CZ Minutes: Who Let the Devs Out?

When CCP Rise and CCP Fozzie guested episode 50 of the best ever podcast in EVE Online history (CCP certified*), Xander brought up the involvement of devs in the game. As things stand now CCP devs that want to be part of life on Tranquility have to do so anonymously (although CCP Falcon set about a very public project where he would start EVE from scratch). This means that some of the more well known devs are virtually cut off from large swathes of gameplay, especially involving fleets or anything else that requires comms. The argument for this anonymity is that the presence of a dev would influence how people behave in the game. It could however be argued that fresh, hands-on experience with the current state of EVE, especially when it comes to fleet PVP, far outweighs any such concerns. Not to mention that they’re missing out on the fun! To what extent do you think CCP devs should involve themselves with Tranquility as players? What do you feel are the benefits and drawbacks of such involvement or lack thereof?
*certification may not be authentic.
Mynxee: I imagine a lot of devs play; the question is, at what level? If they don’t go deep in the game, it’s understandable. After all, how reasonable is it to expect someone who’s just spent an entire workday on a game to have enough energy and enthusiasm left for it afterwards to want to play? No matter how fun, there would still be a bit of feeling like you are doing job-related stuff on your own time. And yet, to understand the game IN PRACTICE, devs do need to play it at all levels of involvement. More importantly, their combined experiences need to be shared and compared if those experiences are to provide meaningful input to game design and other development decisions. Maybe CCP encourages devs to play and permits it during work hours. It seems important enough that it should be required as part of their jobs and the time allotted for actually playing factored into development schedules appropriately. I don’t think it should be apparent to players that characters belong to a dev. They would have to play anonymously to get a true picture of how things work. Dunk Dinkle:  Having Dev Team members play with regular Eve players is mainly helpful in two areas: understanding confusion and hearing frustration.  Eve is a difficult game to learn, impossible to master.  By seeing and hearing how regular Eve players discuss topics should be invaluable to learning where players are confused with the game.  The more formal subset of player communication, forums & other places on the internet only represent a small minority of the most outspoken players.  The vast majority of players will never post on the forums, but they will grumble in chat and comms about their issues. Hearing this directly from players that are not normally heard from by the Dev Team should be extremely helpful in making future decisions.  Concepts like ship balancing are well represented in discussions with the Dev Team, but simpler concepts that are painful to newer players like using auto-pilot, buying & selling on the market, module meta levels, how to make ISK, etc. are all things that come up repeatedly with newer players.  Hearing this first hand will help make better decisions in the future. The drawback of the Dev Team participating is the risk of them ‘going native’ and falling into the mindset of the group they are flying with regularly.  If you fly with a group that loves bomber fleets, you will tend to think that these ships are great and not overpowered.  Or if you fly with a group that heavily uses drone bunnies, you will a different perspective on how drone mechanics should work.  But as professionals, most of the Dev Team should be able to avoid this trap. Within Brave, we know that Dev Team members have pilots in our corp and fly with us on occasion, but we have never learned who or when.  It’s a good thing to know this, but hopefully the Devs fly with other large groups as well to get different perspectives.

1202325632_1024 Kil2 (CCP Rise)

