Category Archives: Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day – Streamers Should Pay

Streamers worried about getting their content pulled because they used music they didn’t pay for should be more worried by the fact that they’re streaming games they didn’t pay for as well. It’s all gone as soon as publishers decide to enforce it.

-Alex Hutchinson, Creative Director for something owned by Google, on Twitter

This was sort of toss out of left field I wasn’t expecting.

This all started on Wednesday when Amazon’s Twitch streaming service delete a large number of saved video stream for DCMA takedown requests without notice or an option to appeal, followed by an email about how streamers should familiarize themselves with the DCMA process… which isn’t supposed to work like that.

Twitch is Twitch

That is a whole tempest in itself, and Ars Technica has a good summary.

So a lot of streamers were pretty upset about this.  And onto the hot coals of their ire, Mr. Hutchinson decided to pour is own oil of scorn.

This was followed by two more tweets:

Streamers worried about getting their content pulled because they used music they didn’t pay for should be more worried by the fact that they’re streaming games they didn’t pay for as well. It’s all gone as soon as publishers decide to enforce it.

The real truth is the streamers should be paying the developers and publishers of the games they stream. They should be buying a license like any real business and paying for the content they use.

Leaving aside the whole “kicking people when their down” aspect of this tweet, which is loathsome in itself, I can think of no quicker way to put an end to video game streaming that trying to extract a license tax from streamers.  A few streamers make some decent money, but most make little to nothing, and any fee would just put a stop to them.

And he seems to be pretty sure that game publishers can make this happen.  I’m not sure if the EULA and or ToS of every single video game is up to the task, but it is possible I suppose.  Shut it all down.  That is what he appears to want.

Remember, this comment is in a world where some game companies give popular streamers free copies of their games to play and often promote such streams.

And that isn’t the only problem with this sentiment.  It also appears to equate video games with forms of entertainment like music or movies, things that yield the same experience if you buy it yourself or listen/watch somebody play it online.  That seems to be a stretch for me.  Watching people play video games is a very different experience in my book than actually playing a video game.

Then there is the fact that, here in 2020, that horse appears to be well and truly out of the barn and gone.  If you can’t stream it, or have the saved recordings of those streams, what does that mean for YouTube?  We’re about fifteen years down the road on game videos on that front.

However, I think the most shocking thing about these statements is that they don’t really seem to be something others in the industry have been grumbling about.  “Streamers should be paying us!” isn’t something I’ve heard, and this is an industry that boils over now and then about used game sales, Steam sales, the cut apps stores (and Steam) take on sales, the cut physical retail stores take on sales, any barrier between them and publishing, too much competition due to lack of barriers to publishing, and the fact that people won’t spend their money on crappy 99 cent games rather than their morning latte.

Oh, and piracy.  Always piracy.  Literally a “make devs angry” thing for at least forty years, and one that has seen more money thrown at it for less benefit than anything I can think of.

But Mr. Hutchinson clearly sees this as piracy, so there is no doubt that fire in his belly on the topic, having been a game developer himself in the past.  And, as was pointed out over at MMO Fallout, he has had his own issues in the past. and might even be stretching the truth in his Twitter bio.

The funniest thing about today’s streaming drama is that everyone thinks Alex Hutchinson runs Google Stadia (because his Twitter bio says “Creative Director @ Google Stadia”). He’s actually a creative director at a Montreal game studio that was purchased by Google last December

[He has since updated his profile to reflect this.]

Anyway, being a creative director of some sort at Google’s means he likely isn’t in a position to do anything about this.  It looks like just so much hot air.  And I doubt there are many studios out there keen to press this issue and make enemies of streamers.  This is akin to the Mark Twain saying about not arguing with a man who buys ink by the barrel.  The videos are already blossoming on YouTube and elsewhere about this.  It may die down soon, but the embers will remain, ready to burst into flames it stoked.

I’m also pretty sure most game studios or publishers are smart enough give this idea a wide berth.  Even EA can’t be dumb enough to get on board with this idea.  And Google has made sure to carefully distance itself from the idea.  In a statement they said:

The recent tweets by Alex Hutchinson, creative director at the Montreal Studio of Stadia Games and Entertainment, do not reflect those of Stadia, YouTube or Google.

Google is not keen to burn bridges or throw away whatever small success they have managed to eke out with Stadia.

