The growth of the Council of Stellar Management…
A modest yet topical little blog banter proposal from CCP Xhagen that I thought might tide us over during the CSM7 election process that was to conclude at Fanfest. Secretly I was quite glad that only fifteen bloggers threw their thoughts into the ring on this one – it would mean less work getting the summary together. Well, fifteen officially.
However, certain -ahem- other events meant that the CSM debate became a steaming hot potato and the amount of column inches generated over the last fourteen days that could technically be included in this summary would keep me busy for weeks.
But I think the community at large is pretty much sick of all the unnecessary drama so I’m going to stay focused specifically on CCP Xhagen’s question of “How would you like to see the CSM grow, both in terms of player interaction and CCP interaction?” and I’m going to focus specifically on summarising those banters which directly addressed CCP Xhagen’s question.
After a few months of laying low, Morphisat returns to EVE Online, spaceship bloggery and gets stuck into a blog banter. He is quite open about his distrust of the CSM process, but also admits that their performance during the Summer of 2011 gave him more faith. He identifies the value of the CSM but recognised that there seems to be a tendency for CCP to slip things by the CSM as evidenced by the lack of consultation regarding ship command skill change proposals. Disproportionate representation due to bloc voting is a concern.
As well as proposing a lyrically poignant and entertaining theme tune, Corelin’s Killers, Thieves and Lawyers explores the idea of a wholesale restructuring of the player advocacy group, doing away with the existing CSM and replacing it with the Stellar Advisory Council. The SAC would be made up of representatives specific to particular playstyles and interests rather than simply those who can marshal the most bloc votes. Whether this would work in practice is not for me to say, but it is an interesting idea and I’m sure the opportunity to call representatives “SACs” would lead to some amusing memes.
Achernar compares the existing CSM system to similar real world electoral processes. He goes on to suggest that in a culture of innovation as befitting the CCP stable, that the CSM might want to adopt a less traditional model, suggesting “liquid democracy” as used by the German Pirate Party. How this might work, or indeed if it could, you will have to consider for yourselves after reading Achernar’s blog banter, Experiences with Space Democracy.
Referencing his naval experience, Ender gives a very cogent analysis of factors affecting the Credibility of the CSM. Like Morphisat, Ender refers to the damaging effect of bypassing the CSM in the stakeholder process as occurred in the Skill Tree changes. He also discusses the power of the unified CSM voice versus showing constructive dissent to the players; “…it is important for the players to see some of the dissent among the delegates because they are not in a leadership position but in a representative position and natural law dictates transparency…”. He goes on to look at the apathy problem which empowers bloc voting.
Nikolaj Vincent talks about his own experiences as a “player rep” for Sony Online Entertainment and gives some sound advice about effective use of “face time” and communication and how best to represent the players when liaising with developers. He raises some interesting concerns regarding how a candidates effectiveness could be measured and communicated to potential voters, especially those new to the EVE Online environment who would not be familiar with e-famous spaceship politicians.
Scitor Nantom gets straight to the point with a request for a “dashboard” web presence allowing transparency of the CSM-CCP process and visible progress of issues similar to the system used on OpenCongress.org, citing the benefits not only to the paying customer, but also investors.
In a proposal bearing some similarity to Corelin’s earlier Stellar Advisory Council restructuring, Drackarn goes into more detail, outlining specific roles, relationships and spheres of influence. He even did some drawing, which definitely deserves a gold star and a smiley face from teacher ;).
Those roles were originally discussed in greater detail in his entertainingly illustrated post about CSM 7 – Electoral Reform.
Mara Rinn revisits the skill tree devblog miscommunication as referenced by many banterers and points out that it was not the first time the CSM had been circumvented prior to a significant game change. During Fanfest 2011, the null-sec anomaly nerf occurred, much to the chagrin of many perplexed players. The theme of this particular “rant” of Mara’s is communication. Citing the common belief that “CCP doesn’t do communication” and that despite relatively good communications from CSM5, CSM6 managed to “present one unified voice, and then proceeded to use that one unified voice to say nothing, since The Mittani was already communicating with his constituents through Goonswarm internal forums“. Well she does like a rant.
