Thank you very much everyone for placing me on CSM 6 and now on CSM 7 where I am currently serving as the Chairman! If you would like to contact me directly, do not hesitate to just send me an eve mail in game. Keep your eyes here and watch for new posts.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CSM 6 - A Turning Point

The Election

Well, it's over and today is the day CSM 6 officially takes our virtual seats.  I want to take some time and look back on how I got here and thank everyone for everything they did to help put me in a position to represent you.

When I left CCP last year, my first question was, "When can I get Seleene back?"  My second was, "When can I run for CSM?"  I've been slowly building my advisory team and talking with current and past CSM members for months.  By the time applications for CSM 6 were ready to be submitted, I had my blog up, had already organized artwork and had a lot of my campaign points ready to roll out.  Even with all of that prep, I was still caught flat-footed by some things, I had to learn to use Twitter and I spent an extraordinary amount of time using EVE Gate to answer evemails. Then there were the debates, the interviews and a ton of other things.  Honestly, I don't see how people do this for RL political office but it was actually a lot of fun.

What made me want to be a Spaceship Politician?  Well, I think it had something to do with this graph:
So much truth.
If you've played EVE for any length of time, you'll probably be able to relate to this. Well, I want to help fix it. I've been on both sides of the table so CSM just seemed like the next logical step to take.

'They' said that I would probably need at least 2,000 votes to get a council seat.  I knew that I was going to need more than just an alliance bloc or depend on past 'e-fame' considering the field of announced candidates for this election so I made it a point to reach out in as many directions as possible.

I got help from unexpected areas.  People I'd not even realized were still playing EVE contacted me. "You're running for CSM? Will CCP let you do that?!  How can I help??"  It was humbling and encouraging and, despite so many people saying I was a 'shoe in', I needed the encouragement.  Perhaps I could have just coasted in, but I didn't want to take any chances, plus I really wanted to try hard to raise awareness of the CSM as a whole. Judging by the final numbers, it worked!

The Propaganda

Oh, the glories of election time, where Photoshop and Paint artists go nuts. Here's a few of the more memorable things I saw on the campaign trail.

Flowcharts are awesome.

I'm going to get shirts with this made for the other delegates.

Virt really enjoyed making me look like a space hooker.

Trebor just looks... creepy.
Thank Yous

In no particular order, I just want to single out a few people and organizations which helped me believe I could make a difference and kept me going.

Everyone that sent me an eve mail or posted in my Jita Park thread - Thanks for taking both the extra time and the interest to ask me a question directly. I tried to answer you all. Help keep the CSM working for you!

Virtuozzo - Wall of Text King and Internet Man of Mystery.  After dealing with him in game on and off for over five years, I finally got a chance to meet him in person at FanFest this year. Yes, he's real. :)  The numerous promotional pics that he plastered of my avatar everywhere certainly got the word out. His incredible insight into the business world is something I've come to rely on.

Mynxee - The outgoing CSM 5 Chair was simply invaluable to me. I first met Mynxee during one of her 'focus groups' when she was running last year and decided right then that she was someone I wanted to watch and listen to.  Her calm advice and numerous insights into her CSM term will continue to prove invaluable to me for a long time to come.

Atrisha - My main propaganda artist, responsible for the rotating banner and sigs. I'm still waiting on my CSM Sig, Trish!

Manfred Sideous - Leader of my current alliance and long time friend. The list would be too long so just thank you for everything, man. 

Dierdra Vaal - Dierdra has consistently been one of the most productive CSM members over the years.  He was right at the center of what's become known by the community as the 'Summer of Rage', largely a result of his 'Excellence?' presentation at the first CSM 5 summit last year.

EVE University - Just by the fact that they exist and are still going strong, these guys inspire me every day to try to help make EVE better.

Scrapheap Challenge - While some may consider this forum 'bittervet central', there's not another public (non-alliance / non-CPP) English speaking forum where the day to day happenings of EVE are discussed in more detail.

Christos Hendez - My Russian translator, AAA diplomat and all around chill dude. So much energy sometimes I think he's made of sugar. 

