Friday, April 17, 2020

The CSM 14 March Summit: CSM Reactions

While I'm not maintaining a website tracking the CSM candidates this year, I'm not going to entirely ignore the player-elected body. The 14th edition of the Council of Stellar Management held a summit with CCP in Reykjavik from 2-5 March. While reading the summit minutes, I was impressed enough by the post-summit thoughts of the members that I thought I would shamelessly copy and paste their thoughts here. I will add some formatting things (like paragraphs) as needed.

Aryth (Goonwaffe/Goonswarm Federation): Going in there was confusion between CSM and CCP on specific aspects of previously released features and what that meant for future releases. The initial concerns were discussed and addressed and we gained a much clearer idea of what CCPs overall intentions and goals were. 

These goals were high level and didn't necessarily translate into the changes we see that may be the cause of lots of consternation in the playerbase. The high level goals make sense and have mostly objective measurements that are easily defined. What needs to be made a bit more clear is that the tactical changes happening are often things that CCP may not know the ramifications of but are attempting to address much greater issues with a game 17 years of player history. Things will go wrong, adjustments will be made, but the guiding star is to return EVE to a healthy place that can continue for the next decade. 

Hilmar played a large part in clarifying this vision and I would say that the summit didn't truly come together with a cohesive picture until Hilmar's session directly with the CSM. It is very easy to lose sight of the high level objectives when you are only discussing tactical changes. CCP was able to tie these two areas together with Hilmar explaining it all. This was a new structure of engagement with the CSM and was highly successful. That being said, while we don't necessarily agree with every change, we see our job as to educate CCP as best we can on the ramifications of the changes they are doing and make them have the least negative impact as we are able. 

At the end of the day CCP makes the final decision thus the game will change. Change is the constant we can always rely on in EVE. Change is scary, it breaks playstyles, it turns the economy upside down, it has sweeping meta ramifications, but it also ushers in a new age of EVE.

Steve Ronuken (Fuzzwork Enterprises/Vote Steve Ronuken for CSM): The End of an Era. That's what the summit in March was. My last summit after 6 years on the CSM. Not the best, but far from the worst; there were fruitful discussions, which have led to a better understanding of goals, objectives and situations on both sides.

It's going to be challenging for a while, as Eve goes through some significant rebalances, but if we can hit the target numbers, everything should be in a better

Olmeca Gold (Democratic Space Socialism): Had a great summit overall. With NPE improvements kicking in, I'm happy to see growth in the player numbers again. Seems like substantial work will go into veteran gameplay in 2020. It will be a painful transition from some of the unsustainable aspects of Eve, to a long-term sustainable game. I hope it all goes well. 

The three issues I paid specific attention in this summit were the risk/reward balance around PvE and non-consensual PvP, small and large scale conflict drivers, and making on-grid PvP skill matter more in the sandbox

Merkelchen (Karmafleet/Goonswarm Federation): This spring's summit was as good of a summit as I have had in my 2 years as a CSM player representative. CCP has taken heavily to a data driven approach to their resource allocation and game design and based off the information we saw it seems to already be paying off. Focus on the new player experience(not to be confused with the tutorial itself) is bringing great returns that should get every Eve player excited because, even though many of us finished up that aspect of the game a long time ago, it being more effective leads to more people in space. These new additions to the player base become Corp mates of the future, industrialists
supplying the ships we fly, or maybe even the bad guy that just got called primary on a fleet.

The current focus on bringing the ecosystem to a more healthy state is going to require an immense amount of effort and collaboration between CCP, the CSM, and the greater player base. I wish there were easy and pain free solutions to these issues but its likely going to take some time to find the Goldilocks zone where things are in a great state. Having a good working relationship between the CSM and CCP is fundamental to working through these kind of immense challenges and as a player communicating your thoughts on the matter to your CSM representatives is critical to make sure every voice is represented in these discussions. Much like I'm sure many of the CSMs do I get a lot of in game mails, discord conversations, and reddit private messages and I make sure every one gets to the person that would need to hear it in CCP so please continue to speak to the Council! I wish the best of luck to the future CSM XV and I thank CSM XIV and CCP for another great year.

Dunk Dinkle (Brave Newbies Inc./Brave Collective): CCP learned a lot from the Summer of Chaos and has made several major changes. There has been a significant reorganization of how CCP does game design and how teams work together. Overall, the mood of the meetings was open and positive. Very little acrimony. The tone of discussion was much more interactive and convivial that the Summer Summit, which was adversarial at times.

We are seeing more regular deployment of new features and better discussion of the future than we have seen in a few years. There are things coming that some players will love. There are things coming that some players will hate. My advice is to keep doing what you like to do and don’t get stressed about the other changes around you.

