Before I get rolling though, I'd like to point out that CSM7 is made up of a lot of really smart people. Even more, the large majority of CSM7 are past CSM members. Besides CSM7 (in order of votes received this year):
- Two step was on CSM6;
- Elise Randolph: CSM6;
- Greene Lee: (none);
- Trebor Daehdoow: CSM5, CSM6;
- Kelduum Revaan: (none);
- Seleene: CSM6;
- UAxDEATH: CSM6;
- Hans Jagerblitzen: (none);
- Meissa Anunthiel: CSM2, CSM3, CSM4, CSM5, CSM6;
- Dovinian: (none);
- Issler Dainze: CSM3;
- Alekseyev Karrde: CSM4; and,
- Darius III was on CSM6.
Check out the list of items that were top vote-getters. Just glancing through the lists and sticking to the top items, I count eighteen that are in the game we're playing today. Another comes up twice: Modular Starbases... first submitted three years ago this month.
We'll get back to that.
But let's stick to the crowd-sourcing effort itself: in this case, Trebor made a conscious effort to survey the EVE player base completely independently of any CCP mechanism. He wanted player input, so he sought it out, creating an independent mechanic to gather the data, then presented the data to CCP. It was a lot of work, yes, but it was work that generated and continues to generate tangible business results for CCP. That's activism at work.
The document EVE Online Development Strategy (CSM Public) is quite dense. In fact, I daresay that its six pages cover more ground than the 165 pages of the CSM7 May Summit Minutes both in what they say and by what they don't say. But in essence, there are three parts to the document:
- In part one, CSM7 subdivides the EVE player base into four categories.
- In part two, they define to what proportion each player category wants EVE development to focus on new features versus iteration of existing features, and why. This results in five "pillars" of game development, and how eager each player category would be for each one.
- In part three, they examine three "critical issues" facing the game and how to focus development within the five pillars to improve them.
Yes, I realize I'm wandering well off-track here. Stay with me.
CSM7 nearly immediately took a fair bit of heat for the choices of their critical issues. High-sec players, in particular, pointed out that they were being ignored "again". Null-sec players pointed out that the last several expansions have already been high-sec focused -- yeah, other than TiDi, they actually have been, weirdly -- and they deserved some love too. The forum threads (there are one, two of them) have become somewhat of a food-fight. A number of people accused the CSM of being too focused on relatively minor issues and ignoring the larger game. By the 24th and 25th, CSM7 Chair Seleene was getting positively cranky responding to such posts. The document wasn't a be-all, end-all of the CSM's opinion on the game, he kept saying. It was just intended to be focused on a few areas they were asked about.
OK... got that. So why call the document "EVE Online Development Strategy" then?
Needless to say, the document sent an unconscious message about the CSM's focus, and the CSM's focus happens to be... what CCP has already publicly stated as their development goals for next spring and summer: ring mining, modular POSes (remember them?), the balance between null-sec and high-sec industry, and forcing alliances to make money from the space they hold via their players instead of via passive towers. Other than giving CCP a warm fuzzy about decisions they've already made, it's kinda hard to see the value-add the CSM is bringing in part three of the document.
In terms of the transparency CSM7 said they'd deliver, part three is a success. But as I've mentioned before, CSM7 has also suffered from accusations that they're much more interested in the relationship with CCP than they are in rocking the boat when it needs rocking. "If everyone is thinking alike," as the old saying goes, "then someone isn't thinking."
Meanwhile, the subconscious message delivered in part three is that those things not mentioned are not important. When super-cap proliferation came up as a potential critical issue, for instance, both Aleks and Hans both jumped in and implied that supers need to be buffed to be made more "fun" and "useful." Both then pointed out nearly simultaneously that supers don't need a maintenance cost because the cost of the account sitting in them is in itself a maintenance cost.(2) I think we can safely say that Seleene's and Elise's views on this subject have now infected the entire active CSM: obviously super-cap proliferation is not a critical issue. That's why it wasn't included.
In logic classes, this sort of thing is called the independence of irrelevant alternatives: i.e., anything not included in this document isn't important.(3) I truly believe this was subconscious, not intentional. But I won't fault you if you want to argue it that way. ;-) A lot of players did just that, and that's what's got Seleene so cranky.