So, in the end, one person’s noxious opinion did not represent their company or the industry and probably would have largely ignored if their profile had not represented their position as a senior exec at Stadia and not somebody in a subsidiary far from Google HQ.  The status quo was maintained.

But, as we well know, the internet is a place where bad ideas find followers easily.  This might come up again.  Some other company exec, one with actual influence this time, could grab on tot his idea and run with it.  And if they do, I’ll buy some popcorn.  The drama will be excellent.

Others on this topic:

Quote of the Day – This Cynicism is Inconceivable!

My biggest disappointment with modern internet discourse is that there’s a significant amount of cynicism, especially in forum or reddit debates, and a portion of people assume the worst.

-Chris Roberts, forum post in response to player complaints

This is one of those “irony is dead” moments.

I mean, I’ll give him his “you’re looking at this from the outside” so you don’t know what is really going on, which is true enough.  But that also speaks to transparency.  We’re on the outside looking in, so we depend on what Chris Robert’s and his team tells us.

We are now eight and a half years down the road from the Kickstarter campaign, almost six years past the promised launch date, with a game that is still in alpha, with many promised features not yet available, and which has consistently and repeatedly missed promises.  All the while, Chris Roberts has milked his following for $300 million for a game that hasn’t shipped yet.

In that atmosphere, it seems comically oblivious to bemoan the state of cynicism on the internet when his actions have created a situation where cynicism is the natural, normal response.  Chris Roberts is in a world of his own making.  To whine about people not believing him after he has, to be polite, misinformed people since day one strains credulity.

Yes, I get the optimism inherent in software development, and can wax for pages about why it is more art that science and how almost any big project is built on a foundation of quicksand.  But at some point your optimism starts to work against you.  The people you’re trying to keep with you will get to one blown promise, one missed date, one broken feature too many and will feel the fatigue of the effort of believing.  You will lose their trust, they will turn on you, and they won’t believe any more of your empty statements.  You don’t have to be Derek Smart to figure out that the plan is a lie and that the milestones of progress are mirages that remain firmly fixed on the horizon.

And he cannot stop.  At the end of his post he says:

I can promise you the gameplay I described is not a pipe dream, nor will it take 10 to 20 years to deliver

We’re already more than eight years down the road, so ten years seems like optimism at this point.  How can you even write that and not feel your fingers burn from the self-delusion?

So my gut response to the quote at the top of the page is, “Tough shit!  You made this bed, you sleep in it!”

Seriously, the cynicism is there because he and his team have repeatedly promised people things that have failed to come to pass.  Most people are not stupid enough to keep believing every new promise after so many have been broken.  Some will, because they have invested so much in the projected, financially and/or emotionally, but a rational person will stop accepting things at face value from somebody with a track record like Chris Roberts.

And it isn’t like Chris Roberts is alone in this arena.  I lost my faith in Camelot Unchained earlier this year when Mark Jacobs announced that they were working on another gameCU was already in the years delayed category as well, having also failed to meet many milestones, so credulity was at the breaking point.

Then there was Lord British, who pushed out Shroud of the Avatar and ran, leaving backers with something that didn’t much match what was promised up front, save in the most general ways.

Nearly every crowd funded MMO projected has disappointed and sowed the seeds of discontent along the way.  I am surprised when anybody these days even floats the idea of crowd funding an MMO because it has been proved to be a path to disappointment.

And this is cast against a culture of undeserved hype from the video game industry overall, of over promising and under delivering, of demos that don’t reflect reality, and of reviews where the acceptable score range to keep your site in game company advertising is 8-10 out of 10, that has laid a groundwork of cynicism.  A game developer must sail in a sea of skeptics who will doubt their every promise because so many before them have polluted the waters.

Chris Roberts ought to know this.  He has been in game development since the late 80s.  He should know better.

But apparently he does not.  And so he whines about the unfairness of it all, this cynicism that he helped create.

Promptapalooza and a Quote of the Day

It is August, which means it should be Blaugust, but since we effectively did that in April (which was Blapril), Belghast decided, based on some feedback, that encouraging people to post every day for another month might be too taxing on some.  So, instead, we have Promptapalooza, where each of the participants gets a writing prompt to drive a post.

