Blog Banter #80: A CSM for All?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 80th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

CCP Seagull encourages you to get involved in CSM12 and put your name forward to be a Space-Politician. On his blog, Neville Smit noted that CSM11 had done a good job with a minimum of drama. However, he said he'd not be covering CSM12 like he has in previous years as he sees no point. The power-blocs will vote on who they want and unless Steve Ronuken manages to get on CSM12, it is almost certainly going to have every seat taken by the big null-sec blocs.

Is Neville right? Is the CSM moving more and more into just a voice for 0.0? Is this a bad thing? Are the hi-sec, low-sec and WH players going to lose out badly or is it really not an issue as its the same game? Could a totally null-sec dominated CSM 12 give a balanced voice for everyone?


In my previous post, I did indeed thank CSM11 for their good service, which is well deserved. But I also resigned myself to the fact that, under the current election rules, we will never see more than token representation from outside the established null-sec based power blocs on the Council of Stellar Management.

CSM12 will be heavily dominated once again by players who reside in 0.0 space. There is little chance for any other outcome. The null-sec blocs are too well organized, and they should be able to secure a minimum of eight, and very likely nine, of the ten seats on CSM12 - if not all of them. The mathematics of the election make this outcome virtually inevitable.

The reduction of the number of CSM representatives from 14 to ten favors the null-sec blocs even more, as it will make it harder for candidates with smaller constituencies to secure a CSM12 seat. Unless we see a huge, historically unprecedented surge in voting participation, I expect to see only a single representative elected from wormhole space (likely the capable incumbent Noobman). Low-sec and faction warfare will almost certainly not be directly represented, as well as the vast majority of players who reside primarily in high security space.

Even good Steve Ronuken - industrialist, third-party developer and advocate for high-sec residents - who has been an invaluable and hard-working representative since CSM9, may not be returned for another term. His only chance is to secure more than a few high-ranking endorsements on the voting slates of null-sec alliances - and thereby putting him in the potentially difficult position of owing these alliances his favor, if elected.

I have seen nothing that makes me think that the voting turnout for CSM12 will be any more than last year's. It does not appear likely that CCP will launch a heavily concerted marketing effort to get more subscribers to vote. In fact, they seem content to leave such promotion to the candidates themselves, and to EVE community fansites like this one. But we've been promoting voting for the CSM with vigor each year, and yet, participation has continued to diminish. A low voting turnout means an even higher proportion of votes from the null-sec power blocs, strongly favoring their candidates.

Hope for CSM12

Fortunately, this does not spell disaster for the 12th election of the Council of Stellar Management. This is because the majority of the members of CSM11 are running once again. Even though almost all of CSM11 was made up of players from major 0.0 alliances, it was an effective group which represented the interests of many different constituencies in EVE Online. CSM11 worked with CCP during the introduction of significant new features and improvements that affected players in every type of space in New Eden - and on the whole, those changes made a positive and constructive difference in how people play with their Internet spaceships.

For that reason, I am endorsing every incumbent from CSM11 who is running again for a seat on CSM12, and I sincerely hope they are all re-elected. The only one that I am worried about is good Steve Ronuken, who does not hail from a null-sec alliance, and as a result, needs broad-based support to win a seat on CSM12. For that reason, I am putting Steve as my #1 vote on my ballot, and I urge everyone else to do likewise. The rest of my votes will be populated with all the remaining incumbents from CSM11.

Ideally, this will mean re-election of an effective CSM, albeit another extremely 0.0-oriented one, with token representation of w-space and high-sec industry. But this group has demonstrated that they consider the interests of players based in space other than 0.0, even though they may not have in-depth experience playing as such themselves. At least, by re-electing this group, we will retain a known quantity of Council effectiveness and fair-mindedness. This is really the best we can hope for.

Unfortunately, this also means that low-sec and faction warfare will go largely unrepresented in CSM12. This would normally bother me, but based on the minutes from last year's CSM summit meetings, it seems obvious that these are areas of the game that CCP does not have any immediate plans to address, at least in the near future. This is sad, but true - and it means we can sacrifice direct representation of these aspects of the game in CSM12 without severe consequence.

