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EVE Online Interviews: CCP & the CSM – Strengthening the Bond

By William Murphy on January 24, 2011

For followers of CCP’s EVE Online, the CSM (Council of Stellar Management) serves an obvious role.  For those of us who are not up to speed however, here’s the gist: The CSM serves as a direct representation of the game’s player-base.  As a sort of board of elected representatives, the CSM brings the most important issues facing the community to bear in front of the game’s developers. It’s their job to make sure what the players are worried about is addressed, and it’s obviously in CCP’s best interest to take heed of what issues the CSM brings forth and respond in kind.

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All that said, near the end of last year there was a bit of a “brouhaha” in the EVE community over just how involved the CSM was in the development process of EVE Online.  The CSM brings forth a set of issues to every single meeting they attend with the development staff of EVE.  But as is now innately known by all members of the CSM and CCP, not every single issue the player-base brings forth can be addressed immediately.  Due to the complexities of game design and schedules, it became a worry of the CSM and the community at large that their requests were going unheeded. 

In response, CCP brought the CSM even further into the fold.  Not only do they attend meetings on a more frequent schedule now, with members even being flown out to the headquarters, but the CSM is now officially a stakeholder in EVE Online and its production.  What this means is that basically the CSM is just like the art staff, the PR staff, the community management, animations, systems design, and so on.  In short, they’re a part of the development team directly.  Sure they’re not salaried, but the issues they bring forth now have officially as much merit to the overall direction of the game as any full-time employee of CCP does. 

For clarification on what all this means, I sat down with CCP’s own Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson to chat about the CSM, their relationship with CCP, and where the two organizations can go from here.

MMORPG.com:

In your own words, please explain the events that caused the current restructuring or re-evaluation of the CSM and their ties to EVE Online.

Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson:

There was no single event that caused the decision to iterate on the CSM. It just became clear that a community of the size that inhabited EVE needed formal representation towards CCP. The complexity and the society-like behavior that the community exhibited simply led us to the democratic elections process that we now have. And it makes perfect sense to have the customers assisting us in making EVE better for everyone – that can only ensure the health and longevity of EVE.

There is no doubt in my mind that EVE houses a society, which has myriad communities all interacting together. And the emergent behavior that can be witnessed within EVE further supports this claim; elected representative council, sophisticated and vibrant market, strife between player organizations and not to mention the meta-gaming that is going on.

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MMORPG.com:

The CSM and CCP have long had a close relationship, but now with the realization of a certain disconnect between the two, how will CCP make sure the CSM is more involved going forward?

Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson:

The CSM pointed out this disconnect to CCP, just like they are supposed to, and we took that observation seriously and took steps to rectify that. With the CSM as a stakeholder in the development process of EVE they are now as much a part of the product that is EVE as any other division within CCP whether that is marketing, Customer support, etc. There have been four meetings between the CSM and CCP in 2010, and that certainly is a part of mending the disconnect – we also changed the term length for the CSM, extending it from 6 months to 12 months, which allows each CSM to further follow up on the matters they are bringing forth and establish a stronger relationship with CCP.

CCP is fully committed to the CSM and will do everything in its power to both encourage the CSM to operate and deliver the messages they believe CCP needs to hear and CCP will increasingly rely on early feedback from the CSM regarding upcoming changes to the game.

MMORPG.com:

The CSM is now a “Stake-holder” in EVE Online, and that’s where some of the disconnect came from as I understand it. Could you explain exactly what that means for our readers? How important are the CSM’s wishes in the big picture?

Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson:

A stakeholder is a development term that means you have a say in a project that is being developed. Being a stakeholder gives them the opportunity to affect what will be worked on in the next release cycle – where their requests are estimated in terms of workload and then slotted in to the backlog in accordance to the grander vision that has been set for the specific release.

The disconnect you refer to was not a result of the stakeholder status, it was rather the other way around – where the CSM was made a stakeholder in order to reduce and mend the disconnect an attempt to bring the representatives of the players closer into the CCP fold to create a more enjoyable EVE for everyone.

MMORPG.com:

With the CSM being brought so closely into the fold on EVE, will their presence also be felt in DUST and will additional members be added for future CCP games?

Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson:

There have not been made any decisions regarding the CSM or how or if the structure will be transferred to other games or not.

MMORPG.com:

It may be seen as a risky thing, bringing the players of your game so closely to the development of your product, but ultimately it is the players that drive EVE anyway. Still, is there anything you can imagine becoming a problem by mixing the two so closely?

Pétur Jóhannes Óskarsson:

There are always obstacles in all developments of all products – but they are there to be solved and make things better for everyone. The EVE players are unique and we wouldn’t have EVE as it is today without them. If there are hard clashes between the two we just sit down and talk about it, dig down to the root cause and then try to address the matter. I know it is a bit alien to think about it but the discussions between the CSM and CCP revolve about making EVE better. Both parties want nothing more than to see EVE grow and live for 15 more years (at least). To realize that vision we have to work together – it is not always painless but it is well worth the effort.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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