Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

If you are a corporation, consider turning corporate

CCP Falcon is out again with another set of insults. However drama has little value and I wouldn't deliver it to you if it wouldn't hold something much more valuable: probably the main reason why CCP has a community nightmare, constantly decreasing subscriber base and why there is an ongoing crusade against game designer CCP Fozzie (despite his design is successful, nullsec PvE and PvP are increasing). We reached the sour point when large parts of the community believe that CCP hates them. To make it even worse, even opposing groups do that. Miners think that CCP wants them for nothing but ganker content, while miner gankers think that CCP is after them and call their (usually rightfully) banned members martyrs.

Luckly I read his post after I was organizing old posts and re-read my 4 fun ppl theory post about half an hour before. So instead of seeing it as another underhand attack, I was reading with a different mindset and it all became clear: many in CCP literally condemn corporate good practices and consciously and purposefully perform the worst mistakes. See it yourself (underlined in red, we'll get to the green later):

Yes, dear Falcon, you should turn corporate because you are working for a multi-million dollars, multi-national corporation with hundreds of employees, that's why! CCP Games isn't a club, a community project or even a 2 men university startup looking for Kickstarter backers on Facebook. Acting like it's one won't make it one any more than a pink pony makes a grown man a child. It just make him look a weirdo.

Let me remind you to the textbook results of bad customer relationship management: "The CRM Paradox, also referred to as the "Dark side of CRM", entails favoritism and differential treatment of some customers. This may cause perceptions of unfairness among other customers, buyers. They may opt out of relationships, spread negative information, or engage in misbehavior that may damage the firm. CRM fundamentally involves treating customers differently based on the assumption that customers are different and have different needs. Such perceived inequality may cause dissatisfaction, mistrust and result in unfair practices. A customer shows trust when he bonds in a relationship with a firm when he knows that the firm is acting fairly and adding value. However, customers may not trust that firms will be fair in splitting the value creation pie in the first place."

The green lines are perfect examples for such mistakes. These are totally OK things in a fraternity house and I understand why Falcon don't see any problems with them, but any of them would make a corporate consultant turn blue and scream. So let me explain why they are horribly wrong:
  1. Devs should have a sense of distance or neutrality because they can create and destroy EVE assets with a few clicks. They can gather and transmit destructive information to the enemies of the player without anyone ever figuring out. No one in his right mind would get invested in the game where he is not 100% sure that the devs and GMs have no dog in the race. The more the players believe that devs can't care less who win in a battle, the more they believe they won't rig it. It should be obvious to every dev after the T20 scandal.
  2. Its likely an ironic statement, therefore an insult. But even if it's honest, it's awkward. Imagine that you enter a shop and the shopkeeper smile at you and shout: "I like you so much!" Wouldn't you feel weird and confused?
  3. That's totally unwanted fraternization. Again: imagine that you fuel your car and the gas station manager walks to you and say "hey, I'd like to buy you a beer or two". Would you find it OK? Or would you get away from that gas station as fast as possible? I can also link a good educational video on employee-client fraternization.
  4. This can't even be interpreted any other way as an insult. Hiding behind "some people" just makes it cowardly.
  5. No comment.
  6. This is unacceptable, because devs are not speaking for themselves, but for a corporation. Unless one is fully sure that the corporation agrees X, he can't say X, because if he does, it will come out as "CCP said X". The insults Falcon thrown at me were pretty mild in their respective Reddit thread. Yet I ignored the much worse ones, as they came from random anybodies, and responded to Falcon because he was listed as "CCP Falcon". Hell, I almost quit the game because of his first volley, which is something (according to his later claims) against his wishes. Please don't reply "but you also post whatever you believe", because I'm not (and would never be) doing it with my corporate address, exactly because it's the opinion of me and not my employer. Everyone is entitled for an opinion, including CCP employees, that's why anonymous accounts are made for.
It doesn't take a pilot to know that a commercial airliner descending a mile per minute upside down is bad. But it needs a good one to stop it falling. I can point at the problem, but can't help solving it. CCP Games must hire a professional consultant firm that helps them with training, setting policies and guiding their communication for a few months before the customers run away with "the product was good, but the employees were unfair and sometimes even vicious".


dismal scientist said...

