Campaign Trail – Third Party Apps

Thank you for your interest in my campaign to be part of CSM 6. It is my intention to work diligently, effectively, and tirelessly to bring the concerns of the player base to the CSM, to CCP, and back to the players.

The following is a user submitted request for my stand on a topic important to them. I have given thought to the topic and formulated my opinion, but it’s just that; my opinion. Nothing more. There is no guarantee the opinion expressed herein will ever see the light of day.

My platform isn’t one of issues, but rather one of integrity, tenacity, and the willingness to hold the CSM and CCP accountable to the players that support everything we do. I will not push my own agenda, unless it coincides with what the majority of the player base wants for a given topic.

Never start a fight you can win. #RocTheVote

QUESTION: What is your stance on monetizing the EVE API? Do you think third party developers should be able to benefit from their efforts? How do you think CCP should enact quality control?

As half of the team that brought you the popular Capsuleer iPhone application, this particular topic is near and dear to my heart. I have had vested interest in this topic for quite some time.

CCP, once again, showed great innovation and community spirit by even offering a public API to their game. Few do. Recently, I’ve been working with the Need for Speed: World API, but it’s incredibly limited. CCP has opened up so much information through the EVE API, and has sporadically enhanced what data has become available as time goes on. Kudos to them on that.

The way I see it, and again, this is my own biased opinion, there are only two real options when it comes to the EVE API

Down with the API

The first solution is for CCP to remove the public aspect of the API altogether. Focus their social efforts internally, create their own mobile app, enhance the functionality of Eve Gate, and be done with it. Period.

Personally, I don’t like this option, but it is viable from a business point of view. By producing their own usages of the API, they easily have full control of their intellectual property, and all profits go directly to them. No fuss. No muss.

Quality Control

The other option for CCP, as I see it, is to develop a system where they monitor/control third party efforts, and let only the best uses of the API have their financial stamp of approval. I’m going to use EON Magazine as an example. EON has complete creative control over their efforts, yet every publish is thoroughly reviewed and approved by CCP. Not a single issue of EON goes to market without the CCP stamp of approval. It’s a good process. It’s also a much easier process when dealing with a tangible, printed product.

The world of digital property is much more complicated. For an iPhone app, CCP would need to setup a business agreement with the third party developer, taking a certain percentage of the profits from the sales of the app. Additionally, Apple also takes a cut off the top. This could result in an EVE Online app not being very profitable for the developers unless they have, let’s say, 60,000+ users. There are those that say this is typical of any competitive business practice; let the cream rise to the top. The dilemma there for CCP is they potentially stand to have a few crappy iPhone apps using their API that if it were up to them wouldn’t have the CCP stamp of approval at all, but then are they showing bias? Would the whining and flames begin? This last statement could be said for any mobile platform or use of the API, not just iPhone.

So there is a fine line for CCP to walk. Developers want freedom to express themselves how they see fit, but at the same time CCP needs to ensure quality control. How can they through their lot in with one development group without alienating others? There’s also the question of longevity. Anyone remember EVE Tracker? For that matter, anyone remember Capsuleer? We all want pay for work, otherwise development can only go so far. And at the end of the day, CCP is a business. They want to profit. Subscriptions to EVE Online = profit.

So how does CCP deal with this situation? One solution presented recently was to create a volunteer body to govern standards of usage for the API. This group would be aimed at nurturing and helping developers work within a pre-defined set of stlye guides in order to bring better quality products to the EVE community. It’s great in concept, but again, there is the question of longevity, not to mention who is qualified to participate as an advisor, and who determines those qualifications? What weight to they have in decisions regarding API development? Any? Do they even work with CCP on this initiative, or try to make a go of it strictly as members of the EVE community?

I think the heart of the issue is that CCP doesn’t have this level of mobile/social experience, and is having a difficult time choosing a path. Who is qualified to make recommendations within their organization? Do they alienate existing developers by restricting usage, or eliminating the API? Do they let anyone create an app for the API, even if it’s a piece of crap? How will that affect perceptions of their intellectual property? Of course, choosing no path means they are letting all options pass them by. Inaction is the worst choice.

If this issue was brought to the CSM, I would work with the CSM and CCP architecting a solution that works for everyone involved. Again, as half of the team that brought you Capsuleer, I worked for two years with CCP towards this very goal, and most of my documenation and business proposal is still relevant and valid. Maybe the weight of the CSM might make this topic of more importance to them. Maybe it will the EVE API more urgent.

Time will tell.

14 responses to “Campaign Trail – Third Party Apps

  1. This sounds like an incredibly anti-player stance to take. The more things on the API and the more freedom for third party developers the better. Let the market sort out whether an app is good or not.

    • Through some Twitter conversations it’s come to light that I’m actually sabotaging myself by not including the original questions I am answering. I have gone back and edited my posts to include those questions.

      This topic is to specifically answer monetizing the API, and my opinions on that subject matter. I thought that was clear by calling it Third Party Apps, but I chalk this up to learning experience.

