Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave Bowman: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
– 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark
This is the first I’ve written concerning the CSM minutes being so long in publishing. It’ll likely be the last. I personally don’t care if they ever come out. In my estimation, CCP will only publish what CCP wants the world to know, and that’s the end of it. The minutes don’t matter. In that regard, CCP Dolan has my sympathy. I know how that game’s played. He’s piggy in the middle. He’s no doubt made a personal pledge to the CSM concerning the minutes, but he never realized he’s ghost writing for the board: Vilhjálmur Þorsteinsson, David Fialkow, Sigurður Ólafsson, Stephan Wieck, Birgir Már Ragnarsson, and last but not least Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. In the end, the board will have published only what the board wants published. CCP Dolan only gets to do all the edits. Man, I do not envy you.
But let’s get back to the minutes themselves. The reason the minutes don’t matter is the CSM isn’t CCP’s method to ensure they create outstanding content. It’s their method for not committing another Incarna. If you think the board members, who represent the 484 shareholders (as of December 31, 2012) who’ve sunk millions of dollars into CCP, will use the the CSM in any other fashion, you really are into science fiction. Those 484 shareholders have far more at stake than any mere subscriber or their elected representatives – even if there are theoretically half a million of us.
And we’ve put ourselves into this position. We’ve proven to them that we, the subscribers, are an unreliable business partner. How you ask? Just look at what we did about Incarna. We acted in about the most infantile manner possible. We threw a temper tantrum and glorified it as some form of revolt. From a business perspective it was revolting all right. Yes, we got our point across. Then they got their point across. How many CCP employees lost their jobs over that debacle? Every damn one of you who unsubscribed an account in protest are as much to blame for them losing their jobs as the person who approved Incarna. I was ashamed of being an EVE Online subscriber that day, even though I did not participate in the unpleasantness that was
Burn Jita Riots. (EDIT: So sue me, I’ve got the flu and this blog is free so, meh. You only prove my point.)
The only good thing to come from that event is CCP is much more cautious than before. There will be no promises made that are not easy to keep. Why? Because of the second way we as a subscriber base show our immaturity. You know, as a parent I completely get CCP’s issue with promises. You say anything to a child about anything, anything at all, and it instantly becomes a promise. Later on, if things change and you don’t do as you said you would, you’ll get the infamous, “But you promised!” tantrum. That certainly has happened to CCP in regards to EVE Online. Now hasn’t it? I don’t blame CCP for not wanting to get burned again: burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me.
And that brings me to both the quote at the top of this post and the title. First the quote. It’s pretty much how I see our present relationship with CCP. In case you don’t get it, we the subscribers are Dave Bowman. CCP has far too much at stake to allow us to be serious stake holders in their future. We’d just burn the stake and then whine about the fire being the wrong color. I honestly believe CCP has more sense than to ever allow that to happen. CSM suggestions are just that, suggestions. In the end they won’t change the direction CCP has chosen to take as a business.
Don’t get me wrong, the CSM is very important. It’s just not important for the reasons most subscribers want to believe. I’ve no problem with that – unless some of those who don’t get it start acting out again and CSM members take up “the cause.” Then I think the CSM should be immediately disbanded. So long as the CSM serves CCP’s needs, not the players so called needs, there’s no problem with it. And that being the case, the minutes are irrelevant. Think about that.
That brings me to the title. What originally got me thinking about all this was Hilmar’s interview with Wired UK, in which he stated the company’s goal was, “to make virtual reality more meaningful than real life.” It wasn’t the “virtual reality” part of that statement which got my double-take. It was the “real life” part. There is an unintentional double entendre in that statement that is both profound and potentially tragic.
To us the subscribers, EVE Online is just a game. It’s virtual reality. And according to the quote, it’s not yet more meaningful than real life. But to every board member, every shareholder, and every CCP employee, their real life depends on our virtual reality. The food they buy with the money we pay them is real. Their mortgage payment is real. Their childrens’ looming college tuition is real. And all of it depends on a virtual reality world that exists at the whim of notoriously impulsive subscribers whose most lauded play styles exhibit a tendency toward immorality. When real life depends on virtual reality being more meaningful to the likes of us, that truly is a space odyssey. Keep the pod bay doors closed CCP. This mission is too important for you to let your subscribers jeopardize it.