His posts read like a player, not a game dev.

Anonymous said...

I like your battle with Goons; I am on your side.

But at some point, before now, I would have John Galt-ed out. I just don't think CCP can be saved. Dust to Project Legion and then back to Dust. When they are losing money, they are developing VR games on multiple VR platforms- which may be a great long-term goal but I think they have some short-term issues to address first.

When it appears to be run by and for Goons, how much longer are you going to play in a rigged game not for God and Country but for leisure? Of course, I don't want goons to win. So as long as you choose to, keep fighting the good fight.

Phelps said...

I disagree on #3. On less retail-level industries, that's actually pretty common. I work in the legal industry in the US, and it's VERY common for vendors or potential vendors to say, "hey, can I chew on your ear in the bar for while, my treat?" (It's actually a legitimate business expense here.) And while I'm there drinking his beer, he's finding out 1) what my wants and needs are (industry research) and 2) telling me how his product can solve all my problems (sales and promotion.)

This is ESPECIALLY the case at industry conventions and gatherings, which is where he said he would want to do it. You would be providing them with a TON of almost free consulting, costing them only the price of the beers. That's normal business.

The rest of the points? You are right, he's a disaster.

(FWIW, it's also normal for higher end retailers to offer free booze in the US. Two that come to mind right off the bat is wedding dress boutiques (the champagne flows there) and Western/Cowboy Boot shops, where draft beer is often free while you try on boots. Why? Because after a drink or two, you are probably willing to spend 10-20% more on that high priced dress or boots you were looking at.)

daniel said...

since the beginning of your eve blog, ppl have asked themselfs wether you are a troll.

also it is interesting to see that you didn't bother to comment the line between 5 and 6. could you?

nightgerbil said...

Idk man I think your over reacting. As long as hes making it clear that its his personnal postion not the companies postion (and he is), then it doesnt reflect on CCP at all. Its like I can post pictures on my facebook feed talking about the 1kg surloin join I had for dinner a few weeks back, with recipe advice and how it tasted. It got alot of likes and comments, but I had to make clear in my post that yes I work at ASDA Walmart where I bought the meat and this was my personnal enterprise not advertsing for their meat counter or fresh produce. Thats my employers (social)media policy and CCP probably have something similar.

It looks to me like Falcon is staying (maybe just) inside the line of that policy. While saying he reads your blog, he enjoys it, but obviously disagrees with alot of what you say. One example springs to my mind the RvB are goon pets theory. I didn't quite buy into that one. Hes just another reader. Just a famous one :P

Btw we already knew devs read your blog and change things in games, remember wintergrasp raid "fix"?

Gevlon said...

@Phelbs: and is it common to invite someone for beers you've only communicated via mails?

@Daniel: because it's corporate-like: positive but non-positioned. He could copy-paste it into a post about The Mittani, Vince, Grath or James 315.

Raphael said...

You need to go back and read that Wikipedia article more carefully; it doesn't say that the CRM paradox comes from bad Customer Relations Management, it says that it's a way that standard CRM techniques can backfire.

Textbook CRM isn't 'treat all customers perfectly neutrally'. It "fundamentally involves treating customers differently" - you gather as much information as you possibly can about the client, and then personalise your offerings to make them as attractive as possible to them. See: Google Analytics, Facebook data harvesting, etc. The problem is that customers often feel that this is dishonest and exploitative - so you hide it from them as much as possible and pretend that you're treating everyone fairly and equally.

Provi Miner said...

galvon you need to get with the time: customer contact is now near a top priority with corps. Having field agents meeting and (drinking) with influence peddlers is now a thing. I work for a midzised private fast food corp. Their social team is simply nutters. I won't even talk about their charity or field work. They have 4-6 people who do nothing all day but interact via facebook and twitter with randoms and even do surprise meeting with them. I think ccps efforts are bit more friendly but not out of line with most corps today.

