The CSM - in hindsight and for the future

The Council of Stellar Management is a process that is constantly being revised. It has to be because as a process it serves two constantly evolving entities - you, the player and EVE. Revision can however hardly be done without information and transparency. 

We want each CSM to be better than the last one, a measurement not necessarily a quantitative integer but also a qualitative measure. That is why we wish to convey the following message from the third CSM, addressed to the fourth CSM and you:

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A retrospective of the third Council of Stellar Management

May 2009, almost a year after the first council was elected. The third Council of Stellar Management was a mix of new council members and pilots with previous CSM experience. Now, our term is over and a new council has been elected. In this devblog we look back at our term, the future of the CSM and a few personal impressions.

Looking back

The third CSM has been an eventful one. We've had our ups (most active CSM to date), downs (delayed minutes) and a scandal (Larkonisgate). Through our meetings, both internal and with CCP, we have managed to put 90 issues to CCP, which are so far the most issues put forth in a single term. The majority of these issues have been accepted by CCP, and a surprising number of issues - nineteen, in fact - have already been implemented in the Dominion expansion! Council activity was not just reflected in the number of issues, but also in the fact that our six month term had only very few unexplained absences from meetings. The vast majority of meetings the council members showed up in full and on time.

A major issue that was discussed with CCP was the infamous "industrial expansion", Quantum Rise. At the time, a number of industrial features were scrapped in favor of technical upgrades. While this has resulted in a faster, smoother Eve for all of us, the expansion left the industrialists feeling like they got stood up on prom night all over again. After discussing this with CCP at length, it was decided that the council would submit a list of industry issues to CCP which would be included in future expansions. It is not a dedicated industry expansion, but CCP committed to getting industry issues done!

Additionally, the CSM engaged in several brainstorming sessions with CCP. This is a relative new concept for the council, as the first two councils focused primarily on submitting issues in their communication with CCP. Brainstorming sessions will become more frequent, as both the council and the developers felt that the sessions were a useful tool. It allowed the developers to gain insight in the desires the players have for a certain aspect of the game, and it allows the council members - and through them you, the players - to weigh in on the overall game design.

So, after all the victories and success, what could have gone better in the last term? Obviously we cannot escape mentioning Larkonisgate here. Larkonis Trassler was a council member who unfortunately decided to use knowledge gained during our visit with CCP to buy specific items, essentially committing insider trading. This was very quickly discovered by CCP, the items seized and Larkonis resigned from the council. This allowed Issler Dainze, the first alternate, to take Larkonis' seat. And while this is a very regrettable incident, it also matured the CSM process and the swift repercussions showed that corruption will not be tolerated.

The other thing that could have been better was the publication of meeting minutes. While minutes were released quickly at the start of the term, this was unfortunately less the case later on. Internal miscommunication about the status of minutes, combined with unforeseen personal events caused several minutes to be unreasonably late. As chairman I take ultimate responsibility for the success and failings of this council, and I am forced to acknowledge I should have been more on the ball and should have stepped in as soon as a small delay occurred.

Looking ahead

With the third CSM I feel that we have cemented the procedures that were pioneered and laid out by the first two councils. This should hopefully make things quite smooth for CSM4. As the fourth council only has one member with previous CSM experience, council members of the third CSM (and indeed first and second as well) will remain available for advice on procedural matters. We wish the fourth CSM the best of luck as they take over from us, and ask that they are careful with the EVE universe; it has all our stuff in it.

As mentioned before, CCP will be brainstorming more with the council members. Additionally, we hope that they heed John Zastrow's call "Please use us!" and communicate with the CSM outside the three official meetings, as the CSM has proven to be a useful sounding board. We also hope CCP will be more consistent in actually publishing the supposedly monthly Q&A's. While we have developed the CSM concept quite far already there is still a lot of room for improvement - for both parties.

The last thing we look at is you, the players. As the results roll in from the fourth election, we see that over 6,000 votes less were cast in this election than in the previous one, and the minimum number of votes that was needed to get on the council was reduced from around 1000 to just over 700. It is true the previous winter election (CSM2) also had fewer votes than the summer election before that one (CSM1), so we cannot say for certain that voter interest is waning. However, it is the goal of the CSM and CCP to involve more players, and these numbers definitely do not indicate growth. CCP can improve this by developing a better voting website and campaigning platform, and finding ways to create more clarity for pilots who are not familiar with any of the candidates. But as players, we should also encourage each other to vote and participate. This system of representation only works as far as we put effort into it; we get the representation we deserve.

