Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CSM: Lame Duck from the beginning?

Welcome to the nineteenth installment of the EVE Blog Banter, the monthly EVE Online blogging extravaganza created by CrazyKinux. The EVE Blog Banter involves an enthusiastic group of gaming bloggers, a common topic within the realm of EVE Online, and a week to post articles pertaining to the said topic. The resulting articles can either be short or quite extensive, either funny or dead serious, but are always a great fun to read! Any questions about the EVE Blog Banter should be directed to crazykinux@gmail.com. Check out other EVE Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

This months topic comes to us from @evepress, and he asks: The CSM: CCP's Meta Game? - The CSM, an eve players voice to CCP. Right? In the grand scheme of things yes, the players bring up issues and the CSM presents them to CCP. But in its current iteration the CSM was supposed to be given small authority to assign CCP assets to projects that the CSM thought needed work on. As it has not come out this was not the case. So fellow bloggers, is the CSM worth it, has the CSM improved the game in any way, or is it just a well thought out scam by CCP to give us players a false sense of input in the game? What's your take?

Ah, the CSM. As this was the third CSM I voted in, I was actually interested in the candidates, platforms, and the spin from CCP that CSM would be "stakeholders" in the development of EVE. I used my votes (yes, multiple accounts) to cover both of my interests, LoSec and Nullsec. But was it worth the effort? Does the CSM do anything to improve the game? TL;DR: yes and sort of.

Of the people, by the people
I have always had high hopes for the CSM since I learned of this player-elected body. I am one of those who believe that CCP should listen to a filtered version of the player requests, since the sheer volume of "I wants" in this game would overwhelm anyone, and most of them don't balance the game effectively. In my fantasy, CSM is that filter, presenting the most focused, widely supported concerns of the playerbase in a way that enhances the game. And to the extent they can present those issues, CSM is a success. The minutes from the summit in Iceland show that the CSM (overall) presented widely supported issues or ideas to CCP.

Telephone Game, anyone?
As is always the case when the marketing department gets to filter the announcement, CSM is not actually a stakeholder, or at least not directly. They get a CCP employee to play the telephone game between the CSM and the actual development team. The breakdown goes like this: Players present issues to CSM members (usually in the EVE Forums). Other players support or troll those issues, until someone from CSM sees it, evaluates it, brings it back to the group, and they hash it out even more. Once they have a clear issue, position (and maybe even idea for solution), they bring it to their appointed CCP representative. That person then takes those issues and brings them to the stakeholder meeting and presents them, in whatever secret back-room meetings discuss the future of EVE development. I'm sure that even though the ideas are filtered more and more (Players -> CSM -> Representative -> Developers) they maintain their original weight and intent, right? Telephone always worked well for me as a child. Oh, wait...

Steady as she goes...
As repeated ad infinium in the CSM Summit minutes, CCP doesn't have resources to devote to CSM-raised issues for the next 18 months. On the positive spin side, if CCP has an 18-month plan in place and it is so rock-solid that they know exactly what is going to be in each expansion and point release, then they should already be aware of the existing major gameplay issues and have plans to address them in some way during that cycle. Unfortunately, the minutes tell a different tale, a tale of "oh, yeah, that's a problem, but we aren't going to fix it in the next year and a half. Now I'm a realist - software development cycles are not short, and plans have to be made far in advance to really develop quality products. But if CCP is serious about the CSM as a player represented stakeholder, they need to make some room. The "Winter Expansion" should include resolution to some issues brought up by the CSM. That gives CCP almost 6 months to cherry pick the ideas presented and incorporate solutions to some of those issues into that expansion. If that were to happen (and I'm just not so positive it will) then CCP could back up their (currently) hollow promise of CSM as stakeholders, and that they listen to and respond to the established, playing (paying) players.

If that doesn't happen then we all will know truly that CSM is merely a marketing ploy, a lame duck from it's inception.

Late Update
Of course, after I took the time to write this, CCP Zulu comes out with a defensive Dev Blog, a number of the Dev team is pulled in from vacation for damage control on the resulting threadnaught, and everyone is still up in arms about the future. One fine post summarizes this banter easily though, from the aforementioned threadnaught:
The important thing to note here is that there's an incredible number of new features presented by the CSM. Even if they're all "old features" that went derelict, they're still basically changes to the way Eve works now. Honestly, I'd say that the CSM outlined at least 3 possible expansions - and maybe a lot more.

I don't think its reasonable for the CSM to expect all of their issues to be addressed - or even a majority of them. They might be able to convince CCP to change an upcoming expansion if they get enough detailed and solid ideas in place - but they aren't in place fast enough to take part in the planning of the current expansion.

Meh. What I'm really left with here is the perception that CCP and the CSM are both doing a not horrible job with the cards they've been given. I agree very very strongly with the CSM that it feels a lot of features are being left behind and eventually we end up with not just code bloat, but also feature bloat. I agree strongly with CCP that they need to work on Incarna and Dust. I think Dust is a really big gamble, but Incarna is probably going to be a good thing once its fully out.

Furthermore, the CSM has no right at all to request that CCP stop work on these titles to focus on Eve. Their best line of attack is to request more development resources for Eve proper - which might include hiring a new team or two. Which they appear to be doing.

I dunno. I feel like a lot of the rage over this is unjustified and caused because the CSM is coming into things at the beginning of a release instead of when planning started (but can they ever be there when planning potentially starts months and years before?).

CSM5: Mismanaged Expectations on everyone's part.

(original quote here)

See other participants:

1. Growing Pains | CrazyKinux's Musing
2. CSM: Hoax or Serious Business? « Lost in New Eden
3. CSM-Power to the people or puppets of CCP « A whole lot of Yarrrr!!!
4. Gaming the CSM | A Mule in EvE
5. A Taste Of Democracy | StarFleet Comms
6. CSM: Player Power or Paper Tiger? | I Am Keith Neilson
7. Governance Thrash Redux? « The Ralpha Dogs
8. CCP Doesn’t Care: Blog Banter 19 « OMG! You're a Chick?!
9. The Cataclysmic Variable: It's Crunch Time!
10. The 19th EVE Blog Banter is upon us… and about the CSM and CCP | Victoria Aut Mors
11. More to come...

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