Anonymous said...

> and is it common to invite someone for beers you've only communicated via mails?

He hasn't invited you for beers, he's pointed out that IF you happened to be at their annual convention, and IF he happened to see you there, that he'd have no problem drinking with you - like he drinks with other players at things like pub crawls and social gatherings.

It's not actually an invite...

Gevlon said...

@nightgerbil: he is "CCP Falcon" only in the CCP context. I'm sure his mom and wife calls him "Frank" or "John" or "Marty" or whatever his name is. If he posts as "CCP Falcon" and not as "John", he is speaking for CCP.

@Raphael: I meant if CRM done wrong. It's obvious that CCP can't treat an alliance leader the same way as a highsec miner. But they are making this obvious to everyone instead of hiding it as possible.

@Provi Miner: I've NEVER met anyone in my business field who offered me a beer before.

@Anon: "I'd BUY a guy a beer" is clearly an invitation.

maxim said...

Where i live, it is common practice to invite people you are working with out to drinks :D

I'm not really doing it myself, but mostly because the drinks i like are way too expensive for frequent consumption :(

In more general terms, you only want to be neutral and professional when your product is rock-solid and completely able to stand on its own. When it is not, you:
1) need to realise that this is an untenable position in the long term and fix your product
2) want more personal relationships with your clients so you can hook them in through other means, while the product is getting fixed

Eve is definitely not a rock-solid game. Not sure how much CCP is up to (1), but they are definitely doing (2).

Gevlon said...

@maxim: CCP devs clearly can't buy beers to every players. I don't see how drinking with me would help them retain customers (besides myself).

Anonymous said...

"That's totally unwanted fraternization. Again: imagine that you fuel your car and the gas station manager walks to you and say "hey, I'd like to buy you a beer or two". Would you find it OK? Or would you get away from that gas station as fast as possible? I can also link a good educational video on employee-client fraternization."

Its a phrase.

He knows you will never go to fanfest, and would not lower yourself to socialising with others if you did.

It is a way of saying "Yeah...I dont think the guy is a total idiot"

Unknown said...

I feel that CCP Falcon is trying to explain something, and spirals into worse and worse stuff.

I think the problem comes from the fact that EVE is (more or less) developing in the way the community wants.
Therefore they need the playerbase to feel related to the devs, so they will comment on the game more. A customer who drank with CCP XY on FanFest is going to feel more related to the game, and promote and comment about it, helping the devs. (And devs will feel more connected to CCP's product and its customers, and be a better workforce too.)

Even in the semiconductor business, if a customer visits our headquarters to inspect a product, one of us has to take out the customer to a local expensive restaurant. (I dont say its not awkward, but it mostly is, because, we are physicists and engineers, and not very skilled at a highly social dinner talk.)
The ideal situation would be, that my corporation hires a person, who is very good in social interactions, and can talk about the technical aspects of semiconductor business as well.

CCP's problem is not that they are connected/friendly to the gaming community, while they should be corporate. The problem is that SOME devs do it wrong. Like CCP Falcon.

I think CCP should maybe find a better role for Falcon, because he is bad at this, while his position is community manager. If he would be a coder, designer, hardware guy, I wouldn't consider his comments anything. But he is community manager, and he is making somewhat embarrassing comments.

But I have to take into account, that this is the first time I hear about CCP Falcon and this is his only action I am judging by. Maybe he is doing his job great (apart from these comments), maybe he is even the best community manager in 12 years. Maybe these comments compared to the goods he does are acceptable colleteral. I cant judge that.

Anonymous said...

"I've NEVER met anyone in my business field who offered me a beer before. "
This doesn't surprise me at all. It's not because people don't offer other people beers, it's because you're autistic as fuck (no offense). I'm a computer programmer and we go for beers with clients all the time.

maxim said...