A CSM for All of EVE

I recently exchanged a few tweets on the subject of CSM12 with CCP Guard, and he suggested that the CSM election process should favor those players who "actually play". I think he meant this as a gentle poke in my ribs, as I've admitted that my level of engagement in EVE Online has been at a low ebb recently. The question is: do the current CSM election mechanics actually favor EVE Online's most engaged players?

If you assume that null-sec based players are the most active in the game, then the CSM election process is working as intended, and all is well, even if that means every single seat on the CSM is occupied by a null-sec alliance member. But past history has shown that CSM11 was an aberration. In fact, the least engaged representatives in past CSMs were from 0.0 alliances. Because of their well-organized voting blocs, CSM candidates from 0.0 alliances do not have to campaign for votes, and they will be elected despite any lack of enthusiasm to actually participate and contribute. These candidates' electability have nothing to do with how much they actually play EVE Online, or even if they care about the game at all.

So, while we've been lucky with CSM11, and hopefully will be so again for CSM12, I worry for future Councils. The current election mechanics could easily produce a collection of 0.0 bigots and ne're-do-wells who will not act in the best interests of all player constituencies. If this ever happens, then CCP will be forced to make a hard choice - shun the elected Council (as they have in the past), or take action to reshape it into something useful.

Some argue that the current CSM election process is fair because it represents the interests of those who voted. The potential problem is that sometimes people vote in ways that produce surprisingly bad results - and then everyone has to live with the consequences.

Instead, I reject the notion that the CSM should represent the interests of EVE Online's most engaged and active players. Frankly, I think this is very lazy thinking, designed to justify the current 0.0-favored voting mechanics. Instead, I suggest that the CSM election should represent the interests of CCP's most important customers - all Omega subscribers.

Imagine if the Omega subscriber agreement included a provision requiring a response for each CSM election from each subscription, during the CSM election period. And imagine that once a year, during the CSM election period, the EVE Online client required a key code produced by submitting a CSM ballot, before a player could log in. The CSM ballot could offer an "I abstain" option that still provides a key code, but this would force some sort of decision on the part of every subscriber who wanted to log in during the CSM election period, even if that decision meant choosing not to vote at all.

This would maximize election participation, and produce a more directly representative set of elected Council representatives. Null-sec based alliances would still secure a significant number of seats - probably a majority, in fact - but there would be enough votes from players in every type of space to foster a broader diversity of representative types on the CSM. Most importantly, it would produce a CSM that would be representative of all subscribers, not just those who play mostly in null-sec space.

Alas, I don't think CCP would ever consider such an idea, as it would require programming effort. More importantly, I doubt that the next CSM would do so either. After all, it would dramatically change the status quo, and diminish the power enjoyed by the 0.0 alliances under the current CSM election mechanics.

Still, it would be nice to think that CCP values my CSM vote as a multiple Omega character subscriber, even though I'm a more casual player in high-sec and wormholes, as much as someone who plays in null-sec. After all, are my subscriber fees worth less than someone who operates mostly in 0.0 space? Apparently, CCP seems to think so, based on how the CSM is elected - and this makes me rather sad.

Fly safe! o7

Blog Banter #77 - The EVE Crisis of Confidence

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 77th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

Is there a malaise affecting EVE currently? Blogs and podcasts are going dark and space just feels that little bit emptier. One suggestion is that there may be a general problem with the vets, especially those pre-Incarna and older, leaving and being replaced by newer players who are not as invested in the game. The colonists versus immigrants? Is this a problem? Are there others? Or is everything just fine and it's just another bout of summer "ZOMG EVE IZ DYING!"


Last September, I perceived a growing restlessness in the EVE Online player community. I wrote about this in an article on Crossing Zebras called "Overcoming EVE Malaise":

It happens to many of us. We play EVE Online for months or years with enthusiasm, but then, mysteriously, some of us begin feeling less entranced with the game. Our interest in internet spaceships flags. When this happens, some players drop out for a while, put their character in mothballs, and then rejoin months later to a significantly different game, their interest rekindled by some new feature or development. Others, however, never return to active play – they are lost forever to EVE ennui.
I’ve been playing EVE Online since 2009, and I’m familiar with the symptoms of “EVE malaise”. It is a common affliction of veteran players, especially after they’ve settled into a particular playstyle, becoming so good at it that the game becomes routine. Those vets who fall victim to this disease suddenly lose their motivation to sustain their success. They wonder, “Why am I no longer excited about something that used to make me so passionate?”

