Category Archives: Quote of the Day

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.

Quote of the Day – Goblin Gets His Due

Gevlon was right

-The Mittani, Imperium Fireside May 4, 2019

I previously mentioned the ongoing conflict in Perimeter over control of trading citadels.  Last year the Imperium and Legacy Coalition began to assail the trading citadels set up by Pandemic Horde.  Those were blown up and replaced by citadels run by TEST alliance, including a Keepstar.

Shop at the sign of the middle management dino

Why Perimeter?  Well, it is one of the eight systems that connect directly to Jita.

Jita and Perimeter

More importantly, it is one of the five neighboring system in The Forge, the same region as Jita, so if you are in Jita and searching for something to buy, goods in Perimeter will show up in your results as well.  As to why Perimeter won out over the other four, my guess is that being on the direct route to Amarr, the second trade hub of New Eden, probably tips the scales.  People try to set up in the other systems, but the listings there are even more meager.

Anyway, since the swap over to Legacy Coalition holding the trade stations in Perimeter a low scale conflict has carried on to try and wrest control away or at least make life annoying.  I had not heard much about that conflict of late.  As it turns out that was likely due to negotiations going on over the whole thing.

At yesterday’s fireside The Mittani announced that a deal had been reached and that going forward the Imperium, Legacy Coalition, and Pandemic Horde would all work together to defend the structures of the Tranquility Trading Corporation, consisting of the Keepstar, two Sotiyos, and one Tatara in Perimeter.

Instead of fighting, each of the three groups will now share in the profits from the trading complex.

This is where Gevlon comes in.  Somebody sent the link to one of Gevlon’s posts where he predicted something like this would come to pass to The Mittani, and Mittens had to admit that Gevlon was right on that particular point.  Some null sec powers did come together to hold a trading citadel together rather than fighting over it.

Of course, Gevlon was wrong on just about everything else in that post.  It is debatable as to whether or not the Imperium, led by Goonswarm Federation, Legacy Coalition, led by TEST, and Pandemic Horde add up to being “everyone significant” when it comes to null sec powers.  It most certainly does not mean peace between the three powers.  Even as I was writing this I got a ping to log in and shoot Pandemic Horde and expect to continue with the campaign against them and NCDot in TKE and The Spire, striking straight at their rental income.  These are not staged “gud fites” but an actual campaign meant to hurt them.

And then there is the effect on Jita.  While some trade is going through Perimeter, it seems to be mostly focused on some high price density items, things like PLEX, skill injectors, and the like.  Trade at the station at Jita 4-4 carries on pretty much as before, three years after the Citadel expansion brought this player run trade center option to the game.

Whether people keep trading in Jita out of habit, ignorance, or mis-trust or player run citadels… some of those trade citadels have been blown up after all… doesn’t matter, people still do most of their buying and selling in Jita.

This means that Gevlon’s assumptions and ISK estimates are all completely bogus.  If his prediction had come to pass we should have seen some sort of drop in the Broker’s Fees collects on the ISK sink side of the chart in the MER.  However, compared to his numbers from the February 2016 MER, the broker’s fees collected were actually up in the March 2019 MER.

As for how much the owners of the trade citadels have to discount their fees in order to attract business… well, he was way off once more.

Fee comparison

In Perimeter they had to cut the broker’s fee to the bone to get the business they have, and that hasn’t moved very much out of the much more expensive Jita.  Even if they got the level of business he predicted, the net profit would be nowhere near his cataclysmic outlook.

And Gevlon said he left EVE Online because of this, because of his grim predictions of what was to come with player run markets in citadels.  I guess he could have stuck around.  The null sec empires are still getting rich, but it doesn’t have much to do with markets in Perimeter.

Quote of the Day – We are Just Alluvial Accretion

It [EVE Online] has existed for 16 years and people think it’s in stagnation. But that’s the story with a lot of these long running franchises; it’s like a river that flows through, and there’s a bottom layer of people that stick, and over time there are layers of generations of EVE players that keep on being added every single year.

-Hilmar Petursson, Gamesindustry.biz interview

I think he is saying that New Eden is a wretched hive of river bottom scum and villainy .

Anyway, Hilmar has been out again selling the strange beast that is EVE Online.  A lot of the interview focuses on challenge of updating the game to keep up with the push to support ever larger battles out in null sec, which ends up in the Aether Wars demo from GDC last month.

