Thursday, January 15, 2015

CSM X Election: Not Quite According To Plan

After last year's horrendous turnout of under 31 thousand voters, CCP needed to do something about increasing turnout.  Okay, needed is too strong a word.  But CCP's efforts to publicize the CSM elections the past two years were pretty bad.  Last year, the emphasis was left entirely to the players.  I wondered if that was a result of a deliberate policy to keep turnout low or just CCP Dolan being CCP Dolan.

If I can say one thing about CSM 9, the differences with CSM 8 are pretty big as CCP Leeloo works to clean up the mess CCP Dolan left before he left to work for Riot.  Not only was CSM 9 involved in PR situations like the final SOMERblink scandal, but we didn't have to wait months for the summer summit minutes.  And CCP Leeloo has shown she wants to publicize the CSM X election as well.

Yesterday, CCP Leeloo published a dev blog mostly written by seven members of CSM 9.  Finally, before the election season starts, CCP publicizes what the CSM does, from the players own words.  Something in writing so that players who don't follow the CSM can see that the player body is not just a toothless PR tool.  Well, Sion Kumitomo decided to dump a steaming pile of cow dung on the effort with his contribution.  Here is the first few paragraphs:
"This review comes at an interesting point in the term. By this time, particularly given that I’m running again, I should have a string of accomplishments that I could hang my name off of, but I don’t. I should have the dedicated enthusiasm required to stay active for the entire term, but I don’t. I should have platitudes to offer and abounding praises. I certainly don’t have those. Instead, I find that I’m deeply frustrated and increasingly having to defend an institution in which I struggle to believe.
"There will no doubt be council members who sing CCP’s praise and proclaim the efficacy of the CSM. Broadly speaking, I don’t know how any of them could get to that conclusion via any evidenced based rationale. The new release pace frequently means that the CSM is cut out of the development feedback process, sometimes nearly entirely. There’s a growing list of items, some major, that we saw at the same time the rest of the player base did.
"When the CSM attempted to get looped into the new development model better, we sometimes started seeing items one day, perhaps two, before they were released. Even something as major as the 0.0 revamp has been a dead topic since the last summit. This is all the more frustrating because after the scuffle erupted from the CSM's name being used to promote changes we didn't endorse, we had a meeting where we were assured that we would be kept in the loop.
"Actions speak louder than words. The shared Skype channel is frequently home to all manner of defensive, passive aggressive, or antagonistic exchanges.
"All of this makes it very difficult to work as the institution should. Some EVE pundits will say that the CSM is a toothless institution that CCP uses when convenient or as a marketing tool, and nothing more. There's some truth to that. The CSM was designed around a titled system with a Chair and two releases per year. The institution hasn't adapted, and its relevance, such as it was, has suffered because of it."
Sion's section is the main part of the story.  Forget what the rest of the CSM members stated, especially corbexx, who seems to have done yeoman work representing wormholes and providing CCP with valuable data on POS use and PvE content.  When someone establishes a Skype channel that connects CCP devs with wormhole leaders and diplomats to make sure wormhole concerns are at least heard, something positive is happening.

Now, corbexx didn't say no problems exist with the CSM/CCP relationship.  He concluded with the following:
"Some CCP teams/groups make great use of the CSM, but I feel some groups don’t, be it they don’t think we would be interested, They maybe don’t see how we could of helped. I’m not suggesting we can help in every team/department, but if we don’t know about stuff we sure as hell can’t help."
Sugar Kyle also gave some thoughts on interacting with CCP:
"When it comes to interacting with CCP a lot of time is spent advocating player concerns and worries. Even if it does not want to be heard or it is an old topic it comes back up. There is not always resolution. Not all of these make it into a large review. Some are not yet finalized and some are more quiet events. Yet advocating does simple things like create more clarity to players who do not understand what things like SSO are. It will, hopefully, do other things such as a better way to search through channels so that players with unsupported languages can more easily find each other. It is not easy and it is not always successful, but the effort is made."
Mike Azariah, who was first elected in CSM 8, had these comments:
"As a group the CSM has spent a lot of time adapting to the new faster (MUCH faster) pace of the release schedule. Things change so quickly that some does not get seen by us much sooner than it is is seen on the test server. Other broader strokes we try to get input as early as is possible. Do we know everything and see everything? No, and I am not sure that that is even possible. A summit often covers projects coming up but then that project is done and two more run before another summit happens. This goes back to CSM 8's attempt to build more bridges to other teams and get more lines of communication open to the devs.
"Progress and change have been made. The decision to eliminate officers showed that we could function without them. Personal projects and one on one contact with devs started to replace the idea that we need to talk to entire teams taking them all away from the job at hand. Helping bridge the gap between players and the dev teams have lead to a more open and direct exchange of ideas with CSM acting as enablers, not the conduit itself. Hell, if we do this well enough we might manage to organize ourselves right out of a job. Or, better yet, change the job as this one will be done and we can take on a different aspect."
I think what we are seeing with the CSM is an institution in transition, partly due to CSM 8's decision to make CSM 9 operate without officers for the first half of the term.  CSM 9 then decided that if no officers is good for half a term, then why does the body need officers at all?  After all, on paper, the officers had absolutely no power.  What were they good for?