      I am writing an EVE API specific post, as that question seems to be of greater importance to players, and to me, is a separate topic of discussion.

  2. The api doesn’t need to be monetized. It’s a subscription driver. Having a sea of apps floating around out there creates exposure. The better apps will float to the top and the marginal apps will flounder. Just finding that one good iPhone or android app for many will be the tipping point to converting them into a paying player.

    Iff CCP really wants to knock out the chaff, add a $99 fee to allow you to participate in the developer program, but then they would have some responsibility to treat it professionally.

    For some people, beating against the api is part of the game experience. If they can figure out a way to turn that into ISK or $ they should generally be allowed to unless there is some gameplay issue that gets violated. I get the impression that collecting cross-region pricing information is something CCP is not interested in having available. Maybe they should set up a page of rules/guidelines for 3rd party apps.

  3. You should probably include the questions you are answering, to clarify points of view and safeguard perception impact.

    What you are looking at however is a topic of business development, and not one particularly of interest outside of that scope for the product angle of EVE specifically. It is a doorway to several roads of sound commercial interest, but not one which is easily applied to just the single product of EVE.

    Sure it is clear that CCP has missed several opportunities in these regards, but it is also possible to see why, and where present to see the reasoning.

    What worries me is not so much the views on third party apps or control or similar viewpoints, but the general trend CCP has taken away from the original principle application of “player driven events”.

    When EVE began, CCP gave us a few basic tools, a wide open environment, the power of choice and the price of consequences. Over time they have expanded on that, and the API is visibly a continuity of this. Players have taken that and follow the original path of creating their own events / media / exposure / content with and through it.

    But there are plenty signs of how that original principle seems to be compromised. Incarna for example is a clear cut trench warfare pit of opinionated convictions in regards to content. Player driven events are fine, but player driven content is not. I remember how APB shot themselves in the foot with getting lost in both the perception challenges and the technical debts of insisting to do everything in house and strictly focusing on the content. Yes it gave a lot to fiddle with, but it should not take a genius to see the risk in that for a dynamic such as EVE.

    Third party apps in that regard, follow a similar trend in perception, and that worries me a little bit. After all, the activity and exposure of third party / customer interaction with products is one of the benchmarks for the continuity potential of the core product. Even on a simpler level, when players drive less events, one should examine why that is. And not merely compensate by jumping on the themepark train of content production and gameplay surrogates which have roots in the delusion of how the theme must be enforced if it has to be compelling.

    You’re touching on some very general challenges present within CCP, which bear on more than just the topics of API, Third Party markets or their ability to capitalise on visible momentum.

    • I have edited my campaign posts to include the original question I was asked, but unfortunately edits don’t always update to all readers, leaving me with egg on my face repeatedly in this particular case.

      New posts will not cause me such a headache hopefully in regards to the post topic.

      Then I’ll just have to deal with subject matter.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I always appreciate your input.

  4. What solution would you introduce to the fact that the API is used as a security check by corporations to audit new members?

    The same for killboards pulling info from API, reducing the need for members to post all their kills and losses (the latter which they might “forget”)?

  5. Roc,

    I appreciate you taking the time to post this. However, you didn’t address what I perceive to be the crucial problems with monetizing 3rd party apps:
    – 3rd party apps are for very nearly mandatory because they provide very very large competitive advantages. Claims that you can get the same results purely via in game testing are somewhere between misinformed/ignorant and disingenuous.
    – Because 3rd party apps have such strong advantages, 3rd party apps with subscriptions effectively increase the monthly cost of playing Eve. 3rd party apps that are bought one time (or per feature) effectively amount to microtransactions. Neither are going to be popular with or good for the average Eve player.
    – Monetizing 3rd party apps will discourage cooperative development between 3rd party developers. Not all information from in game is easily visible with a couple of clicks.
    – Companies that make applications – and make no mistake, that is what we are talking about here – tend to be very competitive and harsh in dealing with competitors. It is entirely possible that competing app developers will have legal battles and/or provoke both intentional and unintentional schisms within the community.
    – Any sort of monetization scheme leaves CCP open to accusations of in game political partiality. Demanding that 3rd party app developers be “politically neutral” is as unlikely to be enforceable as it is to be followed.
    – All arguments that revolve around developer pay ignore the principles that make FOSS – and many community/fan sites – a reality. There were many people willing to pick up and continue with QuickFit when it finally died, and many with Capsuleer. It did not die because you didn’t get paid… it died because you refused to let others keep it alive by giving their own time to the community for free.

    Ultimately, CCP’s decision not to move forward with Capsuleer seems to have been spur of the moment and very poorly handled… and quite possibly an unwitting step in the right direction. Even if it hurts.

    It doesn’t have to be be discontinued, and it doesn’t have to allow special premium access. It really does appear that the status quo is a viable place for the API and 3rd party apps to sit.

    -Liang

    • I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, my friend.

      You are coming from an assumed conviction that apps are “near mandatory”. I don’t believe there is evidence to support that. To me, apps are about want, not about need. I’m not going to try to sway your opinion, though. You’re entitled to what you believe.

