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, September 19, 2012

Council of Slayer Management: Stakeholding and More

She's a stake holder, just like us.

Meetings & Access

It's time again to take a few moments and let you all know what we've been up to here on the CSM. First of all, if you missed it, we published a larger report back on September 11th:

There are links and references to a lot of goings-on for the past few weeks.

Many of you have asked for more information about the CSM Stakeholder pilot program; what it is exactly, what we are doing as part of it and what it means for EVE's future. Stakeholder may seem like a 'mythical' word, and others are treating it as some sort of MacGuffin that the CSM keeps throwing out there but it is probably the biggest change in how the CSM operates and is viewed by CCP since it was created back in 2007. As a whole, we have been limited in what we could say about it due to the specific feature we are working on falling under the NDA. I fully realize it may not sound that exciting to many players (where are all the explosions??) but it is important to share as much with you as we can at this point in time.  Once the feature is announced, I will be more candid about our involvement in the decision-making process.

In terms of what else is taking place right now, over the past four weeks we have had multiple meetings with all levels of CCP management.  While most of these meetings tend to be focused on our Stakeholder role, our most recent one was an hour long chat on Monday with Senior Producer CCP Unifex where we got to do a bit of generalized Q&A.  Of the several issues that were mentioned, there was one I'd promised to address specifically that hasn't seen an update in a while: Avatars / Incarna.

Yes, I know, it's not spaceships and WTF are we bothering about it for? Well, let me reiterate that this was basically a couple emails two weeks ago and then about 10 minutes of discussion over voice so there's no need to worry that we are wasting too much time on Space Dolls.  The fact is this issue is important to many players and I felt it was appropriate to remind CCP  that they haven't said much of anything about it in months, with the exception of them releasing a few clothing items around the Inferno patch.  Regardless of how much or how little CCP is working on our Avatars, the players deserve to know where this is all headed and not be left in the dark.  In the end, I got the answers I was looking for and am continuing to push CCP to open up about where this part of the game stands ASAP.

Getting the Message Out

The value of 'messaging' in general is what I've reiterated the most during these executive meetings, specifically asking CCP not only to share more more information earlier about the Winter release, but also making sure we start now on the planning for the work to be done beyond the next expansion. There are quite a few things the CSM has seen or is about to be a part of that we can't talk about openly yet, but there is no reason we can't keep the conversation going with the players in the mean time.  CCP has committed to dedicating time and resources on revamping POS's, but POS's are not the only important issue facing EVE right now which is why we are helping CCP develop a sense of purpose with regard to the Spring / Summer expansion in advance, and not simply leave things up to chance.   

Many of you come to the CSM with concerns ranging from industrial iterations, to the future of low sec, to the long-overdue "Farms and Fields" initiative that has seemingly vanished into the ether.  Even without more information from CCP about what they are thinking beyond Winter, its important to continue refining our own message about what we would like to see end up on TQ. Don't hesitate to contact a CSM member and let us know what's on your mind so we can keep passing those expectations on to CCP.

A word about Sean Smith / Vile Rat

It goes without saying that the most urgent matter this last week has been taking the time to remember Vile Rat, both in-game and out-of game. If any of you are still looking for ways to help, a donation drive for his family has been set up here and it's been amazing to watch the numbers go up in the past couple days.

On a related note, many in the community have mentioned their desire for some sort of 'memorial' with regard to Sean and other EVE players as well. This is an issue CCP is well aware of and has spoken with the CSM about. While no decisions have been made yet, it is not an issue CCP intends to rush nor delay unduly. They simply want to do the right thing and find the right way to do it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Goodbye, Friend

RIP Sean
By now, most of you will have heard that Sean Smith was killed last night in a senseless assault on a consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He was known in game as Vile Rat.

Vile Rat was a friend of mine, not as close as I would have liked but someone I am proud to have been given the opportunity to know better than others. This will also be one of the last times I refer to him by his EVE name. Like so many others whose paths I've crossed in EVE over the past nine and a half years, especially once you meet them in person, he will always be just 'Sean' to me. As many others are doing, I feel compelled to spend a few minutes reflecting on just how this man's life affected my own and how I knew him over the past several years.

My first contact with Sean in game was in late 2007. As was mentioned here in a moving article by The Mittani, Sean was one of the many factors that led to my old alliance, Mercenary Coalition, making the fateful decision to turn on Band of Brothers. He did not offer any deals, threaten or present some grand scheme. While the anti-BoB train was already in motion within MC, like any good diplomat, Sean did a fine job of making it clear that the people he represented were not necessarily the 'bad guys'.

My communications with Sean would continue on and off for the next few years, both in game as 'Seleene' and then later on as CCP Abathur. What I liked about Sean was that he was a fellow government employee and I enjoyed talking to him about his own 'adventures' in the world. I recall our talks evolving from him having a shitty connection he could barely play EVE on in Iraq to something finally resembling normal.

Others have made mention of how sometimes Sean would up and vanish due to incoming fire where he was stationed. This was very much true and my first thought upon seeing the report from Jabber last night:
(2:40:22 PM) vile_rat: FUCK
(2:40:24 PM) vile_rat: gunfire
was, "Oh, hell, he's in another one of those places." and that I'd soon get word back that he was okay and we were all stupid for worrying. What worried me though was that Alex (The Mittani) was worried, and the more I started F5'ing different news feeds the less certain I was that I'd get to speak to him again. It is even more ironic due to the fact that I had been talking about Sean not even a few hours earlier to another EVE player about my thoughts on the future:

Mark / Seleene 9/11/12 1:55 PM
by the time CSM 8 takes office, Chairman Vile Rat will be happy to keep the tradition going
Bagehi 9/11/12 1:55 PM
Mark / Seleene 9/11/12 1:55 PM
it WILL happen. I'd bet money on it and he'll be a good one too
Bagehi 9/11/12 1:56 PM
Yeah.  You are probably right

Real Life

I finally got to meet Sean in person when he was elected to the 6th Council of Stellar Management and we all travelled to our first Summit in Iceland. He was a genuinely warm and funny guy. In CSM meetings or discussions Sean was passionate about his positions and, even if you disagreed with him, articulate enough to present his arguments in a way that invited further discussion. I got to enjoy spending several quiet moments with him talking about non-EVE stuff and getting to know him better. It's times like that which I preach about to many who have never been to an EVE player meet or FanFest - once you meet the man or woman behind the pixels, you will never be able to think of them in the same way again. The experience is almost always a positive one.

Sean's CSM duties also carried him to EVE Fanfest this year. His State Department job had finally taken him to a more relaxed posting in The Hague as well. As fate would have it, I was flying to Iceland from Germany and ran into him and his wife in Copenhagen before the connecting flight we were both on took off. His wife was travelling with him. She was a very cheerful and funny woman and, much as all 'EVE wives' with e-famous husbands, seemed both proud and bemused by her spouse's ~stature~ in the community.

The last time I saw Sean was in the Plaza hotel in the morning after the last night of Fanfest. He and his wife had come out of the elevator to check out and I was talking to a large group of EVE players in the lobby. He had chosen not to run for CSM 7 and I knew it would be a while before I saw him again so I broke away from the crowd to shake his hand one last time. I told him I would miss his daily presence in Skype not only talking to the devs but just in general. I told him that I appreciated the work he'd done on the CSM and was glad that this little spaceship democracy experiment had allowed us to hang out and get to know each other.

Sean made the game we all play greater while trying to make the world we live in safer. I'm already shuddering to think about the real world ramifications that may come as a result of Sean's death.

People that play EVE all too often confuse the actions and even ~personalities~ of the characters played with their real life counterparts. On the other hand, if this senseless tragedy accomplishes anything in the tiny corner of the world that is the EVE community, I hope it helps people remember that even the most Vile Rat is, in reality, a warm and funny guy with a family and friends that care about him.

I will miss you, Sean. Goodbye, friend.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CSM 7 Fall Progress Report

Doesn't Hans look pretty??
NOTE - This is a direct copy from Han's Blog (with permission) and it is the first in a series of more regular updates as we get closer to the winter expansion.

Hello again, pod people!

I'll make the introduction short - this is a no-nonsense archive post, with the intent of summarizing and centralizing all of the recent activities of your CSM7 representatives.  Links to outside resources will be provided where possible, though some of this content takes place on internal CSM / CCP forums and Skype channels and cannot be directly referenced.  

This is by no means the sum total of everything the CSM has been up to, merely the items not covered by NDA that individual CSM reps have self-reported.  Some features for Winter Expansion have yet to be announced and so work on them has not been included at this time.  If I missed a key conversation, posting, or media appearance, I'll update this reference as needed.  

