What's Old is New Again

My iPhone pinged nonchalantly, and I glanced over at the screen. The EVE Portal app alerted me that one of my character's skill training queue had ended.

I was a bit surprised. I had set an extra-long skill training regimen in motion for that character months ago, when I realized my passion for EVE Online was fading. He was a utility mining and industry alt that I hadn't used in ages. In fact, I couldn't remember the last time I had logged in on that account.

Prompted by EVE Portal's gentle nudge, I fired up the launcher on my PC, and logged in.

Faithful readers of this blog know that my activity in the game has waned over the last few months, due to Real Life distractions. I have been taking a break from logging in regularly, in hope that one day my enthusiasm would return after CCP Games had added enough new features to make flying Internet spaceships in New Eden feel fresh again.

Once I figured out how to navigate it, the Character Sheet led me to all sorts of interesting new discoveries in EVE Online.

My character was sitting in a Retriever in station. I clicked on the character sheet icon.

"What's all this now?," I blurted to myself. While I remembered that CCP had changed the character sheet interface some time ago, I realized that I had never really used it. Now I was confronted with something new, and I had to spend a few moments studying the screen, figuring out how to inject skills and refresh the training queue.

Sometimes, little things can make a big difference. I played around with the tabs in the character sheet interface, and experimented with a few actions to see how they worked. Once satisfied that I understood it well enough to accomplish my task, I set about deciding which skills I should set to continue my character's development.

An hour later, I was still fiddling about, reviewing various skills and what they were required for, which led me to investigate new items that I'd not yet discovered that had been recently introduced to the game.

Suddenly, I realized I had fallen once again into the rabbit hole of EVE Online's depth and complexity - the same depth that had captivated me over seven years ago. I found new things to learn and master, and enough change in semi-familiar features to make me question my assumptions about how they worked.

And I was having fun.

I smiled at myself. I realized I was back playing EVE Online once again, and enjoying it.

Kudos to EVE Portal, despite flaws

While my enthusiasm for EVE Online had declined somewhat, my interest in the game never died. I knew I'd be back eventually. I just needed a break for a while.

Apparently, EVE Portal really, really wants me to know that completion of Bomb Deployment 5 is super-duper important.

Perhaps CCP did not intend this, but my decision to back away from the game was actually made easier by the introduction of EVE Portal, a handy app for reviewing character status, e-mail, skill training and notifications. The app allowed me to periodically check on my dormant characters and scan relevant news bulletins, without having to log into the client. With EVE Portal, I could monitor my characters from a distance, knowing I could intercede should anything happen that required my direct attention.

The app still has a few bugs. Sometimes I can't get access to my mail. Or it tells me that I have an infinite number of unread messages. And sometimes it repeats the same notifications over and over in an endless loop. I find that cancelling the app and restarting it usually fixes these glitches, but not always.

Nevertheless, I find EVE Portal to be a handy application, and I became dependent upon it during my hiatus to maintain a virtual tether to my characters in New Eden. If for nothing else, the alerts for critical notifications, such as war declarations, or as I described previously, training queue completion, make it invaluable.

I have tried other EVE-related apps in the past, such as Neocom, and found them useful, but I prefer EVE Portal's interface, which is very clean and easy to navigate.

When the app works - and it usually does - it works well. I've tolerated the intermittent bugs, hopeful that CCP Games will eventually squash them. I'm beginning to worry, however, as the app has been available for a few months. If we don't see any fixes and enhancements soon, I'll start to rethink my allegiance to EVE Portal.

But for now, CCP can rest assured that EVE Portal enabled me to maintain a connection to the game, and also is a major reason why I've now become re-engaged in EVE Online.

Hello, old friends

After I fixed my utility alt's training queue, I decided to do the same for my other characters as well. I logged into Neville, and once again found myself floating in a comfortable safe spot in Thera. I checked the Signal Cartel chat, and found our corp CEO, Mynxee, and other familiar Signaleers there. I waved hello.


"A wild Neville suddenly appears!", one of my corpmates replied.

"Welcome back!", Mynxee added with enthusiasm.

Returning home is always a good feeling. I could almost feel the virtual hugs emanating from my screen.

I spent the next half-hour catching up in chat, while updating my skill queue and checking on my in-game assets. I regretted having to shut down, in order to update my other characters.

"I'll be back very soon," I typed in chat. And I meant it.

What's old is new again

I undocked one of my alts in a mining barge, just to shake off the cobwebs and get familiar with flying in space again.

Wow, NPC stations look different. The landing lights, the spinning sections, the little dots of traffic flying from tower to tower - it felt... alive. I spent ten minutes just gawking at it, remembering how the old stations looked like lifeless derelicts. Now they feel as animated and populated as citadels.

Cool. Nice work, CCP.

I headed for a nearby belt, admiring the new skin of my barge. CCP did a nice job with these, too. It felt dirty and mechanical - like mining equipment should look. The animated flames and moving gearworks are a nice touch, too.

After gathering some ore, I docked up. Then I tried some ghost fitting. I had played with this when it first came out, but not in any serious fashion. Now I set about learning how to use this tool in earnest.

After getting deeply absorbed in testing various fittings, I realized that an hour had passed. I decided I like the ghost fitting feature - a lot.

Sometimes, little things can make a big difference. A ping from an app, a greeting from some old friends, a refreshed look, a new feature - individually, they don't seem like much. But altogether, they can alter our perception and make what was old and familiar seem like new. And that can be enough to draw us in and hold our fascination once again.

It's good to be back.

