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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

CSM 6 May Summit Reflections

I totally stole this from EN 24.  Deal with it.
It's been a few days and I'm finally starting to feel alive again, so I'm going to write a bit about how the first CSM 6 / CCP Summit went.  While I can't go into detailed specifics about the meetings, I can talk about what was discussed and my impressions of the meetings.  I'm also going to try to explain the 'CSM Experience' to those who might wonder just what the whole 'free trip to Iceland' is all about.

Pre-Summit Preparation

During my campaign I made mention many times that this CSM's approach to dealing with CCP would likely resemble something of a battle plan and this has held true, though not in a hostile sense.  The members of this CSM have simply committed to making sure that we work and coordinate together as much as possible so that we don't look like a bunch of random sperging idiots when we talk to the dudes making the game.

Within 24 hours of being elected, every CSM 6 member has been in a group Skype chat.  We've been using this medium in order to speak about issues and resolve potential problems in real time.  Along with day to day chatting, we periodically switch to voice comms in order to hash shit out faster.  Additionally, we've reached out to CCP and have created a separate channel that now counts several members of the dev team as it's participants. This simple communication mechanism has enabled CSM 6 to coordinate at a speed and efficiency surpassing any previous efforts.

The Setting

Not bad for an abandoned fish processing plant
The meetings for the CSM take place on the fourth floor of CCP HQ in a large room named 'Tranquility'. Everyone sits around a large table and talks about Eve for 8 to 10 hours a day.  It's a pretty unrelenting pace. There is a great view of the harbor from the fourth floor and a large video projector in the room to display charts and graphs or whatever else might be rolled in the theme of the discussion being had.  The setting is mostly informal and is designed to let people relax and just talk freely.

I'm going to walk through the meeting schedule now and try to give my impressions of how each one went without spilling too many beans or breaking NDA. There's fourteen pages of 'official' notes as well as video recordings of the meetings. I took about five pages of my own notes as well so you can probably expect the actual meeting minutes to be pretty informative.

Day One Meetings

Vanity Items = KITTY!
CSM - Introduction
This was just a bit of an intro of CCP to the newer members of the CSM. CCP talked a bit about their internal structure and stuff that might directly affect the CSM. We took the opportunity to talk about how we are organized as well. One specific point I remember is having a discussion about getting more real time communication established with CCP and getting more information so we don’t waste time on little things that could be resolved by simple explanations.

Team BFF (Thousand Little Things)
CCP Soundwave and CCP Greyscale walked us through how they went about figuring out what the 'little things' are.  We were shown the BFF backlog and the process they use to prioritize the stories in it. The CSM really went all out in this session to reinforce the fact that we believe this effort to be P.R. Gold and that we want to see it continue.  We also emphasized that more, smaller patches are a good thing as opposed to letting shit that is fixed linger for months until it goes out once every quarter or something.  A good session overall.

EVE - Flying in Space
This was basically just continued from the previous meeting with more focus on actual spaceship stuff.  Yours truly made sure to say the word ITERATION quite often and it does seem as if the idea has firmly taken hold. While there is more new and shiny stuff in the pipeline, CCP Zulu spoke up several times in this meeting to reassure us that CCP has gotten the message about polishing existing features. Many smiles were seen at the end of this one.

EVE: Future / Summer 2011 combined session
These meetings were headed by CCP Zulu and CCP Torfi. We got a very solid look at the direction EVE is headed and the thinking behind that direction.  The CSM asked some very blunt questions and received very forthcoming answers. CCP seemed intent on cutting through the bullshit and speaking plainly which was greatly appreciated.  There was a remarkable amount of back and forth in these sessions and the amount of ground covered was extensive.  I can't get into specifics too much without giving stuff away but I can say that there will be dev blogs in the near future about a lot of it.  Time flew by and we had to move on.

EVE Dust Link
I have no idea what the official minutes for this 'meeting' will say but I suspect CCP will :NDA: the hell out of it. I'll have to wait and see what shape the minutes take in order to elaborate more.

EVE Marketing
CCP Zinfandel spent a good few hours Tuesday night getting everyone good and sloshed so there was already good will towards the man.  It seems he felt the need to emphasize just how seriously he takes the CSM so just prior to this session he brought in two delicious cakes! Nom nom nom...

We were walked though a bit of CCP's future marketing ideas which was pretty cool.  The CSM took the opportunity to really hammer home how CCP has dropped the ball in the past with regard to player communication and how to improve it. This is going to be pretty important considering the number of changes to EVE (vanity items, etc...) that are inbound and the CSM felt pretty good about how things went in this session.  As it was the last meeting of the day it ran a bit long and we resolved to continue the discussions at various bars.

Day Two Meetings

Serious Business
Carbon Carbon Carbon, hell yeah.  There's no way to really talk about specifics in this session without breaking NDA but it was all pretty cool. Despite there being no shiny demos there was a lot of discussion and the information about how the UI affects lag and such was interesting.

