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A Truly Stellar Council

Ross McDermott Posted:
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The world of EVE Online has many vast and complex systems which have set the game apart from others in terms of style and unique game-play. From one side of the Galaxy to the other there are one-of-a-kind game features which are mirrored nowhere else in gaming, and have never been attempted on the sorts of scales that CCP Games has successfully managed to do. With every corner you turn in the world of New Eden, there are seemingly endless new and exciting elements to the game you've never stumbled upon before.

But these unique aspects of EVE do not just exist inside of the game. With EVE Online existing on one super-massive server, every player who has played or ever will play EVE Online exists in a world with every single other player who has played EVE too. With this level of world interconnectedness; EVE Online has developed a multifaceted and frankly mind-bogglingly complex series of political dynasties and economic empires that allow an individual who can grasp the bigger picture to be able to grasp the level of logistical and political work that would be needed to say, run a small country.

One of the ultimate personifications of EVE Online's political meta-element is where the game laps the shores of reality, this entity is known as the Council of Stellar Management, and it has evolved to become of the most important avenues in the dialogue between CCP Games and EVE Online's general player-base. If we can imagine EVE Online as a pocket reality, then the CSM effectively has the job of petitioning the very builders of that reality for changes that they and hopefully the community can agree are for the betterment of the greater EVE society. In effect, the CSM is responsible for petitioning 'God' with the concerns of the mortals who make a home in God's reality.

In its infancy, the CSM was an odd rambling shapeless blob. The first CSM had virtually no direction -- if I have been informed correctly. The project was in its infancy and neither the CSM nor CCP truly understood the nature of what they had created. The core idea was there however, and it remains there today: The Council of Stellar Management's primary goal is to take the collective and summarized concerns of the EVE Online community to CCP Games in hopes that CCP will take these concerns and alter the game to better suit the way the community feels it should be developed.

Over the years the CSM has successfully and unsuccessfully managed to argue with CCP enough to get things pushed or suspended based on their input. CCP maintains the development and 'construction' of EVE Online which does not necessarily mean they play their own game to any great degree. But don't be surprised by this -- In fact this is perfectly normal in videogame development. For the developer, the game they work on can often simply be 'work' and rarely do you want to take your work with you and shape it into your pastime. That isn't to say that members of CCP Games don't play EVE, but we can forgive them if we don't. That's where the CSM comes in.

In exchange for a position of relatively elevated status in the EVE Online community, and the ability to talk face to face with the developers of a highly popular MMORPG: The CSM must work to collect and summarize the concerns of their constituents into manageable data blocks that CCP can consume, process, and then act upon.

Each successful iteration of the CSM has helped to define the role of the CSM more clearly. As mentioned -- during the projects infancy no one was sure where the boundaries of the CSM ended, and where the boundaries of 'CCP Employee' began. Were they Community members or quasi-CCP Games employees? No one was really quite sure. As the years progressed, the concept swayed back and forth, at times CCP considered the CSM as an integral part of CCP, at times the CSM set itself at odds with CCP, but at all times the central goal of the project remained clear: To voice opinion and lobby.

Enter: CSM6, of which I am a part of. When CSM6 came to office last year, we immediately set out to very quickly solidify our identities as a CSM group. We spearheaded communication initiatives within the CSM project, and opened dialogue gateways with CCP almost immediately. Previously, the CSM had met only occasionally and then discussed topics that individual members had brought to the field. This lack of centralized communication resulted in a CSM which had, up until CSM6 - Relied on rare meetings and the CSM summit in Iceland to hammer out things that they agreed upon, let alone bring combined concepts and ideas to CCP as a united entity.

CSM6 effectively permanently 'united' the CSM, and separated the internal CSM deliberation process into something that happens almost CONSTANTLY via the avenue of Skype. In having a persistent ongoing conversation which has literally been going on since CSM6 took office in March of 2011, CSM6 was able to bring its collective ideas to CCP on day 1, and the CSM summits of 2011 were noted as being the most productive summits in the history of the CSM.

In addition to its communication initiatives, CSM6 helped to define the role of the CSM more clearly. In my opinion, as we come to the end of the term I've come to see the CSM as a conduit between CCP and the EVE Online player base, but also as a third-party entity capable of making its own decisions. The CSM can never truly be a part of CCP or a truly community based entity because there comes a point, as unfortunate as it is, where the community itself becomes a bland white noise of conflicting opinions and differing ideas about what is or is not good about EVE Online.

As time goes by I would imagine the need for the CSM project to continue will only grow stronger. EVE is a game with extremely consistent and steady growth. This slow-growing game in a world of wham-bam-fizzle MMORPGs can rely on a degree of stability and can, hopefully, forecast its own growth and make changes based upon that. The integral necessity of the CSM is also likely to grow with that too.

CSM6 spearheaded concept and ideas that CSM7 will also most likely carry on. And history will repeat itself, hopefully, with CSM7 being even better than the CSM that preceded it. And it functions as yet another unique, important, and innovative feature of the game we know as EVE Online.


Ross McDermott