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You're very careful not to say you're not dumbing it down; I think people get really wary of that kind of thing, and I think it probably goes extra for your audience.
NW: Well we've always been... I know I've just actually been reading a lot about these different user types lately, and the expert user type, we really cater to that, and we have for a long time. So, we've built up this community of expert user types,
And then the CSM is that type. As we listen and improve the game in directions that help the expert user type, we might be doing a disservice to the more mainstream people.
We feel like there is a way that we can cater to those mainstream people without alienating expert users. But it's a challenge. It's harder to build something that's nice and usable for mainstream and expert.
That's an interesting question. So is the implication that the CSM would be packed with people who have the biggest stake in the game and the highest, highest levels of knowledge and engagement with the game.
NW: Yeah, for sure. You don't run for... internet government spaceship thing... without being heavily invested into the whole thing. Or at least you don't win. Maybe you run, but you have to have this pretty big social network, and you've probably devoted a lot of time into EVE in order to win a seat on the CSM.
So it's up to us to really sort of listen to what they're saying and interpret what it is they need, rather than just doing exactly what they're asking for. I think that's just something that businesses have to do in general, to figure out what it is your customers need, not exactly...
Sometimes they're asking for one thing, but if you read into it deeper, it's really that they have a more fundamental concern that wasn't coming out. They're saying like "Why don't you move this button here?" when they're really saying like "Why don't you make this easier for me to do?"
You are totally at the forefront of this kind of interaction that potentially could become more and more relevant, as we all migrate online for a bulk of our interactions, in a lot of ways. How long has the CSM been going now? It's been several years.
NW: Yeah, so, in its current incarnation, it's been three or four years. But we had a CSM a long time ago that was just a chat channel that we invited people to, back... Almost at launch, there was a CSM. It wasn't the player-elected big thing that it is now, where people are flown to Iceland and talk to us, and we have these big long meetings, and every department prepares and gives presentations and talks. But, yeah, I mean, just talking to your customers is an important thing if you want to be in a service...
Absolutely. But this is sort of taking it to an extreme that I don't think really anybody else has.
NW: Yeah. I would agree. Not in the gaming industry anyway, no one's done this... Bringing your users in to try out your product and then monitor them is just... This is best practice in a lot of design-related industries. I've been reading about lately, they just say what you definitely have to do is sit people down, watch how they use, figure out where they stumble, fix it, talk to your users about what they're trying to accomplish.
So, we've been using the CSM. EyjoG, he's our doctor of economics, and he's got a research team, and they also research the users, not just the economy. We do surveys to the player base in the newsletter, and we get usually over 4,000 people responding to it, which means it's scientifically viable. And we're asking them, constantly, different things, and we've sort of built personas of our user base...
Based on behaviors?
NW: Yeah, based on behaviors, and based on answers to questions. So one of the personas is the "unwinding professional." There are about seven personas that we have, and the unwinding professional has a really hectic busy job, and he's the boss of everything. When he comes home to play EVE, he just wants to sit down and have some escapism and relax. He actually doesn't want to be like the leader of the fleet or anything because in his day job, he is the leader of whatever -- the thing. He just wants to kick back and shoot some stuff.
Then you've got this other persona of "the maven," and he's the guy who's been in every beta of every game ever, and he can tell you what the best printer is to buy because he's totally into like all the tech stuff, and maybe he's got a 3D TV already. And, you know, you ask him like "Is it time for me to buy a 3D TV?" "No, no, wait until the Sony blah blah comes out because that's going to be..." He's like one of these super nodes in the network that's just bringing everybody together. He's the expert user type that, you know, sort of the CSM is as well, these super nodes.
But looking at these different personas and seeing like what is their goal when they play EVE, what is it that they do, and what's the game loop that they're in when they sit down and play it, and trying to like optimize that for them. This is sort of just something we're starting to look at.
And for the longest time, EVE was built just on a hunch. You know, we were building a game for ourselves. Reynir [Harðarson] had the idea, and Hilmar [Pétursson] and the other guys who started CCP.
They were playing Elite back in the day. They played UO back in the day. They play a lot of Magic, and they just said, "Wouldn't it be cool if you had a game that was like the big procedurally-generated space thing of Elite, but the non-class based, you can do whatever you want PVP sort of thing that UO is, but you would fit your ships like a Magic the Gathering deck? That would be the ultimate game ever. Let's build that."
And, you know, they started building this thing, and everybody on the team just started building what they thought would be cool. But now we've got all these customers that aren't us. They're completely different people, and so we need to see what it is our customers are doing, and build something that's going to be nicer for them.
And also, you know, we've got 350,000 subscribers, because we've been growing from much smaller. It would probably be an order of magnitude more if we would build something that was a little bit easier to get into, if there wasn't that "learning cliff" that everybody jokes about.
And it's not because we shouldn't have complicated systems, and it's not like it shouldn't be a harsh world. It's just that people are presented with everything up front. Incarna is going to go to some way to like slowing it down and letting you feel a little like, "Okay, here's my captain's quarters, and I've got my little bit of the world, and then I go out and explore some, and then I come back."
It's not like the very first tutorial, and you were just sitting in your ship in space getting shot, and it was sink or swim, throwing people into the deep end of the pool. Some people really loved that, but probably most people didn't love that. "Oh God, I'm dying! I don't know what to do or press!"