Herculetz - The current leader of AAA. I have no idea how many of my former alliance mates voted for me, but I'm sure he's the reason for it. Much love, man. 

Cascade Imminent [FAIL] -  A better alliance ticker in EVE there is not! 

Body Count Inc. - My family. I promise I'll make it to Australia soon, guys!

The Results

This was the slide at FF 2011 that announced the results.
After all of the work and talking and chatting and craziness of the past weeks, I was pretty confident that I'd at least landed a seat. When this screen went up at FanFest I was stunned. My personal guess was that I'd land somewhere in the 2200 - 2500 vote range which would place me in the middle of the pack. It was fantastic to see that so many people picked up my message of Iterations and ran with it.

If you missed the actual dev blog and want to see a full break down of the results, here's a link.

Nifty login screen a few days after the election.

When he announced the election results at FanFest, Hilmar said this: "I have to say, knowing some of these people... either directly or indirectly through the internet, I have to say this is going to be some Council of Stellar Management. It's going to be interesting."

Heh. While there are certainly some well known people on CSM 6, I'm pretty sure that a big chunk of that remark was undoubtedly leveled at myself and one other gentleman.

A Cuddly Mitten??

There has been much hurf blurffing about our elected Chariman, and not without good reason. Mittens has certainly 'earned' the attention by conducting what is easily one of the most distinctive and memorable CSM campaigns yet. Plenty of other blogs and countless forum posts have discussed what has happened so far so let me speak on what I believe is more important - is Mittens good for the CSM?  In my opinion, yes, and I'll tell you why.

Me & Mittani - CSM 2011
While Mittens and I have nearly polar opposite approaches to how we present ourselves and our ideas, we both have an abundance of energy and many things in common when it comes to EVE itself.  I started playing EVE before it was even released back in Beta.  I reached my 'peak' in terms of gameplay near the end of 2007, right around the same time I had to stop being a relentless mercenary overlord because CCP was telling me, "Hey, you really need to stop being a relentless mercenary overlord so you can go public as a dev."

Mittens came along a bit later and his approach to EVE was not the RAWR SMASH that mine was; he chose the role of the puppet master, preferring to stay just outside of the spotlight, even tho it invariably shone on him due to some rather... momentous events in EVE that he was involved with.  Heh.  

My point in bringing all this up is that no one can do the things we have done in EVE and not form similar opinions.  No one that has played EVE for more than 3-4 years in the null-sec arena is going to find too much to disagree on when it comes to the actual game play of EVE. Sure, there may be arguments about certain specific mechanics, but overall we all want the same thing - a fun and balanced game to play.

Today, The Mittani is one of the 4-5 most recognized names in EVE which means when he says something, it's going to get attention. This will be important going forward because I believe you are going to see a level of feedback, information and interaction out of CSM 6 unlike any that has come before. Mittens has a LOT of energy and is already going 300 kph in trying to get things organized. It's kinda of fun to watch really.

All that being said, rest assured that if you voted for me that I'm not going to just go along with anything Mittens or any other CSM member says unless I agree with it. There are some very strong willed people on this CSM and, thus far, I've not seen much evidence that there will be some kind of attempt to steamroll a specific plan over the other delegates.  So let me talk about them a bit as well.

CSM 6 as a whole

In terms of coordination and communication, CSM 6 is already shaping up nicely. We're all on Skype in a group chat 24/7, everyone has signed their NDA and are on the CSM forums and we're currently working on our initial set of messages to outline our agenda. So far, everything seems to be clicking rather well.

Despite prophecies of doom and gloom predicting that Trebor and Mittens would be at each other's throats, things are pretty chill. Meissa's been answering a lot of questions about past CSM's and we're looking at how to use that knowledge in putting together our plans. I've not had much of a chance to talk with xDeath but I did meet him in Vegas a couple years ago and he's a great guy to hang out with. I think Vile Rat is going to surprise a lot of people who just see him as 'another Goon'.  I've been chatting to Vile on and off since late 2007 and he's one of the most level headed EVE players I know.

As for the others, I really don't know them that well yet but Skype is changing that and everyone seems very friendly.