The point is the image he projects (of a cool social guy willing to buy beer for ppl), not his actual ability to buy beer to every single person.
I understand that your issue is also with image he projects, specifically with sociality of it. I also agree that this kind of PR is counterproductive when your product has undeniable objective merits.

When it does not, however, this social kind of PR can help you retain at least the social customers you'd otherwise lose. A product without undeniable objective merits won't really keep paying asocials anyway.

Anonymous said...

Problem is that CCP Falcon is Community Manager.

A person whos job is to build the community, should be friendly to everyone and shouldnt mock anyone's blog. I dont think CCP should be corporate. CCP Falcon referenced your blog, while trying to be funny, and I can see, that there are ppl who find these comments funny, but he shouldn't make jokes about your blog and its content. First he degraded it. Then came the tinfoil comment. And now you are simply mad.

I am laughing too, but not because CCP Falcon is funny, but because of how absurd this is.

Gevlon said...

@Dávid Papp: yes, this is weird. Other devs (who would be forgiven to be socially inept) are not making such blunders. I can't recall Fozzie calling anyone a madmen, despite the extreme amount of provocation he gets.

@Anonymous: If it's true, then everyone - except Falcon - realized that inviting me to a beer is a bad idea. Not exactly a good thing for a Community Manager.

@maxim: you forget the competitive or even bitter nature of EVE. If you drink a beer with James 315 publicly, you can expect highsec miners to be less than happy. I AM a controversial blogger and objectively wouldn't advise any dev to openly be friendly with me as such action would make CFC members (who are also customers) uneasy. Probably this is where it all started: Falcon realized that the easiest way to get upvotes on r/eve is to insult me, forgetting that I am, and my readers are, also customers.

@Anon: "being corporate" is sterile and sometimes outright empty exactly because of "shouldn't mock anyone". I mean various groups in EVE are in direct opposition and you can't really tell anything positive about one without alienating the other. This is when sterilized corporate comments like "they are all valued customers and great content creators" come into place. This is the corner where Falcon painted himself: he can't say anything genuinely positive (or even openly apologize for earlier insults) without making Goon customers cry "CCP hates us".

Unknown said...

I dont think being corporate is outright empty because of "shouldnt mock anyone".

I would compare a community manager to a person who is running a New player friendly player corp. If the guy leading this corp is an asshole, he is going to attract assholes, and chase off the others, which is not a bad thing, if you enjoy playing with assholes. Or an industrialist guy is going to attract indy guys and chase off pvp-ers.
I dont know internally EVE University or Sindel Pellion's Angel Project, but I imagine they work because they are run by unbelieveably nice personalities. And 99% of the people dont have problems with nice persons.

And this is why I think its not neccesarily empty. If the person filling the role is a nice person, (s)he wont mock/be rude/degrade/calling names because the kind of person (s)he is, and not because the job (s)he is doing requires it. And I think a community manager should be nice and good at communicating. Not acting nice because of the role, but nice because of who (s)he is.

I dont think CCP Falcon is not nice, but his sense of humor could, and did came off as an insult. I think none of his comments towards you were meant as offense, but agree with anon 09:33 that he is making worse and worse comments.
He is trying to explain the situation, but he is not very good at it. I can see that his comment was not meant to be rude, but came off as a degrading comment. Obviously he saw your reaction, and tried to explain that his first comment wasnt meant to be degrading/demeaning/rude but his way of explaining made it worse. Now he made a third comment now trying to be correct, but could not manage it, because of the stlye he has.

"I think he is mad as a box of frogs."

Its funny to me, and I would not take this comment as an offense, but in the meantime I can see, that some ppl would find this inappropriate, hence I would not write something like this if I would be a Com.Mgr. He called you really mad (I guess a box of frogs is really mad?) and did not mean this either as an offense and said that we all go a little mad sometimes. He tried to be correct, and tried to explain, that he does not think mad is an offense, because we are all mad. But he called you mad, and everyone else is only a little mad, and only sometimes.

I dont say he is not nice, I say he is not very good at communicating.

nightgerbil said...

@ David Papp. Very good explanation. I see your point and agree with it.

