When worlds collide…

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 toprojects that the CSM thought needed work on. As it has now come out this is 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 scamby CCP to give us players a false sense of input in the game? What’s your take?

In this modern era we are constantly bombarded with the message that we are ‘entitled’ to things.  Advertising that tells us (or at least the girls amongst us…) that “we’re worth it”.  We’re injured at work? Not our fault? We’re “entitled” to compensation.  Our human rights “entitle” us to fair and humane treatment, the right to vote, the right to protest.  It is something that’s enmeshed into the fabric of our lives.

Its against this background that we find the CSM.  A small, sometimes disparate, group of players from EVE Online. Voted in by a small % of the overall player base on the premise that they could bring to CCP another perspective at help promote the views of the player base.

As I see it the CSM is just that, another method of communication. That word – communicate – is important here; it means a two way flow of ideas and thoughts but what it does not equate to is orders and demands. I believe (and CCP is at fault here) that EVEs players now perceives the CSM as a mechanism for enforcing the will of the “player base”.

@evepress’s question really highlights that mistaken view, let me draw your attention to a specific line:

“…in its current iteration the CSM was supposed to be given small authority to assign CCP assets toprojects that the CSM thought needed work on.”

The CSM was actually given (and only recently) ‘stakeholder’ status.  This status means in combination with other stakeholders it had that authority.  It has never had the power to assign CCP assets.  If it had surely it would be given a specific quantity of assets – e.g “you have 4 programmers and 2 designers and 160 man hours”?  It certainly cant be expected to have access to 100% of the available assets as that would mean by default that it would have over riding control of EVEs development – which it does not.

As a stakeholder the CSM has the ability to lobby for specific proposals, but that’s all it has which means it can be over ruled – other stakeholders may be given priority.  Now many on the forums and elsewhere are aghast at this.  They feel that having paid CCP their subs they’re entitled to decide or influence how that money is spent.  Again that’s patently false – your subs pay for you to play the current game: and that’s all.  You’re not investing in the future of the game – you’re paying for the ‘here and now’.  If someone turned up at CCPs HQ with a cheque for $1million maybe that status would change, but that isn’t the case here.

CCP however have, invited – free of charge – a degree of influence.  The CSM isnt investing anything other than their volunteered time – which in the hard nosed business world is not much in the way of currency or investment.  In fact, so freely available are these volunteers that we have to have a voting process to decide who gets to go!

So are CCP essentially promoting or supporting a useless mechanism for gaining player input? One could argue that if CCP aren’t willing to enact the CSMs proposals then the CSM has no purpose.

Well that might be true – up to a point.  The question we should really ask: is it better to be at the table and have a voice (even if it is not always listened to), or not be there at all?

I would argue that considering its limited cost to us (the players) the former is probably preferable – after all we lose nothing by having it in place.   Whether the CSM has delivered any fundamental changes to EVE so far is a different question but one which might answer a question of its overall ‘worth’.  However thats a simplistic approach; lets assume that the CSM has delivered no benefit to EVE to date – we might go on then to assume that the system is worthless. OR we might come to the conclusion that the elected representatives so far have not been very effective.

Previous CSM panels will of course point to issues that they believe they have influenced – although we have no real way of telling if these would have come about with, or without the CSMs input.  And that is one significant issue with the CSM – we cant judge its efficacy without being able to point to something and say “that was because of CSM X”.  And we never will.

We never will because EVEs development is a collaborative process – there’s no one individual or team that can be truly credited with anyone feature.

Of course we wouldnt be discussing this now if it wasnt for the reaction to the latest CSM minutes.  There the CSM revealed that CCP would not be introducing new features focusing instead on the future of Incarna and DUST514.  The CSM very ‘disappointed’ that its issues weren’t addressed – but I am startled that it was surprised by this.  Again the CSM had come to the conclusion (wrongly in my view) that it was somehow entitled to be in charge of the rudder of the good ship CCP.  When CCP communicated its intended direction – to sail towards new target player groups through Incarna and DUST514 the CSM went into a collective sulk.

