The polls have just opened for the election of candidates to occupy the 14 seats on the 7th Council of Stellar Management. To kick-start a topical CSM-themed banter, CCP Xhagen - fierce champion of freedom of speech and in his words, "the guy that gets yelled at when the CSM dudes do booboos" - has offered this question:
"How would you like to see the CSM grow, both in terms of player interaction and CCP interaction?"
This one seems like a softball to me. I'm going to go ahead and spoil the rest of this entry by saying the CSM should be more involved in pretty much everything Eve. Let's kick it off with the CCP point of view.
CCP is far from a perfect organization. I love Eve, but I'm not really sure what gets in the developers' heads sometimes. I would honestly like to meet the team of guys who sat across the table from each other and said, "You know what, I think we've got something really great with this Incarna expansion." I think Seismic Stan pretty much hit the nail on the head with Incarna: The Text Adventure when it comes to how awesome walking in stations is. At the end of the day though, that's not even close to the end of bone-headed things that CCP has done. Do the words "18 months" mean anything to anyone? Even as recently as the past month with the skill rebalancing dev blog that set out to turn Battlecruiser and Destroyer skills into 4 racial variants, we're seeing a lack of vision from CCP sometimes, even if its only in communication as opposed to actual ideas.
This is the importance of the CSM to CCP. As an independent corporation, CCP has no obligation to the CSM in any way. That's all well and good, but evidence shows they need to make the CSM part of the regular process in terms of new ideas. I understand that it is logistically impossible to involve the CSM in every little detail of development. Eve is an enormously complex game, and that's why most of us are still here. But the CSM doesn't need to be a part of every minute detail. They need to be an efficient sounding board for significant changes. Before CCP devotes resources to extensively developing an area of the game, somebody should make an effort to figure out if the players want or need it. The team of 7+ veteran players, chosen by their peers to be representative of the community might be a decent place to start.
The CSM has taken on the role it needs to. I think all of the members of CSM6 did a great job fielding the Summer of Rage and ushering us into Crucible. Mynxee and the CSM5 crew even foreshadowed the lack of vision and cooperation from CCP heading into Incarna. The CSM has accepted its role in the process and is waiting for CCP to acknowledge them consistently. The key word there is consistently. When CCP Ytterbium says that he forgot to consider running ideas by the CSM, that shows me that the CSM is not a focus within CCP. That's fine if that is the route they want to go down, but I'm pretty sure that history has shown its not.
On the other side of the coin, the CSM has to be a bit more vocal and forward with the player base. CSM 6 was a bit mixed bag on this one. I didn't catch either of them, but I heard the Mittani's Fireside Chats were very well attended and received. These disappeared after the first two though, never to be heard from again. The blogging from CSM members can be a bit scarce too. I understand they're probably gagged pretty badly by NDA, but interaction with other players is still allowed from what I understand. I'd much rather hear "Sorry, NDA" than nothing. It would be nice to hear that some things are being addressed and concerns are taken into account. Maybe that type of information is covered under NDA, but if its not, it would be great to hear. Roc Wieler brought this notion up on the Lost in Eve debate he was on, and even though I'm not the biggest Roc proponent, I've got to agree with him on that one.
The CSM is a great institution, and I think at this point, CCP cannot shelf it. It seemed over the course of the winter expansion process that some of the higher-ups didn't like a few aspects of the CSM, but at this point, I think its too integrated to lower their responsibilities and privileges. Honestly, there is no reason to draw back the reigns on the CSM. The current group did make a few power plays by using the player base to make points, but this was done for a reason. I know CCP doesn't want to feel hijacked by their own creation, but the simple point is the CSM has put forth a lot of good points and responses. The TLDR is that the CSM is integral in showing CCP what needs to get done and the player base appreciates and looks to the CSM for a lot of feedback. The more fluid the exchange between CCP, the CSM and the players, the better. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the voting has shaken out, and I hope that CSM7 will continue to be an effective force for positive change within CCP.