Friday, January 3, 2014

The Importance Of The CSM Minutes

I have to admit I wasn't tearing down the walls demanding the minutes from CSM 8's summer summit.  I tried to work up the outrage, honest, but I never really felt it.  But then I read a column about Lord of the Rings Online that made me see the light on why the minutes process, if not this particular set of minutes, is important.  This particular article dealt with the release of a producer's letter, and Massively's Justin Olivetti let loose with how he felt about LotRO's player council.
"OK, I've mentioned the player's council before a couple of times, but this whole concept irks me, particularly how often Paiz brings it up in her letter. I am not on the player council. You, most likely, are not either. But we have this group of people who have a higher level of access to the devs' ears engaging in projects and conversations that are kept from us. We're just told, as in this letter, that these discussions are going on and to trust Turbine that it's helping us and the game as a whole to have these players represent us. Why should we?
"I generally try my hardest not to remember that there is a player council because I feel that it's such a bad idea. It smacks of laziness, for one: "Let's make these hand-picked players collate feedback for us so that we have to really pay attention to only a dozen or so folks." The lack of transparency makes everyone nervous because important decisions and conversations are going on that affect us and we're not even privvy to the specifics after the fact. Finally, the whole thing feels as if Turbine has its "teacher's pets" that it fawns over while ignoring the rest of the community. I'm not saying this is the reality, just the feeling that it gives. And I know for a darn fact that I'm not the only one who sees it this way.

"I'd be really OK with dissolving the player council entirely. We didn't ask for it; we don't need it. I'm sure good folks are on it and try to do their best to help the game, but the formation and operation of it is so suspect that I can't give the council this benefit of the doubt. I think that as long as it remains, we have good reason to be wary."
Kind of different from the Council of Stellar Management, isn't it?  The CSM was formed in the wake of the T20 standard while Turbine decided they needed a way to get player feedback.  Unlike the CSM, LotRO's player council is selected by the devs, not elected by the player base.  Also, unlike the CSM, LotRO's player council does not have a history of coming into conflict with Turbine like the CSM has with CCP.

But here is the sentence that opened my eyes.  "The lack of transparency makes everyone nervous because important decisions and conversations are going on that affect us and we're not even privvy to the specifics after the fact."  Are these just the tears from a writer who wasn't given some easy material to make a buck?  Perhaps.  But given the restructuring of the classes that occurred in the latest expansion and the reaction I've read on the forums (yes, I know, official forums suck), perhaps having over 60 people who don't even play on your server helping making such far reaching changes is a bit unsettling.

I am not going to claim that CCP is perfect where the subject of transparency is concerned.  Businesses have the right to keep secrets and the NDA is not always just an excuse to hide an unpopular decision until the last minute.  But I do like the idea that CCP has a group like the CSM it can use as a focus group that it can bounce ideas off of.  The NDA does serve the purpose of keeping players from shooting monuments in Jita over an idea that never will see the light of day.

The minutes do serve a useful purpose.  They are the record of the discussions between CCP and the CSM about the changes in EVE.  Those discussions reveal the thinking of CCP about the changes (or lack of) in the game.  That was my thinking, although I think a lot less people will read them since the minutes were released 7 weeks after the launch of Rubicon

I think that's a problem.  If the CSM really wants the minutes to have a greater impact, they have to ensure they are released earlier.  I also think, if CCP really believes in the product it is producing, that the devs should want the minutes released earlier as well.  In the case of this set of minutes, I don't see the delay as more than a speed bump.  But once the big exploration changes hit in 2015, I think that CCP will find the CSM and the summit minutes a very useful way of showing that they didn't just come up with a bunch of crazy ideas in isolation on their island in the middle of the North Atlantic.


  1. Everything Justin Olivetti disagrees with a developer about "smacks of laziness." It is practically his trademark phrase. Developers are always "lazy" when they don't do what he wants.

    What the CSM system does is inoculate CCP from charges of favoritism since we all can pick who we want to represent us. Does that mean the best people for any given issue get picked? Not at all. Half of each CSM barely participates as far as I can tell. But enough good people do get voted in that it mostly works.

    And it also mostly works because of the nature of EVE, where we are all on one server and there are big alliance celebs and such. In a multi-server environment, with a range of different server communities, it would be tough to come up with a candidate list without just selecting the forum warriors. That is why companies like Turbine and SOE tend to hand pick player councils for specific projects in order to get feedback on very specific things.

  2. I've never been a fan of the CSM.

    AFAIC it does smack of laziness and favortism and fear (of player reaction to more deliberate, intelligent selection process). And having players vote to elect the members? That's crazy, about all that does is turn it into a popularity contest.

    I would rather have the "hand picked councils for specific projects" that the poster above speaks of. At least then you'd have people with knowledge, interest and experience on the subject at hand working on things they know and care about rather than some random selection of self interested "politicians" with hidden agendas working on things they could care less about.

  3. Your version of this post: 900 words.

    My version of this post that says the same thing: "If CCP wants to ensure their claims of transparency are valid, they need a faster process for releasing the minutes." 20 words. ;-)

    I kid, I kid, but you're not saying anything that the CSM hasn't been screaming for months...

  4. It's interesting to contrast the CSM outlook with that of CPM0, which by all accounts appears to be headed towards CSM6-level of communication breakdown...