I also think that corbexx judged the matter correctly.  CCP is not some faceless monolith.  Some people love the CSM (think CCP Fozzie) while others think of them as an inconvenience.  I always thought CCP Greyscale fell into the latter camp, but that is just from looking at the situation from the outside.  Then again, who wants a bunch of players telling you that you're wrong?  I can see that perhaps on something as large as the null sec revamp that you want everything as solid as possible before presenting the plans to the CSM.  The plan is going to have holes anyway; why not try to keep the period spent patching the holes as short as possible?

Regardless, CCP Leeloo has now done as much to promote the upcoming CSM election as CCP Dolan did for the CSM 9 election.  I do think, though, with Sion's commentary (which she allowed to remain), that the dev blog didn't go entirely as planned.

CORRECTION:  I was contacted by Ripard Teg about the decision not to have officers for the beginning of CSM 9's term.  Apparently, the suggestion to do so was made to the members of CSM 8 running for re-election by CCP Leeloo as a result of Kesper North's election to an officer position and then going AFK most of the term.  She thought that having a couple of months to evaluate who was really participating before voting on the positions.  So the decision was not made by the entirety of the CSM.

UPDATE:  Apparently my correction was unclear.  Ripard Teg was not trying to take credit for CSM 9 deciding not to have officers.  He wanted to clarify that CSM 8 as a body did not decide that CSM 9 should not have officers at the beginning of the term, just those running for re-election.  As Ripard did not run for re-election, he and the others who chose not to stand for re-election had no voice in the decision.

I apologize for any misunderstandings.


  1. Sion's comments do serve the purpose of proving that Leeloo is not selecting CSM yes-men to write for her. But yeah, his powerlust is somewhat repulsive. He seems to forget that CSM is an advisory body, not legislative, and that EVE is wholly the property and responsibility of CCP.

  2. Leeloo clarified in the forum thread that the CSM members who wrote things were not selected -- everyone was offered space but only the people you see there bothered to write something up.

    Here's one way to look at why Sion's response is totally different to everyone else's: he doesn't need to worry about getting re-elected. The CSM players wear a lot of hats, and one of those hats is politician. Every one that wrote something there is running for re-election; in that position it's not good to say the world got worse under your watch. If any of the others had written something like Sion I'd count on them doing a lot of harm to their chances.

    Basically if he's wrong he just looks like an asshole. But if he's right that the new dev cycle is going to reduce the CSM's ability to focus group / sanity check on important changes, that's a big thing. That could be happening without any malice from CCP just because the schedule is so much faster.

  3. Sion: "I should have a string of accomplishments that I could hang my name off of, but I don’t."

    My first thought: Why do other CSM members have accomplishments but you don't?

    My Second thought: Why would someone who is there to mainly bounce ideas off have a string of accomplishments?

    Sion is either an underachiever or misunderstands the purpose of the CSM. Or both.

    If it wasn't already, it should now be abundantly clear that CSM candidates who have the "CCP needs to be told" attitude are by far the most unproductive CSM members. Who would blame CCP for ignoring little shitlers like Sion?

    The CSM elections are one of the few areas where the player base often disappoints by electing one or two narrow-minded loud mouthed dictators who promise to "kick CCP into shape". A brief glimpse at history or even a quick chat over a beer with a CCP dev will tell you why electing open minded, calm, rational, dedicated and personable representatives is better for CCP, EvE and its players.

  4. Sion seems to think that because the CSM is elected they're supposed to be a ruling body that tells CCP what to do when they're really just an advisory body.

    A think tank not a legislature.

    The problem is they're elected by popularity rather than selected for ability.