Anonymous said...

Honestly compare a multi billion gas company to a software company. It's like comparing your field of expertise to whatever branch of a fastfood company.

Misconceptions are many. You clearly don't work in IT, otherwise you wouldn't pay ISK for your monthly kill report data. So whatever "going corporate" means in the IT industry. You, me and many others don't know.
CCP Falcon didn't cleared the whole post with his superiors. and that is very bad. CCP is what it is today because it started to engage in community conversation otherwise they would have gone bankrupt a few years ago with their game vision "spacedolls online". It isn't going away. Early access and crowdfunding practices bleed over, so heavy community communication is here to stay.

As for the alcohol. Parts of business evolve around gifts, dinner and drinks. That's why there are so much corp conventions. promote and network! All and only possible through society specific social interaction. Maybe not in Hungarian forit business but certainly in Dollar, Euro, Yuan and Rupee business. Even in Yen they need to drink now.

Iceman said...

I'm right there with you on Goons being a problem and needing more players to stand up to them. Bravo on what you're doing good with MOA. However, I think you're being way to rough on CCP_Falcon. Maybe, it's a cultural thing but, from what I saw the only thing that even comes close to approaching wrong was when he said you were as mad as a box of frogs. Everything else in context was harmless. People now days want a more personal experience from the companies they deal with. In my opinion it's one of the things that makes EVE so great is that DEVs are involved with and listening to the players. Let me go through your points.

1. Your taking only half the sentence. He qualifies it and explains that certain people have great effects on the game and he shouldn't try and distance himself from them. Like it or not but you are a big name in the game. In sales you very much so want to identify and work very closely with the big names in the industry that you are in. Face it... you're a big name.

2. Nothing wrong with that. You might find it shocking but, in my eyes it perfectly ok and maybe that is one of those cultural things. If he had said he doesn't like you.... well then there would be an issue. Nothing wrong with people liking people.

3. Again, it's qualified. He's not seeking you out and who really know if he would actually buy you a beer. Whenever I've heard that I've taken it to mean they would have no problem bumping into someone and getting along with them. I think you're taking it a bit personal. Even, if he was 100% serious that's still an acceptable thing. In my line of work I'm invited out for beer often as part of an acceptable form of business communication. It's a chance to relax and really express yourself in regards to the business. I don't think that's what he means here but, if he does I don't perceive it as a problem.

4. You again are ignoring the qualification. He's expressing or relating to other players. There are major groups that think exactly what he said and he's acknowledging that. He's not agreeing with it. He's just saying that he's aware that certain members of the community haven't decided if you're a troll or not. He's not saying that those are his perceptions.

5. That one.... well maybe a bit much but, could it be that we don't understand his meaning? Where I live people say "if you're feeling froggy jump". It means if you feel brave or think you can do something do it. Could he have possibly meant something innocent in that commment? Maybe, it means you're very active or something?

6. Everyones a little nuts.... maybe, you're just being a bit hard on CCP Falcon. Not everything in the business world must be ridged and defined.

Hedo Bot said...

Here is my impression as a player who is about to return to the game after a lengthy hiatus. I've just begun to look at EVE related forums again and the most notable thing that I'm seeing is a lot of commentary on what Gevlon is saying or the related topic of what MOA is up to. It's clear that in this time frame you have gone from just a controversial EVE blogger among many to the most notable controversial blogger in our community. The impact of what you are saying has become undeniable - it's practically the only thing /r/eve is talking about (although many of them would have us believe their tears are actually hilarious lulz at your expense).

That much being acknowledged, it's not surprising that Falcon wants to make some sort of statement about you, or at least an acknowledgment that CCP is reading your blog. Personally I think he has attempted a sort of corporate doubletalk but hasn't managed it very well - he's attempting to tell you and your admirers that he likes you while telling your enemies that he has no respect for you in the same breath. This is a skill that the greatest politicians and corporate PR persons need to master, but at which Falcon obviously needs practice.