Customer Support 
Reimbursement was the main discussion point in this one. Availability of information to the GM's to make better decisions was pushed.  I must note that the GMs present weren't the least bit dismissive and were pretty engaged throughout the meeting.  They really do care about this stuff and want to continue improving their processes.

The War on Bots / Security
This was a great session. CCP Screegs (aka Darius Johnson) always has a knack for presenting information in an engaging way and he didn't fail here. There was quite a bit of chart and graph porn and we got a good look at how CCP is working on hunting bots and RMT activity.  It was impressive and, at times, funny to see how all this works.  Screegs was not too subtly encouraged to put out a dev blog ASAP with as much of this meeting's info as can be made publicly available.

The War on Lag
Team Gridlock, how I love thee.  CCP Veritas showed us the tools that him and his team are using to record and analyze fleet battles and lag in general. This was fantastic stuff, destined for a dev blog in the near future.  Time Dilation was also discussed and detailed.  I guess the best thing I can say about this is that while I know CCP has always tried to do everything they could to fight the lag monster, Team Gridlock represents a big step forward. CCP needs to shower these guys with whatever resources they need.

Yes, EVE has a QA dept and we got to meet the head of it (who is an awesome dude).  This was a very blunt meeting, with hard questions and honest answers. Blah blah blah, some NDA type stuff that I'm sure will be in the official minutes.

POS Misery
This discussion went all over the place. We discussed the current POS system and why it sucks and what works. We talked about how it could evolve in the future (dead horse thread, etc...) It was encouraging to learn how engaged CCP is on this issue, it's just a matter of timing and resources.

Feature Abandonment
T3 Factional Sov War Wormholes?? Why introduce cool / unfinished stuff, don't you know you make the players very mad?!  Oh, you do?  BTW, CCP, you should do more video dev blogs because those are cool. This session got very NDA as it touched on how CCP plans to look at or iterate on these features so I'll shut up now until the meeting minutes come out.

Surprise Marketing Visit
CCP Zinfandel comes back to show us some of the vanity items that will be shipping with Incarna. They have actual fashion designers making the clothing and such.  Some of this stuff looked so cool that if CCP would sell it in their real world store, I think they'd make a ton of money. I cannot believe that I'm actually now excited about dressing up my space dollie. Hell, people are spending stupid amounts of RL money in World of Tanks for gold ammo and stuff so I can see why CCP wants to leverage the same mentality.

Day Three Meetings

I love any excuse to use this chart.
Nullsec Industrialization
Those of us that were awake and not hungover started doing a brainstorming session with lots of post it notes and stuff.  We ended up talking about pretty much everything nullsec related and it was good.  This session went long and probably went a long way toward convincing many CSM members that CCP Greyscale is actually a pretty cool dude.

Newbie Retention / NPE
CCP Flying Scottsman is actually very Scottish. We spent a lot of time going over what brought us originally to EVE and what kept us playing. Obviously things have changed since 2003 and CCP was very receptive to our ideas and experiences with getting new players into the game and also how many of us, as CEOs and alliance leaders, keep veterans from rage quitting.  There are some interesting plans for future development here.  Dev blogs and more community interaction recommended.

Aesthetics / Art Team
What started off as a bit of a, "Hmmm.. what do we talk to Art about?" meeting (that we requested) quickly turned into one of the most informative and interesting sessions of the summit.  We spoke with the Art Director, one of the lead artists and the 'Godfather' of the art department about anything and everything. How long does it take a new ship to enter the game from concept to on TQ?  UI stuff?  Incarna stuff?  Cyno effect and engine trails?!  The Art guys seemed surprised at how much we grilled them and were very engaged and happy to talk about what they do and how they do it. I think everyone on the CSM was happy we asked for this meeting and I hope the official minutes help inform people better.

EVE Economics
My brain literally melted at some point during this meeting.  So. Many. Graphs.  It was cool though because it touched on both in game and out of game metrics. There was so much potential NDA stuff in this one that you'll just have to wait on the minutes.  Good stuff though.

Chat with Hilmar
I think everyone pretty much expected by near the end of the third day that we'd have had a small list of things to bitch to the CEO about but it didn't turn out that way. Hilmar sat at the head of the table and went into a lot of detail about any questions asked and didn't seem in a rush to leave. We surprised him in that he expected a bit more of a hostile environment (he said as much) considering the make up of the CSM; we explained how CSM 6 was working together and asked that that CCP as a whole continue to be receptive to participating in more real time dialogue with us.  He fully supported this. There was one point where Hilmar explained his view on the evolution of the CSM which really should be transcribed to a dev blog as it was fascinating to listen to.  Handshakes at the end with everyone.

