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EVE Online - The Council of Stellar Management

Recently, Community Manager Laura Genender had the oportunity to sit down and talk to Petur Oskarsson, a Researcher and Developer at CCP who is currently working on the Council of Stellar Management, EVE's forray into democracy.

Five years ago, at the launch of EVE Online, CCP developers were advised by a council of players, hand-picked from the EVE Online users, based on their playstyles. This practice died out a year after launch, in ’04, due to a lack of resources and time…but as EVE grows to become one of the leading sci-fi MMOs, the council is on its way back.

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During the Game Developer’s Conference I sat down with Petur Oskarsson, Researcher and Developer with CCP. Petur gave me some insights into the upcoming EVE council – the Council of Stellar Management. While the council is an old concept, the new council will be implemented in an entirely different manner.

First and foremost, the council members will not be chosen by the CCP developers – instead, they will be picked by the EVE players. Petur explained that the idea of this is to get something good and realistic from the playerbase. If CCP handpicks the council members, the council could be biased. An election, explained Petur, would be a much more fair and realistic way to get the player point of view.

This election will take place every six months. Players will be given 30 days to select their new council member: 2 weeks will be set aside for player campaigning, then another 2 weeks to vote. A council member can serve up to two terms, whether or not they are consecutive, before they are locked out. The council will consist of 9 members when all said and done.

You might be wondering, what exactly IS the Council of Stellar Management’s duties? While the name implies some in-game, roleplayish aspect, the council is actually an entirely metagame program. Council members are not the dictators or democrats of the EVE world; they are advisors to the developers concerning gameplay mechanics, balance, and player wishes. Consider them your ambassadors of ideas, and elect them wisely…the Coucil of Stellar Management needs to be a diverse group to represent the player community of EVE.

On that note, I asked Petur what would keep large corporations from corp stacking; after all, 5,000 Goons putting their votes behind their members is no small number! Petur and the CCP team don’t seem concerned with this, though; he has faith that – like real life – politics will work themselves out. If a casual miner makes themselves well known to other casual miners, there’s a good chance they’ll get some votes.

During the campaign period, CCP will publish basic information about each contender whether there are 3 or 3,000. Unlike real life voting, there will be no ISK connection to campaigning…the council is, admittedly, very metagame!

Will it work? While I’m quick to answer yes – even with the limited information I have, being an outsider! – I am not sure that it will work in the way players expect. These advisors will have input on EVE’s design path, as well as return communication from the development team, but their power is not absolute. Any suggested feature could be altered or outright turned down. There’s also the question of Council balance…as mentioned above, infamous alliance GoonSwarm has somewhere near 5,000 members, said and done. While this is by no means a majority vote, it’s a substantial guaranteed population for any Goons running for council. What if three miners run for Council, thus splitting the vote, and leaving the miners with NO representative?

In this I see a very interesting possibility for pre-election activities. If the above did happen, and miners went 6 months with no Council voice, would they find a method of rectifying it? EVE players are notoriously professional and creative in what they do – I can imagine the implementation of player-run primary elections to solidify votes against “party” representatives.

My optimism is not unanimous in the EVE community, and many players look at the upcoming Council with skepticism. CCP’s taken a lot of flack in the past for several widely known issues of GMs or other team members using their developer powers to their own advantage in the EVE world; who’s to say this project won’t be biased, and who’s to say it isn’t more than show?

But while the Council is (in many ways) novel, there is precedence elsewhere for taking community input. Sony annually flies a group of gamers out to California to discuss opinions and ideas for their games. Community Managers work with and take input from community leaders or “influencers” who exhibit great interest in their games – whether positive or negative – and the respect of their fellow gamers. While the Council of Stellar ideally aims more to bring people with ideas, not people with popularity…said and done, it’s a vote.

The first election will be May 5th, 2008. I look forward to this date; if nothing else, CCP backs this program with enthusiasm, optimism, and an authentic desire to help the community help the game. And with those attributes, it’s sure to do some good!

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