Emergent Patroller further advocates a system of play style representation over the existing organic voting system. Improved communication is again a point of discussion. According to Emergent Patroller, improving on those two points should be the key focus in facilitating improved player/developer interaction. “EVE is the most community driven game on the market, therefore it would only make sense to develop a good method for interacting with that community.”
Tommy Rollins identifies that EVE’s complexity is one of its attractive qualities, but as such so many things are in development that it may not be possible to consult the CSM on every aspect. However, “…the CSM doesn’t need to be a part of every minute detail. They need to be an efficient sounding board for significant changes.” Tommy suggests that the occasional failure for the CSM to be consulted might be a symptom of the CSM not being a focus within CCP. He discusses the subject of NDAs versus CSM’s communication effectiveness and concludes that despite some failings, “The CSM is a great institution, and I think at this point, CCP cannot shelf it.” He also gets bonus points for referencing Incarna: The Text Adventure as an example of the “awesomeness” of the Walking in Stations game design.
Again a vote for a play-style representation system, using a possible Hilmar quote to underline this, stating he recalls “…Hilmar saying in an interview (somewhere) that he felt CSM6 was ‘overly concerned with a single playstyle’ “. Ugleb was supportive of the principles behind the “primary” 100 likes system, but identifies that it “…was the right idea, but not the right implementation.”
EveHermit did not vote in the CSM elections as he found the process of accurately researching the candidates frustrating, “If there was a detailed message, it was often spread across 100 blog and forum posts, scattered to all corners of the Internet.” In his banter, Do we really need the hassle of Online Spaceship Politicians, he goes on to suggest a more formal process and presentation for candidates to allow voters to grasp their representative’s interests and focus more easily. Power-bloc induced apathy was also a factor in his failure to vote.
Splatus paints an interesting picture of a cynic reluctantly addressing a subject in which he has little interest, but goes on to make some interesting and unique points. Chief amongst those is his approach to the play-style representation theme. Rather than encouraging candidates to run for a specific play-style linked role, Splatus approaches the problem from the other end. Once candidates are elected, based entirely on popularity, they are then given a specific play-style focused “portfolio” toward which they contribute for the duration of their term. His thinking is that this “portfolio-based approach will limit the partisan nonsense that some CSM members spew … and overall create a collaborative environment with CCP and the players.“
Mike Azariah’s banter was one of the later entries and as such he got swept up in the whirlwind of controversy that grew out of a minor incident at Fanfest. Whilst it could be argued that candidate screening and/or public behaviour is a concern, I’ll not give the controversy any more oxygen here as it is an issue beyond the remit of this banter. If you wish to read more about the events and its impact on the CSM then Mike’s blog is a good place to start.
Marc Scaurus, the neo-neo-Blog Father and the world’s only podcasting dinosaur, has been in the thick of all things CSM over the last month, having interviewed many of the candidates on Voices From the Void. With regard to communication, in CSM7, Here We Come, he eloquently claims that CSM6 “shit the bed” with their player communication during the Summer of Incarnage. He calls for more transparency, decrying the need for a single anonymous CSM voice. He’d like to see the CSM elevated beyond a simple focus group by “obtaining real, substantive, two-way communication of ideas, proposals and facts between the players and the devs.“
It seems that there are two key factors that were mentioned time and again throughout these banter entries. The first was a desire for increased transparency and communication between the CSM and the players, but equally the reinforcement of the communication pathways built between CCP and the CSM.
The second and more complex suggestion is one of player representation. There were many suggestions that play-style-related positions of office should be created in order that a broad knowledge-base is ensured within the CSM. That being said, the majority of these banter entries were written prior to the election results which served to provide a fairly broad and even-handed knowledge-base amongst the successful candidates. Does this suggest that the existing organic system is sufficient for providing effective and diverse representation. I wonder if those championing a more rigid system still feel it is necessary.
[Edit: This Blog Banter edition ran over the Fanfest period (which I attended) and as a result was a little disjointed – it ran for a little longer than planned and I fumbled some of the admin. Apologies to all contributors for the wobbly service this month and especially to Marc Scaurus for him inexplicably dropping off of my list during the summary write-up. Issues now rectified, will look at tightening the bolts for next month.]