August means some sort of Blaugust

Yesterday was Everwake’s turn, which involved rituals.  You should go and take a look. Today it is my turn, and my prompt is:

  • What is a favorite Quote/s, and tell us why

This seems like a bespoke prompt for me as somebody who has a blog category devoted to quotes.  (Reminder: If you click on that link, you need to scroll down as this post will appear first, being the latest post about quotes.)

And I certainly have a lot of quotes to choose from, ranging from some Smed classics (there is a whole Smed tag to look at) to Chris Roberts and optimism of developers to Derek Smart and his own influence to some Gevlon staples to perennial developer complaints and F2P discussions and prescient quotes about the genre so on.  Lots of things to work with.

But I am going to go with a quote that I have used before but has never quite made it to the Quote of the Day status.

Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.

Edward Castronova

Dr. Castronova is known in our circles for his study of virtual worlds… though “synthetic worlds” seems to be the vogue term at the moment… and their economies, often covered by his posts at Terra Nova and on his own blog, both of which has been pretty quiet for some time now.  He has written a lot of interesting, thought provoking, and occasionally wildly optimistic things about video games over the years, but I like this one the best.

I like it best because it explains a lot of player behavior.

We will tend to do things in order to maximize our progress, however we choose to measure it. There are always exceptions, but that tends to be the way of things.  We will work towards the things we are focused on and do the things that reward us in the ways that we most desire.  Currency, kill board stats, battleground achievements, levels, whatever is our prime motivator, that is where we put our efforts, and we will focus on this things that most optimize the best results for us.

Why do the immortal god-like capsuleers of New Eden shoot NPCs in anomalies?  It is the easiest way to earn ISK, which is the foundation needed for other activities.  Why did we rush off to do battle grounds in Warhammer Online?  That was the fastest way to level up to get into the “good” content, the city raids and such.

The problem is that we live in this world and not the world of our games, and are driven by the desires and needs and goal we have here and not by what our character, elf, orc, capsuleer, or otherwise, might find as their own motivation if we were able to give them life and consciousness.

So it goes.

Next on the list for Promptapalooze is Stignite at The Friendly Necromancer.  Go visit their site tomorrow to see which prompt they got for the event.

Others taking a crack at this prompt:

Quote of the Day – The Button Label is Bad

Alright then, I think to myself. I’ll just repurchase another Ibis. They appear to be cheap, and I had made a whole big chunk of ISK from tutorials…

-Massively OP, Choose My Adventure Column

Chris at Massively OP headed into EVE Online for the latest round of Choose My Adventure and, unsurprisingly, it has been a tough time.  Welcome to New Eden, same as it ever was.  The new player experience remains… challenging.

But what struck me out of post of familiar woes was the line quoted above, because there is literally a button in the station/structure UI that will give you a brand new rookie ship… or “corvette” as they are now styled… on demand.  It isn’t even hidden away, being located right under the undock button.

The button and the hover help

Back in the day the game used to just give you a rookie ship if you docked up in a capsule.  It was changed to a button a while back.  I am going to guess they did that because somebody did a database query on “Ibis” and found there were more sitting in stations than there were total user accounts ever created.  I went on a cleaning up campaign a few years back to destroy all the ones I had cluttering up my hangars and when I searched today I have 26 still hanging around on my main.

Ibis results…

I was going to show the whole list, but I thought that one in 6RCQ, which I repackaged for some reason, like I was going to move it somewhere, was more amusing.  It isn’t like I couldn’t get one where ever I went.

Anyway, looking at that button I realized that the label on it isn’t as helpful as one might think.  *I* know what it means, but I know because I read the patch notes at some past date about the change.

But is it descriptive enough to somebody who wasn’t there when this change went into effect?  To somebody new to the game?  You know, the people who might actually need a new Ibis or other rookie ship?

The button says, “Board my Corvette,” which sounds a lot like simply “get in my ship.”

And the tool tip/hover help text is an example of the classic mistake for that medium, as it just adds three unhelpful words to what the button already told you, which fails to clarify anything if you didn’t understand what the button meant in the first place.  This is the equivalent of finding out that somebody is deaf and then just speaking louder.

The tool tip ought to say “Get a replacement starter ship for free!” or something else more instructive.

I am reminded of CCP Burger’s priority list from the first CSM14 summit minutes:

1. Stop the bleeding
2. Fix the stupid
3. Excite and teach
4. Incentivize return

-CCP Burger on CCP’s focus, CSM summit minutes page 6

I think we may still be in the “Fix the stupid” stage.