EVE Online Forever

But as the article goes on it starts to delve into player numbers and the ongoing survival of the game.  The numbers are a bit dubious to me.

The article states that the game has 300K monthly active users, but that isn’t in quotes so may not be represented as it came out of Hilmar’s mouth.  We do have a quote from Hilmar in a Venture Beat interview back in September, when the Pearl Abyss merger was the focus, saying “The MAU fluctuates a bit, but it’s 200,000 to 300,000 people.”  That helped narrow down the answer the the question of how many people play the game, but it is a range not just the highest number.

But then there is another number that came straight from him in a quote:

“Contrary to what some people think, a lot of new people join EVE Online every week,” he said. “Every week we have about 10,000 people that log into EVE Online for the first time.

This plays to the stagnation question that came up.  The answer was that things are not stagnate if so many new people are showing up, leading to the river metaphor that I quoted at the top.  A river isn’t stagnate with that much water flowing through it.  But EVE Online isn’t a river, and players that “flow through it” are not adding the collective story of the game or to the bottom line of the company.

At first I questioned the idea that 10K players… okay, let’s be honest, 10K new accounts… are created every week. (The 10K number also came up during his AMA earlier this month.)  On the Tranquility page over at EVE Offline the new born player graphs hardly support that notion.  Of course, with the API apocalypse of last year, one cannot be sure of external numbers.  However, over at EVE Board, the character tracking site (run by Chribba, who also does EVE Offline) the birth distribution chart down the statistics page seems to have numbers that support at 10K a week number, at least for character creation.  In fact, it seems to indicate that 10K would be a low number, as it records 74K new character creations so far this month, with a week left to run.  That would be something like 25K characters a week.

But a new character is not necessarily a new account and a new account is not necessarily a new player.  In the age of alpha clones new account creation isn’t the measure it once was.  That birth distribution chart shows a big spike with the introduction of alpha clones in November of 2016, but that settles down fairly quickly, dropping below the peak period for the game around 2011 to 2013.  So I cannot discount that 10K number, though I did choke a bit on the next one.

Last year, I think about a million people came into our systems in one way or another for the first time.

I suppose there is some ambiguity in that phrase, but even if it is true I am not sure it is a number to be proud of give the peak monthly active users quoted.  You start to wonder how many long term active players there really are.

The obvious point to all those fresh accounts flowing through the game while the MAU numbers stays the same and the peak concurrent number slowly declines is that player retention, especially new player retention, sucks.  That isn’t a new problem.  I’ve been over some of the issues I think the game has, but you can’t fix most of them.  EVE Online is a strange and complex game that no other titles really prepare you for.

Of course, just last week Hilmar was being quoted about Asia being the future for EVE Online.  But there has been a server in China, Serenity, for more than a decade and, while the company they partnered with ran it into the ground, even at its peak moment in 2012 it barely hit numbers that would mark the daily low point on Tranquility.  More recently there has been an exodus of hardcore players from China to Tranquility, a trend that continues.  While getting us all on the same server makes for a better game, these were already players, fellow members of the scum forming on the bottom of the metaphorical river.

It seems like less flow and more stagnation… player retention… might be a good thing.

And so we’re back to the same old issue.  How do you get somebody engaged with a game that seems bent on driving people away with complexity?

Quote of the Day – No Porn

So we’re not going to see asset flips, and we’re going to explicitly say no to porn games or other intentionally controversial games

-Tim Sweeney, Gamasutra Interview

I have been waiting for somebody to play the quality card… or at least the “no porn” card… against Steam since the day Valve announced their policy of trying to be as hands off as possible when it came to which games made it onto their service.  A policy that they couldn’t stop from biting themselves in the ass with even after they gave themselves a loophole to avoid just that.

But now Epic Games is stepping up to the plate when it comes to their store.

Not that this is a surprise.  In the online video game storefront market Steam is the undisputed king, and the only way you make gains against an entrenched competitor like that is to play to your own strengths and against their weaknesses.

Epic has been using its generous revenue policy and its control over the Unreal engine to get developers to make the jump to the Epic Store, including some exclusives.  That gets stuff in the store, but the customer doesn’t really care what the revenue deal is unless there it makes the price lower, and Steam sales are tough to beat for those patient enough to wait.

