Daily Archives: January 14, 2016

What is to Be Done with CSM 11?

The season is upon us again, the run up to the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management elections has begun.

CSM11_logo

The schedule of events looks like this:

  • January 15, 2016 – Candidacy period opens (Hey, that’s tomorrow!)
  • February 9, 2016 – Candidacy period closes, CCP validates potential candidates
  • February 29, 2016 – Voting begins
  • March 25, 2016 – Voting ends
  • April 21, 2016 – Results to be announced at Fanfest 2016

A new slate of candidates are already warming up their pitch… a new slate because a number of the veterans are declining to return.  For me the surprise isn’t that some people won’t run again, it is that some of them have run twice already.  From the outside being on the CSM looks like a bad middle management position: Too much work, not enough credit, scant control over your what tasks you get, and little chance your feedback will be heeded, all while reporting to a group likely a few time zones away that you will never truly be a part of.

I’ve had that job in real life, where it at least paid well and I got 6 weeks of vacation.  Doing it for free on top of my day job though, that seems like a bit much to ask.

And there is the institution itself, which I have considered a questionable tool for the job since its inception.  Having a consistently disinterested player base elect a slate of representatives is no way to ensure the right people are available to advise, not to mention that it favors well organized groups (read: Null Sec) so heavily that CCP had to re-rig the voting scheme so as to at least try and make it seem like they were doing something about it.

Then taking those elected and locking them into a year of working on topics for which they may have no practical experience all at the running hot and cold pace of product development and interacting with teams that may or may not care what they have to say or even trust them with details doesn’t seem like a great way to run a railroad.

And then there is the downside of having CSM members chosen by election, which is that it occasionally gives some of them the sense that they have a real mandate to do something.  The problem is that they only have the power that CCP allows them, unless they decide to go to the player base and publicly oppose CCP.

Admittedly, that worked once, with the Incarna and “Greed is Good” debacle. (Unless, of course, you were a fan of walking in stations.  Fans of space monocles, however, were spared any harm as the monocle of ill repute, which caused outsiders to deem this all “Monocle-gate,” is still available in the New Eden Store.)

That one moment during CSM6 gave people a sense that the CSM was perhaps not just a CCP publicity stunt, that it could be a force, a voice, to help set CCP straight when they started to stray from the fundamentals of the game.

Since then, however, that sense of mandate has been more likely to lead things like this.  I’m sure somebody at CCP did a spit-take when reading that, because in the midst of a dysfunctional relationship there is little they are less likely to do that try and depend more on the CSM.

CCP clearly needs to get feedback on ideas from players.  They have admitted in the past that the wisdom of the crowd can often see flaws and exploits in their plans long before they do.  Even the forums, as unwieldy as the can be, seem to offer a better chance of providing such feedback than a small elected body.  And short term focus groups seem like a much better alternative than either.

The main complaint I have heard about focus groups is that in a mix of conflicting opinions that such a group might bring, the developers are likely to only listen to the voices that agree with their preconceptions.  Unfortunately, while that can be true, it doesn’t seem less likely to be the case with the CSM either, the only difference being that CCP is likely to simply get less opinions to weigh.  That doesn’t feel like an off-setting benefit to me.  The wisdom of the crowd fades when the crowd dwindles to a little more than a dozen people.

If you look around to other companies running MMOs, the idea of selecting groups of players to offer feedback on aspects of the game for which they are qualified is pretty common.  SOE had their guild council running off and on for years.  Blizzard grabs players now and again for feedback.  And, while I would hardly endorse Turbine as an example that other companies ought to follow on most fronts, they do have their player councils for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.

That doesn’t even get into the whole Kickstarter and Early Access idea that is so popular these days and how that channels feedback to companies.

So what of the CSM then?

I always think back to when the idea came into being as a response to the T20 scandal. (Long version.)  It was somehow going to provide some oversight and transparency or some such to restore player confidence in CCP.  Has it done that yet?

I suspect that it will linger on for a few more seasons, despite my prediction.  I think it is telling that the CSM White Paper was firmed up this time around when it came to replacing members of the CSM.  That aspect of the CSM certainly got some exercise during CSM X, and it makes me wonder if the path to the exit will be shorter going forward.

But I am, by my own admission, quite the cynic at times, especially when it comes to sandbox politics.  I think reading the minutes of the Academic Senate at my university put me squarely in that spot.

Others are less cynical.  Some very earnest, hard working, and well meaning people will be running for CSM 11.  I am not for a boycott of the election, since I suspect that such an act would only cause the election to further favor the organized groups that will vote a full slate.   So I will not try to dissuade you from voting for the candidate of your choice, and all the more so if you believe they can do some good.

I even put together my own platform for a CSM run as a joke, then figured I had best not post it because once you start something like that, even in jest, some people will think you’re just being coy and really want the job.  I am sure there are people out there waiting for Gevlon to run despite his statements to the contrary.

My idea was to distill down the game to its most essential element, which I considered to be explosions.  My platform was solely based on explosions.  Explosions are exciting, give a great sense of satisfaction, are pretty, generate kill mails, and stimulate the economy.  I would be in favor of any plan that would increase the number of explosions in the game over the long term and against anything that reduced explosions in the long run, and would evaluate any idea based solely on that idea.

So, for example, I would have been against the Entosis link module idea, since explosions were reduced by that in my experience, something that seemed likely before it went into the game.  I would also be against being able to build a big red button that would cause everything in the game to explode because, while explosions would go up in the short term, the long term prospect for explosions would be dim.

I would likely have been for citadels, as those seem likely to increase the net explosion count, though I might be against the extremely small vulnerability window of the medium citadels,

So if you are just dying to run for the CSM and need a platform, feel free to steal that, or some variation on it.  As far as I can tell, it is as meaningful a platform as any I have seen laid out there, at least relative to what CCP will let you do in the end.

There go a thousand or so words on a topic in which I allegedly have little interest.  I doth protest a bit much or something, I think.

Of course, this being the CSM season, others are trotting out their own news and views on the institution.  We shall see what the election brings us.