Xenuria’s NDA Expiration and AMA

2022-04-29

Header Art by Major Sniper

Recently, CCP have had a rough ride when it comes to the press. This week is promising to have much of the same in store for CCP and their communication team.

Monday (April 25) started out as a pretty normal day for me. I even asked my editors if there was any possibility that real metrics existed to support or refute the idea that skins were not enough to finance EVE by themselves. I was soundly laughed at, since it is widely understood that sales and engagement metrics are not a thing at CCP, never mind them being publishable metrics. Thanks, CCP.

So it was, at least to me, divine providence when Xenuria’s reddit post spoke directly to that from the perspective of CSM 11.

Please do go read the original post. It is very detailed and covers many topics.

TLDR: Summary

I do want to clarify that Xenuria is considered a controversial figure by many EVE players. Additionally, keep in mind that these observations are entirely from Xenuria’s impressions and point of view.

This discussion is going to be nuanced. The words really are specifically chosen by Xenuria and by CCP_Swift in his reply, and most player interaction too. Pay very close attention to the words used, questions asked, and questions answered. They matter.

I intend to focus on several of the topics I felt were most interesting. They are by no means all of the topics covered through the thread, which has more than 1100 comments at the time I am writing it. Please do read them all. Some of them are gold.

Topic 1: What do the logs say?

First, I want to examine the metrics and records issue. A question of the disappearance of a laptop containing a large stash of information and details about the previous 10 CSM seasons is a huge issue?

CCP has disappeared documents, video and other files related to the CSM when their contents were seen as objectionable to CCP. The intention being to prevent incoming CSMs from having a full picture of the kind of interactions they would have and giving CCP an advantage both socially and logistically over anybody who didn’t already know how this company operates. There’s lots of gaslighting and manipulation involved, CCP is staffed by intelligent people who are very adept at using every possible stratagem to avoid reprisal. Their public image and the way they are seen by the public is paramount. This is why a laptop with over 60-80GB of data related to the CSM went “missing” during my term. If it’s not in minutes or a dev blog or on confluence then it is probably on this mysterious laptop. When asking for something that you should have, even something as simple as logs of a conversation during a previous summit you were a part of you will get the “I need to check with legal” response that the previous CSM coordinators were famous for.

Xenuria’s point of view.

There is a substantial amount of information from CSM 10 that was available to all incoming members of CSM 11. There are over 200 pages of notes from CSM 10. Further, the CSM also self-organize and maintain an internal Discord server with notes. They have been doing this (at least) since CSM 6 (though back then it was Skype)

CCP_Swift’s Reply

My take-away is twofold. First, Xenuria has made a specific allegation. There is a missing laptop with detailed notes, logs, and other CSM information that, in his role of CSM11, Xenuria wanted to see. Swift’s answer does not address this missing laptop. Instead, making reference to a set of notes from CSM10, Swift then posted links to meeting notes from CSM11_pt1 and CSM11_pt2. CCP Swift made clear that these notes are redacted, though from skimming them quickly I didn’t see any redaction.

CCP_Swift answers the question of, “There are no CSM records.” However, that is not what Xenuria was saying in this quotation. The allegation is that CCP has deliberately made information hard to find or (allegedly) vanish all together. Xenuria then ascribes bad motive for those allegations.

Topic 2: What do the metrics say?

CCP’s internal metrics for the sale of ingame items and external packs/bundles is broken and has been for years. It started with me trying to convince CCP that skins and vanity items were desired by players and resulted in an argument on why neon pink and other vibrant skins wouldn’t fit with the “art style” of a “grim dark cyberpunk dystopia”. CCP was against selling these types of flashy vanity items and were not really keen on skins in general, they showed the CSM during a summit this elaborate system. A system for tracking every item sold, exchanged, moved, etc by players ever. While CCP was using this tool to show me how poorly the Rosada Dawn skin sold, another CSM member noticed something. Aryth asked CCP to show some different ships and ship types in this backend data and quickly pointed out that the math didn’t add up and something must be wrong with the tool. CCP reassured us that the tool they use to track both ingame and out of game purchases works just fine. Aryth asked them to show JFs and Shuttles and it was at this point CCP conceded that maybe the tool was not 100% accurate.

Xenuria

This is just categorically false. I was able to track down a meeting from the CSM 11 Summit where there was a chart missing a ship, but it was later added. The ship in question was an Ark, not listed on a graph of ganked Freighters and Jump Freighters. This graph was not used to inform design decisions, simply to answer a request by the CSM.

CCP_Swift

Please note, that in CCP_Swift’s post, he ties his replies to specific parts of the narative. I have highlighted the specific part that Swift was addressing with his reply. However, I have included the entire paragraph from Xenuria since it adds important context.

In simple terms, Xenuria says that CCP has a tool for the analysis of specific sales of both in-game and NES/Plex items. Xenuria then alleges that CCP in a meeting showed specific information using the tool on a specific skin. The CSM then requested other information from the tool and showed the presenter information that undermines the accuracy of the tool.

