Monday, January 5, 2015

Looking Back At An Old CSM 9 Controversy

Sometimes waiting for all of the facts to emerge means not writing about an event or controversy.  I'm not referring to the kerfuffle this weekend over Nashh Kadavr's Titan Smash event.  The facts were pretty much revealed in the course of 24 hours.  No, I'm referring to the force projection changes and the extent that the CSM was consulted on the changes prior to CCP Greyscale's 1 October dev blog, "Long Distance Travel Changes Inbound."  I wanted to explore the CSM/CCP relationship angle, but by the time the CSM Summer Summit minutes were released on 29 October, the force projection changes story had pretty much played itself out.  However, with the beginning of the CSM election season, the story once again becomes relevant.

The story begins in mid-September 2014.  On 17-19 September, CCP held the Summer Summit with the CSM in CCP's headquarters in Reykjavik, Iceland.  On 18 September, a two hour session discussion null sec issues was held.  In addition to the seven CSM members physically present (Ali Aras, Sion Kumitomo, Steve Ronuken, Sugar Kyle, Mynnna, Mike Azariah, Corbexx), three members (DJ FunkyBacon, Xander Phoena, Mangla Solaris) attended the session remotely.  During the session, many matters of interest to null sec were brought up, including a possible replacement system for determining null sec sovereignty, the presence of NPC-controlled systems in every null sec region, population density, and changes to long distance travel.  Interestingly, the minutes showed that CCP preferred a "no sov" system with players fighting over objects like asteroid belts instead of over systems.  The type of game play possible in a "no sov" system is a better fit for the direction that CCP wants to take EVE than an occupancy system.  While this post is mainly concerned with the interaction between the CSM and CCP concerning the long range travel changes, the other three subjects became important 10 days later.

A week later on 25 September, CCP launched its online show about EVE, the o7 Show.  CCP Greyscale and CCP Nullarbor appeared to talk about CCP's plans for changing the null sec sovereignty system.  While the pair of devs revealed no specific plans, they did state that the first changes would occur to force projection, with a medium-term goal of revamping sovereignty mechanics.  When asked about the CSM's reaction to the plans presented at the summit, CCP Greyscale replied:
"I think [the reaction was] cautiously positive.  They were on board with the direction; they liked the ideas we're knocking around.  Some of them think they are not going far enough; obviously we have further plans, we're well aware of that and there are more changes we want to do.  But I think the general mood both among the null sec players and among the low sec capital users as well, was that they were very broadly positive about this change.  There was not a lot of dissent or dispute about it.  They were like, this seems good, here are some tweaks we'd like you to make.  Most of them made sense and we've adjusted our plans, and now we're getting into a place where we can take it to the players in a dev blog."
The pair also discussed when players could expect the first of the changes, those concerning force projection, would appear on Tranquility.  CCP Nullarbor indicated that the change would occur by the end of 2014, but not the actual release date.  CCP Greyscale indicated he was "95% sure" the dev blog detailing the changes would come out the second week of October (6-10 October), although later in the show the timeframe was given as "2-3 weeks".

Three days later, the story takes a turn with the publication of "The Null Deal" on on Sunday, 28 September.  A first-of-its-kind document, all of the major players in null sec got together to issue a statement with their hopes of what CCP planned to do to null sec sovereignty mechanics in the future.  The introduction of the document read:
"We, the undersigned alliance leaders of conquerable nullsec, are deeply concerned by the risk of another Dominion-style expansion making the existing mechanics of sovereignty even worse than they are today. We have put aside our many differences and brutal rivalries to advocate for the following three touchstones of a prospective sovereignty revamp. We hope that announcing the following united proclamation gives game developers at CCP the freedom they need to make the following drastic yet necessary changes."
And what were the three touchstones?

  • Occupancy-Based Sovereignty
  • NPC 0.0 In Every Sov Region
  • Increased Player Density

Sound familiar?  Don't misunderstand, I am not claiming that any CSM member broke the non-disclosure agreement.  Occupancy-based sov as an idea was not invented in CCP's off-site meeting on 5 September.  From reading the minutes, having NPCs own some sovereignty in every null sec region was a player idea, not one introduced by CCP.  Finally, with the upcoming changes to force projects likely to nerf jump ranges, packing members into a smaller number of systems is only logical.  But, in hindsight, an interesting three areas to focus on, given what was later revealed in the CSM minutes a month later.

My big concern at the time was the number of active CSM members that signed the document.  They were:

  • Sion Kumitomo
  • Mynnna
  • Corbexx
  • Major JSilva
  • Xander Phoena
  • Progodlegend
  • FunkyBacon
  • Mangala Solaris
  • corebloodbrothers

I had heard that CCP did not like CSM representatives who openly tried to influence game design decisions that would benefit themselves, their corporations, or their alliances.  While three of the nine CSM signatories of The Null Deal mainly play outside of null sec, I couldn't help but wonder how CCP would react.  Had the CSM just surrendered a bit of influence, independence, and perhaps even credibility on this issue?

The answer, I believe, came three days later.  On 1 October, CCP Greyscale published the "Long-Distance Travel Changes Incoming" dev blog.  The reaction in many quarters was that the changes went too far.  The comments thread on the official EVE Online forums quickly turned into a threadnaught.  I didn't know what to think, but with opinions pretty evenly split of the forums, I figured the changes probably were not horrible.  Then again, my experience with jump bridges or other types of long distance travel is limited to a single titan bridge I took when going to visit the EVE Gate when I was a member of Eve University five years ago.  I'm not a person to ask about whether the changes were good or not.

