Thursday, March 3, 2011

My hopes for CSM 6

The official list is out. You can see the whole list of CSM Candidates here.

I have 3 accounts, and with them choices.

To me CSM is both a blessing and a curse. We are electing players we hope will speak to what is best for EVE, as a whole. Although I could be very, very wrong about my choices (although I obviously haven't voted yet), I can only hope CSM 6 will work as a whole to help CCP recognize that the work of Team BFF is critical to the long term stability and balance in EVE, and just posting in a devblog that "the feature will be modified as necessary" isn't the same as actually doing that.

Although CSM5 has been able to put pressure on CCP with the support of the playerbase and the power of the internet for communication, CSM isn't a game design board - it's a representative body to bring up player issues for EVE as a whole. Folks who recognize that first and foremost will be the least surprised when they get to Iceland and don't get to have the CCP devs work on their personal pet peeve for EVE. The candidates I am choosing to back have that perspective, and realize that EVE is larger than what they do in the game individually.

For those of you who fear the possibility of a 0.0 powerbloc in the CSM, realize that most of them have just as much experience in PvE as PvP (although for them PvE it's a means to an end, not an end unto itself), and that over the last 3 years 0.0 has had the least attention of CCP (see below). I'd be more worried that a divided CSM, with varied agendas and personal goals, would be less effective than CSM 5 (which was the first partially effective council ever).

Where do I want CCP and the CSM to focus? Here's a list of expansions since 2008 (I'm counting Trinity since 12/2007 is so close)
  1. Trinity (12/2007): 5 New Ship Classes, mixed PvE/PvP use - these have never been "tweaked" since release that I am aware of. The common belief is that Black Ops, EWar Frigs are both broken (badly), and have been since their release.
  2. Empyrean Age (06/2008): Faction War. Empire content only. Faction War with PvE and PvP options - this has never been iterated that I am aware of. Faction War has a laundry list of problems.
  3. Quantum Rise (11/2008): Industrial Ship rebalancing (Orca introduced). Speed nerfs on Interceptors. Nothing to see here. I suppose you could call this an "Empire" content patch, since Orcas are not exactly roaming the nullsec roid fields...
  4. Apocrypha (03/2009): T3 Cruisers, Wormholes. Mostly PvE content, although wormholes allow PvP experience. Some ship tweaking. Apocrypha was iterated at least once (introduction of Epic Arcs). This was the golden release for EVE in my opinion. Apocrypha introduced a lot of new things that actually worked. There really isn't a huge backlog that I'm aware of from this release, other than the T3 Frigates that never were.
  5. Dominion (12/2009): Mostly Nullsec content. Overhaul of Sovereignty system. Introduction of Pirate Epic Arcs (occur in nullsec). Although major issues introduced with Dominion (lag) have been iterated on, the Sovereignty system was never fully deployed, and has never been iterated. Supercarriers were modified and (like other ship changes) need serious adjustment (again).
  6. Tyrannis (05/2010): Hello PI. Other than making the Scorpion look new, there is no PvP content in this patch (unless working to fix lag counts). Tyrannis content has been iterated at least two times. Oh, and CCP totally screwed up T2 production and gave the sov holders in the North the biggest wallets in the history of EVE with the disastrous Technetium buff.
  7. Incursion (01/2011): Primarily PvE content, some ship modifications and T2 ammo adjustments. Incursion was released in 3 pieces, one of which may have actually improved large fleet combat lag.
Looking through that backlog of just over 3 years of content, Nullsec/PvP has not been getting the attention that PvE/empire has, and the attention it got (Dominion) was then largely ignored (like Faction War) as far as iterative development and correctly. This should be the focus of the CSM. Fix issues introduced in major updates that were supposed to be iterated on. Hello, Team BFF. You have a big backlog, and we want it fixed. My votes for CSM are all about getting in front of CCP and reminding them that they should deliver on their promises.


  1. For the past 3-4 years CCP let themselves be dominated by the singular view that only new and shiny content (even rather than features) would grow EVE. Even today, after the switch from Torfi to Zulu for the helm of the EVE product this remains apparant. Consider for example the statements of the lead game designer Noah Ward in the recent PC Gamer interview where he once again expressed the conscious focus on just "new shiny" over taking care of business. Literally, business.

    CCP are right that new content (but also new features) sells. It is the acquisition angle.
    But EVE is not a product you pick from the shelves at the supermarket. It is a service model. And that means that not only do you have to make the sale to grow, but you also have to expend the effort to keep the ones you sold to.

    Last year's October events were specifically about that divide. CSM 5 did a truly amazing job at not so much calling bullshit on CCP, the customers in general already did that, but in channeling the "rage" annex frustration in a very constructive manner to bridge the gap between metrics and understanding that CCP faced.

    To their credit, CCP as a company briefly remembered their company values, and their commercial interests, and sat down to listen.

    With Zulu taking the helm for the product we have seen a lot more conscious effort from CCP, through bidirectional communication with CSM 5 (which did the work, applied the workflow, and used transparancy and communication as instruments of pressure management - as pretty much tasked by the CEO of CCP) but also because substantial parts of CCP understood (finally) that they were missing things.