      I do think you are mistaken when you talk about the competitive nature of like products, though. We’re not talking about third party app developers being in the same industry and competing against each other with similar products; we’re talking about licensing an intellectual property and creating the best product you can from it.

      Look at Star Wars for example. There are quite a few companies that license that IP. Do you really think they get nasty with each other? Maybe. Maybe not. The bottom line is they make their product, and the good ones rise to the top.

      At the same time, not everyone gets to release Star Wars products. Lucas decides what products are up to snuff when representing his brand (though it’s a poor example because Lucas pretty much lets everyone use the brand now).

      Same would be said for CCP, as has been stated repeatedly. It’s business, plain and simple. They have to be in control of their intellectual property. There can be no abandoned products. There can be majority community rule here.

      If CCP decides to release a licensing agreement with developers, I can assure you that CCP will own all rights to the code so that in the case where developers no longer have an interest in working on the product AND their legally binding contract with CCP has expired, the product can potentially continue.

      The more you debate, the more you make yourself in favour of just closing the API and letting CCP make their own mobile product.

      Anyway, I do appreciate your opinions, as I’ve stated several times, and appreciate that you fiercely pursue making your voice heard. It shows you care about Eve, and I totally support that.

      Doesn’t mean it’s “my way or the highway”. Just means we have differing opinions, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  6. Roc,

    There are several enormous flaws with the assertion that 3rd party applications are not mandatory. Let me elaborate.

    Not all information is actually available in a reasonable way in game. Much of it has been derived via extensive in game testing and analyzed in ways that not everyone is even capable of. Monetizing 3rd party apps will discourage people from sharing these tricks because RL money – instead of fake in game currency – is now on the line.

    Information flow, presentation, and absorption is literally the most important thing in Eve. It helps improve your PVP fits, mission fits, understand/exploit market opportunities, and even remotely check the value of items without logging in a dozen market alts. In the time that others would spend manually chasing down avenues, you would already have come up with a superior plan AND exploited the opportunity.

    Another point is that 3rd party tools come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them, like Capsuleer, really are luxuries. Others, like EFT and Evemon, are much more important. And others are literally mandatory, like fancy industry spreadsheets and market tracking apps.

    The final nail in the coffin is that whether they are literally required to play the game or not isn’t as important as whether they are *perceived* as being required to *effectively* play the game. Start a new alt some time, and find out how long it takes before you get told to download Evemon, EFT, a Market tracking app, and someone’s poor man industry spreadsheet.

    Now imagine they all cost $5/month.

    -Liang

    • Thank you for giving me the perfect example to finally turn this around on you. I hope.

      Noob enters game. Noob is told to download “All in one” app, which features ALL API functionality, as well as other cool and helpful features you would deem as “essential”.

      Noob installs app and gets: isk, skills, clones, skill queues, and all limited API functionality, for free.

      Noob grows ingame, decides to start a Corp, and now needs more functionality available to them. Noob could search for another app, but fortunately “All in one” offers full API functionality as well, for a cost.

      Noob has the CHOICE if they want to spend the money for these features, and can change their mind at any time if they want to go back to limited API features only.

      That is how CCP’s licensing structure should work. Get them hooked, then profit on the wants.

      As I’ve repeatedly stated though; CSM should not be involved in this type of initial business policy decision unless asked directly by CCP, and even then, it won’t be me leading the charge as the community would undoubtedly find this suspect and biased due to my involvement with Capsuleer.

      Agree or not, I maintain my position, and respectfully disagree with yours.

      • Roc,

        Unfortunately, it doesn’t turn it around on me. The full API features will undoubtedly give a competitive advantage in a PVP game. They are not *really* optional.

        All it really amounts to is another form of micro transaction that becomes applied to Eve-Online, whether it originates from CCP or a 3rd party developer. And that assumes that CCP makes the “optimal” choice and somehow solves all the other problems presented in my first post (that you have yet to respond to).

        -Liang

        • It’s not that I haven’t answered your points; it’s that we’re caught in an infinite loop in this discussion.

          I’m going to reboot now and let others continue to express their opinions as well.

          Once again, I appreciate your passionate position and forcing me to really make sure I know why I believe my own.

  7. Taking your essential apps should not cost money as it will provide an unfar advantage arguement further, cos I do things like that. Does this mean that we should all play on exactly the same computers now, as my $3000 rig gets better performance than you $1500 or should we have special software installed to make our internet connectsion all perform at the same level.

    I agree with Roc here. If someone wants to spend time and develop a tool using the API that gives them a competitive advantage then why should we punish them for ‘playing in the sanbox’ that CCP have created.

    The API is as much a part of the game as the Client software, how you make use of it is entirely up to you. I personally have developed lots of stuff for the API that have never left my PC as they are my advantage. Should I be forced to hand this over?

    If I then decide to make it available (free or for ISK) that is my decision on what to do with MY property.

    Personally I feel that there are more options that CCP could successfully pursue to make the API better than just Roc’s options … I will put my idea’s onto my site and link it back here later.

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