I myself have been struggling with EVE malaise ever since Fanfest in April. I had high hopes - perhaps excessively so - that I would see some exciting new developments announced at that event that would once again reinvigorate my interest in the game. But I was disappointed. In fact, I even got a little angry about it. My involvement with EVE Online dropped to the lowest level in five years. Only recently, with the Shadow of the Serpent PvE event, did I log some significant time in the game, but even then, it has been only a relatively slight increase. And once that event is over in the next month, I am sadly confident that my time in game will return to its previous somnambulant state.

Is my experience typical? I am not entirely certain, but I see a lot of signs of a creeping sluggishness in the EVE Online community - especially in the EVE media. I see an increasing number of once vibrant EVE-related blogs posting less frequently, or others shutting down altogether. EVE Radio had to threaten imminent shutdown, in order to collect enough contributions to keep afloat - until September, anyway. Some of my favorite EVE-related podcasts, which used to be prolific fonts of new content, seem to be on informal hiatus.

These trends do not paint a healthy picture of the EVE Online community, full of energy and enthusiasm. Not at all. Rather, it shows an increasing amount of listlessness. EVE Online seems to be somewhat adrift in the doldrums, for the moment.

The End is Nigh?

Does this mean that "EVE is dying" - a phrase so oft repeated that it has now become a meme in our community? I've been hearing this ever since I joined the game in 2009, and yet, EVE keeps chugging along, getting incrementally better with each update, year after year.

More than two years ago, the rumors of CCP Games' imminent implosion were so sonorous, they were impossible to ignore. I took a close look at the data, and came to the conclusion that there was little to worry about - I wrote a post about it, and my conclusions have been borne out by history. In general, EVE players are a cynical bunch, and we tend to exaggerate bits of bad news, while failing to give CCP and EVE Online due credit for being far more resilient than we think.

After World War Bee wound down to a surprisingly swift anticlimax in the spring, there has been little news in New Eden, except for the introduction of Citadels. Some ownership of space has traded hands, as usual, and CCP's summer PvE event has generated some player engagement, but for the most part, not much is really happening right now. For many otherwise ardent capsuleers, there simply isn't much reason to log in regularly at the moment.

In addition, it is summertime - at least, for those of us who reside in the northern hemisphere - and people are enjoying holidays and family and other interests in that strange world known as "outside", which we tend to ignore in the blustery days of autumn and winter. This is when CCP developers go on extended holiday, like most of Europe. Not much happens in EVE Online during June, July and August. We bittervets know it's been that way for ages, and probably always will be.

From EVE-Offline.net: I started playing EVE in 2009, and there has been a temporary decrease in average player counts online each summer, every year. Of more concern is the generally lower daily log-in counts, which dropped in mid-2014 and again in mid-2015. This level of traffic seems to be the "new normal" for activity in EVE Online - at least for now.

Of more concern is the generally lower level of player engagement, as measured by daily player log-in counts, relative to EVE's heyday in 2011-2013. According to statistics from EVE-Offline.net, EVE Online saw a general drop in player log-ins in mid-2014, and again in mid-2015. World War Bee and Citadels helped spark a higher level of activity through the spring of this year, but it has now returned to the previous lower activity norm.

We Need New Toys

This hardly means that "EVE is dying", of course. It simply means that little of interest is going on at the moment. The Shadow of the Serpent PvE event has been an entertaining diversion, but it hardly qualifies as a major game development.

In my own experience, I am simply bored. After six years, there isn't much left to try in the game that sounds especially appealing. Plus, with my busy lifestyle, it's more difficult to reserve hours for marathon online gaming sessions, like I once enjoyed. For my currently casual, and mostly solo, play style preference, there just isn't much for me to do - or at least it feels that way.

This isn't unusual for EVE Online. Something new is introduced, and we dive in with gusto to master the new mechanic or capability. Then we figure it out, and the once entrancing new toy becomes familiar. I remember learning to solve a Rubik's Cube - I practiced over and over until I could solve the puzzle effortlessly, and then I put it on the shelf, and forgot about it. It's still there, forty years later, untouched for decades. I remember how much I enjoyed playing with it, long ago, but I'm unmotivated to pick it up again.

