02 June 2011

Player-developer communication in EVE Online

CCP has an interesting take on community management. The developer's blog of EVE contains interesting behind-the-scene technical information. What is even more interesting is that these articles do not seem to be filtered or censored by any community manager. Articles are direct from the development team. I guess that the management team originally thought this communication policy was a good idea, and the developers were more than happy to post about their work. In any case, this communication policy has advantages and drawbacks.


On the one hand, revealing to your players that a major database update requires a 14-hour downtime and may result in more bugs in the game (October 2010) is kind of risky. Another developer article (February 2011) started with:

Testing may show that the changes made are not safe and we won't be able to use them. I thought this would be interesting enough to share, but please do keep this disclaimer in mind as you read on.

Players start complaining on the forum boards, and it gets worse when the down time actually takes longer than the announced 14 hours. Moreover, when developers and players get close together, developers may get involved in the game and start giving unfair advantages to the players they like. This kind of cheating can get really messy (also look at the Wikipedia summary of the events).

Advantages, and why it works for EVE

On the other hand, EVE benefits from a huge support of its player base. A bunch of volunteer programs, composed of hardcore and loyal players, add content into the game, administrate a wiki, and provide player support at no cost for CCP. EVE designers targeted the game's steep learning curve for hardcore players. It's not because you are a hardcore player that you never need information or help. In fact, I think it's the opposite: hardcore players bookmark any possible source of information for their game. Therefore, EVE needs its active player community, and needs to keep a tight relationship with its player base. To receive fast and broad feedback, CCP opened nine player positions in the Council of Stellar Management in March 2008. Members of this council were elected for six months by all EVE players and invited to the development studio. They gave feedback to the developers in person. This council may have also been a marketing coup from CCP, as the studio also invited various journalists to cover the event.

So far, tight player-developer communication has been a winning strategy on many fronts for CCP. Yet, EVE does not put forward any charismatic developer. Maybe is it better like this?

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