  5. So this bodes well. A goon is bitter and upset, and trying to reshape the narrative. Maybe, just maybe, CCP has seen the light and is ignoring the cartels' "advice" about game design, and rebuilding the game for the masses, as opposed to the chosen few. The more I read, the more I think the hiring of that EA exec last year may have been a key factor.

    I must also admire the hubris of this clown. "I don't really feel I did much on this CSM, nor care much about it, but I the goon cattle will be instructed to vote for me again and I will be doing my best again to get CCP to give my group as many advantages as possible, the larger improvement of the game be damned."

  6. "Why do other CSM members have accomplishments but you don't?"

    Corbexx did a bunch of work looking at wormhole PVE and the disparity of incomes available from C1-C5 sites. He presented great stats showing that the income was pitiful for newbies (worse than grinding missions) and mediocre for anyone else until you got to cap escalations. Blue loot got rebalanced, wormholes have gotten a new wave of players. Great job by both Corbexx & the wormhole team.

    Mynnna has actually been doing the same thing for nullsec anomalies since late in CSM 8 -- ie before Corbexx. Nullsec anoms have not been rebalanced, the jump change was severely bungled, and it's clear that sov is still in the spitballing ideas stage. It's hard to accomplish anything if the CCP team for your area doesn't want your input.

  7. "Some people love the CSM (think CCP Fozzie) while others think of them
    as an inconvenience. I always thought CCP Greyscale fell into the
    latter camp..."

    I think that CCP Greyscale considered *all* players to be an inconvenience, not only the CSM.

  8. "CSM 8's decision to make CSM 9 operate without officers . . ."
    I was unaware that CSM 9's no officer decision was initially imposed on them by CSM 8. Can anybody enlighten me on how this happened?

  9. I'm not here to defend Sion's analysis of the state of the CSM. I can't, and no one could, because he writes in broad generalities. That may be because of the NDA, or because getting into specifics would involve calling out individual members of CCP or the CSM, or some other reason.

    What I will say is that I'm annoyed at the statement that his blog was "a steaming pile of cow dung," and the comments that come from a presumption that he's being petulant because he didn't get his (or his Goons') way. Unless you have some insight that can't be derived from reading the minutes, you're handicapped by the same lack of information that I am. The difference between us is that I'm not blind to my own biases.

    Maybe Sion is being overly negative. Maybe the statement that the CSM is "an institution in transition" isn't a whitewashed euphemism. But, maybe the CSM _is_ in crisis, and Sion is just the one guy (that could be bothered to write a blog) that wasn't worried about ruffling any feathers at CCP.

    I don't know the answer to that, and I suspect you don't either. I do know that most of the others at least hinted at problems similar to the ones Sion complained about. So if you want to jump to the conclusion that Sion is wrong just because his analysis of the state of the CSM was largely negative, that's your business. If you want to ignore the easy observation that CCP does have a few dutiful cheerleaders on the CSM, that's your business, too.

    One other thing worthy of note: despite the fact that Sion dropped that huge bomb in that dev blog, the forum thread only runs to three pages. That's the apathy eating away at the institution.

  10. "CSM 9 then decided that if no officers is good for half a term, then why does the body need officers at all? After all, on paper, the officers had absolutely no power. What were they good for?"

    You might find an answer if you extrapolate past the officers to the CSM as a whole.

  11. Turns out my cherry picked quote may be misrepresenting things.
    CSM8 didn't malevolently force CSM9 to operate without officers. Rather CSM8 didn't choose officers until their summer summit. Had CSM9 followed suit, they'd have spent several months officerless leading CSM9 to the conclusion that if no officers is fine for nearly half the term it's probably fine for all the term.
    . . . and I looked so stunning in tinfoil hat.

  12. I concur with your conclusion i.e.

    "It's hard to accomplish anything if the CCP team for your area doesn't want your input."

    However the way you arrived at it is flat out wrong. Your implication that there is little going on for Sion to give feedback on shows your lack of knowledge of how the CSM functions. That or Sion knows absolutely nothing about ships, game balance, exploration, somer blink, industry, trade, wormholes... and a whole myriad of other things that has changed during his term (and beyond).

    The real reason is that CCP has absolutely zero incentive to engage with aggressive shitlers who think they are entitled to tell CCP how to run their business. CCP has shown that they work well with CSM reps who are open, knowledgeable and give constructive feedback. Sion's failing is Sion's failing, not CCP's.

    If he does run again and CFC block vote him in again, it will certainly make them look foolish given that he's on record saying that he completely failed in his duties as a CSM member. One would think electing someone who's input is valued would be a far better proposition. We'll see in due course.