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

I Like Tweakage

CCP Games released a development update video by the EVE Online Executive Producer, CCP Seagull, about upcoming improvements over the next couple of months, as well as some other newsworthy tidbits:

It's a short update at less than four minutes, but for those who can't be bothered to listen, here is the full transcript:

Hello EVE Online. Last time we spoke was before the holidays and now 2017 is in full gear. We've just had the Council of Stellar Management here for a super productive summit. I want to say a huge thank you to the council members for coming all the way to Iceland to help improve EVE Online.
I'm also looking forward to the upcoming CSM elections and to getting a new great council in place for the upcoming year. If you ever thought about running just go for it. Vote to make sure that your play style is represented, or that those you trust to influence the game in a good direction end up on the council.
We are busy working on lots and lots of exciting stuff so let's talk about a few things that are coming up. We release changes to EVE Online almost every month. The changes we have already released and that are coming out in February and March show some of our commitment to continuously improving EVE Online. Especially after big expansions like Citadel or Ascension, we take the time to follow up with changes that we see are needed, and to get features out that make a ton of sense but didn't make it into the original release for various reasons.
Next week, for example, we're adding personal insurance to citadels and engineering complexes, more follow up changes to the new player experience, and we're fixing tons of defects, and making performance optimizations, too. Our engineers have also been hard at work chasing down some nasty issue with rubber-banding and that should now be resolved. While all of this improvement work goes on, we're also putting work into bigger things coming up. We're getting ready to share more of them.
Fanfest, which is now real, real soon, will bring a solid update to a roadmap for EVE with all the latest news. We also have several Dev blogs in the making that will publish way sooner than that. We have things to tell you about drilling platforms, about new fleet PvE and more, so keep an eye out.
Fanfest this year will be really special. You can still get tickets, of course. You will also be able to follow from home as we will be live streaming from the event. This year the event will take place at a specific location in EVE Online that you'll also be able to visit in-game while Fanfest is going on.
If you are on location at Fanfest in Iceland, you'll have a new and unique opportunity to take part in directly shaping the storyline of the EVE universe. There will be more news on both of these things as we come closer to Fanfest. We've also put out the call for player speakers at Fanfest, so check the community newsfeed if you think you could be a speaker.
Next week with our February release there is some action kicking off in New Eden. As CONCORD is asking capsuleers for help with shutting down rally points across space where the Angel Cartel and the Serpentis are conducting some shadowy business. You'll see these sites on your overview. Take a look,  but remember other capsuleers may be doing the same.
Enjoy space and I'll see you soon again in my next update.

Though brief, the update contains many interesting points, worth further commentary.

CSM Kudos and Ennui

Seagull thanked the eleventh Council of Stellar Management (CSM), and encouraged interested candidates to throw their names in for possible election to CSM 12 in March.

I must admit that when they were elected last year, I was skeptical that CSM 11 would be effective in representing the interests of all of EVE Online's different player constituencies, as virtually the entire group hailed from null-sec power blocs (except good Steve Ronuken).

But I was wrong - CSM 11 did a good job. And they did so with an absolute minimum of strife. Compared to some Councils in the past, CSM 11 was a model of harmonious teamwork. Most importantly, they engaged actively with CCP and advised them on some very significant new features which positively affected every type of space in New Eden.

So, CSM 11 earned some well-deserved kudos - and hearty thanks for good service. I'm glad they proved my worries to be unwarranted.

Regardless, my level of interest in the next CSM election is at an absolute nadir - and I must blame CSM 11 for that. They demonstrated that well-organized null-sec power blocs will continue to dominate the election, and will undoubtedly win virtually every seat on the Council once again.

In past years, I spent quite a bit of time listening to CSM nominee interviews and reading their platforms on the forums, and I published my evaluations and recommendations on this blog. I've decided to give up doing this for CSM 12, as it has become a pointless exercise.

It's quaint that CCP Seagull encouraged people to nominate themselves for CSM 12. Alas, the only ones who shall emerge victorious are the candidates who need to campaign the least, as they can confidently rely on the backing of their sizable alliances to ensure their election, regardless of their actual interest or qualifications. The null-sec blocs will win as many seats as they desire. I can only hope that they put forward candidates who understand and appreciate the diversity of EVE Online player constituencies, and that they can advise CCP Games in a somewhat balanced fashion.

