The Biblical Irony of EVE Online's SOMERblink Scandal
[This is a follow-up piece to CCP Games Confirms History of Providing Gifts to Player Organisations. For context, it is recommended you read that article first.]
All is not well in the garden of New Eden and the residents have learned things they didn't want to know.
EVE Online's community has won awards. Developers CCP Games know that it has the most pro-active, creative and dedicated fans in modern video gaming. The Icelandic game studio has worked hard to nurture and build a surprisingly personal relationship with the EVE fanbase over the last decade.
Rather than just produce and support a generic product whilst keeping their customers at arms length, the relationship between developer and player has been strengthened by regular player meets, including the yearly Fanfest convention in Reykjavik, Iceland.
From launch in 2003, EVE's development history is punctuated with examples of the benefits of this unique connection. By listening to their players and fostering an understanding, CCP Games has been able to build a solid and successful and long-standing operation. All involved parties have thrived as a result.
A Tempestuous Relationship
But equally, there are times when the relationship has hit rocky ground. Over the last decade, there have been many incidents when segments of the player population of EVE have become quite militant about events which threaten the status quo of the game in which they are so invested. On every occasion, it has been to CCP's credit that they assessed and overcame the difficulties that caused unrest. Not always without cost.
The intimate relationship players have with CCP is such that developers and other contributing staff have been recruited from the playerbase, blurring the lines between player and employee, further reinforcing the unique relationship, but equally causing the line between the two to become indistinct.
Further complexity has arisen from the emergent nature of EVE's gameplay extending far beyond the in-client game environment. As EVE grew as a cultural phenomenon, so too did this strengthen relationships both business and personal.
There is clearly a double-edged nature of such an intimate relationship.
The challenge of supporting and policing the community whilst simultaneously being a part of it has undoubtedly become increasingly hard for CCP to navigate. A passionate and dedicated following is a great thing for a business to have, but when the product is one which has been sold to them on the premise of having unparalleled control over the game environment, any decision that gives lie to that understanding threatens to upset the apple cart.
Such is the nature of the current upheavals; players previously empowered by the belief that the sandbox was theirs to control, suddenly find themselves disenfranchised, as it becomes apparent that the rules which govern CCP's relationships with “partners” in the real world are having a tangible effect on the game economy at the beating heart of EVE Online.
This can only be damaging to the player perception of their game and of the people entrusted to maintain it. In the past, CCP has claimed to simply be “janitors” whose job it is to sustain the game universe which “belongs to the players”.
The active nature of their community engagement does not sit easily with that assertion.
Enjoy Your Apple
Yet being a fan of EVE and an employee of CCP Games are not mutually exclusive. Even though the decisions which led to the current SOMERblink fiasco are perhaps eyebrow-raising, it is hard to believe that those behind it aren't acting in the best interests of EVE – and CCP – as a whole.
If those players, angry at CCP's current policy, were to accept that this was simply the way things are done, that greasing the wheels of PLEX sales and community events are intertwined and a necessary evil for the good of the game, does that really change anything?
The fourth wall has always been thin in EVE; accept that you've taken a bite from the apple of knowledge and your eyes are now open. This is just another layer of the metagame.
EVE is real.