With the array of different mediums we use to communicate both with CCP, and with each other, regarding Eve, it can be really easy to miss things. Yesterday, while looking for information on something else on Reddit, I came upon the following thread in which user /u/CeleryStickBeating described an issue he had with the reimbursement of skill points associated with the accidental halting of skill queues in June. While it’s not usually the habit of this blog to crosspost forum threads, I thought the insight provided in this exchange was quite insightful and worth sharing. I recommend giving the full thread a read if you find this topic interesting as I have only included a portion of the dialogue provided by GM Lelouch, who is responsible for GM policy and procedures at CCP. GMs (Game Masters/Managers/Moderators) are the first line support for players regarding rules, arbitration, and most importantly tickets.

/u/CeleryStickBeating said:

Along with many others, I went through with “The Ghost Training- Let’s Stop Random Skill Queues Incident” and came out the other side damaged. As CCP requested early on, I filed help tickets to notify them of the damage they had caused on each account (boy, that was fun). The results have been laughable, to say the least. I have two accounts that I will use as examples. Both these accounts have had +5 implants (45 SP/min) for over a year and have been plexed continuously for years, well before Incarna for sure. They have never, ever, been in a Ghost Training state. After CCP’s errant scripted queue attack, I immediately restarted their queues the next day. What I did not know at the time was that each account had been down for different lengths of time.

Account A – A GM, let’s call him GM_A for short, reimbursed me at the 40 SP/min rate. When I pointed out that I had +5’s in and that I was short SP, GM_A dug in his heels and said they are only reimbursing at this rate. I pointed out that this whole affair was CCP’s mess from the start and they should do the right thing by making me whole. No more, no less. GM_A said he could not do that, but offered me a chunk of game time as compensation. I am pretty sure you cannot fix missed SP training with free game time, so I turned him down. If CCP cannot understand that making the customer whole is fundamental when a company screws up, then I am done with them. At this point, I was just canceling/letting my subs die and leaving the ticket to swing in the wind.

But then….

Account B – Account B was auto “fixed” before GM’s were assigned to either of these tickets. Whoopeee! However, what I did not know at the time was how long the queue was down, not realizing I was reimbursed at the 40 SP/min rate. GM_B walks into the B account ticket days later, makes the calculation of time lost in the queue, determines the implants that I have in my head, figures out the correct rate (45 SP/min), and notifies me of the missing difference. GM_B fully reimburses the missed SP, first time, no fuss, no heel digging, no dramatics.

GM Lelouch issued the following reply:

Hey there, I’m sorry to hear you weren’t happy about the handling of your tickets. I’m responsible for GM policy and procedures so this one is on me. I hope you don’t fault the individual GMs you spoke to too much, they were just doing their job. They were told by us in the customer support management team to stick to the 40 SP / minute rate.

Ensuring that tickets are dealt with in a consistent manner is one of our main objectives. It can be quite a challenge, especially for a game as complex as EVE, but I assure you we genuinely do our best. There’s always room for improvement in this area and I completely understand how frustrating it is as a consumer to experience inconsistencies like this.

We have certain policies and procedures in place on how different support cases should be handled. Our GMs are also encouraged to try to do right by our customers whenever possible and we have certain frameworks in place to enable GMs at their discretion to offer various kinds of compensation when applicable. In your example, it appears that both GMs attempted to do this but with different approaches (note that I am not at all familiar with your tickets, I’m basing this off your post only).

GM_A offered reimbursement at a rate of 40 SP per minute. This is consistent with our policy. This GM also offered you some extra free game time as extra compensation. Based on our internal policies, I’d guess the reasoning behind this was due to a delay in responding to your ticket. It is quite standard for a GM to offer free game time if we take an inordinate amount of time to respond to a ticket.

GM_B however seems to have gone another route, and offered reimbursement at 45 SP per minute. I’m sure the GM had your best interest at heart but this was unfortunately not quite by the books. I understand you preferred this GM’s approach and it’s certainly something I’ll take into consideration for the future.

Now, I want to give you some insight into how we work so lets take a trip down memory lane. The reimbursement rate of 40 SP per minute is a standard rate which we’ve been using for years and it’s been relatively successful compared to how we dealt with SP reimbursement before.

Many years ago, a GM would upon picking up a skillpoint reimbursement ticket attempt to calculate the exact number of SP lost. This was an extremely time consuming process since you’d have to keep the characters attributes in mind, whether the character had remapped in the period, what primary/secondary attributes were assigned to the skills trained and so on.

These support tickets were taking way too long (in some cases we were seeing more than an hour spent on a single ticket) and we saw a need for streamlining this process. After much deliberation, we arrived at a rate of 40 SP per minute as a reasonable standard rate to apply for ll types of skill reimbursement. This made for a much simpler process of reimbursement, a GM only needed to figure out how much time had been lost in order to deal with a case, the rest was just a simple calculation.

Keep in mind that we receive all kinds of tickets regarding skill training, here’s just a few examples:

  • “Hey, I was unable to log in for two months last summer due to vacation, but I was subscribed the whole time. Can you compensate me for lost training time?”
  • “I wasn’t able to log in to update my skill queue last weekend and lost a couple days of SP, can you help?”
  • “A bug caused me to lose skill training time for a few days, help!”
  • “You closed my account for a week because hackers had gotten my login information, can I get lost skill training time back?”

Using 45 SP per minute, the training rate with maxed implants, was proposed but we had concerns around this figure so we picked 40 instead. The various different types of SP reimbursement cases was one reason, the potential of intentionally not training and later filing a ticket for better training efficiency was a primary concern.