Add this blog to your follow list if you haven't already, this is only the first of a series of updates I will provide as we continue towards Winter Expansion.  Thanks again for your patience with us during the slow summer, we're excited to be back in the busy season again!

Public appearances

CSM May Summit Minutes

TEN EVEning News Special: CSM Discusses their Minutes!   Part 1  Part 2

VandV Podcast: Special Edition: Spring Summit Wrap Up featuring Seleene

CSM7 2nd Town Hall on EVE Radio

Wormholes Town Hall, hosted by Two Step

TEN EVEning News Roundtable #1: Faction Warfare, featuring Hans Jagerblitzen

Hans Jagerblitzen Interview Pt. I - Factional Warfare Segments

Ongoing Forum Conversations

Electoral Reform Redux, (many thanks to CCP Xhagen for helping to get the conversation back on track)

Stakeholder pilot project

Previous CSM's have been called "Stakeholders" nominally, but in practice they have had little of the privilege or access of actual CCP corporate stakeholders.  At the May summit, CSM7 demanded that CCP start living up to its commitment to the CSM as an entity and finally grant it the relationship with the development process that players have expected for years but never received.  Senior Producer CCP Unifex agreed and promised us an integrated role for the entirety of a development cycle, assigning us to single team to undergo a pilot program.

The pilot program is focusing on two objectives - to demonstrate the need for CSM feedback at the earliest stages of the development process, and troubleshooting the communication protocols in order to build a methodology that can be used to utilize the CSM as a stakeholder on a greater number of teams.

The pending success of the pilot program should greatly expand CSM7's ability to directly assist with the shape and direction of the POS revamp, ring mining, and other major features for 2013. 

CSM7 is now receiving updates for its assigned team, participating in charter meetings and release planning through access to the recordings and a 48-hour window of opportunity for response with feedback so the team can continue moving at the pace of its sprint cycle.  The exact feature we are working on is still currently under NDA, but needless to say we're already learning a lot about what works and doesn't work about this new process.

Internal work with CCP

-Ongoing focus on ship balancing, including forum feedback covering each set of overhauled ships prior to public release

-Official protest of the changes to the Vagabond, and a call for CCP to "Bring back the Frills!"

-Special emphasis on revisiting Black Ops if resources allow during Winter Expansion, as recent balancing has focused exclusively on Tech 1 smaller ships and CSM believes veterans deserve attention as well.

- Dovinian posted a call for CCP to revisit the issue of "Mineral Compression", as this is one of the major underlying contributors to supercapital proliferation.  Kelduum has been doing detailed research into the specific items that can be manufactured for lower volume than their mineral equivalents, to assist in reaching a faster solution.  CSM is unanimously in support of addressing this long-overdue problem.

- Elise Randolph posted a call for changing oversized prop mods, suggesting CCP look into penalties for their use to offset the incredible power these fittings provide

- Elise Randolph posted a call to revisit booster mechanics and the smuggling process, suggesting ways to facilitate transport throughout the game

- Continued heavy work on Faction Warfare mechanics, led by Hans Jagerblitzen

- Continued collective feedback on the war declaration system and "mercenary marketplace", led by Alekseyev Karrde and Kelduum Revaan

- Kelduum has been discussing in detail corporate management UI and issues regarding the recruitment interface

- Collective feedback about the EVE-Dust 514 link

- Collective feedback about the Unified Inventory and persisting issues that need resolution

- Hans Jagerblitzen has been regularly playtesting and providing feedback regarding the Dust 514 beta, you can add him as a contact (under the name "Heinrich Jagerblitzen") if you are also in the beta and would like to invite him to your squad!

Notable Blog Posts

Response-to-response-on-pos-redesign, by Two Step

Notable Public Forum Activity

- Self-destruct timer changes

- Iterations to ship fitting including ammo and rigs

- Just about everything surrounding the Faction Warfare updates

- Re-nameable POS structures

- Logistics frigates in Winter expansion (we begged CCP not to bother with "sniper-frigates")

- Technetium regulation through new Alchemy reactions

- Release of many remaining NEX store clothing items at greatly reduced pricing

- Rollback of Incursion changes in order to improve Vanguard sites

- Removal of outdated Ethnic Relations skill, replacement with Diplomatic Relations

.....and many more to come!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

CSM 7 Summer Update

Summertime - The Sandbox is a bit emptier than usual.
Yep, it's been a while.

So to make this more efficent, I will just do some blunt Q&A this morning to get the big communication ball rolling again.

What's the CSM been up to since the Summit?

The main focus of work has been getting the official minutes done and approved. There has been the normal day to day interaction with CCP but, in all honesty (and every EVE veteran will understand this), it's summer. I can tell you as both a former employee and a long time player that CCP's offices are a ghost town in June and July. The Icelandic summers are beautiful and about the only time of the year when the forecast is not 'Grey and Rainy'. If you look back at EVE historically, not much gets done in game either. EVE is an indoor ~sport~ and the real people that play it sometimes actually go outside during the summer months so things tend to die down.

All of that aside, work on the minutes has continued. Delays have happened primarily due to the above - lots of different people on vacation or being unavailable due to other commitments. The Alliance Tournament is yet another major culprit in this - any dev that was involved with AT:X was pretty much buried by it until after the finals. When you consider how much work guys like CCP Soundwave and CCP Sreegs put into the Tournament, you can see why the areas of the minutes that affect them took a bit longer for final approval.

A very good overall summary of the past few weeks is here: CLICK ME

My fellow delegate, and the CSM 7 Vice Secretary, Hans Jagerblitzen does a great job of outlining some of the stuff going on 'behind the scenes'. I am going to encourage him to push out more updates like this. Have a read of that before continuing.

CSM 7 doesn't seem as 'visible' as CSM 6

There has been some rumblings about how this CSM isn't being as loud or prominent as the last couple. Well, first I'd like to share another quote from Hans:
"I am quite fine with being damned to obscurity if it means a year without a crisis bigger than the unified inventory. :) I'd rather have the game in good shape first and foremost."
CSM 5 had to deal with a whole host of problems, primarily stemming from CCP being both vague and uncooperative in several areas when it came to transparency and understanding player's desires. This pattern exploded full force in CSM 6's collective face when we had to deal with everything from the Fearless newsletter to all of the 'Summer of Rage' fallout from Incarna. No Monocle-gate for CSM 7, sorry!!

The situation CSM 7 finds itself in is wholly unique - while there are still issues to discuss and a job to do, there has been no major crisis to deal with or ~player rebellion~ to lead / represent. Also, as I have written extensively elsewhere, CCP is a completely changed company from a year ago. As a result, CSM 7 is spending a lot less time banging our heads in frustration against brick walls, accomplishing nothing for the blood spilled, and a lot more time actually holding productive talks with CCP.

TLDR - I'll take quiet progress over rioting any time.

What is the current status of the minutes?

They should be out by the end of this week. I know, it seems like it's taken forever but here are some of the reasons it has taken so long.

First of all, these minutes are unlike any done previously. Past Summit minutes were criticized for their lack of both detail and transparency. People wanted to know more specifics about what was discussed (within the confines of the NDA) but, more importantly, WHO said what. When the minutes come out, you will know what the issues are and who to blame or praise as you see fit.

In order to accomplish this, both the CSM and CCP had to agree on... SO MUCH. Sheesh, it's been a slog. Trying to hit the right level of granularity while skirting the limits of what we could / couldn't and should / shouldn't say has been a bitch. Previous Summit minutes have been basically summaries with a very vague indication of actual opinions and severely lacking in detail on specifics. While the mindsets of the past seemed to prefer a more anonymous approach to things, resolving this dilemma and giving EVE players more transparency is something that I as Chairman and the rest of CSM 7 committed to early on.

As a consequence of the above, these minutes will be unprecedented in both length and detail. The current draft copy I received this morning is sitting at 165 pages and just over 66,000 words. The content itself is varied in that there are multiple authors and editors involved but we have worked hard to make it both an enjoyable and informative read. In addition to all of the detail and transparency, you will see a lot more 'personality' in these minutes than ever before.

Right now I am expecting the minutes to be released before this weekend. Delays have continued due to last minute tweaking and approvals. CCP is just as eager as the CSM to get this information out to you and CCP Xhagen and CCP Manifest in particular are to be commended for their efforts.