Innominate (Karmafleet/Goonswarm Federation): The biggest problem this year on the CSM has been communication from CCP. This summit has led to dramatic improvements in CCP's communication both with the CSM and with players that I hope is a continuing trend back towards the transparency we used to expect. While there are several positive changes both released and upcoming, I am most excited to have seen the most effective npe changes CCP has tried in years, which promise to bring back real growth in the player base.

Gobbins (Pandemic Horde HLD./Pandemic Horde): The main direction of this meeting was the desire from CCP to change deep andcore aspects of the game in order to walk towards a new vision. The core of this vision is the longevity of eve online. CCP plans to achieve this with at least 3 points of action: increased retention of new players, drastic healing of the game economy, and improvement of the veteran experience through small but constant changes.

The improvements to new player retention are driven by solid data and the stats show that the current work has already been bearing fruit. The impact of these improvements on the game population as a whole might not be noticed at first but are projected to make a big difference in a matter of 2-3 years.

The work on the economy is the most delicate work and a vastly ambitious project. The current state of the eve economy is not compatible with longevity and the intent behind this project is well justified. The devs involved in this task are very set in their goals and hesitated to disclose information at first but have since developed a regular dialogue with the CSM at least to receive feedback. However due to the complexity of the topic, there is little consensus in general on how the economy is to be fixed. The speed at which this task can be carried out is also limited by the delay in which economic changes take effect in the game, and the existence of stockpiles; so players are advised to expect tweaks to the economy to continue happening for a long time.

Lastly the improvement of the core experience through small but constant changes has been ongoing now since the formation of team Talos. This team formed shortly after the first CSM14 summit and has been steadily delivering updates. Over half a year later, not a single biweekly update was missed. Without a doubt, these small changes have had an effect in making the game feel more alive and vibrant, as well as addressing crippling imbalances that could be fixed with relatively minor
changes. One issue that is starting to emerge however is that the amount of work might be too much for one small team, as becomes evident when the team must tackle bigger balance issues and more ambitious revamps. The current pace also seems to have little to no room for iteration, although this is a wider issue of the company as a whole at this time.

A greater blind spot that remains is conflict drivers. The topic was discussed during the summit but does not seem to be a priority yet, partly because it is believed the changes to the economy will also drive conflict. That prediction seems flawed at the moment, but hopefully the topic of conflict drivers can become more prominent once some of the urgent issues with the economy are dealt with.

Final comment, the top leadership of CCP was very available to us during this meeting and widely shared their vision and enthusiasm for eve’s future. The atmosphere is one of genuine confidence and optimism, which I share. My personal comment is that there is still a bit of a gap between the top decision making at CCP, and the technical and direct knowledge of the game in its modern state. Hopefully this summit helped narrow that gap through the feedback provided by the CSM as
well as the increased number of CCP employees participating as players in eve online.

Sort Dragon (Resilience./Initiative Mercenaries): My focus for this summit was CCP's communication with the player base. While CCP has always had a long-term vision and short-term and long-term plans, I wasn't sure what those plans were, or how they intended to implement them. In the past, CCP has had issues communicating their plans and vision to players, with the result being that some players had unrealistic expectations on future game changes or expansions while other players became cynical, with low or no expectations at all. My goal was to urge CCP to ramp up their communications efforts, find a way to be transparent while managing expectations, and to encourage them to communicate more with players.

During the summit, I saw CCP's long-term plans for the future and the reasons behind the changes they have made and their reasoning behind future changes. These plans are big, and they're bold. I'm looking forward to seeing how they implement them and how they communicate them with the player base in the future.

ExookiZ (The Dark Space Initiative/Scary Wormhole People): A very positive summit. Compared to our firsts summit in september, It was obvious that a lot of CCP’s reorganization and refocusing has begun to pay off. Many of the sessions were even more contentious than before, in part I think due to the CSM becoming more comfortable with each other and CCP devs. That said I left the summit feeling that we probably helped point Eve in a better direction more than I did the last time.

I left the September summit telling people I was “cautiously optimistic”, in that if CCP kept it up I think we should see some very positive movement. 6 Months later, with talos still achieving its release cadence, and other teams beginning to follow suit I would say that I am not simply optimistic about EVE’s future. I was very impressed with everything we saw at the second summit, from the leadership teams focus on core issues to the teams various plans to make eve better over 2020. While all of that of course still hinges on their execution, with the last 6 months being mostly successful, i am more confident than before that by the end of 2020 EVE will be a very different, and hopefully much better game than it is now.

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