CCP_Swift’s rebuttal focuses on a specific meeting note, and suggests that the error was limited to one specific ship in one specific category of interaction being missing. This does not refute the question of the skin sold. This underlines that the conversation did take place and there was an error that had missing information. In auditing circles, this string would be an easy string to pull and find much more to review. Not “oh its a one off with nothing else to see”.

Topic 3: So what about that skin?

I am going to focus down a little bit more in this, since I really wanted to be writing about skins.

CCP was against selling these types of flashy vanity items and were not really keen on skins in general… and resulted in an argument on why neon pink and other vibrant skins wouldn’t fit with the “art style”

Xenuria

There have been a glut of vibrant (including pink and purple) color palettes used from new SKINs to actual in-space scenes. It’s possible that this conversation was held outside of a Summit on Hipchat – but it was also not in any meeting notes.

CCP_Swift

So now I have a couple of confusion points. In the first part of the comments, Swift suggested that the notes should contain plenty of information to bring a CSM team up to speed. However, in the case of players begging to throw money at CCP, and reportedly being rebuffed by the art team, the notes show nothing –it must be somewhere else.

Lucky for all of us, Innominate also commented into the chat to back up Xenuria’s statements. Both about the ‘grim dark” and the notekeeping question.

CSM 11 was the era of fighting for skins that weren’t a different shade of brown. Getting even the pink highlight skins was the result of repeated long term requests. I can only speculate that the success of the rosetta dawn skins was what finally changed things. It was a frustrating time asking to be able to throw money at CCP for skins only to find out it must be grimdark enough. The CSM absolutely did meet with the art team on virtually every summit. It was normal for meetings to be left out of the notes when it was all NDA anyways.

Innominate

It is clear that Xenuria didn’t make this up. It is clear that the grim-dark factions lost. And I think that is a good thing. That is why I want to see the graph. My bet is that the transition out of blah-brown again skins triggered a surge in sales.

It’s pure speculation on my part, and on the part of others in the comment thread, that the skin sales alone are likely more than enough fund the game and a healthy chunk of development. Look at games like League of Legends, where their entire business model is the selling of cool skins and nothing else.

Show me the data please. I want to examine the idea that “skins don’t scale and have reached saturation” from CCP_Paragon earlier in the week.

Closing Analysis

There is very little proof of things being thorough, or even just thrown around as ideas. That can be telling. If the proof exists to rebut Xenuria’s claim, producing those logs and items would go a long way towards closing the book here. In CCP’s defense, the proof is most likely highly proprietary and may be lost in the dust of time for reasonable reasons, but players will always ask to see more.

Interestingly and at a minimum, CCP has a major issue with record keeping. This apparently includes legal documents such as EVE NDAs – Xenuria is still waiting to receive a copy of his NDA.

To provide some context, before this post Xenuria had asked me for a copy of his NDA from 2016 since he has lost his – and I had been unable to locate it for him. Granted it was not the top of my priority list, I did supply him with NDA’s used in previous CSMs

CCP_Swift

I feel that CCP and the CSM should take this as an opportunity for improvement. Make a clear and secure expectation for note taking and storage. Hire an intern to act as stenographer if you must, but write it down. Then, make the CSM notes much more accessible. Redact the details but be honest. “We need to raise the sub cost for (REDACTED) new content development, here is our ROI to support the change”. Then you have a basis to highlight those things you want to build excitement about, and you have any number of platforms to do so.

Lastly, there is a question of trust. I don’t think its a news-flash that CCP and the players have trust issues with one another. The single best (and its largely free) item CCP could dedicate time to is improving that trust.

Let the players see everything you can; the good and bad. Let the players understand why the decisions are made. Feel free to make the decision, but by telegraphing intent, those of us who are trying to act in good faith will believe you.

Post-Addendum for Context

24 hours after writing my original draft, the comment count has risen to over 1200. In the net gain of 400 comments, several other CSM members have also commented on, and largely supported, many of the primary points made by Xenuria.

Jestertrek, CSM8, provides a detailed bullet list of items from his experiences on the CSM. In the main, his list is a less hyperbolic version of essentially the same comments.

CCP tools are bad: it varies. Some of the devs are amazing at searching EVE’s databases, some are wretched. And the internal tools were very “shoe-maker’s children” in quality. During the YAF forum fiasco, CCP was using PHPbb as their internal forum, something I found *very* amusing.

“Flashy colors don’t fit with our art style”: yes. I’ve told this story a lot. It’s changed in more recent years, though. I (and other CSM8 members) were instantly advocating for corp/alliance logos on ships, also with no luck and for the same reason, plus the copyright concerns.