That’s the story of the 40 SP per minute training rate. Now, back to the present.

I was approached by the person writing the reimbursement script for the paused skill queues and the question was posed at what rate we should reimburse. I answered with our standard rate, 40 SP per minute. In retrospect, using this number for the script may have been a mistake; this was a fairly unique issue and going with 45 SP per minute may have been better.

What’s done is done though and I’m afraid it’s not realistic for us to adjust SP on an individual level for a reimbursement of this size. For some perspective, we reimbursed SP to over 200,000 different characters. If just a fraction of those were to file tickets, it’d take us days or even weeks to sort this out. That is why we told our GM team to stick with the SP value reimbursed by the script and that is why GM_A was reluctant to offer reimbursement past the 40 SP/minute rate.

I hope this makes sense and I hope you appreciate the insight into how things work behind the scenes.

The OP replied with the following:

He’s always a bit wordy with his posts, but this points out a problem that lies squarely in his lap that has been discussed again and again for years – which GM taking care of your ticket is the primary factor on whether you get a fair resolution or screwed over. He has plenty of incentive to write as much as he can if he can make this go away.

Which led to the following clarification and yet more insight into the workings and internal policies of GM’s.

Sorry for another wordsy reply. These are questions I’ve given a lot of thought over the years and I just got carried away 🙂

Having re-read my post, I see I did a pretty poor job at going over what I originally intended to get across. The point I set out to make got a bit lost in all the words. I’m not trying to convince you that we never screw up, we certainly do make mistakes, there’s no way around it. All I genuinely want to do is give you insight into how we operate and why there are inconsistencies.

We have standard procedures & policies which GMs are trained to follow. Some of these are very strict (do X if Y), others are more nuanced (reimburse X if Y, unless Z or A). That being said it really shouldn’t matter which GM you get, if a GM grants reimbursement for your lost Machariel, every GM would have done so. Again, we’re not perfect and mistakes do happen but for the very most part we are consistent in this regard. We have stringent internal auditing procedures in place to for this very purpose.

We also acknowledge however that there is an underlying context to pretty much every case. We want to take this context into accordance whenever possible. To make an example, imagine two reimbursement tickets submitted for lost Machariels, both ships lost under entirely normal circumstances, both reimbursement claims denied by separate GMs.

Now imagine that one of those tickets received a reply in 24 hours, but the other one went unanswered for two weeks. While the outcome of both reimbursement claims was the same, it is pretty shitty that the second claim didn’t get a reply for so long. We don’t want our staff to blindly follow a script, we want them to look at the context of each case and do what’s fair. There is a degree of freedom and personal discretion involved to setting things right like this but in the example above the GM handling the two week old ticket would likely give some compensatory omega days.

Another example of a nuances case could be an accidental ISK donation. Imagine two different players accidentally transferring ten billion ISK to the wrong character. Both file a ticket asking for help. Upon review, a GM finds out that Player A donated ISK to a very active player, who’s already logged in and spent the ten billion on skill injectors used to train skills to efficiently fly a Machariel. Player B however donated ISK to an alpha account which hasn’t logged in since 2010.

We’d regrettably not be able to step in for Player A, as doing so would require us to either spawn ISK out of nowhere, or negatively impact another player’s gameplay. Furthermore, we’d have no real idea whether the donation even was accidental, maybe the recipient of the ISK actually concocted a clever scam that we’re unaware of? In Player B’s case however, we can safely return the ISK knowing that we’re not impacting the economy by spawning ISK, nor are we impacting another player since they haven’t been active for seven years.

Both of the cases look the same on the surface and if the two players were to talk about the outcome of their tickets they’d see a grave inconsistency. But don’t you think returning Player B’s ISK was fair, all things considered? I could go on and on all day with more examples but this reply is also getting a bit wordsy so I’ll stop with the examples :).

All I’m trying to say is that GMs are trained & encouraged to not only view tickets at face value, but see if there is any underlying context which could affect our outlook on the case and let us bend policy a bit and do more for the customer. In my experience, this kind of approach works very well on the individual level. We don’t always do all of this perfectly, your case appears to be a prime example of this, but we genuinely approach cases wanted to do right by our players whenever possible.

This kind of approach doesn’t scale though and there are times when we need to be inflexible out of necessity. In case of the SP reimbursement script for paused skill queues, we reimbursed over 200,000 characters (I believe the exact number was in the tune of 227,000 different characters) and we can’t exactly deal with a problem of that size on an individual basis. GM_A knew this and therefore stuck to his guns. GM_B perhaps missed the memo (it happens) that we were collectively sticking to 40 SP, or saw some other context to your case which led to him making the call to reimburse at 45 SP. It would’ve been best if GM_B stuck to 40 SP and also offered you game time, or found some other compromise to set things right for you.

Ultimately both GMs were just trying their best to make you happy to the best of their ability. We clearly failed at that objective and I’m sorry we didn’t do a better job. This has definitely been a learning experience for us and we’ll do our best to do a better job in the future.

As is the case with forums associated with Eve, definitive conclusions are hard to come by, and even common ground can be fleeting. There are polarizing arguments on both sides of the issue, and separating out any overwhelming majority opinion is not likely to happen.

It is my personal thought that the policy of CCP GMs is centered around making the customer happy, and that having the wiggle room to address individuals as individuals is a good thing for the community. It gives a feeling of dealing with a real person who wants to help you and actually can, as opposed to the rigid, patronizing and apologetic customer service stooges we have all dealt with in other places.