As a null-sec player who enjoys small gang PvP, I’m naturally writing a longer post about the Phase II changes, but I wanted to take a moment out to talk about the untold story about the release of these details, which I think is a fascinating topic. Basically, I can’t help but think about how the past few days have been for CCP.
Sure, for the past few weeks, the timeline for releasing the dev blogs detailing their new null sovereignty framework started to firm up, but I suspect the final release date didn’t settle in as “Tuesday” until late last week or early this week. Until that point, the people who are most affected by the reveal – Marketing and Communications, the developers who put so much time running scenarios and crunching numbers, and Fozzie himself – probably didn’t feel too nervous or concerned about how well it would go over.
Having worked for the past ten years on communications and marketing, I certainly can relate to the way they must have felt. Plans are one thing, but “plans” can always be changed. You have a deliverable due on a date, but until you sit down and bring all the pieces together, everything is fluid. Anything can change.
But sometime within the past few days, the draft of the dev blog received final sign-off by all of the subject matter experts and the Marketing and Communications team (“Phrase it this way, to set expectations,”… “Remind people that we want feedback and soften up the authoritativeness here”…) and was just waiting for final approval from all the “higher-ups”. The content was framed, written, and structured, and the final release date would be finalized. The decision to push back the release to Tuesday probably happened only on Monday.
It’s a strange moment, when all the materials are produced and your finger is hovering over the “send”, “publish”, or “activate” button. You start to second-guess yourself, even though you intellectually know what you’re releasing is as good as you can make it. In the case of the dev blog, Fozzie and team knew they had put in plenty of clarifications that this was a plan, that it could change, and that they had given ample justification for the need for each element in the plan. (Bang-up job, by the way. You guys really set the table nicely.)
But I suspect the nervousness was sitting like a blanket over CCP’s headquarters on Monday and early Tuesday. I suspect a great many people missed a lot of sleep Monday night, worrying about the player reaction to what was contained within. It’s unnerving, knowing a surge of player emotion was coming, but not knowing the flavor of it. Would players appreciate the necessity of the changes, fixate on specific gaps, or simply rage and burn down another in-game monument in protest. “Incarna” and “Walking in stations” were likely echoing through the minds of team members who were around during that time. Though, of course, no one would be brave enough to mention them. Speak not the devil’s name, for he shall appear.
The moments after pressing “the button” are the hardest. Beforehand, you have the work to keep you busy. You’re trying to apply everything you know about your audience, the pain points, the needs, the motivations, and want to phrase everything just perfectly. You’re concerned about the length… will people read as much as you’re putting out? But try as you might, you can’t find anything to cut without undermining the delicate balance of what you’re trying to communicate.
But after you hit “the button”, it’s locked. You can’t do anything else. You always have at least one idea you wish you’d have incorporated. One turn of the phrase, one emailed suggestion that arrives a bit too late. And with something as important as null sovereignty, you worry about individual biases influencing the final results so much that you’ve missed the mark.
It’s a hard thing, to be responsible for communicating a set of ideas that either asks someone to change their behavior or which will make them uncomfortable (and these changes certainly do that!). You fight and battle to set the tone within your readers’ minds that best prepares them to be receptive. But almost always, you only know that a piece of writing or communication will truly resonate with your audience after it’s happened. You always find flaws with it, and a perfect stroke is hard to identify ahead of time.
So, as you review and debate the content of the Phase II null-sec changes, spare a moment of thought for the many people who nervously worked on the document and spent at least one guaranteed sleepless night in service of this silly little spaceship game we all love.