Personal Note

When CSM 7 started, we had to deal with a few things no previous CSM had. We also wanted to make sure that we improved on the whole CSM process as best we could. I personally spent a lot of time making the podcast rounds, going on EVE Radio and doing a series of updates that I published on this blog. During the Summit itself, I was a Twittering maniac. Directly after the summit I wrote up a pair of blog posts (Part I & Part II) which totaled up about 11.5k words. I knew the official minutes would probably take a while to complete so I wanted folks to have something to tide them over. It had been my intention to keep up this pace of communication but then the hammer fell.

About six weeks ago, I got hit with an avalanche of real life issues which required my immediate and complete attention. Work and family took precedence and I ended up traveling extensively as part of it all. I let the rest of the CSM know early on what was happening and also turned over responsibility for the three summit minute sessions I had signed up for as well.

So while I've been very busy recently, I have stayed abreast of everything going on in CSM land and kept my hand in. I do apologize for the lack of CSM-related updates and will be kicking things back into high gear now. I might even poke a couple of the other CSM members to do the same. I'm not the only one with a blog / voice, ya know? ;)

Official Closing Stuff

As soon as the minutes are released, I will do the Chairman thing and talk to the other CSMs about our next Town Hall meeting. We had promised to do one after the minutes were released and I will make sure that happens. Additionally, I will look into making the Town Halls a more regular thing (every 4-6 weeks possibly). Tentatively, if the minutes go out this week, look for an announcement about the next CSM Town Hall early next week, to take place sometime in the next 7-14 days.

If you miss the sound of my voice, I did a podcast this past Sunday on Voices from the Void!

VandV Podcast: Episode 51

Around the 7m40s mark is where we talk a bit about what's been going on with the summit minutes, which is basically just me ~saying~ all the stuff I've written above. Around 46m30s I go on a bit of a tangent about how CCP has changed since last year. The rest is a great talk about mining and industry stuff. The other guest, Gevlin, is like a Mining EFT Wizard and was pretty damn impressive.

I'll be rounding up a couple other CSMs and poking the various pod casts and EVE Radio so you can expect to see some of the others 'waking up' soon as well. Thank you for your patience and hopefully you will find our efforts worthy of the wait.

Monday, June 11, 2012

CSM 7 Spring Summit Review - Part II

So very true. Trebor has a flair for this sort of thing...
Day 2 Cont... (Thursday)

This blog is the second part to the one I published last week and picks up where it left off. Just a reminder that these blogs are not intended as 'official' minutes; they are my thoughts and recollections. The official Summit minutes are in the process of being produced now and should be out in the next few weeks. In the meantime, some information is better than none so read on!

0.0 Improvements
Yeah, this stuff is a problem.
It could be argued that this session actually started the previous night and was finished up during this meeting. There is simply no way to summarize everything that was discussed so I will just focus on a few specifics.

With regard to how DUST 514 will interact with null-sec, CCP made the point that it needs to not break anything, be meaningful and have a simple rule set. My understanding is that when DUST goes live it will have a minimal impact on null sec, if any, initially and will be slowly and carefully integrated in stages as time goes on. This is good and a smart way to do it.

Destructible / wreckable outposts came up AGAIN. Blow them up, have the ability to plant more than one outpost in a system, etc... In terms of 'game design', CCP seemed confident that figuring out the mechanics of this wouldn't be too big a problem; it is just a matter of making the decision to do it. If this happens it would require a lot of art resources which are likely going to be very tied up in making a lot of new POS modules along with other projects already in progress. One point that I raised was that outposts are the only thing 'player-built' in EVE that cannot be destroyed and that's not very sandbox-y. CCP agreed that this would be very cool to do and will probably happen as part of a proper null sec themed expansion.

RL price = approx $1700 per ounce
In lieu of a major expansion, there was a lot of talk about 'conflict drivers' and that there needed to be more of them. This led directly to talk to talking about moon re-balancing (a subject that came up in other sessions and a lot of 'bar talk'). The overall consensus was that the major problems were ones of how Technetium is not only the dominant R64 but how it is geographically centralized on the map. Previously, there were two 'prime' R64s in Dysprosium and Promethium and even some of the R32 moons were worth holding or fighting over. Key point:

"The balance of elements needs to be re-established."

Whether through alchemy or a re-shuffling of how T2 production takes place (like what happened with Tech) every member of the CSM and CCP agree that this needs to get fixed ASAP and it needs to be done regardless of any possible changes to sov mechanics.

Null sec NPC stations and their role in wars were discussed but I'm not really sure if anything was 'decided' on these. That probably means nothing will change anytime soon. v0v

Overall, this session is probably the one I was most dissapointed with in terms of the answers we got. While there seems to be a lot of things on the table that will affect null sec and we did discuss things like 'farms and fields' and objectives for smaller entities, there will most likely be no changes to the actual sovereignty capture mechanics until next year. This is primarily due to CCP wanting to 'do it right' which I completely agree with, I was just hoping for a bit more progress.

Corp Mechanics
A wish of CEO's everywhere...
This session opened with Kelduum proclaiming, "They're rubbish!" which no one seemed inclined to disagree with. Soundwave made the comment that he knew he was in for a beating on this topic but to tell him more. He acknowledged that while the current management tools are powerful, they are not the least bit intuitive and this needs to be improved.

Being able to kick members from corp / member management was a big topic and several situations were discussed. CCP agreed that CEOs should be able to have CEO-like power and some tweaks needed to be made.

A major point for me was wanting the ability to do most of this 'administrative' stuff without actually having to log into a full fledged EVE client. While CCP agrees that some work could and should be done in cleaning up the in game UI, there is a push to open up the ability for players to do this through 3rd party developers using the new CREST system to develop out of game applications to do so.  For more info on CREST start here.

This meeting was essentially a long list of user cases and grievances aimed at making the lives of people in EVE in positions of authority a lot easier. It seems like a lot of these issues may be resolved over the course of the year as part of CCP's continuing 'little things' initiative.

Oh, btw, it looks like the Ethnic Relations skill will get nuked soon because it's dumb.

Wardecs / Crimewatch
Her reply - "...the fuck?"
As mentioned in my previous blog, all of the CSM sessions are able to be recorded and monitored better than ever thanks to the new Lync camera system. It also allows for people off site to call into the meeting and take part when needed. For this session, due to the fact that he wrote most of the meeting notes and his extensive experience in running a mercenary corp, we got CSM delegate Alekseyev Karrde (Alek) (who made sure to be wearing a NOIR shirt) to video conference in and take part more directly. This took a couple minutes to get set up and working right so in the meantime we watched Daily Grace sort of endorse Elise Randolph for CSM.

CCP Greyscale ran the first part of this session which focused primarily on Crimewatch.

The first (of many) subjects brought up was how broken remote reping is. Greyscale walked through several examples of how CCP is planning to fix this and make it "less dumb". This was accomplished by showing us several flowcharts demonstrating various types of combat situations, Greyscale waving his arms around a lot and somehow me ending up being his logistics buddy. The usual stuff about criminal countdown and gate gun behavior was touched on and Greyscale presented a few interesting ideas for these as well.

Everyone seemed pretty happy with the way this part of things was going and it looks like CCP has a firm grasp on what they are going to do. "Good, ship it!"

Alekseyev Karrde using technology!
The next part of the meeting was focused on the war dec system and so-called mercenary marketplace.  CCP Tallest and CCP Soundwave took this and it started with Soundwave showing the CSM the current official backlog of fixes they are working on. CCP has gathered a lot of feedback from the CSM on the outstanding issues and we saw most of that addressed in the backlog as things they plan to iterate on this year.

One big topic was the new 'ally' system that was introduced for wars in Inferno. TLDR - it's pretty broken and doesn't pass the common sense test in practice on many levels. Top three things - putting a cap on the number of 'ally' slots, an upper limit cap on war dec costs and establishing a firm expectation on what 'mercenaries' in empire are capable of so that the "mercenary marketplace" can flourish. Changes on this are inbound on all of this and will be tweaked until both sides are happy.

There were a ton of specific things brought up over the course of the last thirty minutes of the meeting that CCP reinforced their commitment to trying to iterate on so that they can walk away from all of this feeling good at the end of the year. One specific thing were changes and improvements to the U.I. for mercenary contracts and war decs which were covered more in depth in the 'Treaties' session on day three.

Also, did you guys know that you can drag kill reports into chat windows and show them off? It's a little thing that a lot of people don't know about but totally should. :)

On a final note, Alek did a great job of going Boss Mode and keeping the meeting on point and making the most of his time 'on camera'. It was probably helped by the Lync camera speaker which was really LOUD and hard to ignore.

The New Launcher

CCP Alice and other members of her team led this session which was essentially focused on the future of logging into EVE and how to make things less painful.