What did strike me, though, was how quickly the dev blog was published.  Less than a week after the o7 Show, when the timeline for publishing the dev blog was 2-3 weeks?  The dev blog felt rushed.  A day later, I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

On 2 October, an article appeared on featuring an interview with CSM members Sion Kumitomo from Goonswarm Federation and Pandemic Legion's Major JSilva.  Neither one was pleased with the dev blog.  Despite what CCP Greyscale implied on the o7 Show, the CSM wasn't on board with all the changes.  According to Sion, the CSM was unaware of the jump freighter and jump bridge changes, lowsec doomsdays, and sov structure hit point changes until less than 24 hours before CCP published the dev blog.  When asked if CSM members knew as much as anyone who watched the o7 Show, Sion replied:
"No, we knew more than that in terms of general intentions. But in terms of specifics? Sure, we were just as in the dark as anyone else. The details that are in the live devblog? We got about a twelve hour lead time on that. Parts of it we got a three hour lead time on. The CSM was literally in the process of discussing the formation of a consensus response in opposition to some of these changes when the devblog itself went live."
When asked if time constraints due to the new 5-6 week development cycle were the cause of the lack of lead time for the CSM to review the dev blog, Major JSilva responded:
"I’m not sure to what extent CCP wanted to keep us in the dark or rush through with the announcement. A part of me feels that maybe it was to prevent some sort of leak getting out which I can understand to a degree from a security standpoint. Though I believe if Greyscale didn’t trust us to keep our end of the NDA’s than he has shown and reflected on part of CCP that they necessarily doesn’t have faith in the CSM."
When asked about how the CSM members from the null sec alliances, all members of major power blocs, felt about the dev blog, Sion stated:
"All of the 0.0 CSM members are united in opposition to it. And while the rest of the CSM may not feel as strongly about 0.0 issues as the nullsec representitives, the entirety of the CSM is dismayed at how this was breezed by the CSM with so little chance at feedback into the process. We were literally just in Iceland, and something like 75% of what appeared in that devblog was stuff we didn't discuss. We couldn't, we didn't have time."
In hindsight, one can speculate whether the timing was pushed up on the long distance travel dev blog due to a decision to introduce Thera and 100 shattered wormholes in Rhea in December.  In that case, the devs may have decided they had to do everything within their power to get the force projection changes launched in the Phoebe release in November.  The original schedule as revealed on The o7 Show seems to have left enough room for a few days of consultation with the CSM before releasing the dev blog to the general player community.  That consultation probably could have removed some of the rougher elements from the plan, thus causing less controversy and easing acceptance of the plan.  After all, that is one of the functions of the present day CSM.

Of course, the more interesting theory is that something caused a rift between the CSM and at least some members of CCP.  The easy explanation involves the publication of The Null Deal.  But the exact reasons why CCP saw that document as troublesome enough to change its plans is probably something we'll never know.

CSM 8 Wearing Tin Foil Hats (Photo from The Third N)


  1. And shortly after that Greyscale is fired. The cartels still have a long reach inside CCP.

  2. All of the statements of dismay from certain CSM members about the force-projection dev blog are likely a function of the profoundly negative response to the nerfs among many of their alliance mates. The circumstances surrounding Xander's departure from Bastion, for example, suggest that conclusion.

    What's more interesting is that the Null Deal doesn't mention force-projection at all. It may be that the signatories decided that the jump drive nerfs were incontestable, but it seems unlikely given Sion's comment in the minutes that "[t]he potential changes to jump drives are very popular among leaders of coalitions" (p. 63). That suggests two additional conclusions: (1) that there was a disconnect between the alliance leaders and their line members, and/or (2) that the alliance leaders were particularly concerned with CCP's apparent preference for a "freeform" system over an "occupancy" system in the coming sov revamp.

    You could argue that the Null Deal put the addition of NPC 0.0 systems at the top of the list because doing that would mitigate somewhat the impact of the jump drive nerfs. That seems unlikely if Sion was correct about the nerfs' popularity, but I can't discount it.

    The importance of the argument for increased player density is also questionable, since both the freeform and occupancy models would accomplish that.

    My guess is that CCP was pissed that certain members of the CSM changed direction (much more in tone than in substance) after the "Long Distance Travel Changes Inbound" dev blog was released. CCP thought they had the backing of the major 0.0 power brokers, and then the representatives of those people threw them under the bus. I do not, however see much of a reason to think that CCP felt it *had* to rush the dev blog.

    As for the publication of the Null Deal, it may be that CCP's irritation (if they were irritated) with it was just a knock-on effect from the CSM's reaction to the dev blog. Or, maybe they saw the document as a tacit denunciation of some of the ideas presented in the Nullsec Session, which was inconsistent with the 0.0 members' "generally incredibly pleased" reaction to the session (p. 73) and would involve one or more NDA breaches. I don't know.

    All that said, screw the politics. All I really care about it whether and why the Null Deal signatories are opposed to a freeform system to replace the current sov mechanics. If they are opposed, and they have as much influence as it seems, the "why" part needs to come out into the open well in advance of the content release.

  3. Force projection was a divided issue in nullsec before Greyscale even started working on it. It's been an idea proposed by Manny in PL among others more than a year ago.

    Most of the threadnaught of hate for the jump changes was for *fatigue* specifically. Plenty of us nullsec players welcomed the idea of jump cooldowns and slower movement via jump drive, but hate fatigue. This is because fatigue is onerous and un-fun. Fatigue is a ham-handed method that uses punishment to accomplish a thing that could be done far more elegantly and positively. Also the system as proposed would have killed JF logistics, that got fixed.

    The null deal ideas about sov aren't by necessity opposed to freeform; in the minutes freeform is a pretty blue-sky idea. It might include some parts of occupancy, it might not. The two are orthogonal concepts. I think the main reason for publishing the Null Deal wasn't in reaction to CCP, but to show support was wide in nullsec. Entities that don't have a CSM rep also signed on.