Lessons in Trust

2015-11-10

There is a crossroads between the two highest profile news items talked about last week; The CSM Manny removal, and the Kickstarter Campaign for a “Fountain War” book. When the metasphere should have been dominated by the Amarr Champion Trials, all eyes were focused on CCP’s kicking Manny, while The Mittani Media scrambled to revise their kickstarter program, sending the prospective book’s author to help with damage control via an AMA on Reddit.

Anger is a bright torch and the mobs are marching with a fire reflected in their eyes over unfairness and bias. There are calls for the CSM to be abolished and the shunning of the kickstarter by some sectors. This reminds me of one of my favorite films (play) “A Man for All Seasons”. Where the analogy is made if a law was a tree and you cut down the forest to get at the devil, what protection would you have when the last law was down and the devil turned on you?

In the first case the trees are CCP, and the devil is a former dev, as Goonswarm cuts down everything in its path to get him and, by extension, Band of Brothers, whom he helped. But when CCP’s impartial reputation is cut down, and the “winds of doubt” come for Goonswarm over this kickstarter, CCP is not able to support them as an impartial voice to the community.

Example #1: Goonswarm vs CCP

Long ago in 2006-2007, The Mittani credited Kugutsumen (hacker) for uncovering what became the T20 scandal, wherein a CCP employee named CCP T20 gifted Reikoku Corp T2 BPOs. This played into the narrative that Band of Brothers Alliance were unbeatable because they were the devs’ alliance, to the detriment of groups like Goonswarm and everyone else. CCP tried to handle it quietly but that was unsatisfactory to the offended Goonswarm. Under public pressure, Hilmar, CEO of CCP released a blog:

“It is no trivial thing when corruption takes place. In our case it’s no different than the injustice of public servants in the real world feathering their own nests rather than ensuring the prosperity of the many. “ – Hilmar The Commitment,  2007 dev blog

Hilmar was right, it is no small thing. “Fairness and Cheating” are the second most common value in the world, behind “Care and Harm” in Moral Foundations Theory.

With that CCP started an internal affairs department and formed the CSM in a more permanent role as a conduit to players. Before that there were informal groups that preceded it. But this did not satisfy the Goonswarm from Something Awful forums, who insisted there were a number of other violations Devs made on behalf of Band of Brothers, whom they now dubbed “Band of Developers.” Something The Mittani, CEO of Goonswarm, believes to this day.

Goonswarm went to work on CCP of the Memorial Day weekend of 2007, blasting thousands of anti CCP messages on various websites, “all referencing unfounded allegations — now proven to be false.”

“The volume and timing of these near-simultaneous references is no coincidence: we were the target of a carefully constructed and well-timed social engineering effort by one of the largest player groups in our community. The intention? To undermine EVE Online and the credibility of CCP Games.” – IA Investigation Update, 2007 dev blog

CCP was looking at Goonswarm for this.  Clearly CCP made mistakes, but the truth about the whole T20 and beyond mess was probably less terrible than imagined.

“The truth is: CCP hasn’t done a very good job of disengaging themselves from their original community, hasn’t done enough to promote professionalism in their employees, and there’s an overall failure to draw a bright line between playing the game and working on the game.  But that there’s a systematic conspiracy within CCP to make BoB “win”? The fact is, it’s not true, and the goon leadership *knows* it’s not true.  But it’s useful propaganda in the short run” – MahrinSkel, F13.Net

In the following years, The Mittani (as CSM Chairman) and Goonswarm were highly visible during the summer of rage, monocle-gate, the “Greed is Good” memo, Incarna, and other player uprisings that damaged CCP’s reputation with its players. Goonswarm fighting for its life against not only BoB, but CCP itself, fits nicely into the underdog narrative used to motivate players. The cost of that strategy to be calculated later.

Example #2: The CSM

On a second level, the CSM are the trees that are cut down by players to get to devil, Manny and anyone using privileged info as an advantage. But to cut down the CSM is to hurt the people’s own representation.

After the T20 battle between Goonswarm and CCP the CSM was formally chartered to restore confidence, and open communication and build trust between CCP and players. Many rejected the CSM as lip service from CCP, denouncing it as useless. Over the years its role and influence have changed to the very involved CSM we have today.

But that goodwill gesture from CCP also suffered breaches of trust. Several CSM were removed for breaking the NDA: Ankhesentapemkah for leaking information to another gaming company, Larkonis Trassler for making ISK off the markets, and Darius III was admonished for leaking and ridiculing the CSM itself. Now, Manfred Sideous has become the highest profile removal to date for an NDA breach.

Ironically, the mechanism to rebuild trust with CCP after the T20 scandal is itself embroiled in scandal. The CSM can only defend itself by purging players that break trust, but it is easy for players to blame the institution instead. This is why players often call for it to be abolished, ignoring the future consequences of not having direct representation.

Example # 3: The Fountain War kickstarter

On a third level, the trees are CCP Partnerships, that will be cut down by players to get the devil, The Mittani, even if it damages the CCP’s willingness to partner with the community. If that forest is cut down to get at The Mittani, then the dream of having a shelf full of EVE Stories, written by good authors, may vanish.

Now Goonswarm has grown up and The Mittani has taken the vast amounts of talent around him and built a gaming site for players like them. Sure Goonswarm and TMC are separate entities with separate goals, but spring from the same well. There is a healthy amount of skepticism from players and CCP themselves about the biased nature of The Mittani.com, but what is undeniable is they are in the best position to partner with CCP, especially with an undertaking like the Fountain War book. TMC has the contacts and the support.

So now, non-Imperium players that are part of the greater EVE community are being asked to trust TMC to produce an unbiased book that can be enjoyed by all. That’s a tall order considering the Fountain War was won by the Imperium (CFC at the time), and it was a come from behind win since Goonswarm were relatively weak at the beginning of it. The writing sample by the capable author depicts Goonswarm burning, of all people, Manfred Sideous’s titan spy alt. The “sales program” of incentives is tilted towards Imperium rewards. The overall strategy feels exclusive to Imperium.

Enter CCP, the endorsement needed to make a book a possible. Yet their legitimacy as an impartial judge of the content is damaged since they, as a company, were accused of showing favoritism before. The hammering they took over the “Greed is Good” memo didn’t help. So all the trees cut out from under CCP over the years by Goonswarm especially, limits CCP’s protection now that the crowd takes aim at TMC’s book.

Strategic mistakes were made, but The Mittani Media is making adjustments. It’s a learning process when it is the first of its type.

Those withholding support for the Fountain War book just to see the Mittani fail are creating more of what came before. To avoid the mistakes of the past, they should see this kickstarter for what it actually is: A chance for CCP to partner and produce fiction from real EVE stories. Leave those trees up so when they want to cover the Halloween war, the fall of the true Northern Coalition, the betrayal of Band of Brothers, those projects can be kickstarted too.

Conclusion

Individuals that break the public trust hurt the institutions they work for, so it is up to everyone else to see it for what it is, and keep the remedy proportional. When we hyper focus on individual failures (T20, Manny) but blame the whole institution (CCP, CSM) instead, we are cutting down the institutions to catch the devil… And when the last institution was down and the devil turned round on you? Where would you hide, with all the institutions being flat? Do you really think you could stand in the winds that would blow then?

I pledged.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Matterall.

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