While this CSM does have a preponderance of null-sec people on it, I'd urge everyone to bear in mind that many of us are old enough players to remember what it was like to work our way up from having nothing, long before being members of giant, rich alliances. I ran my campaign on Iterations specifically because I don't want EVE to be forgotten about as CCP moves forward with its other endeavors. I won't let the other delegates forget, what we all said we wanted out of this: an improved game for everyone, not just the players in 0.0. Based on what I've seen in the short time since the election, I don't think I will have to try too hard.

A Turning Point

In looking at the internal CSM forums, it became quickly obvious why past CSMs (prior to CSM 5) failed to make any significant headway. They were too busy trying to figure out just what it meant to be a CSM, how to deal with CCP and a hundred other factors.  CSM 5 broke that paradigm and proved that with proper coordination, the CSM can be a factor for positive change that players can actually see.

This is a very important point for CSM 6.  We don't just want to make a difference; we want to make a difference that players can see and point at. As CSM 5 motivated players to want to vote again, we want to see 75,000 people or more vote in the CSM 7 elections because of our efforts.

I have to tell you all, CCP has never seen anything like what is coming.  What you have here are a group of delegates that are used to either running or being part of massive numbers of players. Social networking, information management and keeping large numbers of people informed about big events comes second nature to many of us. All of those 'skills' are going to be put to use for the benefit of the whole player base and I believe CSM 6 will set new standards by interacting more directly with the EVE community than ever before.

My CSM colleagues all seem pretty fired up about making the most of this opportunity. I am optimistic about what we may accomplish. I promise that this blog will give you a front row seat to anything we do.  Stay tuned - as Hilmar said, "It's going to be interesting!" :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fanfest 2011 & CCP's 'Future Vision'

Pic Says it all, really.
As you can see from the header pic, this isn't going to be an attempt at spinning certain elements of CCP Presents in a purely positive light. I took a bit of extra time to write this and talked to a lot of people before deciding to write it all down. I'm going to talk about things from my perspective as a seven year EVE player and former employee.  While there were several good things shown at FanFest 2011, my focus for most of this blog post is going to be on the stuff that isn't being reported or talked much about in many of the online magazines. With that out of the way, let's at least start on a less serious note.

The People

This FanFest was a very different one for me as it was the first one I'd been to purely as a player since 2005. My old co-workers were smiles, hugs and handshakes. It was really cool to catch back up with many of them and talk about where things are and where they are going.

As always, the main reason most people come to FanFest in Iceland is to meet other EVE players and connect real names and faces with the virtual ones. For many players it is a game-changing experience as you learn about the people behind the online personalities. It can be a real eye-opener when that bastard you've hated for years ends up being the same guy you've just spent the last hour drinking with.

The best example of this had to be back in 2007 when my table of about 20+ MC members got blobbed by an equal number of Goons. After a short round of WTF, the two groups spent the better part of the next couple days hanging out with each other and swapping stories of the past year or more.  Oh, there was also... singing.

Suas singing to me - "I'm a loser, baby..."
One thing I noticed about this FanFest though was the number of first time attendees and 'younger' players (that had just started playing in the past 2-3 years).  Talking to guys about what it was like in EVE before jump bridges and Titans under every rock was really fun. I really enjoyed listening to the perspectives of these people and they were just as eager to ask questions as well.


NVIDIA presents:"EVE-Online" the Graphic Benchmark, now with new nebulae!
Pre-Order The "EVE-Online" NVIDIA Benchmark Expansion now for only 9.99€ and get your pair of virtual crocodile leather boots for free!
"EVE-Online" your boots will never look better than here!

During the 'Main Event', which was Hilmar's 'CCP Presents' keynote, an interesting comment was made to me by one of the press in the back of the auditorium by a rather prominent online publication:"This just shows that CCP is still a small-ish company because a bigger developer would have never given a sponsor this much visibility in their KEYNOTE." I'll be curious to see if he's brave enough to publish that comment officially but I still found it telling with regard to the mood of the audience through much of the two hour presentation.

