Monday, March 14, 2011

Post-Mortem: PAX East CCP Event

Marketing campaigns are always tricky. CCP Daishi has been experimenting with various methods of marketing and communication, and the result of one of these experiments was the EVE player gathering during PAX East in Boston, MA. A scheduled 2-hour social with what seemed to be about 50 players from both PAX and the local area (including apparently some who traveled from Pittsburgh). Two CCP Marketing folks (CCP Cupcake and Daishi), CCP Big Dumb Object from the content team, and GM Syndemic rounded out the hosts. They all circulated well, and I was able to participate in a very interesting 20-30 minute discussion with CCP Big Dumb Object about our favorite space opera. I'm sure I could write up anything specific I remember, but rather than take the slim chance I can't, I'll simply say that I am hopeful that the content team in Atlanta is able to do some of the things that were mentioned - they would be good for EVE. The one thing I will talk about is the challenges they face with Faction Warfare. It was interesting to listen to him talk about how CCP has to walk a fine line with backstory and content in relation to actual gameplay features, and how Empyrean Age was a painful learning experience for them. Not afraid to admit the challenges his team has fallen short on, and discuss success as much as struggle, I was very impressed with CCP Big Dumb Object, and the things he was able to talk about, both past and present.

GM Syndemic and I had a few minutes to talk about life as a GM, and I learned that we, the players of EVE Online, are exceedingly vain. Although there is always an increase in petitions when a new patch comes out, the release of the Incarna character creator (and the subsequent click-happy acceptance of changes to the avatar) produced the most petitions of any single event ever - people couldn't take the time to do it right, and didn't read the dialogs that told them it was permanent, and the result was more petitions for a single issue ever in EVE. Wow people, I know we've been stuck with our faces (some of us for many, many years) but the sheer volume of petitions described because you A changed your face and B didn't read the dialogs warning you it was done shocked me.

Here's hoping that the tattoos and piercings don't generate a repeat performance.

CCP Daishi appears to have a lot of motivation for promoting EVE (he is also the voice behind the Butterfly Effect video), and a matching level of faith in the intelligence and skill of the EVE player. QR code hints, messages buried in websites and videos? These are ideas that come from his planning, and add a different kind of challenge to EVE. Also a fan of single-malt whiskey (the Scottish variety), as the mastermind behind the event I think he did a great job, even with the challenges he faced in pulling it off.

The players in person? This is always interesting to me. With a dual degree in literature and psychology, I tend to watch people, and their behaviors, from an intellectual point of view. There were the hard-core fans (the guy in an Agony T-Shirt, the guy in the Hulkageddon III shirt). The campaign stumper (one of the CSM candidates was there handing out flyers), and the group with the largest showing (about 10% of total attendees) was Test Alliance Please Ignore, and they were very fun-loving, energetic people, matching the impression one gets from the alliance as a whole. Most people had their RL name and at least one in-game character on their "Hi My Name Is..." badge, and the once who really made me laugh were the folks who started a conversation with "Hi, I'm insert name here have I ever ganked you? You don't seem familiar..." In a game with 300,000 accounts, and an average 35,000 people online any given hour, to run into someone who you know unintentionally is highly unlikely, and to run into someone you've ganked (unless you are a top-ten Battleclinic pilot) even less so. It shows something about how we perceive ourselves, in this universe, as significant in some way.

The most interesting thing I took away was something we probably don't often think about. I met a guy from R.A.G.E. (Northern Coalition member). I'm not a fan of how the NC works, what they possess in EVE, and the way they have grown. I have grudging respect for it, but I don't personally like it. But this guy (Phil) was a real person, not the NC Boogeyman that I (and others) see on the map. He was down to earth, a nice guy, and great to chat with. Sure, when we sit down in front of our machines and log into EVE, we take on the persona of the player we are in game (not RP here folks, but the type of game you choose to play), but when you walk away, the guy you just popped, podded, and probably smacked in local, is a lot like you. When you both walk away from the keyboard, you are both just as excited (or passionate) about this game and the universe of EVE, even if you are on different sides in an epic conflict. I am happy to say that the folks hosting this event are just as excited (or passionate) about EVE. Really. They are.

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