Quote of the Day – So Much Synergy

The expansion of MGI’s stake in gamigo is a positive step, as non-strategic shareholders will exit and gamigo can benefit from synergy potential with the other MGI companies. In particular, we see substantial synergy potential in customer acquisition for the gamigo games, in strengthening gamigo’s position in the mobile games sector and in the cooperation between the gamigo media companies and MGI’s media companies.

-Remco Westermann, CEO of Media and Games Invest plc in a press release

You know somebody is serious when they use the word “synergy” twice in a statement!

As reported over at Massively OP earlier this week, the primary shareholder in Gamigo, which operates a host of maintenance mode MMORPGs, including the Trion Worlds collection, which they acquired about a year and a half back.

Some of their pre-Trion collection

Back when they purchased the assets of Trion Worlds… the legal entity that was Trion itself imploded shortly thereafter… was the first time I took anything beyond a quick glace Gamigo, and it was difficult to figure out just what was going on.  They ran a lot of games… and quite a few MMOs, though who knows what people mean when they use that acronym these days… with a relatively small staff.

I think Blizzard has that many people working just on WoW

As for who owned the place, digging around Bloomberg and other sites was perhaps less than fruitful.  It was somewhere in a stack of companies, many of which were related to real estate investment.

Somewhere at the top of the tree

I suppose there isn’t much synergy between video games and real estate.

However, with the press release linked at the top, we now find that Media and Games Invest, plc (MGI), owned 53% of Gamigo and was moving in to acquire an additional 45% of the company, giving it a 98% lock on the whole thing.  I suppose we can just forget about Suryoyo Holding GmbH at this point.  Unless they are tied in to MGI somehow, they look to have cashed out.

MGI describes itself as an investment group and its other holdings include AppLift, which does mobile platform advertising, PubNative, which describes its business as “Advanced Mobile Monetization,” and ReachHero, which is into “Influencer Marketing.”

MGI itself is registered as a corporation in Malta according to Bloomberg, at an address that resolves to Papilio Services Limited, a company that specializes in getting companies Malta residency for tax purposes.  There is probably nothing shady in that, save for a desire to pay less in taxes.  If it had been Cyprus that would have been more of a red flag.

And MGI itself is 68% owned by Bodhivas GmbH.  Bloomberg doesn’t have anything on that, but it appears to be owned by Remco Westermann of the quote at the top of this post, so he owns the company that owns most of the company which he runs and which just bought out most of Gamigo, a company that was mostly owned by that company already.

There is enough synergy in that to make your head swim.

All of which doesn’t go very far in answering the question of what happens to the MMOs of Gamigo? That is, after all, the general topic of this blog.

Given the focus on mobile, ads, and monetization as well as the use of the words “synergy” and “efficiencies” I would have to say nothing good.  Then again, CEO Remco Westermann has been running Gamigo for a long stretch now (video of him at Gamescom 2013), so it isn’t like there is a new broom coming in to sweep away things.  Maybe nothing will change on the MMO front.

As always, we shall see.

Quote of the Day – The Hubris of a New Eden FPS

An Eve Online first-person shooter is CCP’s greatest folly

-Jeremy Peel, VG24/7

The money quote was actually the headline, but it will do.

Last month CCP announced changes to their first person shoot plans.  The work around what had been called Project Nova was going to move to a new team and be given a new name.

A number of news sites jumped on the news and declared that Project Nova had been cancelled.  Massively OP doubled down on that line and even brought up in their podcast.

In the end the problem is not that some web sites don’t understand what the word “cancelled” means or cannot resist a good headline.  The problem is that CCP did not simply cancel Project Nova, but kept the whole FPS idea alive with another team and under another (secret now) name.

The problem is that the only lesson learned after more than a decade (the initial DUST 514 announcement is coming up on eleven years) of thrashing and failure on the FPS front is apparently that they shouldn’t announce projects prematurely.  And they did this in the midst of telling us that the FPS project would keep going.  If you take the view that Project Nova was cancelled, then they effectively announced the new project right then and there.  They just were not going to tell us what it was called.  So we’ll make up something to call it I guess.  I’m going to keep tagging it as Project Nova just to maintain a thread of continuity.