You can argue all day about whether or not his specific language was appropriate, but personally if I were you I would take it as a compliment that you have succeeded in putting CCP Falcon in a situation where he felt the need to post this kind of backhanded compliment in the first place. You have nullsec all riled up to the point where even CCP is compelled to say something about it. This should be a validation that you are doing something right.

Phelps said...

Re: beers -- absolutely.

There's several industry mailing lists. I have actually had vendors ask me to meet them at a bar at a con so that they can get a few minutes over beers.

The thing to remember -- if he's buying YOU beer, YOU are the one with the power in the relationship. You have knowledge and influence he wants. If anything, he's admitting that you are a mover that CCP has to take into account when making decisions.

Phelps said...

Just to be clear, the relationship is not, "I like you so much I want to buy you a beer out of my own pocket." The relationship is, "I, as a corporate representative, will buy beer on my expense account to give to you in return for you giving us valuable feedback and allow us to give you our corporate line in the hopes that you will buy into it and propagate it using the influential community channels you possess."

Anonymous said...

Buying bloggers a beer isn't favoritism. It's marketing. Ingratiating yourself to the people who are capable of ruining or building your reputation is a good thing.

Unknown said...

Oh dear, I'm going to sit on the fence here.

I can see what you are pointing out Gevlon, that a service provider needs to maintain a level of professional separation from the customer otherwise they are open to accusations of favouritism (even if completely unfounded). The danger here is that the service provider, in an effort to be appearing completely corporate may appear remote and not interested in customers as people but just see them as cash cows. A good example of the extreme corporate stance in gaming is Zynga - internally, they even objectified customers who spent most on their games as "whales" - when you land a whale, you can feed your family for weeks. Would we really want CCP to be like Zynga?

I can also see where CCP Falcon is coming from too: a distiction between the person-behind-the-screen and the player-as-in-game-character, with the devs openly joining the former in celebration of a hobby. So, even though I like to explode goons & pets, I'd still share a drink and a laugh with pretty much any of them IRL.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was part of libertarian theology to allow business to conduct their business however they wished, and the correct method for customers to show disapproval was to withhold their trade from such entities? Well...we wait for your exit Gevlon.

baltec1 said...

In the UK saying "I would by him a round" is just a term we use. It does not mean he will be going out of his way to take you out. It is also not odd to go down the pub with people you have not met face to face.

Anonymous said...

'Devs should have a sense of distance or neutrality because they can create and destroy EVE assets with a few clicks.'

GMs do. Devs interract more with the community. Mainly because we've asked them to, and the period when they adopted a more neutral tone nearly destroyed the game. There is an IA department monitoring developer/player interractions. Falcon isn't a game developer either, he's a community manager - it's possible he doesn't even know how to create/destroy assets.

Provi Miner said...

nice dodge gobs, you talked about interacting and I provided a clear answer so you didn't like the answer and said "in my we don't" my company won't buy you a beer either. They will pay for your food, bring food to you, invite you to a place to get free food. They will buy you a coke. Then again the gulf between an eve player and a southern Baptist is huge. Buying someone a beer might cost us a customer, buy them a burger and fries and they are happy as kittens with string.

maxim said...

In a paradoxic fashion, being mad with devs doesn't necessarily mean the person will stop playing.
People stop playing when they don't care anymore. Being mad is the opposite of not caring anymore.

I just lost yet another character in HC Diablo 2 :D. Was pretty mad. That also was the whole point.

I guess, ultimately, it is true that the whole thing can be explained by incompetence on part of CCP Falcon. But this explanation is simply way too boring :). Even if the "mad as frogs" thing more or less cinches it.

Anonymous said...

I think CCP Falcon is being disingenuous, he should just apologize and then probably never mention Gevlon ever again.

Anonymous said...

I don't follow Eve meta-drama enough to gauge whether Falcon is a douche some of the time or most, but in this case he's clearly unprofessional.

Par for the course, though, considering the demographic involved with video games in general and Eve in particular.

There he is, in all his lawnmower-accident glory. What more is there to say.