Fly safe! o7

A High-Sec Coalition

Last night, Dirk MacGirk, reknowned EVE media impresario, invited me once again to join the OpenComms podcast crew. He had invited several candidates for CSM12 who have joined together in a "high-sec ticket" - a group representing interests of players who reside mostly in high security space. Knowing of my proclivity for the high-sec playstyle in EVE Online, he asked me to help query the candidates.

Roedyn, Toxic Yaken and Commander Aze gave a good accounting of their points of view, and how they'd like to see more representation of high-sec based players on the Council of Stellar Management. Incumbent CSM'er Steve Ronuken did not join the show, though we all agreed he is widely acknowledged as a high-sec candidate, as are others such as Lorelei Ierendi .

Dirk ardently urged players who live mostly in high-sec space to develop a coalition and assert themselves more aggressively for representation on the CSM. Despite his enthusiasm, I believe this would be very difficult to accomplish, if not virtually impossible. As I explained in my previous post, the established null-sec alliance power blocs are too well-organized, and as a result, dominate the CSM vote. In fact, I think it's highly likely that at least eight of the ten CSM12 seats will be occupied by null-sec alliance candidates - and there is a very good chance that they could take all ten.

Given the current CSM election process, is trying to organize a coalition to represent the interests of high-sec players folly? Or is my cynicism about such an idea misplaced?

What is a High-Sec Player, Anyway?

Even though more than half of EVE Online players operate almost exclusively in high-sec space, according to figures provided by CCP Quant, there is little consistency in what a "high-sec player" means. Mike Azariah, who also joined us for the show, and who was a recognized high-sec advocate on CSM8, CSM9 and CSM10, pointed out that there is a lot of diversity in how players operate in high-sec. It includes market traders, industrialists, mission-runners, explorers, miners, wardec groups, gankers, role-players, scammers and many other hybrids and mixes of available activities. There really is no one universal definition of a "high-sec player".

This diversity is what makes building a coalition of players who reside in high-sec space very difficult. Take the issue of war declarations, for example. As Dirk said on the show, "Wardecs are the abortion issue of EVE Online." Every high-sec resident has a passionate point of view on the subject - some against, some in favor, and too many with a nearly infinite number of ideas on how to change it for the better. Trying to build some sort of consensus on this one provocative issue alone is a daunting challenge.

The High-Sec People's Party

Dirk's idea of a "High-Sec People's Party", mentioned in half-jest, sounds attractive on the face of it, but I think high-sec players are simply too fragmented in their interests to consolidate under one banner. Under the current CSM voting mechanics, smaller constituencies have little chance of securing a seat, as they will be squeezed out by the relatively large null-sec alliance voting blocs.

The rare non-null candidate who can pull together votes from a variety of sources are currently high-sec's only hope of representation. Mike Azariah did it by appealing to mission-runners and small gang PvPers across all types of space, including high-sec - and he had to run repeatedly, year-after-year, to build enough recognition to secure a seat on the CSM. Steve Ronuken did it by appealing to industrialists and miners, and to developers and users of third-party tools, operating in different types of space across New Eden, and not just to high-sec players.

Alas, with the reduction of the number of CSM representatives from 14 to just ten, even a strong candidate with an excellent track record like good Steve Ronuken may be squeezed out of CSM12. When I look at what Roedyn, Toxic Yaken and Commander Aze are trying to do by coming together as a group, in hopes that at least one of them will secure enough votes to represent the interests of high-sec based players, I can't help but applaud their efforts. But I'm not optimistic that any of them will be able to get a seat on CSM12.

Nevertheless, as they all said themselves on the OpenComms show, by campaigning continuously and consistently, they are hopeful that they will raise enough visibility and support over time - but I suspect this may take several years to accomplish, as the examples of Mike Azariah and Steve Ronuken show.

I'm happy to help organize such a movement, though I've no illusions about how quickly we might see results. I hereby announce my support for the High-Sec People's Party, and am willing to lend my voice for better representation of this large and important group of players in EVE Online. I suspect we are in for a long march to reach this goal, but I think it's worth pursuing, even if it takes an extended time to achieve.

It's all about the numbers

One thing that all of us who play in high-sec can agree on, I think, is urging CCP to do more to drive a higher turnout for the CSM election. More votes mean a higher likelihood of a more diverse set of winning candidates. A low voter turnout means a higher proportion of bloc vote candidates from null-sec alliances, giving them a much higher chance of winning.

I had suggested a semi-crazy idea in my last post to force people to vote during the CSM election period, which I doubt CCP would ever embrace. But Dirk had a couple of good ideas for making the CSM election far more visible, which could drive up interest and voting tallies. For example, CCP could put a large panel on the launcher promoting the CSM election, with links to useful resources for learning more about the voting process and the candidates. CCP already proved they could do this with PvE events - why not do the same for the CSM election?

I hope they will surprise me with a far more aggressive CSM promotional campaign than we've seen in the past, since voting starts this week.

Sadly, I'm not sure that CCP really wants more diversity on the CSM. They seem quite content with a Council consisting of mostly null-sec alliance players. Perhaps they think that this makes the CSM more manageable, or they actually believe that null-sec players are the most active and knowledgeable in the game.

If my speculations are accurate, then we'll see very little promotion of the CSM election over the next month, voting turnout will be as low as previous years, and we'll get yet another nearly-all-null slate of CSM representatives.

But with persistence, perhaps we might see one or more high-sec candidates build support, and perhaps earn some seats on future Councils.

I'm willing to try to make this happen. What do we have to lose?

Fly safe! o7

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