Thursday, March 6, 2008

EVE's Player-Elected Council, and What it Means to You

EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management (video link) has been a long time coming. The first official mentions of it came after the infamous T20 incident, where a CCP dev was found to have illicitly aided the alliance he played the game with through spawned equipment and ship blueprints. CCP took a sound PR beating on every venue imaginable, partially due to the incident itself, and partially due to the banning of the French hacker who uncovered the secret, who happens to be wanted in at least two major western countries.

Motivation aside, the Council represents the chance for a game company to do something truly revolutionary. Many MMO players claim to have devs who listen to their input, but, to the best of my knowledge, none have established a player council chosen by the players themselves to represent the concerns of the customers to the company. It shouldn't be terribly surprising that CCP is leading the way with EVE Online. CCP does not merely think outside the box. Instead, thinking inside the box causes some sort of cognitive dissonance in Iceland, it seems, so CCP has set up a small village outside the box for their devs to live in.

According to a fresh announcement, voting for the CSM will begin in May. While I am excited about the prospects that this council holds for the future of EVE and the MMO genre as a whole, I can't help but be a bit nervous about the process. Like any person sufficiently educated in politics and history, I am very apprehensive about democracy, even in its more representative forms, and when you combine the unique issues of the internet into the mix, we could see a council elected that is largely useless to the community, unless CCP can drive voter turnout and voter education.

Unlike real elections where any buffoon can be elected, so long as they have enough sense to choose a good staff, in this case it is those elected who are expected to dispense the expertise. Nobody is under any illusions that most elections are anything but a popularity contest, especially in the age of mass media. Anyone wishing to dispute that point should read up on the 1960 race between Kennedy and Nixon. Perhaps it is my own inherent cynicism toward government, but I don't think nine players elected for having the best forum campaign will necessarily represent us the best. That said, with nine seats, the chances of getting at least one or two players on who talk sense is rather high. When I find the candidates who do, count on seeing them promoted in this blog.

Cynicism aside, CCP clearly sees the limitations of an elected body in this instance as well, especially an elected body made up of amateurs who just happen to be really into internet spaceships, but know little about the realities of running an MMO. Thus, the council will be limited to a largely advisory and liason role, which is probably the best choice for now. That said, I also fear that what we may end up with is CCP tuning in on the views of the CSM to the exclusion of the concerns of the rest of their players who might disagree. Only time will tell on that score. CCP does generally well with listening to the requests of their players (even the bad ones, unfortunately), so I am hopeful, but my gamer cynicism only allows me to approach this council with extreme caution.

Also, I may sell campaign ads on the podcast for the nominal fee of 1 billion ISK...or maybe a Moros.


  1. Don't forget that votes are planned to almost explicitly be a market commodity which will make the whole process even more interesting. The whitepaper about the CSM talked about proxy voting which means you will be able to sell your voting right to another character. I'm unsure of the actual effects this will have, but I'm certainly interested in watching the process unfold.

    (Great podcast! Listening to episode 1 and enjoying it immensely)

  2. Great info and good podcast :)

  3. Honestly, I see no way this can turn out anything but sad and disappointing. Wouldn't surprise me in the least if it gets exploited in some way.

  4. I do think I've read somewhere that proxy voting was removed as an option. I'll try to find the article though.

    As for Heartless, you're just being you're usual pessimist. I for once this it might work, though I'll agree in order for that to happen, all the stars must be aligned. But the possibility does exist!


  5. Every time i trim through E-On and i see the popularity monkeys that always get nominated for the Awards, my stomach starts growling.

    If the "oh so mighty" 9 seats also get crowded with popularity monkeys, then .. then.. hell, i don't know.

    But i don't long for that day.

  6. i'll be nominating, and i'm fairly rational...

  7. You know, I wish they would do something original. Say, for example.. They chose 2 representatives for each race. Gallente could be chosen via vote/popularity, Caldari via who has the most money/ highest market trading per month or some such, Amarr maybe by who has the largest corp and minmatar who has the most kills? The last two are kind of ill thought out; but something RPish I think would be a really good direction for the game.

  8. Woohoo, I got Crovan's endorsement.

    Now run back to my blog, make an ad about said endorsement, pack-up and get ready for a flight to Iceland!!

    Joking aside, I do agree that this election process might not work out the way CCP intends. I mean just think of the Alliances and the fact that they could easily gather the most votes, and instead of having a group of council members representing the EVE player base, we'll be stuck with a council of Alliance.

    When you think that only about 10% of players participate on the forum, you get a sens of what the turn out for these elections might be. Scares me when I think about.

    Having said, that, I officially submit my candidacy for the position of council. May the Gods of the Thirteen colonies protect my butt!