The biggest change coming here is moving the log-on mechanic into the launcher itself and out of the traditional 'splash screen'. This is being done primarily because CCP is moving toward a 'single sign on' strategy. This means several things, not the least of which is that those of us that got that little key fob thing back at FanFest 2011 might be able to finally use it. More importantly thought, CCP is looking at ways of eventually allowing people to use existing security credentials like Facebook to create a new EVE account.

One request the CSM made was that if we are going to see this launcher all the time now, could there please be a button that would auto-magically set up / launch the latest SiSi (test server) client. A lot more people would be more inclined to hop on the test server if it didn't require jumping through proverbial hoops to set it up.

A major point of emphasis the CSM brought up was that regardless of what changes are made that players should still be able to 'multi-box' their client (not have to create a new install for every account). Our main points of feedback were:

Make it easy to log in.
Make it easy to see patch notes.
Make it easy to get onto SiSi.
Please don't add steps when I log in.

Thursday Night
Green Lee is very proud of his Russian heritage.
As I stated in my previous blog, CCP takes everyone out to dinner two out of the three summit nights. Having to fend for ourselves, most of us decided to head to Nonni's and refuel. For those of you unfamiliar with Reykjavik, 'Nonnabiti' is kind of like Iceland's version of Subway / fast food. I'm told they serve hamburgers and such there too but everyone I've ever gone there with orders a hot sub (pepperoni and ham is my fav). Anyway, it's just one of those things that you ~have~ to do if it's your first time in Iceland or the company you are on the Spaceship Council for doesn't buy you dinner.

After dinner / refueling, most of us walked up to our hotel to drop off some stuff. On the way to the bar we passed by a a restaurant that had one of the best signs I have ever seen:
No ambiguity here!!
Most of us went to a bar downtown called Urilla Gorillan which apparently translates to 'Grumpy Gorilla. It's basically a sports bar with big screen TV's that sometimes show soccer games but for some reason seemed to be running an Icelandic version of 'The Biggest Loser' instead... which was weird because an Icelander's idea of fat really doesn't qualify by American standards. Upon arrival at the bar, there were already several CCPers there in various states of sobriety (it was barely 2000 at this point).

A good book.
At one point, for some reason, a discussion about modern fiction authors came up and CCP Sreegs and I got into an argument about whether or not Tom Clancy was a good writer. The finer points of the discussion are lost to me but as other people started to chime in I came to the conclusion that it was probably better to change the subject to the Eurovision finals than witness a dozen not so sober people make comparisons about how realistic works of military fiction are or that Tom Clancy's inability to write proper love scenes has no real bearing on his technical proficiency. Imagine drunk posting reviews and that's what this was like.

Despite many similar conversations that covered many real world topics, some of us did manage to do some talking about EVE and it was encouraging to hear some of the devs telling their old bittervet / bitterdev stories. Kelduum did an after the fact translation and it sounded something like this:

FOURTH BITTERDEV: I was happier then and I had nothin'. We used to live in this tiny old outpost with great big bubbles outside the undock.

SECOND BITTERDEV: Outpost! You were lucky to live in an Outpost! We used to live in one POS, all twenty-six of us, no CHA, half the roles was missing, and we were all huddled together at the tower for fear of being bumped out.

THIRD BITTERDEV: Eh, you were lucky to have a POS! We used to have to live in a GSC!

FIRST BITTERDEV: Oh, we used to dream of livin' in a GSC! Would have been a palace to us. We used to live in an old jet can in Ammamake. We got woke up every morning by having a load of veldspar dumped all over us! POS? Ha!

The above may or may not be developed into a live play to be performed at next year's FanFest.

Once again, while funny, this is the kind of thing that people who have never been to a FanFest or other meet up with the devs don't really understand - these guys and girls actually do share the same passion and frustrations about EVE as the rest of us.

Elise Randolph and UAxDeath after drinking a 'Hand Grenade'
As midnight approached, knowing we had another full day of meetings ahead and that Friday night would probably be a very long night, the crowd started to thin out. UAxDeath seemed to be on a mission to kill Elise Randolph with free drinks but I managed to save him just before midnight and get him out of there.

Day Three (Friday)

Friday was a bit of a mess in terms of scheduling because we had to ninja in a session and re-organize the order of others. It was probably the most busy of the three summit days due to how tightly packed the sessions were and trying to cover as much ground as possible.

Factional Warfare
UAxDeath, Unifex and Soundwave giggling like girls.
CCP Soundwave made the opening comment that of everything in Inferno he was happiest about how FW had turned out. The current plan is to continue iterating and improving it to a state where by the end of the year CCP wouldn't have to come back to it for a long time.

Due to some technical issues (on his end), Han Jagerblitzen was not able to live talk / video into the session like Alek had done the day before. However he was able to participate in real time through the Lync software and Skype so it wasn't too big of a problem.  Hans had also prepared an extensive document in TitanPad for this session that we were able to use as a guideline on specific points and saved us a lot of time. The devs were able to follow the document and ask pointed questions where needed. This meeting was one of the best examples of how CCP has changed since last year in how they were eager to get detailed feedback on a major feature.

Just as a sample of some of the major issues covered (not a complete list):
  • Faction Warfare Dungeon classifications
  • LP payout proximity in complexes
  • Hierarchy of Rewards
  • Improved System Upgrades
  • U.I. iterations
The system upgrades one was very interesting because it opens a lot of potential doors that would make living in lo-sec much more attractive to the average player as opposed to just sitting in the safety of hi-sec.

Cyno Jammers came up again with the clarification that if this feature ever made it into an aspect of FW that it would need to be well thought out and controlled. An example would be that cyno jamming wouldn't be a permanent thing but more like something that could be turned on for a limited amount of time to 'umbrella' a fight from hot drops. It's still all talk right now, but it did open eyes to ways 'older' mechanics might be applicable in other areas.

The last one about the UI was particularly interesting. CCP Arrow walked us through several mock-ups that looked promising and much more 'sci-fi'. Basically, if you like how certain third party kill boards can filter and represent different areas of information as graphs, you'll love this stuff.

Hans made one point during the session that I think summed up a lot of people's misconceptions about FW which was, "We're not incursions, we're a PVP venue."

This Bellicose looks pretty bad...
Since the beginning of CSM 6, the CSM always asks for a session with Art. This is because 1.) we like shiny things and 2.) Art is often thought of as one of the bottlenecks of EVE and this isn't too far off in many cases. Knowing what is going on in the Art department often informs you as to what may or may not be possible in other areas of the game.

This session was led by Benjamin Bohn, EVE's Art Manager. Also present were Asgeir Jon Asgeirsson, the Art Director (also known as the Godfather of EVE Art) and Sveinbjorn Magnusson, the Art Producer. As always, these guys came prepared with slides and other goodies, happy to show off their latest efforts.

The Art team continues to do some dazzling work on visual effects. This includes not just work on the visuals themselves but also the tech behind it to ensure all of the new, fancy stuff doesn't affect client performance too badly. Anyone that has been in a large (over 200-300 people) lately with all graphics turned on should be able to tell you they have largely succeeded in this goal. While it will still be some time before the more amazing parts of what we saw end up on Tranquility, if they can pull off what they are aiming for EVE is going to look even more amazing.

V3 Rifter
Continuing to update all the ships to V3 is a continuing effort which never stops. This doesn't stop with just enhancing the look of the ships but also the scaling of them to an extent. Since the introduction of the new launchers, some ship models look a little odd with these huge things mounted on them; that should be rectified over time. We saw several finished V3 versions of the Minmatar ships which should be out soon and, once that is completed the next step is supposedly Tech 3 ships and then they will move on to capital ships. BTW, the Rifter and Tornado look amazing and the Minmatar 'sails' make much more sense now.

As a side note, part of these discussions really bring home just how ~super serious~ the Art team takes how EVE looks. The amount of thought these guys put into ship design, from where logos are placed to how the hull material will reflect ambient light from a nebula is incredible.  This is why you'll likely never see PINK again on a ship in EVE, even when you're able to paint / customize your ship color schemes. (Yes, this is something everyone wants, but still nothing firm on when it will finally happen.)

Continuing to evolve and 'modernize' ships is a priority.
We saw some fantastic 'work in progress' on ship redesign that reflected a much more practical look to some iconic EVE ships that more accurately reflect their actual roles or use in game. An example of this type of work is what was done with stealth bombers recently (the Manticore OWNS). Some changes we saw were very subtle but made perfect sense. They are paying a lot of attention to functionality like, "Where would the cargo bay door or drone bay on this ship actually be?" For example, the 'new' Tempest was fantastic but was instantly recognizable as a Tempest. Hans, our resident Minmatar Factional Warfare nerd, proclaimed it all rust-tastic.