I'm waiting for some new toys in EVE Online. I'm hoping that industrial platforms prove to be an interesting alternative to POSes, and a tool for successful and profitable invention and manufacturing in high sec. But we don't have enough details yet to know for certain. So, I'm just sitting here, waiting. Meanwhile, my log-in activity averages less than 15 minutes a day, mostly to conduct a routine checklist of maintenance tasks in a perfunctory manner. It's not much fun.

We need some big and exciting new toys to rekindle interest in EVE Online, and we need them badly. We need to see the full realization of the entire vision for new structures, as soon as humanly possible. We need massive revamps and enhancements to wardec mechanics, mission-running, mining, and exploration. We need formal support of non-corporation societies within the game client. We need new space to discover - and compelling reasons to go there. We need to restore a sense of wonder about the potential of flying our ships in New Eden - the feeling that anything is possible.

For me, that sense of wonder has been missing from EVE Online for more than a few months now. 

A Crisis of Confidence

In 1979, US President Jimmy Carter gave his "crisis of confidence" speech, addressing the nation on the effects of the energy shortages at the time. While many criticized Carter for the speech, he made an important point:

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our ... will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose...

There's a lesson to be learned here: when people start to give up hope that things will get better, they start to disengage, and then that disengagement becomes increasingly pervasive and endemic. Thus begins a downward spiral, which is difficult to overcome.

Is EVE Online having a similar crisis of confidence? I submit we are collectively on the brink of one - a crisis created out of a growing perception that not much new is happening, and that the prospects for significant innovations appearing soon are dim, or so far in the future that they are irrelevant.

Jimmy Carter was criticized for describing the problem, but not articulating a vision of a solution. It's well past the time for CCP Seagull to update her vision for the future of EVE Online - not as vague generalizations of intended direction, but with more specificity, starting from today and moving forward. Of all the things I saw at Fanfest in April, her lack of precision in defining the current state of her developmental roadmap was the most disappointing - it was mentioned only in passing during her keynote presentation. I had assumed that as CCP was progressing through the phases of that grand vision, the picture would become ever clearer, as we got closer to the end goals. 

I'm attending EVE Vegas in October. My principal reason for making the trip is to give CCP the opportunity to once again sell me on the future of EVE Online. It is my sincere hope that I will see and hear a fully revised development roadmap - one that takes us from the new structures all the way to stargates and the path to new space, with some general timeframes for when we might see new deliverables.

The EVE Online player community is suffering from a growing feeling of malaise. We need big, shiny new toys to play with in New Eden. And we need a clear, refreshed vision of where we are going and when those new toys will be available. Otherwise, we will fall into a genuine crisis of confidence - and a potentially inescapable death spiral for the game we all enjoy.

Personally, I'm hoping for the best.

Fly safe! o7

 

BB #75: What Does Project Nova Need to Succeed?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 75th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are please visit the Blog Banter page.

At Fanfest, CCP showcased their current iteration of the FPS set in the Eve Universe. Following on from DUST514 and Project Legion, Project Nova is shaping up to be a solid FPS with CCP taking the decision to get the game mechanics right first. However, with so many FPS out there, what will Nova need in order to stand out from a very large crowd and be successful? What are the opportunities, and perhaps more importantly, the dangers for CCP? How can Nova compete against CoD, Battlefront and Titanfall, to name a few?


I do not own a gaming console, and have no intention of ever buying one. I have always been a PC gamer, and I always will be. My keyboard, mouse and monitor are my preferred means of interacting with gaming entertainment.

Still, I looked at DUST 514 when it was first announced, and considered buying a PS/3 in order to play it. My main interest was driven by the promise of integration between EVE Online and DUST. The planetary bombardment feature demonstrated at Fanfest 2012 was one of the highlights of that event. 

Demo of planetary bombardment in DUST 514 shown at Fanfest 2012.

CCP Games also stated that they intended to bring the worlds of EVE Online and DUST even closer together by eventually integrating the two games' economies, and possibly providing players with the opportunity to use the same characters in the two games.