I urge everyone on CSM 11 to run for re-election. That way, we'll at least get a known quantity of Council effectiveness, and a minimum of drama, once again.

A Tweak Here, Another Tweak There

Seagull says we can expect some minor changes over the next few weeks, such as the addition of ship insurance availability in Citadels and Engineering Complexes, and some performance improvements.

For the last few years, CCP has done an admirable job in providing a nearly continuous stream of tweaks and fixes. As a result, EVE Online players today have come to expect minor enhancements to the game on an ongoing basis, but it wasn't always this way.

When I started in 2009, CCP's developer team was locked into a cycle of two major releases per year, each of which focused mostly on game additions. All too often, if an old feature was broken, it might stay that way for a long, long time before it got CCP's attention - much to the fury and frustration of many players.

But with a change to more frequent development update cycles, the game's overall quality has been greatly improved. Today, there are very few features in EVE Online that remain truly "broken" for long.

Alas, few players recognize this today - it's become the new normal. This persistent commitment to quality is something for which CCP's development team does not get enough credit.

Fanfest Beckons

Seagull mentioned Fanfest, scheduled for April 6-8, where details will be forthcoming about some more substantial new features. I have been to five Fanfests, and I encourage any passionate EVE Online player to attend, but I won't be making the trip to Reykjavik again this year. Instead, I'll be watching on the live stream, which Seagull confirmed will be available.

She said a number of potentially important items related to Fanfest that are worth further comment:

  • "A solid update to a roadmap for EVE" - Well, it's about damn time. I was hoping to see an updated roadmap for development of EVE Online at last year's Fanfest, and was sorely disappointed. Then I hoped to catch a glimpse of a roadmap at EVE Vegas, but again was let down. Now, finally, CCP Seagull explicitly promises an updated peek at where EVE Online may be going next. It's been long overdue, and I can't wait to see it.
  • "Drilling platforms" - Two little words that could change everything, especially for how alliances earn ISK in null-sec space. Will CCP finally upset the passive-income moon goo mining monopolies of the power blocs in 0.0 space? Will drilling platforms be a catalyst for requiring more interaction to maintain income streams? Or will they just be revamped versions of the same sedentary mechanics we currently have in the game? I, for one, hope to see some radical changes. The potential riots by spoiled players who feel entitled to constant streams of income for relatively little effort should be amusing to watch.
  • "New fleet PvE" - Incursions and Level 5 missions have been EVE Online's long-standing staples for those looking to earn income through small gang multi-player activity. There are other options for earning ISK with groups of players, such as mining operations, but they have always been rather limited. Further, players have long figured out how to optimize these activities, and they have grown quite stale. I'm delighted to hear that new fleet-based PvE options are in development, and I'm both eager and anxious to learn more.
  • Mixing in-game story development with Fanfest - now this is an interesting idea! CCP Seagull mentioned that the gathering of capsuleers in Real Life at Fanfest will be incorporated into an event happening in New Eden, simultaneously. So, if you attend Fanfest, you will automatically become a role-player, regardless of whether you want to be one or not! In addition, as a delegate attending the capsuleer meeting, you'll be able to affect the in-game storyline in some way. I love this idea, and can't wait to see how it is actually executed.

Tweaks aren't enough

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm not actively logging into the EVE Online client these days. I needed to step back away from the game for a while, and let it continue to develop. My intention is to jump back in when enough has changed to make EVE feel new again. I've been monitoring the EVE media closely, watching the latest developments, in hopes that this will inspire me to re-engage.

Does CCP Seagull's latest development update provide enough change to rekindle my interest in EVE Online?  Frankly, no - not yet. She describes a lot of good tweaks and fixes to the game, and I'm pleased to hear them - I like tweakage. But in general, they are still just tweaks. To stir my passion for flying in New Eden, I need something more - a new project that I can sink my teeth into, deeply. So far, I haven't heard anything that provides that to the degree I desire.

But I remain optimistic, and I will be monitoring Fanfest closely with great interest. It's only a question of time before enough has changed to provide sufficient impetus for me to leap back into the game on a regular basis again.

Until then, fly safe! o7