The revelation that CCP Games‘ community team has been providing rare gifts of significant in-game value as a way of rewarding selected community contributors has incited strong but divided opinion amongst EVE Online‘s most vociferous players.
According to TheMittani.com, limited edition Ishukone Scorpion battleships were secretly gifted to members of third-party gambling site SOMERblink, pouring salt on to wounds caused by the recent controversial provision of valuable and historic prize ships to the same player-run organisation.
CCP have been silent on the issue for over a week, which is unsurprising – they have manoeuvred themselves into a corner. They’ve left themselves with a difficult choice of either finding a way to tell some heavily invested customers that player control of the sandbox is a fragile illusion, or they must swiftly enact a wholesale revision of their gift-giving policy in order to promote increased transparency (which might, sadly, require a degree of CCP withdrawal from the community).
Concerns from many quarters are varied, but the central issue is one of interference. The attentions received from CCP by SOMERblink are perceived as unprecedented favouritism toward a single player-run entity. Members of the player representative body, the Council of Stellar Management, have spoken out with a spectrum of opinion, as have many leading community members.
However, player concerns that the provision of gifts is a new policy seem to be unfounded. CCP have a consistent history of providing in-game items on a case-by-case basis. In a Reddit discussion of GameSkinny’s previous coverage of the issue, SOMERblink employee Andrev_Nox detailed previous occurrences of CCP supporting SOMERblink and other organisations by providing rare or desirable gifts, quoted verbatim:
- CCP sent 4 Ishukone Scorpions to winners in our [SOMERblink’s] 1Q event, yep 🙂 … To further expand on GhostRider’s “Why is everyone complaining this time?” post – just off the top of my head:) … We were also provided a $50 eve store gift card about two years ago for our 50T celebration
- BIG [Lottery] has been provided with Ishukone Scorpions to lotto off and several of the special-edition “christmas” frig hulls that hadn’t been released yet at that time. And long before that, with the Impoc.
- Eve Radio has been provided with piles and piles of models and autographed eve swag to auction. [EVE Radio DJ Funky Bacon has since stated this to be false.]
- SCL [Syndicate Competitive League] was provided with the tourney software overlay.
- I -believe- SCL was also provided with Ishukone Scorpions, but I admit I’m not sure if that was an official announcement or just a forum rumor.
- FOTR3 was provided with an incursion to make it impossible to hotdrop his event.
- The fiction contest guy [Pod & Planet] was provided with a graphics card to use as a prize.
- An Opus Yacht was given to a couple who got engaged at Fanfest.
- And so on.
- CCP has been rewarding community organizations since nearly the beginning of Eve (BIG was given the Impoc for their 1 year anniversary celebration in 2005).
– Andrev_Nox, SOMERblink employee (Reddit comment, 30th Sep 2013)
I sought confirmation from CCP that Andrev_Nox’s claims were true. CCP Manifest responded as follows:
“From CCP Navigator, who was kind enough to do some fact checking for us: Everything listed is completely correct. Different fansites have received different things, most time on request. The only thing missing is that BIG Lottery also received a Guardian Vexor to giveaway along with an Imperial Apoc.The only thing missing is that BIG Lottery also received a Guardian Vexor to giveaway along with an Imperial Apoc.
“I don’t know if this is a comprehensive list of fansite stuff, and assume it isn’t, but at least for this list it’s spot on. Andrev Nox is a thorough person :).”
In addition to Andrev Nox’s list, over the decade of EVE Online‘s operation, there have been numerous other incidents in which CCP has engaged specific segments of the EVE community in some manner, including, but not limited to:
- In December 2011, the Arek’Jalaan roleplaying event saw key player contributions immortalised as in-game items and an entire site (Site One: Antiquus) named after the single player who contributed the most.
- Numerous fansite maintainers, bloggers, journalists, third-party app providers and CSM members are granted free EVE accounts in recognition of their contributions to the EVE community.
- When I coordinated the EVE blogging community Blog Banter initiative from 2011 to 2013, I made arrangements with CCP for 1 PLEX to be awarded to the summariser of the monthly multi-blog discussion topics. These arrangements still stand.
- In-game “dev roams” in loot-laden ships favour those who can get to specific areas of the game world at specific times with enough organisation and firepower to overcome the CCP fleet (blogger Rhavas jokingly claimed each roam was basically a “gift” to Pandemic Legion, who are renowned for their supercapital “hotdrops.”)
Taking all these events into consideration, it is easy to see why CCP Games might be somewhat confused as to the strength of the player reaction to the current arrangement with SOMERblink. A case could be argued that advantage has been given or favouritism shown in many of these circumstances, but previously without opposition.
Many Questions, Any Answers?
Certainly, for all the outcry, the voices of the playerbase are anything but unanimous and there are valid points on both sides. Exactly how can an amorphous and evolving concept like EVE Online be successfully managed when so many agendas conflict? A solution is not readily apparent, but what is certain is that CCP finds itself once again at loggerheads with portions of its community.
Has CCP Games been slowly sliding down a slippery slope toward murky player collusion despite best intentions of the post-T20 era? Is the true sandbox nature of New Eden at risk? Or are EVE players over-invested in the game and spoiled by the unique relationship they have with its developers?
These are the questions I try to answer in Part 2, but I would be interested to hear your take on the affair, because there are certainly no simple answers to be found.