When I read about the Council of Stellar Management (CSM,) I can’t help but wonder at how dysfunctional everyone thinks it is. There are lots of blogs, dev posts, forum threads and reddit diatribes about Eve Online’s CSM. It’s even had its own political scandal. And everywhere I look, everyone is unhappy with it it. The general impression seems to be it’s broken. Why is that?
Let’s start by examining how it’s broken. That comes down to what people think the CSM does. Here is CCP’s official reason the CSM exists:
“The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent the views of the players to CCP.”
But no one can really agree on what that means exactly. The definition works for everyone right up to the end of “player-elected council.” Then all bets are off. It seems that “represent the views of the players” is wide open for interpretation.
As I see it, there are three basic categories of interpretation for that clause. Those three categories are CCP, the players who are running for CSM, and the players who elect the CSM. Here is my idea of how someone belonging to each of these categories would interpret that last section.
“The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent how players might react to certain proposed game changes within Eve Online.”
In CCP’s view, the CSM is a sounding board for ideas. CCP’s own internal decision processes have deemed these ideas possible. After groups of developers submit their “doable” lists within a feature framework CCP management crafted, CCP management picks the dozen or so they like most and presents them to the CSM. From CSM reactions, they then pick the four or six best received ideas – even if the CSM didn’t really like any of them very much but thought a few were “okay.” CCP soon is working hard on the next development cycle assured that their hard work will be well received because “players” didn’t hate it.
“The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent the views of the Eve Online players who elected it.”
That’s a bit of double-speak but that’s how the candidates see it IMO. The CSM candidates feel they are the Don Quixotes of New Eden. There is much that does not work properly in Eve Online. Many players are subjected to less than optimal game play because of these shortcomings. Each CSM candidate campaigns on promises to fix those broken elements whether they be mining barge buffs, super-capital nerfs or POS management. They appeal to specific aspects of the game that “large” numbers of players feel need “fixed.” If they are elected, these newly appointed CSM members will do everything possible to steer CCP in the “proper direction” according to the wishes of those who elected them. They assume they got elected based on the platform they ran on. Therefor, that is exactly what they will try and convince CCP to do.
Players who Elect the CSM
“The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to tell CCP how Eve Online can be more fun for me.”
The average elector just wants Eve Online to be more fun for them. That usually revolves around their favorite play style. PvPers want more pew-pew – in general. Carebears want less pew-pew – in general. All players want the stuff they don’t like to be easier and less “painful” when they have to do it. For example, most players like the very passive income that comes from Planetary Interaction but all players hate the fact that you have to click a bazillion times to make it work. They want the CSM to tell CCP to give them their ISK for nothing and their clicks for free… ouch, that was a really, really bad pun. But you grok what I mean. The same feelings extend to POS management. And frankly, that’s about as detailed as they get. When queried about how a POS should work exactly, they general have no idea. When pressed, they may present some general ideas, but it’s really pie in the sky stuff for the most part. “Just make it easier,” is a typical ending to that conversation.
Now, when you mix those three interpretations of what the CSM does, you get this little scenario.
CCP: Hey, time to elect the next CSM!
CSM Candidate: Vote for me and I’ll make sure CCP follows through on their promise to make POS management modular! I also promise to have CCP revamp small ship balancing for better pew-pew in low-sec.
POS Owners: Modular POSes? That’s awesome, I’m voting for you!
When the election is over, our POS candidate has a seat. He gets on an airplane and some hours later sits in a conference room in CCP headquarters.
CCP: We have this great idea on extending DUST 514 mercenaries into all low-sec systems; not just fac-war systems.
CSM Candidate: Before you do that, we need to get the POS problem resolved.
CCP: What problem is that?
CSM Candidate: They are too hard to manage. We need them modularized like you promised to do.
CCP: We promised to look into it; not do it. Here’s the video. So we looked into it as promised. It’s just not doable. There’s too much legacy code involved We’d have to completely rewrite Eve Online. We just can’t do that. Now, about this extension of DUST 514.
CSM Candidate: Okay, I suppose that will make for more pew-pew in low-sec. Can you look at ship re-balancing while you do it?
CCP: That’s already being looked into as part of our long term plans.
CSM Candidate: Cool.
After the CSM Candidate goes home and writes the minutes (that’s called ownership BTW,) CCP publishes the “official” version a month later.
CCP: The CSM agreed that DUST 514 is so awesome we are going to make all low-sec planets conquerable!
POS Owner: But you promised to fix the POS problem first!
CSM Candidate: They actually only promised to look into it. Here’s the video. They did that, but there’s too much legacy code they’d have to rewrite and they wouldn’t have any time to work on the awesome new DUST 514 expansion. Pew-pew in low-sec will go through the roof!
CCP: We are re-balancing ship types to enhance capsuleer interactions in the newly expanded conflict zones too!
CCP goes forward with their decisions though they are a bit perturbed with the pushy CSM candidate and resolve to make the CSM function better. The CSM candidate feels like one win is better than no wins and at least he got a free trip to Iceland. The player who voted for modular POSes feels betrayed. He may quit or he may not, but he’s certainly one step closer to becoming a bitter vet.
And that, in my view, is how the CSM concept is broken. In Part 2, I’ll discuss why I think it is broken. I’ll give you a hint. It’s not because of something someone has done.