So now Epic is assailing Valve, if somewhat cautiously, on another front.  Now they are playing the quality card, indicating that they won’t be hosting crap or porn or games that just want to be edgy or controversial.  And that is fine.  We get all angsty about freedom of expression in the US, but the constitution only applies to the government censoring you.  A retail outlet refusing to sell your horrible game… or even your excellent game… isn’t a problem at all.  If it were, I doubt WalMart would still be in business.

Interestingly, Tim Sweeney also made the distinction between the Unreal engine side of the company and the store front.  They won’t be policing what people do with the Unreal engine once they license it.  But they are also making it clear that just because you are using the Unreal engine doesn’t mean there will be a spot waiting for you in the Epic Store.

We’ll see how well this plays out.  Epic doesn’t have to become Steam, they just have to grab enough exclusives… and give away enough free titles I guess… to make their store front a must have for some critical mass of gamers.  They still don’t have anything that interests me enough to sign up, but the titles I play tend to come straight from the studios that make them in any case.

Quote of the Day – EverQuest Hubris and Reality

If we tried to broaden our horizons and invite new people in, I don’t think we’d have enough servers to be able to handle the influx of new players.

Holly Longdale, Interview at PC Gamer

I love EverQuest as much as any bit of my gaming history.  And all the more so here on the 20th anniversary.  But I also try to inject at least some tiny amount of objectivity into my rose colored glasses view of the game.  In that spirit, I would have to say that there is no way that EverQuest could attract and hold enough new players that server capacity would be a worry.

20 Years Ago…

The idea strikes me as very much an “if I had a magic wand” sort of hypothesis.  I’d have to see an example of another game of similar vintage hauling in new customers to be convinced.  Remasters of games, like Age of Empires II, and return launches of old games, like last week’s appearance of Diablo on GoG, happen.  And the will likely continue to show up.  But I don’t see much evidence that this has meant any sort of gold rush of new players these titles.  Rather, it seems more a plan to sate demand from an older demographic… people like me who played those games when they were new.  There is money to be made on that.  Not chart topping, League of Legends money, but enough to support a small team.

That said, the article linked… which I also linked in Friday’s post… is well worth a read for fans of the franchise and has a lot to unpack and there are enough tidbits that I could probably write half a dozen posts exploring them.

Key among them are:

  • “We have more players now than we did in 2015 and our revenue has gone up.”
  • “I’m not allowed tell you exactly how many people have come through the game over the years, but it’s enough to sustain us.”
  • “So we just have an agreement in place that they [Project 1999] don’t launch stuff around the same time we do.”
  • “Our biggest customer service request is people asking what email they used for their EverQuest account 15 years ago, because they want to log back in and play with their old characters again.”
  • “Every three years we do a level increase, and we have changed the way some things work.”
  • A new expansion, The Burning Lands, was released in December last year, and another is on the way.
  • “But fundamentally, we don’t want to change the game. It’s like when we did the New Game Experience for Star Wars Galaxies and everyone quit.”

Those are all out of context, but not dramatically so.

Meanwhile, given the fact that every single time EverQuest opens up a progression server there are queues and problems and crashes until things settle down… and that was going on yesterday as Daybreak tried to get the Selo and Mangler servers off the ground… I agree that if they could attract a bunch of new players, there is no guarantee that their current servers could handle it.  I just don’t think there is any way they could attract those sorts of numbers.

We’ll see if Daybreak has better luck on day two, which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day as well.

I used Station Cash just to get this screen shot

Maybe a bit of luck will help them.

Quote of the Day – Possible Side Effects

Further, there can be no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective than prior to implementation of the plan…

Activision Blizzard – SEC Filing about the impact of laying off 8% of staff

Activision Blizzard caught more than a bit of heat last month when it announced record revenue and layoffs in the same investor call when going over its 2018 financial reports.

But, you know, Activision Blizzard is a publicly held business and so cannot rest on its laurels.  It has to set expectations for the next period, which it said would see a decrease in revenue.  To show they were addressing that up front they opted to give the axe to 8% of the company.  It was their fiduciary responsibility.

I do wonder how fiduciary responsibility plays out when CEO Bobby Kotick is asked to explain the $33 million in compensation he received last year.  Is he really worth the 100+ senior developers that kind of money could hire?  That number was enough to earn him the #2 spot on the Top 100 Most Overpayed CEOs list, which ranked CEOs on the financial performance of their company relative to their compensation.  He is ranked worse than Virginia Rometty, the latest charlatan trying to keep the corpse of IBM shambling down the road just long enough to cash in.  Not a good look.

