Unless the MMO business changes radically, our virtual goods strategy for EVE Online will remain limited in scope and focus on vanity items, or as we said after the CSM visit this summer: The investment of money in EVE should not give you an unfair advantage over the investment of time.
Though the introduction was clearly flawed, our plans for virtual goods are intended to make your playing experience better, not to disrupt it. From a strategic perspective, we had to take these first steps because monthly subscriptions are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. The culture of online gaming is changing, just as the notion of digital ownership did with music. If we don’t evolve our technology, our game design and our revenue model, then we risk obsolescence, and we just can’t allow that to happen to EVE or to our community.
For the same reasons, Incarna—the real one with actual meaningful gameplay in it— will be a big step towards the future. For an experience that relies so much on emergence and human interaction, it’s remarkable that it’s taken us this long to actually put a face on it. Once Incarna hits its stride, EVE will be more personal, and thus more accessible to general audiences. Visual self-expression in a virtual setting is a core psychological component of gaming; most people need to see their avatars, or something vaguely humanoid, or else they don’t connect with the game. We were behind the curve and it needs to be addressed for the sake of EVE’s longevity. We have the technology. Now we need time to add the content that will bring more meaning to the gameplay—again, without disrupting the space combat simulator that many of you are, or at least were, very much in love with—and without delaying crucial improvements that this core experience desperately needs.
A Humbler, Stronger CCP
I’m sharing these revelations with you now because it’s taken this long to transform them into action. From all this self-reflection, a genesis of renewal has taken root, a personal and professional commitment to restore the partnership of trust upon which our success depends, and a plan that sets the foundation for us to sensibly guide EVE to her fullest potential. In the coming days and weeks, the details of this plan and what it means for you will be unveiled. Part of what led us down this path is the fact we have not communicated well. This blog, and those that will follow, will hopefully demonstrate our conviction to transparency.
Good things are coming. They always do when you learn from your mistakes. In 2007, we faced a similar crisis of confidence, and it resulted in the creation of the CSM. We’re a better company because of it. In the last months, we’ve taken a hard look at everything, including my leadership. What I can say for now is that we’ve taken action to ensure these mistakes are never repeated. We have reexamined our processes, hired experienced industry professionals for key leadership positions, reassessed our priorities, moved personnel around and, above all else, recognized our limitations.
For me, the most frustrating aspect of this is that after all this time, as far as EVE has come and in spite of everything that’s happened, I fervently believe with all my heart that we’ve not even scratched the surface of EVE’s potential. My personal failing is not reconciling that passion with pragmatism. We’ve been trying to expand the EVE universe in several directions at once, and I need to do a better job of pursuing that vision without diluting or marginalizing the things that are great—or could be great—about the game right now. Nullsec space needs to be fixed. Factional warfare needs to be fixed. The game needs new ships. We need to do a better job of nurturing our new players and making EVE the intriguing, boundless universe it has the potential to be.
We really do have something that no one else has. EVE is still unique in the real and virtual world. This is our vision for her, and we want so badly to take you there. But getting there is not an entitlement. It will take hard work, open communication and, above all else, collaboration with you. The greatest lesson for me is the realization that EVE belongs to you, and we at CCP are just the hosts of your experience. When we channel our passion for EVE constructively, we can make this vision a reality together.
But enough talk from me. We all know that much quoted phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do,” that will make the difference here. From now on, CCP will focus on doing what we say and saying what we do. That is the path to restoring trust and moving forward.
Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO
P.S. Please comment on our forums or on Twitter @HilmarVeigar