"If only DUST ran on a PC," I remember saying to myself at the time. "Then I'd be able to switch back and forth between EVE Online and DUST missions. That'd be awesome."

I figured it would be only a question of time before CCP saw the light and ported the game to the PC. I decided to just wait. I planned to be one of the first to play the game, once it was available on my preferred platform.

Then came Fanfest 2014, and the infamous "Rouge Wedding"...

CCP Rouge describes and shows a prototype of Project Legion, a PC-based version of DUST, at Fanfest 2014.

At last, DUST - or at least a version of it - was coming to the PC. I was thrilled. Unfortunately, this announcement also annoyed and alienated the PS/3 console players, who immediately saw that this was the inevitable future of their game. The path was clear: DUST as a console experience was doomed - which is exactly what eventually happened.

I've been eagerly anticipating this PC version of DUST for the last two years, though there has been very little news about it coming out of CCP Games since the initial announcement. In fact, I started to worry that it was never going to be released. But then CCP showed Project Nova at Fanfest 2016, and my enthusiasm returned. I had a chance to try the game at Fanfest, and I enjoyed it a lot, though I felt it still needs some tweaks. The critical gaming press agrees: the game has lots of potential, but is not quite ready for prime time.

So, what does Project Nova need to succeed?

First and foremost, it must provide a consistently competitive FPS shooter gameplay experience. This is obvious and fundamental, but it is exactly what many players felt was missing from DUST 514. The play must be smooth and quick and graphically state-of-the-art, and it must be favorably comparable with other competitive FPS games.

Fortunately, everything that CCP is saying about Project Nova indicates that this is their #1 priority, above all other else. I frankly thought the gameplay in the prototype was very good, though the developers I chatted with said they want to make additional improvements. That makes me confident that CCP will get this critical aspect right.

Once this essential element of solid FPS gameplay is ready, I think there are four additional factors that are needed to make Project Nova a success:

  • Multiplayer at core
  • Emergent gameplay
  • Player-driven economy
  • Part of New Eden

That's right - these are the same four elements that CCP Rouge talked about in his Project Legion announcement at Fanfest 2014. He wasn't wrong then, and more importantly, these elements are even more important now.

Project Nova must get the multiplayer aspects of the game right. Specifically, the match pairing must be much better than DUST, which sometimes put players with dominant skills and equipment together with less capable opponents, resulting in boring one-way routs. The monetization method of Project Nova will likely be free-to-play with purchasable upgrades and enhancements - care must be taken to make sure that these items are not overpowered "pay to win" buttons.

The opportunity to set Project Nova in a meaningful way in a larger context, such as being mercenaries in New Eden's faction warfare, would provide players with a strategic aspect of the game to compete within. In addition, providing in-game support of teams and corporations, operating within this higher-level game context, would encourage emergent gameplay by those groups. I think this is where CCP wants to take the game eventually - at least, I hope so. The orbital bombardment feature of DUST was super-cool but required too much planning and effort to coordinate. That degree of linkage between EVE Online and Project Nova is not needed for the latter game's success, but linking Project Nova to the success of faction warfare in EVE Online could be an exciting way to provide a larger context.

One thing that makes EVE Online interesting is that the economy is almost entirely player-driven. Project Nova would benefit greatly by using a similar model. As much as I would love it, this player-driven economy does not need to be linked to EVE Online to work well within Project Nova. Rather, there only needs to be a way to sell and buy items in a separate mercenary-only market - and earn in-game profits in the process.

I've already alluded to some ways to make Project Nova feel like it is a part of New Eden, but this can't be emphasized enough. I think the initial target audience should not be players of other FPS games, but rather, players of EVE Online. We already understand and love the world of New Eden, and want to experience more of it. If Project Nova uses settings that we EVE Online players recognize - the interiors of faction stations or ships, for example - and if it remains consistent with the look-and-feel of the universe we already know, we will be more likely to be attracted to the game. We are the principal target audience for Project Nova - even those of us who aren't FPS players now.

Bring it on!

I hope that CCP greenlights the development of Project Nova, and brings the game to market. On the PC platform, I think it will appeal to every EVE Online player - and it could also attract an entirely new audience to the EVE universe.

I'm already sold. Make it happen, CCP!

Fly safe! o7