Georgik Sojik: Ah, the t20 question.  Now that’s something I’ve not seen for at least a few months.  The main issue with CCP allowing devs to play openly, is a matter of perception from the player base.  For those of you who don’t remember, or didn’t pay attention in the late 2006/ early 2007 time period, there was a bit of an issue with CCP Devs playing with, and supporting, Band of Brothers.  All of this “cheating” which resulting in the distribution of unobtainable T2 BPOs and ultimately the firing of CCP t20, is what started the CSM in the first place.  It wasn’t that CCP Devs couldn’t play their game, in fact, Heilmar has always played EVE from the beginning, and in 2007 stated thatThe developers of this company will always play the games that they build here. Without being fully immersed in the player experience, perspective, and community, it is impossible to build, maintain, and expand online worlds with any degree of competency. And while that does expose us to some degree of risk, the rewards are incalculably higher. “ However, what really destroyed the game, was everyone knew that BoB had devs, and no one else did.  CCP Devs were openly offering jobs to players in BoB.  Was it malicious? No, that’s just how networking works.  Band of Brothers for the longest time, especially after the t20 scandal broke, was known as Band of Devs, and the amount of tinfoil-hattery that came out of the knowledge that “Over a million devs were in BoB” made everyone hate them all the more, and skewed the balance. There are a finite number of devs and GMs. And naturally there are only a few Alliances that would attract devs, naming CFC/PL/NC.  Sure, some might end up in BNI/TEST and some of the russian speaking ones might end up in one of the RUS blocs, but there will always be the draw of CCP into those three core groups, because, well, that’s where most of them came from.  You’d end up with something very, very similar to the CSM controversies, where blocs of power not only have CSM access, and voting rights, but also the knowledge and leverage of whatever tiny, insignificant bit of information that was gleaned directly from the devs. Even if ZERO information was obtained, the community at large, who does not have direct access to said devs, or CSM, will call foul.  CCP/the Alliance in question, will naturally deny any wrongdoing because NOTHING occurred, but every time that alliance/coalition wins it will be automatically attributed to Dev-Haxs.  The game ultimately will suffer from the perception of cheating, even if no proof can be had.  As an example, Imagine a known CCP Dev flying in the Alliance Tournament, and that group winning.  The level of Mad would be impossible to contain. The anonymity of CCP Devs playing EVE is a very real and needed thing, without it the illusion of balance and fairness would irreparably be harmed. 1 Bagehi: I think the reaction of the t20 scandal went beyond reasonable into over reaction, not to belittle a pretty terrible case of dev misconduct.  It seems like a disconnect has developed between the devs and the game, considering comments about some not even playing the game.  Especially when it comes to large scale combat in null sec.  I think a lot of this has to do with a general lack of developers experiencing recent null sec wars. While I really can’t fault the excellent work of Fozzie and Rise on rebalancing the ships, I think a large part of that has to do with the excellent communication lines they have developed with the community.  However, that communication has been more of an exception that a rule.  Devs could work from first hand experience with the game they are working on and they could use the community as a sounding board and hope the voices they are bombarded with are a good sample of the player base.  I’d prefer a combination of the two. However, I can see a downside.  Between all the community videos CCP does, the strong reliance on comms in Eve, the incredible collection of extremely tech savy players, and the extraordinary power of meta gaming in Eve, I strongly believe developers would be identified then outed at strategically useful times to impact the course of wars.  For propaganda purposes or sabotage, I really don’t want wars to be influenced because of behavior like that. So, with a lot of the social interaction in-game being a potential liability for developers and their corp/alliance, I think what we have is probably close to as good as it gets.  Dev fleets seem to be the answer, in my mind (and obviously the mind of someone who makes decisions at CCP).  I like the dev fleets.  I think those have a very positive impact on the game (both having developers play the fleet warfare component as well as build bonds with the community).  I think there could be a lot more of those, at least once a month.  It should be a regular thing.  Not mandatory, mind you, but there for developers to experiment with and experience what goes on in the game they are developing.

102216341_1024Raivi (CCP Fozzie)

Cilvius: This is a delicate subject in my opinion due to the past actions of t20. I agree with quite a bit of what has already been said about not wanting metagaming dev identities to influence wars but I also feel that devs should be able to play the game in the way they want to. CCP Rise and CCP Fozzie were hired at CCP because they showed extensive knowledge of the game through the things they both in and out of game. It’s kind of a bummer to reward them by putting them into a situation in which they can now only play the game under very limited circumstances. However, knowing the playerbase of EVE I have no doubt that players would try to take advantage of this either through attempting to get favors from devs or trying to make claims that other players received favors from devs. It’s a sticky situation. A part of me would love to catch CCP Rise while he is exploring a w-space system connected to my home wormhole, or see CCP Fozzie moving about in low or null in a fleet. Seeing stuff like this without it having to be a pre-announced “dev fleet” would be fun and would help show the players the commitment that the developers have to the game. I don’t know much about the exact policy on this at CCP but I will venture a guess that it is very strict due to the nature of the t20 incident. I hope that CCP can dial things down a bit so developers can experience more of the game the way the players do, but I worry that the current system might be as good as it gets. Tarek: I do think that devs should play the game, but I also think they should stay away from any player organisations with an established structure. NPSI is fine, maybe a small dev crew settling a wormhole with only their own people, or roaming from an NPC null staging system, but as soon as metagame becomes involved things may become problematic. I’m not even going to say that there is the danger of T20 style favoritism, but EVE player communities can have a very strong bonding element and develop a considerable amount of tunnel vision, and through simple psychology a dev may then identify with one group more than another. Dunk called it “going native” and that is a real potential issue. Sure, it may be fine for a dev to spawn a carrier and participate in a major fight, or use a jumpfreighter for some time to fuel POSes, but they should not ever be engaged with in a fixed role within an existing group. Not only does that hold the problem I pointed at, but it is in my opinion also not beneficial for a developer to focus too much on a particular style of play. They should be generalists, not specialists. They need to understand the implications of their actions on many levels, and spending too much time in specific roles and flying tailor-made doctrines is not conducive to that goal. If they could simply do some moonlighting within the ranks of one organisation or the other for a week or two, they can learn a lot and even openly state who they are, but their participation must be short enough to be of little consequence. Even better if they just assume the role of someone who already fulfils a certain task within the corporation or alliance. The main goal should be to maximise the insight a dev can gain and minimize their impact on the day-to-day affairs of players. These days, I would say devs can make the most contribution if they hang around newbie groups and play the game at the very bottom level. All that exalted gameplay of experts, super powerful and super rich veteran players is not indicative of the majority gaming experience people have in EVE, and most importantly, those people are not the ones CCP needs to worry about when it comes to retention. Members of already successful established groups will always find their way. What CCP needs to focus on are the people who join today and leave in frustration four weeks later. Niden: With so much having been said, I’ll close with: bringing back Briging Solo Back? +1  
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12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.