The relationship between EVE Online‘s players and the developers at CCP Games has always been at the forefront of the sci-fi MMO’s growth.
Even in the early days of EVE in 2003, the emergent gameplay nature of the sandbox universe meant that player actions drove development decisions; stacking penalties were introduced to counteract ingenious but overpowered player tactics, alliances of corporations were recognised and facilitated within the client. It was virtual symbiosis.
As EVE Online evolved, so did this relationship. The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) was formed in 2008 to provide a means of giving further voice to player concerns and ideas.
In the impressively dense guidance document, “Implementation of Deliberative, Democratically Elected, Council in EVE” by CCP Xhagen (Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson), it outlines the CSM role thus:
“The purpose of the CSM is to represent society interests to CCP. This requires active engagement with the player community to master EVE issue awareness, understanding, and evaluation in the context of the greatest good for the greater player base.”
Political Growing Pains
The CSM’s growth from inception to present day has been remarkable. It was a pioneering concept in the management of a virtual world and has not been without its critics, deficiencies and spoon-shaped projectiles. Yet from what started out as a player body largely dismissed as a gimmick, the work of every incumbent has been built upon over the years to push for useful game elements and to provide vital communication in difficult circumstances.
An entire meta gameplay culture has sprung up around the CSM, with player candidates running campaigns complete with colourful propaganda, podcasted debates and interviews. As a result, the CSM season begins long before the elections open, with steadily increasing activity building to a crescendo as the winners are announced at Fanfest.
For the spectator, it can be quite entertaining to witness the community buzz during this election period. At time of writing, we are in the final days of the CSM8 elections and it has been possibly one of the most eventful run-ins yet:
A change in the voting process this year has seen a fairer but far more complex system introduced, which has been the subject of much bloggery and analysis. The perennial issue of encouraging a higher percentage of players to vote has been more keenly stressed this year, with CCP coming under fire from some quarters for not doing enough to promote the process. An excellent series of thirty-minute one-on-one podcast interviews by Crossing Zebras co-host Xander Phoena saw 27 of the 31 candidates engaged in challenging discourse and brought to light one candidate with extreme right-wing views who was subsequently expelled from the process.
Raising the Stakes
EVE politics are every bit as interesting as the real thing. In fact, they practically are the real thing – after all, successful candidates become a very real part of the process of video game development.
In a CCP livestream held earlier today on their Twitch.tv channel, newly appointed Development Director, CCP Seagull (Andie Nordgren) explained the value that the present CSM has added to the EVE Online development process. She explained that she views the CSM as one her her main stakeholders;
“The CSM function as a really good sounding board for stuff we’re doing. I invited the CSM to be part of the discovery process for Odyssey. I invited everyone to come up with a theme… A theme is a combination of coherent cool reasons to fit things together that suits our science fiction universe.”
CCP Seagull was very positive about the way the CSM have become integrated with CCP’s stakeholder practices, explaining that the CSM are viewed as an internal team. “There is a huge amount of opportunity to influence what we’re doing.”
As one of the elected CSM representatives, there is undoubtedly a vast amount that can be learned about the development of an MMO and those with enough industry, integrity and passion for EVE Online can earn the opportunity to travel to CCP’s headquarters in Iceland for key meetings to help effect a positive change on behalf of the entire playerbase.
[December 2012 CSM Summit – L-R: UAxDEATH, CCP Veritas, CCP Xhagen, CCP Dolan, Seleene (obscured), Trebor Daehdoow]
A CSM seat is not an easy position to hold though. It is telling that of the incumbent council, due to step down at the end of the month, only two members (Robert ‘Trebor Daehdoow’ Woodhead and Greene Lee) are running again in the current election.
According to Woodhead, who has held a position on the last three councils, “doing CSM right is at least 10-15 hours a week, minimum”. Not an easy ask of volunteers with real-life commitments too.
With the CSM8 elections coming to a close and results due to be announced at Fanfest on the 27th April, CCP Seagull has high hopes for the next generation of player representatives.
“I’d love to see a CSM that comes in with really strong support from the community …and can be a strong voice.”
Good luck to all involved and thank you to representatives past and present for all their efforts.
[Check out our other daily Countdown to Fanfest features for more information and speculation on EVE Online‘s Second Decade and the Party on Top of the World.]