Maybe I‘m completely delusional and it  didn‘t go that way at all, but there‘s definitely something broken in the feedback loop we have with the CSM and I will be working closely with them to enhance our collaboration. When two parties have such vastly different perceptions of the same event, something is wrong and needs to be fixed“.  CCP Zulupark

So CCP is blameless? No, not at all.  CCP’s ‘backlog’ is clearly a jumbled pile of issues with shifting priorities which, in itself would be a bad thing.  But to make matters worse these backlog issues are constantly being submerged under ‘new ideas’.  This is due in part to CCPs collaborative SCRUM management process.  By giving all stakeholders a voice only common consensus items are approved to be processed and acted upon.  For example ‘bounty hunting fix’ is unlikely to appeal to the Marketing department (no real new players there), or the art department, whilst Game Design might like a stab at it. Incarna appeals to both the Marketing department, and the art department – its not great for Game Design but there’s likely to be something for them…the result? Incarna gets pushed up the priority tree and Bounty Hunting gets squashed down (again).

CCP has clearly become a slave to its own management process – which defeats the point of a management process entirely which is only supposed to be used where it adds benefit and discarded where it does not.  Discarding a nice comfy management process is hard; they’re like security blankets for executives creating at least an illusion of control over a large company structure.  Here is where leadership and moral courage should come to the fore – although whether CCP rises to such a challenge and makes the bold decision is hard to predict.

But all is not lost.  The CSM still has a voice and a role to play in how both DUST514 and Incarna are implemented.  Right now it should be asking critical questions of how CCP intends to implement these features, what its expectations are and what the reciprocal expectations are of the players.


8 Responses to “When worlds collide…”

  1. “after all we lose nothing by having it in place”

    I argue this is false. We can potentially lose if we act like spoiled children.

    • Hmm. True, may be Im being overly optimistic about the CSMs approach (certainly some of the commentary that comes from the CSM is a little worrying). My feeling is its better to be at the table and “involved” than not there at all.

  2. Cpt Obvious Says:

    Oh, people think their human rights “entitle” them to things, do they?

    How quaint!

    tl;dr version

    Players don’t have a contractual claim on representation by virtue of their status as paying customers. But it’s better than nothing, and CCP isn’t perfect.

    Really insightful entry, guy. Great use of electrons.

  3. Well said.

    Lots of “managing players expectations” banter going around, but maybe the CSM should also apply that to themselves. Tbh I was disappointed with the tone of the minutes. Despite all the negativity I thought there were some encouraging things in there. In particular, the prospect of the CSM participating in the further development of Low Sec struck me as progress.

    IMO the biggest problems right now for the CSM is their problematic communication with CCP, combined with too much ambiguity regarding the CSM’s purpose.

  4. I think you’ve nailed it here. This, at its core, is an issue of communication. Its not about what gets fixed and what doesn’t get fixed, its about how that is communicated to the players. I’m pretty certain that clearer communication from CCP would have avoided alot of the nerdrage.

  5. […] When worlds collide… | The Hydrostatic Capsule […]

  6. Here’s what stung me.
    Stakeholder ( a very loosely defined term ) by your definition means they get a seat at the table where the decisions are made.
    They don’t get to demand things
    They don’t get to give priorities
    They don’t get to overrule other ‘stakeholders’
    But they *do* get a voice in the decision.

    That did not happen here, since the CSM was surprised to find out that resources had been irrevocably set towards Incarna and DUST – that tells me they weren’t asked for their opinion, in fact they weren’t even told that the other stakeholders had had the important meeting until the Summit.

    You can’t have a seat at the table if they don’t invite you to the meeting in the first place.

    So by even your own conservative definition of stakeholder, they weren’t being given that chance.

    And I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot of people out there who *are* investing in EVE’s future, they continue to pay even though they’re not happy with things as is, because they know that CCP *could* do this right.

    With that in mind, it’s still the best MMO out there, and I have hope for Incarna and DUST, so long as CCP is BS’ing us like they did regarding Tyranis (I rewatched FF keynotes and 90% of that was never even remotely implemented)

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