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Memoirs - Part Thirteen: Disclosure

Virtual Realities: Memoirs of an internet spaceship politician
by Sugar Kyle CSM9, CSMX

Wasn't one player scandel enough for the year?

It was Corbexx who caught the first murmurs and brought them to CCP's attention. It was a good catch on his part. There is often the assumption that CCP sees everything that catches players attention. They do but it has to be remembered that they are at work doing their duties. While browsing Eve media was a common habit, it was not what they did all day. He told me and then he mentioned it in our shared room with the community team. 

When I heard it what ran through my mind was, "Why?" Why did this have to happen? Why did I have to deal with it? Somewhere, why was closely followed by, "How?" There was a part of my mind that wailed. What was I supposed to do with this situation? That was followed by another why. Summer wasn't even over!

Over the years I have abstained from entering into some of the larger topics that have crossed the threshold of the Eve community. I've avoided rants and rages in my writing. I allow CCP to do their job when it comes to enforcing their game rules. Being a very boring and rule abiding person, I did not find myself tripping over exploits. It seemed easy to me not to do so but I was not an envelope pusher. But this envelope had been ripped wide open and what made it worse is that it should have been solved the previous year. Not only did we have a problem, it was an inherited one.


It came down to money.

It is easy for the player to forget that CCP is a company. The face of CCP that interacts with the player is the community team and some development staff. There are some administrative types that peek in and hang out but there is a large part of the company that we never talk to. That in itself is somewhat of a problem but that is discussed elsewhere. In this situation SOMER had managed to communicate with the Vice President of Global Sales and get a rough approval of the venture. It sounds legitimate if one ignores that it was not approved through any level of game development and that needed to be done because the Vice President of Global Sales, while a wonderful person, was not Eve savvy.

It was both impressive and distasteful that the manipulations of the game traveled over into the regular world. In a brilliant move, SOMERblink courted someone that was interested in making sure CCP made money while side stepping the people who would vet the process. They may have thought they'd get away with it for only a short but profitable period of time. 

The leap of faith left a secondary suspicion. Was SOMER going to cash out of Eve? Remember, Real Money Trading is a very real market. The CSM voiced its suspicions and CCP looked at SOMER's potential market value.

That is where things got frightening. SOMERblink's founder and CEO was by far the richest player in the game by an enormous margin. If they cashed out, even at incredibly low rates, they could potentially make hundreds of thousands of dollars and perhaps quite a bit more. Suddenly, theories did not seem as wild. SOMER's accounts were all frozen for the investigation.

This is when SOMER made their technical error.

With SOMER's announcement that CCP had approved their credit scheme some players decided to get in on the gig. They started to post their accounts and characters up for sale by credits. They emulated SOMER's scheme in the most ridiculous and ludicrous but technically approved methods that they could to show how foolish the situation was.

With the uproar came a simple revelation. I had to make my stance and opinion public. It was expected of me. People came to me and asked me about it. I got mails wanting to know what I was doing about hte problem. There was no quiet, unstated opinion. I had not run for the CSM to handle this type of problem but this type of problem and the way it upset the public was now part of my job. I couldn't back away and tell people that I was just here to work on game mechanics and CCP's communication with them. Or, I could have but it would have disappointed the people that came to me. They had elected me for my values. They expected me to act upon what upset them. It was an unsettling thing and I found myself horribly uncomfortable under the pressure of it. There would be no answer that made everyone happy.

How uncomfortable. Having an opinion was not a problem. It was how I had it. Our game focused social media was a popular outlet for many members who went to twitter with firm public opinions. I couldn't dither. I wanted to dither. Anything to stop the inevitable step into the public view. But, waiting was bad. I had to act fast and be decisive. 

I was comfortable with my opinion. It was the sharing of my opinion that rattled me. The situation could not be ignored. That path was closed to me. That left taking charge of my opinion. There would be no fire and brimstone from me. I'd not snap my keyboard in a rage of typing nor would I use flashy editorials. I would state my opinion, answer the questions that I could, and tell people that I was one that was interacting with CCP about the situation.  

My opinion was that it was RMT and needed to be stopped. I did not want anyone to think that I approved of it. I sweated over my simple statement. It was one of the first time I had stood up and said something of weight with my title. I wrote a midweek piece about it. The rising tide of anger and commentary made me feel that a weekend piece would not handle the subject. Instead, I let people know what I was fighting for and that we were in communication with CCP and having meetings.