There were also some brand new ships (yes, NEW ships wheeeee!) and structures that we saw art for that incorporate all of these thought processes into their design from start to finish. One more thing that the Art guys like and want to do more of is 'things that move' on ships. Little touches like radar dishes up to full fledged 'transformers' like the Rorqual were discussed as well.

Work continues at a slow burn on Incarna costumes as well, with modifications on a lot of assets that have yet to be released but may see the light of day in the near future.

After the main presentation, the last half hour of the meeting turned into a massive Q&A session involving exactly how soon some of this stuff will see the light of day and what level of interaction / customization players might expect. I'll let the specifics of all this be explained in the official minutes once CCP determines how much of that information is still ~NDA~ for now.

Bonus Info - At the end of the session, the question of a 'battle recorder' came up that would allow players to more easily make movies / tell stories of their amazing EVE exploits. The example I used was the method used by the Homeworld series of games which basically recorded the raw data of a battle and allowed you to review it from the perspective of any ship present. While we may never see anything with that level of functionality, the case for improved camera tools was made and acknowledged.

Ship Balance & Iteration
The Icelandic Coast Guard ship 'Thor'
CCP Ytterbium took the lead in this meeting with CCP Soundwave and CCP Tallest chiming in from time to time. The impressive part of this session was that the CCP guys showed up with a very open agenda. After presenting some initial ideas on possible changing roles and mechanics, Ytterbium spent about 70 minutes walking down every single ship class in the game. While several of us on the CSM had stuff to say on specific ships and roles, Elise Randolph really stepped up in this session, showing off his damn near encyclopedic knowledge of ships in EVE.

There is not much I can really say about this session other than it was just a major 'balance' talk and Ytterbium took about four or five pages of notes as we walked through the ship classes. He had a very good sense of humor about how neglected some ships are and how certain game mechanics are the issue as well. Money quote for things like that:

"Maybe dampening was nerfed too hard."

There was also discussion about improving mechanics for things that should be common sense like if you are in a mining ship and have an ore bay, your mined ore... goes directly to your ore bay. Stuff like that.

Treaties / Contracts
Best Friends Forever
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG, etc... Yeah, I talked a lot in this one, almost as much as UAxDeath.

Okay, so, like... a while back I used to work for CCP and one of the last features I worked on before I left was this little iteration thing for the Dominion sov system called Treaties. The name is a bit of a misnomer because it seems to imply just political agreements, only it was a bit more than that. While initially conceived as a way to formalize things like renter contracts among null sec entities or recognizing coalitions of alliances, a key part of this feature that appeals to everyday EVE players would be the ability to set up a binding agreement for services; this would apply to things like mercenary contracts (kill XX battleships in XX corp and get XX) and industrial jobs (I need XX built for me and am willing to pay XX). If done correctly, the possibilities are wide open and would provide a massive amount of new game play elements for players to take advantage of.

This was one of the added / ninja sessions and pretty much every member of Team Super Friends was present so the room was packed. Since this is a feature that's been 'around' for a while in terms of game design and the backlog, what's needed at this point is defining the scope of the feature upon initial release and what might be iterated in later. With that in mind, CCP Tallest kicked off the session with a simple question to the CSM:

"What sort of things would you like to make contracts and treaties about with other players?"

Boom, and we were off!

This was a very fast thirty minute session that had everyone understanding the potential for the feature and being very excited about it. While integrating this into the 'Mercenary Marketplace', industrial contract applications and defining political arrangements dominated the short time we had, CCP fully intends to keep soliciting feedback from the CSM and the community at large in the near future. This is going to be great stuff.


This session was split into a couple parts. The first part was about the short term work that CCP Affinity's Content team was doing fixing the tutorial to help out the NPE team. Currently the tutorial for EVE takes about two hours to run from beginning to end. We saw some metrics that showed exactly how many 'steps' are in the tutorial, what they are and what step new accounts get to before they stop using the tutorial or log off. After discussing some of the factors surrounding this we moved on to more 'Content-y' stuff.

So, apparently there were some changes to Incursions recently (hurr). Hans has been working with Affinity leading up to the summit in helping to isolate issues with Incursions, aside from the obvious nerfing of certain sites. CCP admitted that there needs to be a bit of a back-step on the nerf along with a way of balancing Incursions better overall. We also discussed the learning curve of Incursions and how to better scale them. Overall the consensus was that this feature has sat for too long like "weeds in a garden" and is going to see some changes in the near future.

Random blah blah:
  • The Sansha Supercarrier is horribly bad and needs a boost.
  • The Incursion story line - will this ever end? There's no real sense of danger. Shit needs to get real.
  • "NPC" space doesn't feel very alive. There are no convoys anymore, etc... Why don't the NPCs react to all of this bad stuff going on in their space?
  • If the Sansha are invading, wouldn't CONCORD be busy dealing with that and not capsuleers? (totally legit question)
We also brought up the question of 0.0 'true sec' and the changes that have been made all over. Yet another thing added to the backlog for proper investigation.

The last part of the session was a discussion about how CCP is looking at possibly overhauling missions so that they make more sense within the lore of EVE and have more of a hook for newer players.

Facts that you cannot live without!
The ever entertaining and informative CCP Sreegs wanted to let us know that botting as we have known it is dead then proceeded to show us why and explain how. It's difficult to go into a lot of detail on this session for obvious reasons (there should be a new dev blog on this very soon), so I'll just hit a few general points.

While it was acknowledged that stopping people from completely automating a process is impossible, the goals have always been to change behavior and decrease the profitability of botting. Based on the numbers the CSM saw and the methods described to us, I feel comfortable in saying this has definitively been achieved. Detecting the bots didn't change anything; making it more painful to get caught (with changes in policy) is what changed things.

"Bots" include everything - NPCing, market bots, couriers, etc... The detection systems CCP has put into place are pretty damn comprehensive. These same systems allow the Security team to focus on other bad guys like RMTers.

We got an overview of stats on how hard RMTers have been hit and it was good. Hell, some of it was actually funny. I'm sure that Screegs will explain this stuff very soon in a dev blog.

Fun fact - CCP Sreegs sat down once in 50 minutes. The man is really enthusiastic about his job (and apparently drinks a lot of coffee).

New(?) Player Experience
The Minmatar version of the tutorial should be just like this.
CCP Sisyphus ran this session with CCP Alice sitting in as well. Sisyphus is the Product Owner of EVE's Player Experience Team (named Pony Express). The team is about six weeks old and has been given the mandate, "Please make players enjoy EVE more." It is a blanket mandate that can be applied to several different areas of game play and this session was primarily about starting to determine how to best apply the team's resources.

UAxDeath was unusually animated in this session, along with Kelduum, as we discussed EVE's fabled learning cliff and what problems EVE players, old and new, encounter day to day.  Sisyphus walked us through several different phases of an EVE player's life cycle and summarized the main goals of the player experience as a need to improve on specific systems that affect players of all ages:
  • Better feedback
  • Better presentation
  • Better U.I.
  • Better easing into existing features
  • Less information overload
One of the most interesting things that Sisyphus proposed is the possible eventual elimination of EVE's tutorial by finding ways to explain to players just how vast and social of a game EVE is and to do it as naturally as possible. There is a major push within CCP to help players understand what is unique about EVE and just how much you can affect other players with your actions.

There was a lot of discussion about how to leverage noob-friendly corporations like EVE Uni, Agony and Red vs. Blue into this process and how to get other organizations involved in player retention. There was a lot of debate as to how soon to try to 'push' players into EVE's social net. At one point, Trebor made an awesome statement - "Choosing a corp is like getting married; you wanna date a little bit first."

Moving onward from 'newbies', we talked about ways to make existing players happy and less prone to fits of rage. There should be more ways to cut down on looking for info that should already be available at a glance. A couple of examples are letting people know when to improve whatever is holding them back (in / out of game skill planner) or the guns on my HUD should have an 'Optimal / Falloff' range mouse over text (tool tips). This stuff covered most of the last half hour of the session.

Random things:

Podding and clones are potentially baffling and very critical to explain to new players. For as long as there is a tutorial, everyone seemed to agree that you need to get podded near the end of it so you understand it's not something to be afraid of.

CCP Sisyphus came to the meeting with arguably the most broad mandate of any of the teams we talked to and did an excellent job defining and detailing what kind of feedback was needed.

EVE Economy
This is a graph about Space Bucks.
There isn't a lot I can really say about this session as there was a blog just released with a decent overview of everything I probably would / could have talked about:


It is kind of funny because, in reviewing my notes on this meeting, that blog really does cover just about everything I could have said. Oh well!