While I found it odd that he referred to a company with 600+ employees as 'small', honestly, the near hour long Nvidia "circle jerk", as one CCP Dev put it, had people groaning in the audience and quite a few devs even rolling their eyes. I get that they were a major(?) sponsor but it was just a bit much. The Nvidia reps were on stage too long and I found my attention drifting on more than one occasion.  That being said, this video demonstrating CCP's Carbon Character Technology was pretty impressive to those which had never seen it.

It's an older demo, which was a bit disappointing, as I'd like to have seen what kind of progress they've made in the last year or so.

As a side note, I have an ATI 5700 HD with 1GB of RAM that I bought about a year ago for about $160 and I haven't found anything it can't run just fine, including half a dozen EVE clients at once. I was an NVIDIA man for about 6-7 years prior to this card but I just refuse to pay $200+ for graphics anymore (and I'm not cheap when it comes to computers tbh).


I'm not sure if the few, "Where are the spaceships??" shouts came through the EVE TV broadcast but the annoyance in the auditorium was palatable at times.  When CCP Zulu stated that basically his job is about FUCK YEAH SPACESHIPS, lots of us perked up... and waited to hear about the spaceships. What we got were a couple of cool videos about new nebulae effects and possibly, maybe new turret effects coming soon.  Maybe. Possibly. :)

The nebulae are beautiful and the turrets look very cool (music was kickass) but WTF were autocannons doing on Amarr ships and blasters on Ravens arrrrrgh!!!  LOL, I mean, it's the little shit like that which really makes you facepalm and wonder why the people making these vids don't at least pretend they play the game. :)

Of course, I have to mention the obligatory, "Where is my new cyno effect / engine trails?"  It may seem cliche and :bittervet:, but it's been... Two. Fucking. Years.  Seriously, guys, at this point the questions almost seems to be, "Why don't you WANT to make these effects?"  *sadface* 

It's obvious that CCP wants to pitch their latest efforts and show off what they consider to be the future of the game, but I don't think the presenters realize just how snubbed many of their customers felt.  Some people traveling to FanFest for the first time may find all of this stuff about dresses and hairstyles and tattoos interesting, but many of us kept waiting and waiting... and waiting for something about the core gameplay of EVE (spaceships) to be talked about.

At the end, during the open Q&A to the Dev Panel, one player summed it all up by asking, "This was all really interesting, but when are you going to throw the veteran players a bone?"

All about the Benjamins? 

As an addition to the above, I also found it odd that CCP did not take the opportunity of such a visible presentation to make a very brief but solid official statement about their stance on micro-transactions with regard to the three intellectual properties they are now developing. FanFest attendees did rectify this error by giving the Dev Panel an opportunity to publicly say that  they are only going to do MT's for vanity items and not for "anything that gives players an in-game advantage". 

This leads me to my next point: Currently CCP has exactly one intellectual property making them money - EVE Online. The profits from EVE currently fund three other projects that we know of:
  • Dust 514
  • World of Darkness
  • Carbon
It stands to reason that CCP wants to maximize revenue flow from EVE in order to keep thier other developing projects moving forward so micro-transactions seem inevitable.  My concern on this point is what the allocation of resources will be toward developing vanity items versus developing the normal 'free' content we've grown to expect as part of EVE. I would hate to think that EVE would miss out on T3 Frigates or Sub-System Targeting because the money / resources needed had been diverted to making sure the Spring 2012 Caldari Fashion Collection was ready to sell.

Of course, I am cognizant of the fact that this is probably just CCP doing the same thing that every other company would do in this situation. I just hope that they have the manpower and financial ability to achieve all of the above without cutting corners and do it in a time span that doesn't have me getting grey hair before it becomes a reality.  This leads directly to the largest bit of hype so far...

:18 Years: ?

At the end of 'CCP Presents', Hilmar debuted what is undoubtedly the most ambitious and eye-popping teaser / trailer in the company's history: EVE Online - A Future Vision

After nearly two hours of looking at avatars and watching NVIDIA and CCP group hug, we finally got a 'vision' that appears to be about 3/4 Dust and Incarna, and maybe 1/4 of spaceships. I got a very large "this wasn't what I signed up for" vibe from that vision and I wasn't the only one.