Anyway, people got the axe because the company needed to trim sails for 2019.  It was required.

And then this past week came the SEC filing that covered the planned staff reduction, which said this about it:

In February 2019, we announced a restructuring plan under which we plan to refocus our resources on our largest opportunities and to remove unnecessary levels of complexity and duplication from certain parts of our business. While we believe this restructuring plan will enable us to provide better opportunities for talent, and greater expertise and scale on behalf of our business units, our ability to achieve the desired and anticipated benefits from the restructuring plan within our desired and expected time frame is subject to many estimates and assumptions, and the actual savings and timing for those savings may vary materially based on factors such as local labor regulations, negotiations with third parties, and operational requirements. These estimates and assumptions are also subject to significant economic, competitive and other uncertainties, some of which are beyond our control. Further, there can be no assurance that our business will be more efficient or effective than prior to implementation of the plan,or that additional restructuring plans will not be required or implemented in the future. The implementation of this restructuring plan may also be costly and disruptive to our business or have other negative consequences, such as attrition beyond our planned reduction in workforce or negative impacts one employee morale and productivity, or on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled employees. Any of these consequences could negatively impact our business.

Basically, this planned layoff might not change anything and could possibly make things worse.

Now, I know that in the litigious world in which we live a public company has to cover its ass lest their publicly announced plans not go as expected, leading to lawsuits.  It is pretty much the same way that drug companies have to list all possible side effects… and I love when “death” gets its own spot on those lists… so that they can later claim that they warned you that you might end up with eczema, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, or death.

But it still undermines the confidence shown on the call that laying off almost 800 people from the company was necessary to see it through 2019.  And it further exposes the assumption that a CEO like Bobby Kotick is paid so much because he knows what to do, that his expertise is somehow worth all that money.  The ATVI stock price, the all important absolute measurement of a company’s value for Wall Streets, seems to indicate that over the last he wasn’t all that.

Meanwhile, as a side note, buried in that filing, is a statement about the top franchises of Activision Blizzard:

For the year ended December 31, 2018, our top three franchises—Call of Duty, Candy Crush, and World of Warcraft—collectively accounted for 58% of our net revenues.

So if you’ve been gloomy about WoW, or worried that something else might be taking over the main focus at Blizzard, you can feel a bit better.  If you’re an Overwatch fan though… well… Overwatch made the “top franchise” cut in 2016 and 2017, but appears to have fallen below the line for 2018.  The line is apparently set at the 10% or more of total revenues mark.

Quote of the Day – But Can You Do It Like This?

No one is attempting to do what we are doing, in the manner we are doing it, nor being as open about as we are.

Chris Roberts, October Letter from the Chairman

As reported over at Massively OP, Star Citizen having crossed the $200 million mark for crowd funding go a message from Chris Roberts about reaching that milestone.

In his post he warns people not to reduce his project down to just that $200 million number, though that is the attention getting headline for most news sites.

He spends some time going on about the current state of alpha and the upcoming sixth anniversary event of the end of the original Kickstarter campaign (and the fourth anniversary of failing to meet the project deadline set by that Kickstarter I suppose) before getting into thanking everybody for believing in him and his project.

But the paragraph that stands out the most for me is the one that ends with the quote above.  Something about it does not ring true to me.

Is how you build a video game so important that you want to call it out?

I mean, I suppose there are extremes to compare it against.  Mark Pincus has told the tale of all he did to promote FarmVille, a game idea which, among other things, he pretty much stole from another developer.  So I guess saying you’re not as shitty as that is good, though if you’re selling inaccessible real estate and pictures of ship models people might be able to fly at some future date for a game that is in alpha, you are not exactly going to come of as a paragon of virtue, no matter how pure your intentions.

But I don’t think that is what he meant.

I think he was more about how they’re doing this whole project in front of a live audience, sharing details, promised, setbacks, and the reality of software development.  I guess that is something to brag about, though so is writing a novel while on a unicycle or while sitting at a desk while it is on fire.  That you can complete the task is interesting, but you have to ask if it was a method that yielded the best possible output.

People are impatient, the world is changing around you, and most of the audience has no idea how programming remains much more art than science these days.  Sometimes it is better to go off and work on something for a long stretch, then come back when you have some sort of solid foundation.

As for nobody being as open, I think Mark Jacobs and the Camelot Unchained team might have some words on that.