One thing I will say though is that this was a very scary / cool session in terms of seeing just how much specific information is available to CCP through their new internal tracking system, EVE Metrics. The logs, quite literally, show everything.

Friday Night
This sign is the best sign.
The above sign was above the bar in the restaurant we ate at on Friday evening. The menu seemed to consist of meat, followed by a course of meat, then small hamburgers, more meat and then ice cream. I must admit that CCP Diagoras succeeded in his selection of fine dining on this night.

There were 20+ people in attendance and the table was split pretty much in half with CCP Greyscale and CCP Soundwave at one end holding court about everything from ship balancing to, "When I started playing, I had to scrape the kernite out from under my fingernails because we didn't have mining lasers!" In between courses and eating there was something of a two hour history course going on with Elise, UAxDeath and Green Lee talking about how the roles of certain large ship classes have changed over the years and how large scale conflicts could be improved overall. Everyone (Devs as well) wants to see some real evolution for game play aimed at veteran players but, at the same time, doesn't want it to be rushed.

The other end of the table seemed to be more focused on money and making the game look pretty, which made sense as the devs at that end consisted of people like CCP EyjoG, CCP Explorer and CCP Karkur. Trebor, Kelduum and Two Step anchored the CSM side of these talks which were largely about expanding on things we'd discussed in the official sessions.

As for myself, I was sat firmly in between both groups and trying my best to keep track of each side as best I could while also explaining to CCP Arrow the concept of how he could make the community love him by working certain hero-level features into the U.I., especially for Industry stuff. And the overview. And the HUD. And chat windows. And corp management stuff. And the POS interface. And, oh yeah, the inventory stuff needs some work too. :)
He's grumpy!!

After dinner we headed back to the Grumpy Gorilla bar because:

  1. There were actual sports on the TVs that night (which no one watched but it was less distracting than normal stuff).
  2. Islenski Barinn was overflowing with drunks.
  3. Islenski Barinn was like... 150 meters further down the road.
  4. Urilla Gorillan had an upstairs area with a separate bar that we could basically take over as our own.

Before we moved upstairs, several of us cornered CCP Greyscale to make sure he heard some of our amazingly simple to implement ideas. We were then subsequently cornered by CCP Sisyphus asking for more of the same. I'm fairly certain that, among the CSM, myself and Kelduum were the only people capable of complete sentences for a majority of the night.

As the night wore on, several of us were having an in-depth spaceship discussion at a standing table (well, as much as could be expected by this point of the evening) when we saw a still pretty sober CCP Soundwave casually walk into the women's bathroom. Granted, it was right next to the men's bathroom but the nice pink lettering above the door was pretty visible. We waited for him to realize his mistake but it never happened, even as three more girls walked in after him.
"Mistakes were made..."
Upon exiting and walking into about five phone cameras recording video of the moment, he realized his error and proclaimed, "I've been going in here all night!"

I lasted until around 0300 before I headed back to the hotel as Trebor and I had to catch a taxi to the airport in three hours. By the time I left the bar, Soundwave had apparently left / been half carried out of the place by his girlfriend and Sreegs was attempting to lead a sing-a-long karaoke of several people in a language that could be vaguely identified as English.

There's simply no way to recall everything that happened or was discussed but it is worth making a few comments on all of this; yes, it's a lot of fun, but it's also part of the greater whole. The fact that the evenings do not end with the last official summit session or a formal 'dinner' and continue on with people from every department of CCP showing up to mingle and have ~real talk~ shows just how far the relationship between the CSM and CCP has evolved.

Closing Thoughts
This summit was easily the most busy and productive of any I've ever been a part of. The best part was the lack of ~dark clouds~ on the horizon such as what happened last year in CSM 6 regarding Incarna. Compared to previous summits where there was a lot of tension and apprehension due to uncertainty or lack of preparation, CCP came to these meetings ready and willing to engage.

Senior Producer Jon Lander is one of the keys to all of this. As anyone that has met him can tell you, he can effortlessly blend in with a gaggle of EVE geeks to a point where it's easy to forget he's the man essentially making the decisions about where the game goes next.

Several of the CCP devs, too many to list, went out of their way to catch up with us after hours and follow up on issues that we ran short of time on during the official sessions. Thank you to those guys and girls as well.

The sessions themselves were a bit different due to seven CSM reps compared to nine at the table. One of the things I'm supposed to do as Chairman is help direct the flow of conversation and make sure everyone that wants to say something gets a chance to do so. This seemed to go pretty well and, thanks to the new communication setup, we had a very diverse group of voices and opinions available.

To elaborate on that a bit further, Alekseyev Karrde was present for every single session remotely. Hans Jagerblitzen managed to remote-in to over 80% of the meetings. These guys took full advantage of the Lync software and should be recognized for their efforts, both leading up to and during the summit. Oh seven, guys.

CSM 7 is now currently hard at work on the official minutes which should render the meetings I've walked through in much more detail. I'm hopeful that we will have those done and ready for release by the end of the month. Once we have a firm release date in sight, I will announce a date for our second 'Town Hall' meeting so the community can ask us a bit more about the summit and whatever else is on your minds.

Time to close this thing out. If you've made it this far through both blogs, congrats. I don't blog as often as I'd like but when I do I try to make it worth your time. Hopefully I've been able to open a door into the mystery that these Summits have seemed to be for some people. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

CSM 7 Spring Summit Review - Part I

CCP spares no expense in its greeting signs at the airport.
Hello, spaceship fans. So after a week in Iceland, I am back home for a day before I get on more planes to fly away again to visit the capitol of Freedomland for a week. My twitter location reads 'always on the move' and that is holding very true right now. So before I fly away again, I wanted to do a brain dump about the past week while the memories are still fresh. This blog is not intended in any way to replace the official meeting minutes, which we are hoping to get out in the next few weeks (more on that later). I simply want to give everyone my impressions of what took place in and out of the office so you can gauge the overall feel of how things went and get a glimpse into the doings of your elected representatives.

Yes, this is long so TLDR - People talked about EVE; things will change. Not all at once. We had drinks.

Pre-Summit Preparations

CSM 7 was determined to have our collective shit together for this first summit. To that end we put a lot of work into deciding what we wanted to discuss with CCP and documenting the important points of those discussions early on. From the beginning we have been using the online cloud-based Titanpad tool to collectively brainstorm and reference issues on the fly. This has proved to be an invaluable initiative and is certain to become one of the new mainstays of the CSM process along with using Skype for real time communications.

For the first time, we posted the summit schedule early so that the community could get a sense of what we would be covering at the summit and offer feedback.

Another important step forward was our insistence on record keeping and transparency during the summit sessions. During past summits, the only visual or audio record we had was that from a single Flip camera set at one end of the conference table. This made writing meeting minutes a pain to start with, to say nothing of accurately following who was saying what. To say that CSM 7 raised a bit of hell about this would be a vast understatement. These issues were finally resolved with the introduction of a Microsoft Lync camera and software system:
Microsoft Lync camera
What the finished recordings looks like.
The camera system uses a series of mirrors to generate a 360 degree panoramic view (as seen along the bottom of the above pic) while an audio sensor focuses the main view on the sound of the loudest speaker. Along with that, the shared space to the left allows for chatting or file sharing. The system also allows for desktop sharing so the CSM members not physically present in Iceland can also see any presentations we are seeing onsite as well. Offsite members could also call in with audio and video to participate as well.  Basically, even if you are not there, you are pretty much there. As you can see, it's pretty fantastic and as both a participation and record keeping tool will allow CSM 7 an unparalleled level of efficiency during summits.

DAY ZERO (Tuesday)

This year there are seven CSM reps being flown to Iceland instead of the previous nine. This includes the majority of the four 'officer' positions which consist of the Chairman (myself) and the Secretary (Two Step) along with 'Vice' / back-ups for each, Trebor and Hans respectively. We all arrived within a few hours of each other, with the exception of Green Lee who arrived later in the day from Russia and Keldumm who had arrived a day earlier. After landing at the airport in Keflavik, we got picked up and driven to our hotel where everyone promptly crashed for a nap to try adjust for jet lag.  Upon waking around noon and grabbing a shower, everyone met up at Cafe Paris in downtown Reykjavik:
Cafe Paris
Cafe Paris is a popular place due to its central location, free wifi and decent / not overpriced food. The location has also become kind of a traditional pre-summit meeting place for past CSM's so we can break the ice, make introductions and discuss how we plan to approach different issues with CCP. As always, in person talks are far superior to anything else and allow everyone a chance to shift gears in preparation for serious talk the next day. Toward the evening, dinner and bars were sought out and everyone got to experience the absolute strangeness of 1am sunshine in Iceland.

