Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Poisoned the Well

The Council of Stellar Management is in a bad place.

CCP developers seem ot have severely soured on player feedback in recent months and news out of the CSM has not been prevalent or hopeful. It seems we have gone in a short year from a cooperative and productive relationship between the two sides to one of hostility and suspicion.

Somewhere along the line someone poisoned the well.
Now it wasn't the entire CSM, either this incarnation or previous incarnations, that caused the rift to form and its worth noting that a good portion of the CSM membership work hard at their volunteer role and play by the rules. But you know that saying that when you do your job right no one notices but you screw up once and everyone remembers forever? That applies here.

Xander Pheona having to fight off NDS disclosure allegations, CSM White Papers getting updated without CSM input, Manfred Sidious getting turfed off CSM for allegded NDA leaks about capital changes, CSM members getting removed for simply being too inactive... each one a bit more poison in the well of goodwill between the CSM and CCP.

We've come to the point where it feels that CCP has lost the group-think willingness to work with the CSM in a serious manner. The focus groups CCP has used for T3 Destroyer Balance, Sovereignty, and Capital changes indicate a willingness to go directly to selected subject matter experts (aka SMEs) rather than the general representatives of the CSM, something I'm not a fan of because I find that sometimes SMEs are too focused and biased towards certain designs and decisions and not casting a wide enough net in the overall game design architecture. But that's a discussion for another day.

Another poisoning of the well is the occasional effort to elect "joke" members or obviously toxic members as a form of player protest against CCP via the CSM elections. Quite frankly, this is ineffective at passing any message other than how infantile they want to communicate. We get it, you don't take the CSM seriously, move along.

Personally, I think the CSM has run its course and the well is too poisoned to recover from. Its become too toxic for both the player and the company to continue and letting it fester is not doing either side much good at this point. I think we need to increase the involvement for focus group discussions and work towards helping CCP come up with a method for occasional groups for topic discussion that are not as soul-crushingly demanding as a CSM term and not as frustrating for CCP developers.

It should be shut down soon, before it becomes a debacle or a joke.


  1. Heh, we can go round and round on this. I keep going back to what the CSM was supposed to be back when it was created, which had something to do with oversight and transparency and the T20 scandal. Are we there yet?

    The flaws with the CSM idea are many and varied. Players selecting the candidates through an election. The "be what we want you to be today" level of job description. The feast and famine work schedule. Being committed for a full year to tasks that a candidate may or may not be suitable for. And, not to put too fine a point on it, the occasional sense of entitlement I detect from our elected representative, that CCP owes them some level of access or acknowledgement... which CCP may very well, but that never sits right with anybody.

    I am good with SME's being called in for a focus group, so long as CCP knows how to deal with such situations. From what I have heard, the capital focus group, for all the tales of chaos and conflicting opinions, has worked out pretty well as they have rather quickly pointed out how they would exploit various feature proposals that CCP has come up with, so CCP is getting design iterations done early rather than having to do them as code iterations on TQ with a live audience.

    1. Why does no one ever stop to ask how in the world a player-elected group could ever be held responsible for oversight and transparency of a game development studio to prevent the likes of the T20 scandal? CCP would be insane to give the CSM the kind of behind-the-scenes access necessary to really do that and the power to actually have it mean something. So let's call the oft-stated original reason for forming the CSM what it really was: poorly thought-out PR bullshit coupled with a pie-in-the-sky social experiment related to CCP Xhagen's PhD thesis.

      That's why the CSM evolved as it did into a focus group with a (hopefully) panoramic perspective on the game from which to provide CCP with insights on development work in progress. There was nothing else for it to do. In that evolved role, it turns out that the CSM has been and could still be useful. Its usefulness however is largely dependent on cards being dealt from CCP's side of the table. Given what is observable (through the lens of the White Paper, CSM member and CCP dev public statements, Summit minutes) about how the CSM is managed and comparing it to business best practices, I'm not sure they're playing with a full deck.

      Bad behavior by a very limited group of CSM members over the past 10 terms is not the reason the institution is broken. It's just one symptom of a poorly defined and poorly managed program.

  2. "CSM members getting removed for simply being too inactive..."

    I agree with the others, but this one doesn't poison the well. Inactivity is it's own poison.

    "the well is too poisoned to recover from"

    I think what we need is a 'new deal'. We know that the CSM can do good work. We just need to remove the things that inhibit that good work.

    Inactivity was the first problem; We've now got a solution to that. What is the next step?

    Identifying the problems (as I see them): Politics, Provincialism, Persuasion and Pressuring.*

    I don't know how to solve them. Wilhelm did a fair analysis of the issues. They're solvable, I'm sure. But with the embedded attitudes and traditions we have right now?

    I don't know.

    *Yes I enjoyed hunting for 'P's.

  3. I believe the CSM idea is fundamentally flawed as players are in competition with each other: what is good for one is hurtful for another except for quality of life changes that needs no NDA. It's not that CSM had too many bad apples. It's that any *GOOD* CSM member is working his ass off to help his supporters by hurting other players.

    One question: "It should be shut down soon, before it becomes a debacle or a joke." Does it mean that you also call for a boycott of the election?

  4. I believe that players affecting the world we play in makes the game stronger.

    Sometimes this is in game (wars, retribution, piracy or even some hopeless newb deciding to make an open wormhole corp), other times it is outside the game (forum, blogs and player councils).

    There is value in seeing flaws in a current process and looking to improve it.

    Simply stating that 'we' should not be represented, knowing that 'they' will continue to have that representation, in my opinion, is simply shooting for an own goal.