    It may not seem as much to newer subscribers, but even just the moving away from the previous doctrine of "dump expansion on public when deadline is due, regardless of whether finished, complete or properly tested, and never look back" towards "one step at a time, phased deployment to ensure that parts are deployed properly" is an enormous difference. The credit for this goes to the hard work of the core CSM 5 members and at the CCP side particularly Zulu.

    Still we have seen that it has not gone that easily as one would expect CCP to capitalise on the realisations they have made. We have been able to see that there still is a strong side of CCP which well, doesn't give a crap. This is what the people at describe as the "team awesome" side of CCP. The ones who are merely in it for the sake of shiny and awards, and who willfully ignore the writing on the many walls they themselves have built up.

  2. This became visible once again in December, when the topic came to Planetary Interaction. Prior to that in a fair few subscriber communities people had discussed and given up on PI, and overall - as shitty and illegal as it is - most had dumped PI on botting. It was a collection of game design issues which prevented the wide scale adoption of PI by subscribers. Communities themselves even did tallies of how many humans used PI, results of which were quite frankly abyssmal. It demonstrated on the user level how big the divide was between the traditional presentation of "awesome" by CCP of what could have been a very innovative concept, and the effective delivery which showed zero understanding of how a) the mind of user types work and b) the general behavioral principles present as derivatives of game theory in EVE.

    So when the CSM 5 once again in December got the speech from team awesome how awesome succesful PI was, the question was asked how many people really use PI. The answer was given. Unfortunately, the answer was slapped under NDA, the topic was dropped, and the story coming from the bars of Iceland is one of epeens being stepped on and thus the NDA. Whether that is accurate, is largely irrelevant, considering the historic behaviour of CCP when faced with frustrations of users not adopting new shiny, the parallels are too obvious to ignore.

    But it went on, during that december summit, with the topic of Incarna. It was clear prior to the summit that there were serious questions about what CCP had done those 3-4 years during which Incarna was presented as awesome. Especially since there was neither new material or demo stuff coming out, not even to media or the CSM. And because the CSM got hit with a wall when they asked the team for insight in to how CCP was planning to introduce Incarna, what the gameplay would be, and how it would received iteration in balance with the spaceships part of EVE. The side of CCP engaged in that, stopped communicating with the CSM, after the realisation that there was neither vision statement nor roadmap - this while Incarna was still due for a singular release in summer 2011. Emberassing? Yes. Reason to simply jump in a trench and go "lalalala"? No. As has been visible in other interactions with the CSM, it is very easy to capitalise for CCP on the structured feedback that the CSM gives.

  3. Look at for example the work of Team Gridlock, yes the fight against lag was long overdue, but they are on it, actively communicating, actively involved, proactively engaged.

    But also look at the team Best Friends Forever. Sure it seems like CCP Soundwave has some issue with the CSM - apparently over feeling misrepresented in the CSM Minutes at some point - so it is understandable that there is some friction. But well, openness and honesty deals with anything. After all, two of CCP's company values are being fearless, and practising transparancy.

    But while the CSM was slammed with the wall of the NDA on the topic of an empty Incarna without much planning or vision or even a formulated roadmap, the team awesome side of CCP was fine with taking everything they had told the CSM to the media.

    This is part of the struggle CSM 6 is going to face. Balancing and finding ways to apply workflow, accountability and a constructive approach towards dealing with both the team awesome side of CCP, and the good sides of CCP. Fortunately the CSM has a few simple concepts available as strong instruments: transparancy, consistancy and communication. With CCP and Customers alike.

    A lot of that depends on who ends up being elected. There are obvious traps, particularly that of social engineering. The idea that direct personal interaction with Devs can further private goals or interests, rather than those of EVE in general. Which is basically useless, after all you don't get to "brosef" with the people at CCP who make the actual decisions on a strategic level. On top of that, we have to be honest. The reason why CCP moved away from being part of the dynamic that is called EVE, was social engineering. Regardless of facts or sentiments, the era of "dev hotline", "aurora" and the t20 case did more damage to EVE for customers and CCP alike than most were willing to admit. CCP segregated from the game. The results of which have been visible for years, and still are, as CCP most of the time have serious problems in understanding the affinity required to engage with in game trends and events, but also mechanisms and features.

    We'd be very stupid to push CCP further away from EVE. It is more than just a game, it is an emerging dynamic. And CCP are humans too, just like us "lolcustomers".

    57 candidates for CSM 6. A lot of them, particularly from the west, north and east of nullsec, which clearcut block voting (whatever we think of it, it is part of what is possible within the concept of these elections). Most of which simply go in with a lot of hurf blurf but no intentions other than those of preserving their own interests. Which is understandable.

    But it is also sad. CCP has a tough year in 2011, with an absent vision, an absent roadmap, milestones to achieve for Dust 514, the ongoing work for corification and the Carbon framework, and the heavy investments in resources and manpower for World of Darkness. On top of that, EVE is getting a completely new environment with Incarna. And the spaceships part, is in a dire state where it comes to interactions of niches, dependancies on mechanisms, and growing conflicts between older concepts of game design and changing times and lives of users and user types.