I was there live in the auditorium in Iceland and, I don't know if it came over the HD stream, but among the FUCK YEAH shouting, there were a lot of people groaning as well.  At the end of the 'Future Vid' the first time it was played, when Hilmar asked, "Do you like it?", at least a few dozen people very loudly said, "NO!"  It was audible enough to cause a slight stir and several confused looks. It may not have been very 'polite', and I'd bet real money if you weren't there you will never hear it (or about it), but there was a lot of frustration in the room by that point.

Many EVE Players will remember the infamous :18 months: plan / misunderstanding from last year that was triggered by this dev blog which led to this emorage feedback thread. It didn't take long for people to start a new meme by looking at this vid and wondering if we were looking at CCP's :18 Years: plan. In many ways, this video has become a symbol for what many long time followers of CCP have come to expect - lots of hype, mostly about things we won't ever get, looking good but with relatively little in the way of probable reality.

No doubt about it - this is an :awesome: vid, even if it is about two games that don't exist yet and probably never will. I give CCP credit for having the balls to say this is where they want to go so blatantly, but it didn't take long after the initial wow factor wore off for both players and the attending press to comment on how high it sets the bar (nearly unobtainable).

This video certainly is a vision, but I'd much rather see something that I can get excited about because I know, "OMG, that's hitting the server this year!"  This is primarily "art" with just enough programmed elements involved to allow something that looks seamless. While I take nothing away from the people who produced this magnificent 'vision' and respect the incredible work done, there are so many contradictions in that video to what is:
  • Possible
  • Probable
  • Stated Fact by CCP
Many long time EVE players consider it fluf, pure and simple. I'd much rather see the efforts of the people making EVE go toward another Dominion or Causality style trailer that highlights what EVE is actually about today. That's a personal desire and I understand why this trailer was made but it's not something I will show to my friends as a reason to play EVE.

The mythical "link" to Dust 514 from EVE is so nebulous and vague at this point that CCP still seems to have no idea what it will be. The round tables at FanFest made it clear that they either have no definitive answers or their theories are still to sketchy to share.  Of course, like any 'new' game, CCP has a right to keep things under their hat until it's more polished; maybe they have a perfect system ready to go that will amaze us all; I just don't think that is very likely to happen without further real iteration on the current EVE sovereignty system.

On Saturday, when CCP Presents was over, I found Noah Ward (CCP Hammerhead, EVE's Lead Designer) and had a chat with him about all of the :awesome: that we'd just witnessed and how little of it had to do with spaceships. When Torfi (CCP Torfi, EVE's Creative Director) came over to shake my hand about being elected to CSM 6, I didn't let him walk away without asking him why the only thing in his presentation about "Iterations" was stuff about turret art and some post it notes that got exactly one slide. I didn't get much in the way of replies, but I wasn't the only one who poked them about this. I didn't get a chance to corner Arnar (CCP Zulu, EVE's Senior Producer), but I did speak with him the day before and still feel pretty good about him.

As a side note, I just want to make clear that the majority of the devs standing at the back of the audience had no real idea what the main presentation was going to consist of either. This isn't unusual. Even when I worked there, the final presentation always had a few things in it that came as a small surprise.  After this one, quite a few of the people wearing black Dev shirts had similar reactions ("Okaaaaaay.....").

Looking forward

I've been to six Fanfests now and this was the first one where at the end I felt completely disillusioned and confused about the message CCP was trying to send. My cynicism isn't rooted in some sort of bitter vet syndrome or desire to see CCP as some sort of 'villian'.  I actually love the people at the company and what they've managed to accomplish but after over seven years of watching CCP do this sort of thing over and over, plus working on the inside, I've just come to be more realistic in my expectations of them and not drink thier particular flavor of kool-aid simply because they know how to make something look :awesome:.

While some of these things certainly spread doubt over a number of issues at CCP, I am still looking forward to working with the CSM to ensure that further iterations and developing their existing game is maintained as an urgent issue alongside future projects.  My next year on CSM 6 will certainly be interesting. Blog coming up on that tomorrow!