And maybe things have changed.  Maybe being owned by Pearl Abyss and having its resources at the disposal of the project will lead to a different outcome.  Maybe better talent or a different vision will make it happen.  Maybe they will be less focused on tying whatever it is they end up developing into EVE Online and more focused on making a good game with its own virtues, a game that people would play even despite its connection to EVE Online.

But we won’t know until we see it, and the track record so far does not lend one hope.

Hat Tip to Wolf Brothers Inc for spotting this.

Quote of the Day for WoW Classic Fans

World of Warcraft® Classic drove the biggest quarterly increase to subscription plans in franchise history, in both the West and East.

-Activision-Blizzard Q3 2019 earnings report

WoW Classic brings another ray of sunshine.

Given what SuperData told us about WoW Classic previously, this was not unexpected.

This ray of sunshine however comes amidst some cloudy skies at A-B.

The company took a lot of heat at the start of the year when it announced layoffs in practically the same breath in which it announced record financial performances.  While people were outraged, the 2019 financial reports have supported the company’s pessimism.  Blizzard was especially hard hit with its margins dropping from 30% to 16% in Q1 2019 as Battle for Azeroth shed players while the company had nothing else new to attract people.  And things have remained down.  The charts show that Blizz has recovered a bit on margins, but now Activision is was down.

Activision Blizzard Q3 2019 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 9

And the talk at the presentation was largely about the long term tent pole products, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.  Even as they try to diversify their stable of titles, the old champions have to carry water for everybody.  Even the up part of company, King and its mobile games, the emphasis was on the Candy Crush franchise.

This is a very common problem, creating a popular and very profitable product then never being able to create something that could match, much less surpass, that product.

There was even mention of possibly beefing up the WoW team.  And, it was recognized that WoW Classic gave the company a boost during an “off” year when WoW did not have an expansion set to go.  There was some uncertainty about how sustainable WoW Classic would be over the long term.  And certainly, if they don’t do anything else with it, it will dwindle off to a much smaller population.

Finally, Q3 ended on September 30, 2019.  The Hong Kong debacle did not come to pass until mid-October, so that may put something of a damper on Blizzard numbers for Q4.  Opening up pre-orders for Shadowlands during BlizzCon may offset that somewhat, but that is a short term solution for a long term problem.

You can find all of the quarterly result information at the Activision Blizzard investor relations site.

Quote of the Day – How to get Your Industry Regulated

A Kinder Surprise Egg does not collect your data. The Kinder Egg does not learn more about the person buying and opening the Egg, such as his or her preferences for its contents. The Kinder Egg does not adjust its contents according to an algorithm based on population data. People do not link their credit cards to Kinder Egg vendors. Kinder Eggs are physical and can be given away or traded, unlike virtual items.

-Dr Daniel King, quoted at GameIndustry.biz

I like this quote because it gets to something I think people miss when it comes to the lockbox debate.  I often see people go straight for the idea that randomness equals gambling and therefore lockboxes should be banned.

Not gambling

And, while randomness is an element of gambling, it is not the sole defining factor.  That something like Kinder Surprise Eggs exist and are sold legally in many countries tends to indicate that randomness is not the only thing we should be considering.

Randomness is not necessarily bad.  And while I tend to discount when devs tell us people enjoy opening up lockboxes… I am sure the payday loan industry would tells us that people like getting money from them as well… you can find players who enjoy the randomness of loot drops and such.  Bhagpuss, one of the sources that pointed this quote towards me, is on that team.

This makes the gambling argument feels like a dead end to me.  You either have to change the laws to widen the definition of gambling (wait for the push back on that) or go the Belgium route and make a special exception for a specific set of circumstances, which leaves people with the question about why this one outlier is special.

Fortunately, the quote nicely brings up how randomness isn’t the sole factor that makes lockboxes odious to so many people.  There is the virtual nature of any prizes, the persistent reminders and offers from the cash shop, the fact that you have to pay to for a random chance to get things otherwise not obtainable in game, the manipulative practices, and the suspicion that the whole thing is rigged just to get you to spend more money.  Another quote:

“The ‘not forcing anyone’ argument is undermined by the fact that many of these games appear to employ systems that are designed to present constant in-game purchasing opportunities,” says Dr King. “The promotions and solicitations are unavoidable in some cases, and the game may have design elements that make it very frustrating to players unless they spend money.

“Our review suggests that there are some emerging designs that aim to capitalise on player data to present individualised offers that the system ‘knows’ the player is more likely to accept. So it’s not about being ‘forced’ — it’s about the game anticipating or making the best judgement about what the player is likely to accept.”