    CSM candidates with a realisation that polishing is something done "on the side", as time and resources permit are required. An agenda of "gonna fix blasters", is unfortunately useless, CCP have made clear they simply have zero interest in that kind of feedback.

    Still, it is possible to push matters on the table, as we have seen with Trebor Daehdoow's crowdsourcing initiative as CSM 5 member, which is directly responsible for Team BFF efforts in picking up on polishing. But it takes a special type of CSM member to pull that off.

  4. EVE as a whole needs to be addressed on a strategic level. There are issues of sales, and of retention. There are issues of game design, and of unanticipated user behaviour over time. It is going to take a special type of CSM member to not just sit there and hurf blurf, to make the argumentation, to produce the metrics and to make the translation between user and CCP "talk and perspective" in order to bridge the divides.

    Most of the 57 candidates unfortunately have no realisation that the CSM is a job. No, not like EVE is a "job" :P But a real job. Unpaid.

    Some of the candidates are in it for the free trip, which is understandable since this is EVE, but it is a waste of votes in my opinion.

    Some of the candidates just want to push a private agenda, which is understandable, but in such an important and difficult year, I consider this a waste of momentum to build upon the work done by CSM 5 and capitalise together with CCP on a proper balance between acquisition and retention focus.

    Some candidates run for a specific niche. Unfortunately some niches are more equal than others, the QEN is a very good indicator for which ones are most equal. Faction Warfare serves as a strong reminder why the team awesome side of CCP should just not be given into once again, as it demonstrates beyond a doubt how unfortunate the approach of "dump and don't look back" really is. Unfortunately, Faction Warfare is such a small niche, that it is considered a dead end. Especially in this upcoming year, such a small niche has no leg to stand on in the battle for very scarce resources and CCP's prioritisation.

    At the risk of this now coming across as a campaign plug, that is not my intention, I should say that I've made my choice. Personal choice.

    Considering all of the above, and a lot more which most people discuss within their own respective communities and never on the EVE forums, I've kept an eye on candidates as they became visible during this and the last months of the previous year. There's a fair few very interesting candidates, but well, I love EVE. Where it comes to picking representation, I can't take the chance that someone may or may not turn out to be a solid CSM member. I have to go by what I see of them, and what I have seen of them well before they became a candidate for any CSM.

    So, I'm dividing my votes over Trebor Daehdoow, and Seleene. Both have the awareness of instrumentation required, the insights over long time into all of EVE's niches, the strength of character to not just be tough, but to be constructive ... and both willing and able to do the work where CCP will not unless the work is done for them.

    Yes, Trebor was a member of CSM 5 already. But a core member, responsible for a substantial part of the momentum built in getting CCP to understand the divide between metrics and perspectives. And yes, Seleene is a former CCP staff member, but he shares the above with Trebor, and provides a unique understanding of the causes of CCP's inability to understand more perspectives than its own.

    For me, that is in the aftermath of CSM 5 and this upcoming tough year, the best possible combination for CSM 6. I wish them luck, as neither of them has a block vote. Then again, neither has any hurf blurf drama shouting, but engages people directly and both are doing the work. Something I hope players will pick up on.

    We will see, these are interesting times.

  5. And um yeah, I don't know how that happened. I only planned to write a brief comment =/

  6. Wow you should have made a blog of your own for that :)

    It's comforting that someone with in depth thoughts on the issues and processes has reached similar results for candidates to choose. I was not specifically naming names, since I wanted to generate some discussion (and you certainly have that).

    Thanks for posting

  7. Heh, sometimes people call me Mr. Wall of Text, a title which is mostly undeserved as usually I am quite short in my posts :P

    Anyway, there is a lot of thought being put into it by quite a few people. It is visible when you speak with folks, or go over forums, but there is not much open discussion yet. Which is a bit of a shame.

    It is understandable, ofcourse, the elections have barely begun. And the arena these days is even more distributed than that of CSM 5, as part of the general trend of the last 3 years where players use the EVE forums less and less, and compartimentalise more and more in their own respective sub communities. EVE Gate is in no position to cure that (another CCP team which thusfar has ran away from the CSM, a damn shame as the current test forums would not be in the current state of usability and user interaction patterns if that team had made the effort to engage with the CSM).

    I'd love to see more discussion. CCP is an open book, but this all is not just about CCP. It's about us and CCP together. As I said, the worst that has happened to EVE was CCP segregating from it (for a variety of reasons). We see the results of that in every game niche.

    It's simple time to enter the dynamic, and to exchange shoes to walk it, in order to get to work with it.

  8. Retweeted your link to this post. Not sure how accurate your assessment is of each of those expansions...and I do recall Oveur saying at June Summit that Apocrypha resulted in very high technical debt (which one presumes might impact the backlog)...but CCP does seem to be getting the message of small releases/many iterations. It's so much more sane way to do things, I can't believe it wouldn't be better for everyone and everything, including the backlog. Hopefully CSM6 can build on this process change for the good of the game.