DAY ONE (Wednesday)
Upon waking to find out that our arrival had somehow used up all the internet bandwidth of the hotel (wtf?), I set out to begin the day.  Summit day mornings also have a tradition - breakfast at The Laundromat Cafe. Along with FREE WIFI, you can also get everything from American pancakes to a proper English 'Dirty Breakfast' or even just a massive bowl of bacon.

The way a normal day of a CSM summit works is that we are basically in meetings from about 0900 until 1800 local time with a few short breaks for lunch or to go to the bathroom. This goes on for three days straight. We then all head out to dinner for some ~real talk~ chill time with the devs where a lot of the stuff discussed during the day that we ran out of time for gets delved into more deeply.

This particular summit was probably the most jam-packed of any I've ever attended as either a Dev or CSM member. Unlike in the past, different CCP teams actually wanted to spend time with us and we ended up shuffling the schedule around a bit to accommodate them. It felt pretty good. :)

What didn't feel good was my head, which decided to make me spend the first two days of the summit in near eye-blinding agony. Luckily, Trebor had brought along a small pharmacy of help which allowed me to be effective and fake being painless.

From the Laundromat, we set off in order to make our way to the office. Along the way we saw a couple things that I simply must share because I'm not sure you would see them anywhere else:
What the hell is the Bank of Concrete REALITY?

The Lazy Town Kidnap Van
The Van, which was already kinda weird (get your own victim!), was also parked across the street from the construction site... It was pretty creepy.

Once we arrived at the CCP offices we went up to the fourth floor, received our guest passes, grabbed our seats and got to work.

CSM Intro & White Paper Discussion
CCP Xhagen, CCP Diagoras and myself.
This was actually two sessions that got combined into one. The major points of discussion over these two hours were primarily about how the CSM has evolved over the past few years, our day to day procedures and the 'White Paper', which is basically the CSM Bible. I would term the end result of this meeting to be 'a good start'. There are a lot of issues to tackle and the general agreement was that it is still early in the term and we shouldn't rush in trying to slap duct tape on perceived problems.

CCP reiterated that it is up to the CSM to set our internal operational policies and CSM 7 intends to visit all aspects of that in the near future. Many of the questions we are asking have not been re-visited since the creation of the CSM, which has seen a radical evolution over the past few years in how we operate on a day to day basis.

Due to the ongoing nature of these discussions, I'm going to wait until the official minutes to come out before I delve into this topic more deeply.

What is a Stakeholder?
Jon Lander - This man is a 'Stakeholder'
Stakeholders are people that have a direct say so or are part of the early decision making in the development process of EVE Online. This originally came up as a ~thing~ back in CSM 4 who laid the groundwork for it. Supposedly CSM 5 was the first to have 'Stakeholder' status. Obviously that didn't do much good and it was never properly defined. CSM 6 did not properly press the issue and was also a bit distracted by CCP's near meltdown last year. CSM 7 decided early on that this was something we wanted nailed down, defined, detailed and implemented.

EVE Senior Producer Jon Lander spent an hour and a half with us going into detail about how CCP is organized internally, breaking down how that structure makes decisions and making sure we understood it all. From there we had to work on, "Where do we fit in?"

While the final decision points of this will have to wait until the official minutes I can say that the discussion was extremely blunt and open, from both sides. We managed to secure new commitments from CCP in terms of information sharing and eyes were opened on both sides in terms of where the CSM can be of a real benefit in the development process.

TLDR - the results of this session should see the CSM's ~influence~ grow quite a bit.

Winter 2012 / EVE Future

This was another two sessions combined into one. We spent two hours talking to CCP Unifex (Jon Lander), Kristopher Touborg (CCP Soundwave / Lead Designer) and Craig Scott (Design Director) about CCP's plans for roughly the next six, twelve and eighteen months. The fact that they actually seem to have a coherent plan for those time frames was not lost on us.

It was also during this session where we got our first look at CCP's new data logging system which informs a lot of their decisions. It was simply astounding the depth which they can drill down and see player activity.

At the beginning Jon Lander set the tone by reminding us that CCP is still committed to not working on 'Jesus Features'. While there will be new stuff coming into the game, the focus remains on improving and iterating on EVE's core game play while introducing new elements that enhance the same.

All three CCPers present did a great job of presenting their information and played off of each other very well when needed. Soundwave walked us through the work his three primary teams were doing while also giving us an overview of where the company's overall efforts are headed. The amount of information covered was gargantuan (love that word) and scaled from simple improvements to major mechanic changes. Burning questions:

Does CCP have a plan for POSs? Yes
Does CCP have a plan for Tech Moons? Yes
Does CCP have a plan for Industry / Mining? Yes
Does CCP have a plan for null sec Sov? Yes, BUT...

The overriding theme of these discussions was that CCP does not want to half-ass anything. They very much want to take each problem and solve it properly and completely. That does not mean they are going to let 'broken' things sit completely untouched but they do want to make sure any large scale changes are done properly and with plenty of community feedback beforehand.

The State of Incarna
I'm sure this would NEVER happen. Right??
First of all, the above is an old promotional picture released long before Incarna was last year. With that out of the way, this was an important session because CCP put a LOT of resources into the train wreck that happened last year and the CSM wanted to know what has happened with this aspect of the game since then and what the future of it might be. We wanted to make clear that there is still part of the community that is interested in what resources are being spent on this feature and to what end.

Once again, Jon Lander set the initial tone of the meeting by reiterating that 'game play' has been made part of the mandate of the people still working on Incarna. At the same time we were made aware of a few things that are in the pipe which would require only a little effort to add into the game. We saw some very interesting ideas and concepts which I can't really talk about but helped me believe that CCP 'gets it'. The best part was that the presenters were eager to show off their work and surprised us with their progress.

Overall though, one of the reasons I wanted to have this session was to address the many simple questions the community has about where Incarna is right now. Things like why the shirts still cost $20 and if there is anything new in the pipeline in terms of fashion, etc..? The responses we got were far, far different than the mumbled non-answers we received pre-Incarna last year and proved that we were absolutely right to ask for this session. Some of the decision points made in this session will have a lot of ramifications down the line and CCP committed again to making sure the CSM was part of any future Incarna-related discussions.

Live Events

This session was led by CCP Goliath, who also happens to be the Quality Assurance Director. It's important to note that he is leading this team which really isn't a 'team' at the moment on his own time (which is pretty boss). This meeting was requested of us because Goliath and many others wanted to get the CSM's thoughts on, "Do you like these sort of things?" and how past events had gone.

To clarify, there are currently three kind of Events that take place on Tranquility:

CCP run events (Dev caravan, etc...)
RP / Lore events (Sansha / live-Incursion events)
Player run events

How often should they run them, what scope should they have, etc... Some of the ideas that CCP has for the future of this kind of thing are simply epic. As a player that remembers things like the Serpentis titan theft and the Jovian Ambassador visit, I personally loved this session and would love to see things like that taking place again. There was also a lot of discussion about how CCP could possibly help support player run events.

Despite this being labeled as a bit of a 'Role Playing' session, once things got going it was pretty awesome to see that basically every member of CSM 7 (that was present) really loves the potential idea of CCP putting effort and resources into an area that has been neglected for years.

Wednesday Night

It is impossible to describe just how much gets done outside of the official CSM sessions at the dinners and in the bars of Reykjavik. I've seen lot of people say that the CSM isn't there to 'make friends' and that our ~job~ is to tell CCP how they are or are not screwing up. Those people seem to forget that the devs working on EVE are real people and have real people feelings. You don't get them to listen to you or solicit your opinions by being a dick.

Two out of the three 'official' nights that the CSM is in Iceland, CCP takes everyone out to dinner. Typically, including CSM members, there are about 18-20 of us. The devs that attend are typically either people we've spoke to during the sessions or that wanted a session and couldn't get one. It's an opportunity to continue the face to face dialogue about important issues, brainstorm crazy stuff and also to just chill out and develop the personal side of the relationships.
When Punkturis is happy, EVE is a better place.
Wednesday evening started with dinner at a very popular Indian restaurant. I often wonder at how the other patrons feel when their relatively normal evening out is shattered by the arrival of twenty very enthusiastic and loud spaceship nerds. We spent about two hours at the  restaurant before heading downtown to Islenski Barinn which has been the traditional 'CCP Bar' for several years. This is where serious Game Design takes place and has seen the birth of some of EVE's most awesome (Wormholes) and terrible ideas (AoE DD was super awesome, amirite?).
Jon Lander and 'Grenades'
Currently at this time of year in Iceland, it never really gets dark; around 0200 or so it is kind of grey outside and then the sun starts coming back up again. It completely fucks with your brain and you have zero sense of time. Even in the middle of the week, Islendki was packed with people. Knowing that the CSM was in town and that one of their great leaders was with us guaranteed a continual torrent of CCP folks coming by for a few drinks or just to talk. I'm pretty sure anyone that works for CCP has at least a seven pound liver...