And while some people would be on board with the suspicion that things are rigged no matter what, the game companies have helped feed that paranoia themselves.  Further down in the article there are some patents game companies have filed for mechanics designed to get people to spend more.

Activision had an especially good filing back in 2017 for a system that would deliberately match players with people have superior gear from lockboxes to make you feel you need the same gear in order to compete.

Randomness is not bad in and of itself and we appear, as a society, to be okay with gambling, but when you start targeting people based on their behavior and rigging the system against them on the fly, all algorithmically and invisibly behind the scenes, we have strayed into what some might label as predatory practices that strikes against a basic sense of fairness.

Going down that path in pursuit of the most effective lockbox scheme is how you end up with legislators and regulators taking a close and person interest in your industry.  It has all been rather haphazard up to now, but momentum is building.

So it was probably no coincidence that there was a press release from the ESA about how various companies are now committed to displaying the odds of obtaining items from lockboxes on the very day that the US Federal Trade Commission was holding a workshop about industry practices around lockboxes.

The ESA isn’t dumb.  They know they need to do something as any regulation is going to hurt them.  They know they need to get in front of this issue and make some concessions before laws or regulations force them to back off their lucrative lockbox schemes.   And so they have a grand announcement.

And posting the odds somewhere would be a big step forward.

Of course, the ESA isn’t saying where the odds have to be posted, if they have to be in-game, or even linked to in game.  Posting them on some dead end path on their web site might be what they have in mind.  And how often do the odds have to be brought up to date?

This is the problem with something as empty as a “commitment” to something like the ESA has announced.  They want to sound like they are doing something good for the consumer without actually being bound to follow through in any reasonable fashion.  With no laws or regulations in place, what are you going to do if half of those committed platforms fail to follow through while the other half does so in the least helpful way possible?

Companies don’t go out of their way unless it is in their best interest.  Right now I am sure the ESA sees their problem as a few loudmouths that need to be appeased so they can go back to business as usual.  There will need to be a lot more government scrutiny before the ESA follows through.  But follow through they will, if the pressure gets high enough.  I remain convinced that the ESA will do the minimum amount needed… pinkie swear promises and strategic campaign contributions… to stave off regulation at least in the US.

And, in a final twist to the comparison in the initial quote, Kinder Surprise Eggs are not allowed in the US.  It has nothing to do with gambling or manipulation and everything to do with the FDA not allowing you to sell candy with toys embedded inside.  So we only get the Kinder Joy eggs, sans surprise… and given how rare they are here, few seem to buy them just to eat.

Quote of the Day – Being Risk Averse in Null Sec

The problem here is that being risk averse is the intelligent move. As stated above, null groups always have to be thinking about not just this fight, but the next one, the next ten, the next war. It’s coming. Whether you win or lose this one,  it’s coming. It’s coming whether you still have your space, your stuff, or even your pilots. If you’re in sov null, War Is Coming. And if you’re not getting ready for it, GET OUT. You have no business being there. Go to NPC null. Go to lowsec. Just get out of the way now, before the avalanche starts.

-Bill McDonough (Arrendis), Why the Null Sec Blackout Won’t Fix EVE

The blackout of local in null sec was met with much acclaim, followed by a variety of disappointments.  There is always something else needed to be done in order to “fix” null sec.

Arrendis has a piece up over at INN about why the blackout isn’t the fix for null sec or EVE Online.  In an epic length article he explores why null sec isn’t the blood bath of constant conflict that many feel it ought to be.  Leaving aside how much work a war can be for null sec leadership… the position of Sky Marshall has often been a one war job because it tends to burn people out quickly… Arrendis pins the blame for the risk averse behavior of null sec alliances and coalitions on one thing.  Can you guess what it is?  I’ll give you a hint.

Goonie Goons and their filthy titan blob

Titans.  Titans are the apex weapon in null sec.  To take and hold space over time, to be secure in your conquered domain, to be able to survive against hostile powers, you need titans.

But there is a catch.  A Catch-22, if you will.

In order to show up in null sec, take some space, and hold it over time, you need titans.  But you cannot get titans unless you hold null sec space.  You can build carriers and dreadnoughts in NPC stations in low sec, but for a titan or a super carrier you need to be able to deploy an ihub, install upgrades, drop a Sotiyo, and configure it correctly before you can start your first titan build.

