After Plans to Charge Developers, EVE Online Postpones Amid Outcry

Justin Houk
Jul. 27 2011, 12:00AM EDT

EVE Online, the internet spaceship game that puts all of it's players into one virtual universe, recently announced plans to license and monetize its EVE Online API. The proposed license would allow developers to make money from apps using the API in return for an annual fee. The details of the new licensing program were released by game developer CCP shortly after it's annual fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland. EVE's player community quickly attacked parts of the license, prompting CCP to suspend the changes until later this summer when some of the concerns can be addressed.

EVE Online Battleship

Under the current terms of service 3rd party developers cannot charge any fees for applications or services that use the EVE API. The proposed license allows developers to monetize their code through adds, subscription fees, donations, app stores, in game currency and more. "This is a pretty simple program and hopefully it will help you convincing your significant other that developing applications for a space game until 3am in the morning is a good idea." wrote Jon Bjarnason, EVE Online's Technical Director, in a blog post announcing the details.

CCP is proposing a $99 per year licensing fee for commercial apps and a free license for non-commecial apps.  That's not an unheard of amount for a royalty free license but seems to be where the troubles with the EVE community start. EVE players have a particular dislike for charging the fee for in-game currency transactions. They also think the overall cost is too high. The feedback thread on the EVE forums quickly amassed 32 pages of mostly negative comments.  Here is one of the more mild comments from a player with the in-game name Azazel Mordred.

What the hell. No thank you.

As the developer of a freely available open source web application, there is no way I am going to pay you $99 on the off chance that someone may feel like donating some non-real in-game money to me one day.

Since my code is hosted by my users in most cases, and many do some hacking on it of their own, what implications does that have for them? Do they also need to be licensed in order to use and modify my software? Do I need to spread my license around to enable people to use my software? What if someone decides to put ads on their version of the application, am I responsible for that?

This is so full of holes and so poorly thought out it's unreal.

CCP responded to the feedback by revising the original post with some clarifications, adding it's own comments in the forums, and releasing a short video interview with the games lead producer. Overall they call the new terms a first draft and distance themselves from the elements with the most controversy. "The blog represents the first draft of what our bizdev department is thinking of in terms of the license agreement. We published it to get feedback from you guys." wrote Jon Bjarnason in his update.  "It is in no way the purpose of the program to deter or make money off 3rd party development. The core purpose is simply to have control our IP and brand and have a contract in place so we can have some form of regulation on apps and services that use the EVE name and EVE resources (API)." wrote Arnar Hrafn Gylfason (CCP Zulu) in the feedback thread.

CCP ran its idea for licensing its API past the user community and asked for input.  The community responded--in a big way--and now it's up to CCP to find a balance between it's business needs and the communities wishes. This doesn't seem very different from similar situations where other developers moved to monetize their API.  It does show that some communities are more passionate and express themselves in different ways. CCP has promised not to change its terms until a more mutually agreeable arrangement can be found later this summer.

Justin Houk

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