The picture above depicts Jon Lander about to down what is called a Hand Grenade. Watching someone drink of of these is pretty damn funny because it's much larger than a regular shot and you can see people about halfway done wishing they had never started... which makes it even funnier when they are on their fourth or fifth one!

The highlight of the evening was shortly after Islenski Barinn closed (after 0100) we were all standing outside talking about something very important when a nicely dressed hobo broke into our conversation circle and let Jon Lander know that, "You are not an intelligent man! You have no integrity!"  Far from being insulted, Jon responded in true British fashion by informing the man that he was wearing a horrible suede jacket that didn't match his too short pants. It was a fascinating exchange that none of us with video capability on our phones managed to capture. :(

Wednesday night ended around 0230 Thursday morning with Two-Step, Keldumm, Elise Randolph and myself giving up and leaving Jon Lander in the hands of UaXDeath. This was probably the worst idea ever considering the state they were in but the Russian won the night's stamina contest. Apparently they both got kicked out of Nonni's shortly thereafter capping off a very successful night.

Day Two (Thursday)

No plan survives first contact with the enemy and our summit schedule was no exception. Due to several requests from CCP teams, new information that was revealed the previous day and a couple of conflicts we ended up doing a few things we didn't expect in a different order to boot. Having promised to be in every session possible, a new Jon Lander clone arrived bright eyed and ready to go in the conference room at 0900 sharp.

Industry & Mining

A while back I wrote a couple of blogs about this subject so to say I was looking forward to it is a bit of an understatement. I was very happy to see CCP Greyscale show up to lead this session in an appropriate shirt:
Yes, he is always this happy!!
Also attending were CCP Soundwave and CCP Arrow (of United Inventory infamy) who introduced himself by saying, "Hi, I'm CCP Arrow, I screwed up the.. ummm..." which caused the room to literally explode into laughter for the next minute or so.

Arrow started out the session by explaining some of the concepts that his team has been working on for Industry which tie into new mechanics Greyscale explained  as the meeting continued. To say what we saw was met with unanimous squeals of delight would be an understatement. Most of what we were presented with was focused on taking mechanics that have limped along forever and updating them to meet common sense rules.

I was impressed by the fact that CCP was very intent on making sure things were both intuitive and informative. They've taken some lessons from the United Inventory debacle (which is covered later) and I'm confident they are on the right track here.

We also discussed mining which was opened by Soundwave using some of the new tracking tools (EVE Metrics they call it) to show us exactly what was going on in EVE the past couple of months in response to things like the drone region changes and Hulkageddon. In terms of actual changes, they have a lot of ideas on how to make current mining more visually rewarding and mechanically interesting. Adding new types of mining in the future that scales from solo play to large group-level activities was also covered.

Soundwave also started talking about League of Legends at one point and it somehow made perfect sense for the first ten seconds before I verbally abused him for bringing up League of Legends.

Starbase (POS) Re-Work
The 'Dead Horse' POS concept from several years ago.
This is something that CSM 7 has made a major priority. The time for this is NOW and CSM 7 has made no secret that this feature is one of our, if not THE, top priority. There have been so many opinions and thoughts on this but it all boils one to one common theme - modular structures. LEGO houses in space.

CCP Greyscale led this discussion with CCP Ytterbium, Soundwave and Jon Lander sitting in. I'm honestly not sure what all I can or should say about this before the minutes come out so I will summarize it like this.

This is going to happen.
The stated goals of the new system by CCP are perfect.
The proposed scale of the new system is what it should be.
The proposed mechanics of the new system are sensible.
The proposed capabilities of the new system exceed what I expected.

There is a lot of what Greyscale terms 'funky stuff', including one or two hero-level ideas that literally blew our collective brains out the back of our heads. Granted, it may not all happen initially or at once, but there was nothing mentioned in the session that is not possible or unreasonable. In the course of the hour that we spent talking about this, we hit Greyscale with a massive barrage of questions and his answers showed that he had put no small amount of thought into where CCP wants to take this.

Timeline? It's not for me to say, plus CCP still has a lot of estimation work to do when it comes to everything from art to coding. We've always known that this is going to take a LOT of artwork and a LOT of brand new code (they aren't going to use the old shit). Suffice to say that I walked away from this session satisfied that CCP is on the right path for a long overdue feature and I BELIEVE.

At the end of the session, Greyscale coined a phrase that we all came to abuse for the rest of the summit: "Done! Ship it!"

DUST 514 and EVE
Actual totally real DUST soldier with a Pandemic Legion drinking mug!
Let me preface this recap with another recap - on the first day of EVE FanFest 2012 the members of CSM 6 were invited to CCP Headquarters to speak in person with CCP Jian (DUST 514 Executive Producer Brandon Laurino) and CCP Praetorian (DUST 514 Creative Director Atli Mar Sveinsson). This meeting was essentially a make-up session from the DUST meeting that was supposed to take place during the CSM 6 December summit but did not. It was worth the wait however as we got face time with the two leaders of the DUST team who came well prepared to answer a virtual artillery barrage of questions. Most of what took place in this meeting was made public during FanFest with the exception of some of the more specific proposed EVE / DUST link mechanics.
CCP Jian live from Shanghai!
From doing a bit of math, apparently CCP Jian didn't bother with sleep in order to be available for his meeting with us from Shanghai. Jian did a great job of making up nicknames for those of us who he could not remember the name of. He's a very easy going but serious man that firmly believes in the project he is working on and isn't afraid to speak openly or answer blunt questions about it.

Personally, I've not had a chance to play the DUST beta yet as my PS3 is in another country. I'm also a mouse and keyboard purist and will most likely not be playing much until / unless the game is released on PC. I'll give it a spin when I get a chance though as I've very curious to form a first hand opinion of how it plays.

Basically this session was full of NDA stuff about a game that isn't even out yet. We covered DUST game play, the link to EVE game play, the linking of the two communities and everything in between.

EVE User Interface
CSM 7 is not above bribes to ensure our concerns are addressed.
So, yeah, did you know that there were some problems with the new inventory system that was released with Inferno? Well, if you don't then you probably haven't logged into EVE in the past couple weeks. I'm well aware that there was a lot of anger over what happened with the Unified Inventory. One person on the forums even referred to it as an "Incarna-level event".

If this session had been held a week earlier it's very likely not much would have been discussed other than the mess which was the 'Unified Inventory' feature. Luckily for us, CCP Arrow, his team and a few other people have been working hard since the release to get things to a state which will hopefully make everyone happy.

Did we bitch about the Unified Inventory mess? Yes. Did we mercilessly tease and abuse CCP Arrow continually over three days for his role in it all? Yes. Did we thank him and his team for not letting the feature sit still and continuing to improve it? Yes. Are we pleased with CCP's efforts (including three dev blogs since release) to keep the community informed? Yes.

A few specific points I mentioned were:

WTF is up with the 'Unrent Office' button? Can you please move that?!
Shift-click ALL the things, please!
"We learned a lot from this."  "Yeah, I bet you did!" :)

CCPs communication efforts regarding all of this have been stellar compared to what might have happened had this taken place a year ago. Interestingly enough, because they are continually working to fix this mess, the feature is probably going to end up with more functionality than the original design. Both Arrow and Soundwave owned their respective roles in all of this and committed again to making sure it keeps getting the attention it needs. As an added incentive, CSM 7 gave the above Crystal Skull of vodka to CCP Xhagen to hold in trust, to be presented to CCP Arrow at such time when we feel the new inventory system is in a good state.

Moving on, the discussion ranged far and wide, covering all aspects of the UI. CCP Punktuirs and CCP Karkur were present and we saw where CCP wants to take things in the near and far future and it was very good. Personally, it looks like CCP is aiming to make their sci-fi game look a lot more sci fi. This means improving all aspects of how the game looks and trying to move away from 'Spreadsheets Online'.

To Be Continued...

It is now 0100 Monday morning and I have to head out of town in about six hours. Unfortunately this means that I will have to stop here and finish the rest of the review later this week. I've gotten as far as I could and fully intend to outline the rest of the sessions and the evenings in a similar manner as soon as possible. Until then, I hope that what I've done so far sheds some light on things.