So no null sec power will risk their titans, because to lose them is to cease to be a null sec power.  And once you’ve lost them and been evicted you’re out.  The best case scenario going forward is to have to depend on the titans of another power to cover you.

So how can CCP break this cycle?  Arrendis has some suggestions, which you should go and read.  I’ve stolen enough of his thunder here.  The article is long, but worth the effort.  Even the comments on the article are worth reading, save for the one that starts off with “Eh. Kinda too long to read.”

Anyway, you can find the article over at INN.

Quote of the Day – CSM Candidate Red Flag Issue

I don’t care if CCP sells bullets that do a little more damage frankly.

-Matterall, CSM14 interview with Jin’taan (at ~17:40)

The CSM14 elections kick off on Monday, so the time for candidate research is coming to an end.  You’ll soon be able to to cast your vote… at least if you are part of the minority of players that bother.

Elections start on Monday

Of note, Jin’taan did a series of interviews with some of the candidates.  He served on the previous three CSMs and used his insight there to ask some pointed questions of the people he interviewed, keeping to the same questions for each interview and not releasing any of the interviews until he was done.  This added an element of surprise and some discomfort to those being interviewed and give some unfiltered insight into the candidates themselves.  We got to see past the bland electioneering statements and get into the candidates.

Overall, Jin’taan interviewed just six candidates that he found interesting.  They were:

I like the format and I wish Jin’taan had been able to interview more candidates, however we get what we get.

Each of the candidates stumbled now and again but mostly adapt to the situation in which they found themselves… except for Matterall.

Matterall seemed to push back on the questions.  That is okay, I suppose.  However, some of the questions from Jin’taan started with straight up statements that CSM members would be asked for direct feedback or to bring up specific issues and Matterall, unlike every other interviewee, didn’t want to go there.  (He didn’t even want to endorse any other candidate in the final question.  Mike Azariah, for example, took that moment to endorse Matterall, but Matterall had no kind words for anybody else.)

In the end I came away with the impression that what Matterall doesn’t want to be on the CSM, that what he really wants is to consult with CCP on marketing and avoid in-game issues altogether except in the most general, high level sense.

And I guess that is a platform of sorts, even if he seems to be stating up front he won’t be doing the job that will be expected of him.

But then there was the monetization question.  All of the candidates interviewed by Jin’taan went pretty quickly against CCP selling any sort of pay to win.  That seemed like the obvious response, as a couple even said.  As has been pointed out many times, any scent of pay to win in a PvP game can bring ruin to a game.  Games that have run with that at times, such as World of Tanks and their gold ammo, have found themselves better off discarding that sort of thing.

Well, all of the candidates except Matterall.

Matterall, as the quote at the top of this post indicates, was quite indifferent to the idea of pay to win.  I will expand his quote just to put in more context: [stumbles and things like “uh” not transcribed]

I know that monetization is a big deal to people. It’s not a big deal to me. If the game can make money by selling objects like Fortnite can and make however much gazillions of dollars they are making, I am all for it. I don’t see any problem with it. I think what they [CCP] have done generally in the past has been good, as far as a guideline, but this is not something I am passionate about. I don’t care if CCP sells bullets that do a little more damage frankly. I don’t see that as completely destabilizing the game. Because the game is not all about PvP. The game is about other things too.

He goes on to speak about things he would like to see… more books and such, and says he has every copy of EON Magazine… then starts to sound somewhat dismissive of cosmetic offerings.  I came away feeling like he didn’t care for ship SKINs or clothing items.

This segment of the interview had me muttering aloud as I listened to it because there was so much wrong there.

First, I dislike the comparison to Fortnite.  That seemed to be a lazy grab at the most popular title out there that is a genre apart from EVE Online.  But more so, if that is your example, a PvP game that sells only cosmetic gear, it seems like a very strange jump to go from that to selling gold ammo.  If you think that is what Fortnite does, go educate yourself.  And that comparison gets even weirder when he sounds so uninterested in cosmetic options.

Second, one of Matterall’s repeated campaign slogans is that he listens to everyone.  That seems to be something of an idle boast if he can blithely state that gold ammo isn’t a big deal.  Or maybe he does listen, but just doesn’t care.  Either way, if this is a hot button issue to you (it is to me, if only for the survival of the overall game) then Matterall would clearly not be representing you on the CSM.