  • Valentijn Geirnaert (Dierdra Vaal), Chairman, on behalf of the third Council of Stellar Management

Personal impressions

Allison Nixon (mazzilliu):

My experience as a member of the CSM has been a blast. In the beginning, I entered the position with little idea of what the job actually entailed, but as I learned what to do, I was able to come up with some CSM issues that I think can be used to improve EVE. During my term, I raised some issues that received popular support- but my main focus was on account security. I submitted numerous and detailed issues on the subject, and most of my time researching CSM-related things was spent on account security. I believe the devs are in agreement with me that this is an important thing, and as time goes on and these issues get implemented, players will be able to arm themselves with tools to prevent account hijackers from emptying their hangars and corp hangars. I will be running again for CSM5, and if I win I will continue following up on the work I have started in the CSM3.

Michele Boland (Issler Dainze):

I am very excited to have been part of the CSM process. While in the CSM it became clear to me that CCP really took the CSM seriously. I felt we were listened to and were definitely setting the groundwork to see some exciting changes in EVE down the road.

The CSM2 also involved in reviewing CCP's actions during the POS production scandal and it was clear the CSM performs a real service to the players of EVE in making sure that when issues like these occur that CCP deals with them in a manner that best serves the EVE community. We were able to review CCP's findings and actions. The broad range of players in the CSM2 were able to review the situation from both in game effects and in some cases the "technical" aspects of the code defect that allowed the exploit. We would have definitely made it clear to the players if CCP had not been above board in their actions.

Finally, I want to say that the fears that one class of player or several major alliances would dominate the CSM. This definitely has not been the case. The CSM has had a great range of players and viewpoints. Even in the cases when the CSM members had a strong viewpoint they seemed to be able to remain open to the ideas and viewpoints of the other types of players.

I want to thank CCP for the great opportunity to meet and work with such a great set of players. Maybe I'll run again down the road. And I also want to thank everyone that has supported the CSM process. Especially the folks that have taken the time to run for a seat. It's a lot of work to run and you open yourself up to a lot of criticism. I can tell you in the end it can be worth it. The CSM does make EVE a better place!

John Zastrow (Zastrow):

I am frankly, disappointed in the CSM. I think the idea of a focus group of players is great, and many games and MMORPGs have done similar things in the past. Some other MMOs I remember would have players elected to be their in-game profession's "champion" and talk to devs about their issues, and that was very effective at getting player concerns communicated. The CSM is an idea with huge potential to be exploited, I just don't think it's been done with EVE yet. Our contact with CCP is hilariously limited. The only time we ever had real back-and-forth talks with devs was at the summit. That's it. A single weekend for feedback. The CSM are among the most dedicated of players. We all worked and strove to make this game a better place but I feel we were and are woefully underutilized. I have no idea why this is. I do know that there are some devs who are very receptive to the CSM's thoughts, yet others gave me the impression they think we're batshit insane, and others still who act like a father humoring his child, patiently smiling as we talk without actually listening to us.

I know what the CSM is and what it isn't. We're not devs. We're not here to make decisions about the future of the game. But We SHOULD be the dev's focus group. I envision the Devs having their internal brainstorming sessions then afterwards coming to us: "Ok CSMs, what would the player base think of x" .. but that's not what happens. The CSM works independently. We talk to players, we argue amongst ourselves, and just a couple times in our six-month term are we graced with the attention of a dev to hear our collected thoughts. This system is just not effective. With a weekly or biweekly meeting with CCP we could tell Nozh that the players hate his capship changes but like Abathur's, or we could tell Chronotis how awful his Dominion devblog reads before he dumps it into the laps of a confused and angry player base. We should be half approaching CCP with player concerns, and half CCP coming to US for feedback. I enjoyed being a CSM, obviously, as I ran for a second term. I made good friends, I had a great time in Iceland, but I will not let these good experiences distract me from the reality: the CSM is nowhere near as effective as it could be and SHOULD be.

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The CSM is built on the ideas of honesty and truthfulness - it might sound a bit corny (to be honest) but it is the truth. Like the retrospective above indicates we have gotten more things right than we did wrong. With the 4th CSM we will march onwards because we can gain so much more than we can lose. 

  • CCP Xhagen