Announcement regarding rewards and prizes to fansites and third-party contributors
Recently CCP rewarded the staff members of SOMER Blink, the highly popular micro lottery website, with Ishukone Watch Scorpions (IWS) as a thank-you for their contributions to EVE. There was also the matter of a recent special lottery event at SOMER Blink that CCP supported by contributing rare ships as prizes. This has raised concern in the community, with some calling favoritism and others airing opposition to CCP spawning items into the single-shard sandbox we all love, whether as rewards to third-party contributors, or prizes for them to hand out.
So let’s go through what happened, why it happened, what else has happened, and then let’s have a discussion on what all of us want to happen in the future.
First, what is the Ishukone Watch Scorpion?
It’s a re-skinned version of the Scorpion-class battleship, with the old Scorpion slot layout and slightly worse stats than the current Scorpion when it comes to functionality. It refines to 1 piece of Tritanium and as such is designed specifically to have no actual base value in the game’s economy, similar to the rookie frigates handed out for free when you suffer a ship loss. The IWS was originally created as a vanity item to be sold in the NeX store for Aurum, but once that plan was cancelled, the Community Team secured it as a promotional item to be given out for various efforts or events.
In its very essence, the IWS is a skin with its own “show info” description. But while that’s certainly an important thing to realize, we of course recognize that rare items you can sell on TQ will be coveted and will have some value through the law of supply and demand despite a lack of base value or actual functionality.
How many exist and who have you given them to?
A total of 132 exist on TQ today, all handed out by CCP as that is the only way for them to come into existence. The first one went to the winner of the 2012 Fanfest Poker Tournament. Subsequent ones have been given to participants of various PVP tournaments, the 2013 Poker Tournament, the winner of the BIG Lottery 10th anniversary event, Alliance Tournament player commentators, Alliance Tournament volunteers, the staff of the Syndicate Competitive League (SCL) and most recently the staff of SOMER blink. Giving these particular ships out as rewards for services rendered is a relatively new initiative and we intended to gift them to more fansites and contributors; however, those plans are currently on hold.
Why hasn’t my favorite fansite or community enterprise received something nice too?
There’s no single answer to that question. Sometimes it has to do with the timing of specific events related to that fansite or enterprise, sometimes your favorite is next in line or they’ve simply gotten something different, such as free accounts, trips and/or tickets to Fanfest, Collector’s editions, a couple of time codes, devs flown to their events, T-shirts, posters, resin ship models etc. etc.
Something to keep in mind is that the Community Team hasn’t always had the ability to give prizes or thank-you rewards to major long standing fansite operators like we would have wanted, but times change and we hope that those long-time contributors at least appreciate that we are trying to do better in that regard, specific rewards, quantities, and situations aside.
How do these recent events compare with previous ones?
Regarding the handing out of prizes for third-party events, we’ve always seen value in providing reasonable prizes to boost interest in events run by enthusiastic and capable players. There’s value in it for us as a company and for you as a community. What constitutes “reasonable” is always a judgment call that has to do with the history we have with the operator, the scope of the event, and the attention and participation the event can draw. Tl;dr, big event = bigger prizes. Not every event gets the same but we of course want to avoid any feelings of unfairness or resentment and we should be able to avoid that with increased transparency and by working with you guys and the CSM (more on that in the last section of this post).
Now on to the personal reward
The IWS is a cool thing to have and that’s why we use it as a reward, not because it carries X ISK value. The price people negotiate is wholly decided between individuals and is hard for us to predict with any precision.
In the past we have given out time codes and PLEX both as prizes and rewards for going the extra mile for the community. These have been given to just about every major fansite at some point and PLEX have a much more predictable value over time than skinned ships.
The rewards for the SOMER Blink staff was around three times larger than the one to the SCL staff but that’s because they have three times the staff. In both cases everyone got one each.
When we gave out thousands of pirate-skinned rookie frigates to players at PAX East and Gamescom, they initially sold for 1 billion ISK in-game without causing stir. Obviously those were less rare from the get-go and were handed out fairly randomly in the familiar environment of “go to game show – get swag”.
So the concerns raised seem to revolve around quantity, the selection process of the recipients, and the level of transparency. Which leads me to the next question.
Was CCP being secretive about this?
We really weren’t. In his leaked mail, SOMER asks his staff to keep this reward on the down-low but that requirement didn’t come from us at all and is completely their prerogative. When we give rewards or prizes, we often don’t announce it specifically but we don’t ask for secrecy either nor do we expect it at all.
It’s worth noting that when the SCL staff got their IWSs there was public chatter about it, it just didn’t get a lot of attention. It wasn’t until articles appeared about the reward to the SOMER Blink staff which also hinted at some secrecy that concerns were raised.
So, are you totally happy with this whole thing?
No we’re not. While we want to keep rewarding and encouraging projects that add value and are popular with our community, we absolutely agree that it has to happen in a way that the community is on board with, whether that means we have to make big changes or small tweaks.
We recognize that gifting rare in-game items of potential ISK value proactively to select third-parties, whether as prizes for them to hand out or as a personal thank-you, can have implications no matter how well-meaning you are. We realize that for example in the IWS reward situation, a line was crossed in many people’s minds despite there being certain similarities with previous gifting events. Where the line of acceptability lies is something we need to work out together before we move forward.
Should we stick to out-of-game things only? Create non-transferrable in-game items as rewards? Give no personal rewards and only prizes? Only items below a certain expected ISK value? Always give out tons of stuff at once so early recipients can’t cash out? List all rewards publicly?
For the time being we are pausing all plans for rare in-game rewards to select third party contributors. We want to carefully consider your feedback and determine what our framework should be and what improvements to the level of transparency are needed so that the rewards program serves its intended purpose of making the EVE Universe a better place. We’ll also make prizes and rewards a summit topic when the CSM visits us this winter, as well as consult with them until that time. Some of this work has already started, and the result will be a formalized and transparent framework for everything related to supporting all types of fansites and third-party community services. We aim to circulate our initial design to the CSM in the next few days, and you should see a dev blog in a few weeks.
That’s it for now, let us know your thoughts.