How much could I say? That was always the question. What was allowed and what was not. I had to trust myself with that one. To say nothing was an unkindness that the players did not deserve. They had a right, in my opinion, to know who I was having meetings with. That would let them know that we were being taken seriously in the discussion. I also let people know how many meeting we had. It gave me a chance to give the CSM credit for getting up in the middle of the night. We disregarded timezones and convince to tackle the problem and figure out a resolution.

While the player base was beating the loophole the CSM and the community manager sat down and had meetings. We not only had our internal channels to discuss the topic but we scheduled quick and dirty meetings to talk about what was going on. Our liaison and the community manager looked as if someone had rung them out and left them battered and exhausted at the table.

Figuring out what had happened was the sticky part. There was marketing was involved. They had been in discussion with SOMER as an affiliate to the company and had given a head nod to a program they had proposed to improve revenue. We asked if we could meet with the marketing person to hear what they had been told and to share with them what we believed had happened.

An unprecedented suggestion. "They are a bit nervous," we were told.

"Of us?" Was asked. Why we were scary? Sion pointed out that there were lightning bolts and thunder booming from the general direction of the Eve community. I looked back over my shoulder and nodded. I could understand the hesitation. Still, we had manage to wade into the topic and gain some ownership of it. We did get our meeting and it went really, really well. 

One of the most interesting parts of the CSM was interfacing with aspects of CCP that we never got to see. We were speaking with a major force in marketing. A new part of the company unfolded and in a way things became less personal. It was business and the game had gotten mixed up in it. It was cleverly done, but SOMER, in their attempt to cover themselves broke one rule. They shared in public communication between themselves and CCP. That is against the EULA. It is a somewhat silly rule where a player is not supposed to share direct correspondence. Technically, a Game Master's response to a question is covered by this and we are to protect our communications with our accounts activity.

CCP didn’t make the decision lightly. There were a lot of meetings. The community team did not sleep. We woke up in the middle of the night for some meetings. We talked, met, talked again, rehashed things, read statements, commented, responded, and gave feedback. We had some half a dozen meetings in a few days. The decision was made, SOMER was banned, and instead of a long drawn out process it was done.

We did not make the decisions but we did give the first layer of feedback.  And in that feedback we asked CCP to do something they did not normally do. CP was asked to tell players that SOMER had been banned.

CCP's policy is to not discuss bans. It creates a low level angry murmur when this happens. Because CCP keeps their mouths closed, the person banned has control of information. Often they deny and deny and deny what happened. CCP remains silent and depending on how convincing the person is, they create a reasonable amount of anger and resentment over CCP's unreasonable behavior.

The community perception is important. It is more important then it is given credit to be. Player's become angry and that anger turns into a constant burn. That burn eventually erupts, often over something unattached. Because of the light weighed handling of SOMER the year before, I believed that CCP needed to tell the players that SOMER was banned and that this saga was over. That it was not going to be another situation where SOMER was told 'no' gently and then given a reward. That was how the handling of the previous year was looked upon by public perception.

Every grumble and angry snarl was bad for the player and CCP relationship. My belief was that I was there to improve that relationship. That means CCP had to stop sitting back on old policy out of habit and really look at the situation before them. The situation was that they had lost a tremendous amount of player trust and if they simply banned and remained silence the rumor mill would have control and the rumor mill knew nothing about truth or the actual circumstances.

We spent days in this battle. The community manage waged war. We helped to write and rewrite the terms. We proofed, argued, wrote responses, and had meetings. We had a few days where we had two or three as the community manager went back and forth and we all pushed for a reasonable amount of disclosure.

In the end we won. CCP made a statement to the player base that SOMER was banned to the shock of the players.

"How dare CCP discuss the ban!" was one of the early responses. If it would have been productive to bash my head against my desk I would have. It made such sense to me. I felt incredible about the work put into releasing information to the player base. And people wanted to argue for the sake of argument. The work and effort that had gone into that ban being shared had left me exhausted. But I had forgotten the rule of internet lawyering. Where there was something to contest, someone would contest it. Opening the door and laying out the situation and being utterly transparent upset some people.

How dare CCP share that someone was banned. It was against their policy. For fucks sake, people. Really. 

There was some skepticism. Some people believe the worst in the company every single time. Nothing they did was right. Nothing they created was good. Nothing they communicated was believable. I wondered why some of those players stayed around the game. They seemed to get nothing but anger from it but that anger seemed to be what they came to the game for. I guess we all play our game of Eve.

Previous: Part Twelve
Next: Part Fourteen


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