Third, another of his campaign statements is about the unity of the game (you can find this over on his CSM Wire page for CSM 14), that he doesn’t like to break things up into null sec, high sec, faction warfare, and whatever.  As he writes, “those distinctions don’t make sense to me.”  But here we have him chopping off part of the game, PvP, which I would argue makes up a critical core of the game… you don’t have an industry game or a mining game or a hauling game unless people are buying replacement ships and modules due to losses… in a way that seems diametrically opposed to his stated position.  If you want to take a holistic view you cannot then set aside major parts of the game.

Fourth, his attraction to literature as a monetization option seems misplaced.  Not that I do not share his interest.  I have many back issues of EON Magazine and most of the books and what not.  The thing is, these are not, nor ever have been, a money making ventures for the game.  Things like that, and the EVE Online Store (about which I have written), are marketing.   They don’t make money, they promote the game.  Rare is the gaming company that turns a profit, or breaks even, on that sort of thing, and I feel like somebody who wants to go engage CCP about their marketing efforts ought to know that.

Finally, I think that Matterall, who has been playing since 2008 and who has done a couple of presentations at EVE Vegas about the game’s history, ought to be aware of what happened the last time CCP brought up the idea of gold ammo and cash shop ships.  While the event is erroneously called “Monoclegate” because the press likes a snappy term (with “gate” appended) for a headline, the backlash against CCP with the Incarna release was driven in large part by the leak of the Greed is Good internal publication that seemed to chart out a plan to monetize all the things, selling special ship and ammo and implants and whatever in the cash shop.

That did not turn out well for CCP and to be indifferent to that is a serious disqualifying factor to my mind.

Gold ammo – Artist concept

So there we go.  I’ve spent time talking with Matterall at EVE Vegas and we get along.  I don’t particularly want to bash him.  I was even inclined to slip him onto my ballot… not in first position, as he was asking, but somewhere… however now I cannot bring myself to put him on the list.  This interview changed my mind.  It was almost 30 minutes of empty rhetoric and high concept where the one concrete issue that came up he said it didn’t interest him.  That was only a couple minutes out of the interview, but it was the only part where the rubber met the road really, the only part where we had a glimpse of him being handed an actual topic of substance, and he didn’t have the moxie to go there because he didn’t really care.

Matterall, if you really do listen to everybody, listen to this:  I think you went far astray on this one.  You differentiated yourself, but not in a good way.

I hope, if you do managed to get elected after this faux pas, you are willing to do the job you’ve asked for and not just the bit you say that interests you.  My cynicism regarding CCP and its use of the CSM, reinforced by the recent Jester post-NDA AMA, leads me to believe that somebody trying to blaze their own path is likely doomed, if not to failure, then at least to irrelevance.

This naturally leads to something of a larger question about what qualifies somebody to be on the CSM?  Is having strong but more general opinions about internet spaceships, or the marketing thereof, enough?  Should being able to discuss and evaluate the often intricate mechanics of the game in a detailed and authoritative way the sole requirement?  Jin’taan and Jester both strongly imply that is really what CCP wants and, that if you fail at that, if you cannot engage at that level, you may as well stay home.  CCP has proven in the past that they control the discourse, that if they don’t want to listen that no member has any real agency within the confines of the CSM unless CCP grants it to them.  The only time that the CSM has successfully defied that was during the Incarna and Greed is Good imbroglio.

So do you vote for somebody you know will play by CCP’s rules and take the wins they can get, or do vote for somebody attempting to bring their own view of the role of the CSM and accept that it may well be a wasted vote?

Addendum: I was just early, Jin’taan has more interviews and two more just appeared.

On the monetization question, Olmeca Gold follows the safe line, being against in game items, as well as being worried about the skill points that CCP has been giving away.

Juris Doctor took the question and essentially argued in favor of what CCP already has (PLEX and skill injectors), which I guess is a position.  When pressed with a follow up to get him to actually answer the question, he went down a theoretical path about being able to buy alternate star gate routes in New Eden (Amarr to Jita or Dodixie to Pure Blind were given as examples) which sounds like a something ripe for exploitation, such that doubt CCP would ever embrace it.  So I’m not hot on Juris Doctor being on the CSM either. but at least he didn’t wave off gold ammo as something that didn’t matter.