Let's move backward to part two. I promise my discussion of it and part one aren't nearly as long.
When I first read part two, my instinct drove me to e-mail a CSM member and ask him when CSM7 had taken a survey of what the players wanted:
During a meeting where CCP indicated that they were beginning the process of zeroing in on the scope of the expansion content to be tackled in the coming year, we offered to share feedback about what we were hearing from the players in terms of both the big issues to be worked on as well as the expressing the restlessness many of you have described regarding CCP's struggle with hitting the "sweet spot" between Jesus Features and more iterative patch-like expansions in the style of Crucible, Inferno, and Retribution. CCP Ripley said she was interested and gave us a window of time to get a statement together, which we than spent the weekend working on. The result is what is linked in the OP.That's basically the theme statement to part two. Problem is, the CSM kind of built this matrix of five "pillars" themselves. Remember crowd-sourcing? It would have been a relatively simple and precedented step for the CSM to put their five pillars on the forums, ask players to self-describe themselves within their four categories, and then ask them which were important. That would have been valuable data, based on factual input. Granted, you can't do that on a weekend, but the survey would have been (and still could be!) a valuable follow-up.
What CCP got instead was a guess based on the experiences of the document's four authors, perhaps with some additional input from other CSM members after the fact. It was representative democracy, not democracy. Which is fine if your representatives are either themselves members of all four player categories they defined or have over time surveyed them: "bittervets", veterans, newbies, and "potential" players.
Only, by definition, they're not and they couldn't have! How can you survey a "potential" EVE player? And therefore, how can you claim to have factual information about what they want to the level of specificity of these five pillars? You can guess, certainly. And that's what this is: a series of estimations. Problem is, CCP surveys its current and ex-players all the time through the surveys in their monthly e-mailed EVE bulletins and almost certainly has better data on this than the CSM does. Again, where is the value-add?
And that takes us backward to part one.
The former CCP Hammer -- he was EVE's Lead Game Designer in the first half of 2011 -- was infamous for pigeon-holing players into various categories and then developing to those categories. As I wrote at the time,
Apparently, CCP has built up a database of player "behaviors" in game, and there are "about seven personas" that the bulk of EVE players fall into. [Hammer] then goes on to describe characteristics of two of the seven, the "unwinding professional" and the "maven."The CSM strategy document says:
The goal is to tempt Potentials and Bittervets to subscribe, and to prevent Newbies and Veterans from unsubscribing.Last March, I pointed out that it's sort of bad form to stereotype your players, and then try to find ways to develop your game to keep each stereotype playing it. Know what's changed in my opinion since then? Nothing. I assume someone in CCP agrees, thus the whole "former CCP Hammer" thing.
As I said yesterday:
The best CSMs, for both players and CCP alike, have been activist CSMs... the more activist, the better.I think I proved my case for that yesterday. Members of CSM7 on past activist CSMs have been quick to take credit for past activist CSMs. But how does this CSM stack up?
Unfortunately, in my opinion, to find a CSM this passive, we have to go all the way back to CSM3. That several of them are putting in a lot of effort is obvious. But are they getting results out of it? Are they being a true value-add to CCP? So far, the major stated goal of their term is to "be more transparent" and to "expand the CSM's stake-holder status". Those are benefits to the players and to future CSMs, respectively... but what does CCP get out of it? What, indeed...
As I was doing the first editing pass on these two posts, I -- completely independently -- had a bit of a lightning bolt of a perspective thrown into me via e-mail that sums it up better in a small number of :words: than these entire two posts. The lightning bolt: "The CSM has devolved into being 'talkers' instead of objective-driven 'doers.' And CCP would discourage anything else now, because talkers are easy to deal with... doers are tough."
Call it the Comment of the Month... maybe of the year. And it sums up my opinion of CSM7 so far rather admirably. Five months of their term to go.
(1) The Mittani would have made it ten out of fourteen.
(2) It would be hard to over-state how hard I face-palmed when I read this. Guys: super-cap mules. Heard of them?
(3) Warning: link contains scary math.