Jestertrek, CSM8

Jin’taan shared CSM 11 with Xenuria and stayed on until CSM 13. He spoke up to directly address the question of how useful the meeting minutes are in supplying information for past CSM interactions. I also thought I saw him mention that he had to speak up to ensure that the cat ears made it into the official record. However, I can no longer find that reference so it may have been something to keep under wraps for now.

Either way, Jin’taan seems to provide more confirmation on the base of Xenuria’s comments. Now for a grain of salt, please remember that confirmation is not the same as proof.

If you’re relying entirely on meeting minutes to flavour your understanding of this period of time, it should be worth noting I had to (as other members of the CSM had to from time to time) specifically request that this be put in the minutes so that it would be on public record. CCP’s default position was to minute up what they wanted to present to us, and then let the conversation roll on – There were numberous times where our objections or criticisms of proposals would be left unmentioned on the record and there was jack shit we could do about it.

Jin’taan, CSM 11-13

Asayanami, CSM 9, is much more concise in responding to Jestertrek’s bulleted list,

Well, I can see very little has changed since I was on (and what a clusterfuck that was). I can honestly say that the CSM experience was the single biggest contributing factor for my decision to quit eve.

Asayanami, CSM9

Frankly I can’t think of a more direct or concise way to conclude the writeup.

CCP, get your house in order.

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Comments

  • Rammel Kas

    CCP are simply doing some damage control, law style. They assume if they throw enough mud on top of the turd you won’t be able to tell one from the other. Heavens forbid a full forensic audit or process discovery needs to be done on this for any reason.

    April 29, 2022 at 9:27 AM
    • Eve_Osir1s Rammel Kas

      The thing I’d like to see is an audit of CCP’s expenses and profits. ~$14 million in revenue and this company can’t put out content or balance patches to save its life.

      April 29, 2022 at 11:40 AM
      • Rammel Kas Eve_Osir1s

        Not publicly traded though. So no normal statutory audit. And no public accounts. Hence why folks have to chip bits of data from the PA earnings calls just for the ball park figures.

        Forensic audits and process discovery are not quite the same thing as regular financials and statutory audit. They are what can happen in some jurisdictions when a legal challenge discovers a reasonable duty of care has not been exercised by company officers. It’s also called reckless trading in some places.

        April 29, 2022 at 1:45 PM
        • un wicht Rammel Kas

          yeah, hence a proper audit of their processes and activities might reveal a large amount of opportunities for improvement.

          May 5, 2022 at 1:19 PM
      • Tobler0nwed Eve_Osir1s

        During the prosperous years of CCP, I bet there was definitely a lot of internal debates between partners about how much profits to distribute to shareholders vs. how much to reinvest back into the game.

        Koreans tend to overpay for stuff when they do acquisitions. Like when they acquire commercial real estate in the U.S., and in this case when Pearl Abyss acquired CCP for 425 million. But hey I bet the shareholders who cashed out were happy.

        With that said, shit is so expensive these days, there are so many administrative and marketing expenses that a customer might not expect to exist. For a business, many costs have gone up across the board, not just labor. That’s why many businesses raised their prices by say…25% which is higher than the inflation rate. I would not be surprised at all if CCP is working with a tight budget even on a $14 million revenue.

        April 30, 2022 at 5:51 PM
  • Eve_Osir1s

    “CCP has disappeared documents, video and other files related to the CSM when their contents were seen as objectionable to CCP. ”

    “Welcome to a decision made by prior CSMs.

    A lot of what you didn’t see, was because we didn’t want you to. So people could talk about things without fear of backlash from the alliances who voted them in.”

    Fuzzmiester CSM 9-14
    Apparently there was some issues with Manny and Sion.

    April 29, 2022 at 11:35 AM
    • un wicht Eve_Osir1s

      Man, I’d really like to perform an audit at CCP.
      Looks like they could really benefit from sticking to basic, well known best-practices of industry…

      April 30, 2022 at 9:29 AM
  • kwnyupstate .

    I don’t understand why anyone nowadays even wants to be on the CSM. Why waste your valuable time to hobnob with CCP only to be disrespected and not listened to? Who would travel to Iceland even and have this predictably happen to them?
    What do you think CCP thinks of the CSM every time they have a meeting and the rubes keep showing up and giving their player feedback?
    If you are in an abusive relationship you should leave and not keep going back time and time again.

    April 30, 2022 at 6:47 PM
  • Garreth Vlox

    Swift comes across as the typical corporate scum bag in this back and forth covering for the company by declaring things that Zenuria wasn’t talking about never happened…

    May 1, 2022 at 12:22 AM
  • Jeet_Kundo

    Swift’s comments make me want to sperg, if for no other reason than me already having to deal with these ‘inquiry->response->further inquiry over the same fucking thing->another retarded redirect from answering the question fully’ cycles I put up with 6 months out of the year in external audit. It’s dishonest, sleezy, and only makes us ask and want more.

    May 2, 2022 at 5:37 PM