Ship Balance Iteration
Lots of NDA stuff but we discussed everything from Supercarriers to Hybrids. Obviously there's a lot of stuff that needs love and a few things that need a bit of hate. You'll have to wait for the minutes to get anything more specific but it was reassuring to hear that CCP wants to do balancing more often than once every 2-3 years. We spoke directly with the devs which will be doing the work. This session felt very productive.

CSM 6 Summit Member Composition
One thing that this experience has reminded me about is that 'Space Politics' is absolutely meaningless when it comes to actually serving on the CSM. While it may help you get elected or color perceptions as to what you may or may not do if elected, the simple fact is that every member of CSM 6 is serving for the same reason - we love the game and want to help CCP make it better.  People that choose to dismiss or hate members of the CSM because of their in game alliance tag or space vendettas are missing the boat completely.

Rarely during the past weeks or the three days of the Summit have I seen a CSM member put their in game agenda before the health of the game itself, and when they did, it was mostly in jest.  Some of the positions taken would probably do more to harm their current in game situations with an eye to improving game play overall for the entire player base.

Love him or hate him, it would be criminal not to acknowledge the amount of work that Mittens has put into CSM 6 thus far. While he loves to remind people, "Hi, I'm famous in a bad game for literally being a giant douche bag!", the fact is that CSM 6 is much stronger with him than without him.

Vile Rat was someone that I've dealt with on and off for several years now in EVE and finally meeting him in person was a genuine pleasure. While it's true that he and Mittens make a formidable 'Goon Duo' of sorts, quite often he goes a different direction. He has his own views about EVE that he voices very clearly. Of all the candidates, I think he came to CCP prepared for a boxing match and walked away from the Summit pleasantly surprised by the number of battles that didn't have to be fought.

As the current CSM 'veterans', Trebor and Meissa have been invaluable in helping the rest of us steer the waters of what has worked in the past and what might work better in the future. Considering the rhetoric of the campaign trail, it's been especially funny to see how well Trebor and Mittens get along.

I didn't know what to expect from White Tree and, tbh, I've gotten more questions about him than any other CSM member.  I have to be honest and say that I've not read every post the guy has made or even really followed his campaign that closely beyond knowing that he was the TEST alliance candidate.  That being said, at multiple times during the summit he spoke up and articulated his points quite well.  He's got an interesting perspective on things and I don't really get all the sperging that goes on about this guy.

Killer 2 and Draco Llasa represent the Northern Coalition bloc and have done an excellent job. Draco was a bit of a surprise to me as I'd not really heard of him prior to the elections but I've found myself nodding along with him on many occasions, especially during the summit.

Since xxDeath (I'm not typing all those X's) couldn't make it to the summit, First Alternate Elise Randolph was flown in.  Commonly acknowledged as the nicest guy in Pandemic Legion, he had a hell of a time in Iceland, and not in a good way.  He arrived at 0600 local on the first morning of the summit and was taken directly to CCP HQ for the first day of meetings. Somehow he stayed awake all day and then went out to the bar afterwards.  However, the airlines had lost his luggage so he had to wear the same clothes (a fairly pimping suit and fedora) for three days until his suitcase finally arrived.

Overall, I believe we've managed, in a very short time, to achieve a remarkable degree of coordination and unity with regard to how we want to move forward. Everyone on this CSM, even the alternates, are constantly communicating and looking for ways to improve our ability to liaison between CCP and the players.

Visitor Pass 36
Yes, I'm supposed to be here! I have a badge and everything!
Outside of the meetings, the question I was bombarded with the most was, "So what does it feel like to be on the other side of the table?" It's been pretty fun, if a bit weird at times, but not at all awkward. I left because I couldn't move to Iceland, simple as that. I still have a lot of friends there and it was great to be able to see them again. There was no real tension that I could tell and everyone I spoke with seemed to think my getting on the CSM was a good thing overall.

I do feel like my experience at the company contributed to helping bridge a few gaps and move things forward, even if I expected it to be more difficult in some areas. While some things never change, CCP is not the same company I left a year ago.  Then again, in the three plus years I was there, the company went through so many changes that I lost count.  It was very interesting to have been away for a year and then come back as a CSM member to see how CCP continues to evolve.

Cool Stuff that CSM 6 has done so far
Totally Important Looking Announcement
  • Published our first 'dev blog' / whatever to the players.
  • Held the first of many live 'Fireside Chats' with the player base.
  • Working with CCP in reviewing drafts of Dev Blogs so that they don't cause more Mob Rage.
  • Successfully 'spotlighted' the Time Dilation feature.
  • Avoided death by volcano at the first summit in Iceland.
I'm sure there's a lot more but I really need to get this thing published and get back to actually playing EVE.  I'll probably be renaming this blog in the next week or so and start blogging about more day to day EVE stuff in addition to the CSM blah blah. Hopefully this blog has given you a bit more insight into what happened in Iceland and CSM 6 in general.  I apoligize again that it's so short on details in some areas, but :NDA: and all that stuff.

Talk to you all again soon!