Sunday, 29 April 2012

Spaceships with Loose Cannons: The UK Player-Dev Meetup

Like the TARDIS, it's a lot more impressive on the inside.
The rejuvenating effect of meeting other EVE fans never ceases to amaze me. On Friday night I attended the official EVE Meet UK at the Loose Cannon pub in London and now my hangover has passed, my head is buzzing with inspiration and possibilities.

I'm certain that this is the reason CCP Unifex, CCP Soundwave and CCP Guard took the time to attend and it's also the empowering effect that makes organising events like this and the much grander Fanfest worthwhile for CCP. There seems to be some kind of osmotic process which occurs when cramming crowds of spacegeeks into enclosed spaces, generating a creative ether that fuels the imagination [insert body odour joke here].

Of course it would be remiss of me not to give huge credit to the endlessly positive input from Diana Dial of EVETimeCode, who flew over from The States and stayed with my wife and I to attend the EVE meet. There has, however, been a heavy price to pay. Being outnumbered by women meant that I had little control over the schedule and my wife, electing herself tour guide and hostess, lined up a series of suspiciously un-scifi outings for us. I didn't so much mind wandering the historically-rich halls of nearby Hatfield House (after all, films like Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Tomb Raider and Elizabeth: The Golden Age shot scenes there), but the oestrogen-heavy stage show Hormonal Housewives was a terrifying experience, especially sitting in the front row. If death-cloning had been an escape option, I would have taken it.

Cleansing My Manhood With Beer (Figuratively)

We few, we happy few, we band of... oh wait, that has different connotations in EVE, doesn't it.
Fortunately my gender minority was rectified in glorious fashion when I arrived at the Loose Cannon. Well, in truth it took a while for the numbers to pick up - arriving four hours before the scheduled start was perhaps a little keen - but hell, there was manly drinking to be done to wash away the memories of the previous night.

With only Nick and Mark (in-game names washed away with the other memories, sorry fellas) already in attendance, others began to trickle in, including tweetfleeters Rhapsodyy and JPS Dante. PR guy Nick was already working hard on getting things organised behind the scenes and we practically had to force that first Guinness down him. ;)

Politicians and Deejays

EVE University and Red vs. Blue plot the downfall of Goonswarm. Maybe.
As the afternoon wore on, EVE University CEO and CSM representative Kelduum Revaan arrived with some of his compatriots and I had the opportunity for a quick chat. He welcomed me to E-UNI and we discussed the amount of red tape required for successful application - I had found the process quite laborious, but he said it used to be worse! Despite the admin overload, some of the things that have impressed me about the EVE University setup is the sheer volume of info available, the professionalism of the organisation and the number of events and classes available every day. EVE University is certainly a fantastic resource for new players, as long as they are resilient to information overload. Kelduum also talked a little about his initial CSM experiences and it sounds as though the ship has been steadied and is on a good course now.

A little later, Diana and I spent some time chatting with DJ Wiggles and DJ Squishy of EVE Radio. They were an oddly entertaining pair, reminding me a little of Penn and Teller. The amiable and introverted Squishy was quite hard to hear over the ever-increasing drone of spacegeek smalltalk, whereas the verbose man-mountain that was DJ Wiggles was quite the opposite. Even a simple question like "Would you like a drink?" would result in a five-minute diatribe. As a result we were entertained with our own private radio show, although despite his willingness to talk, I couldn't quite prise from Wiggles the "exciting thing" he claimed to know. It is now clear that the hot news nugget he was struggling to contain was the addition of CCP Affinity to the re-organised EVE Radio line-up.

An Icelander, a Dane and a Brit Walk into a Bar... 

By the time the guests of honour arrived, the number of EVE players had swollen to at least 250 and we had been moved from the main bar to a much larger private bar area. After a short period of preparation they took to the stage, with CCP Unifex opening with a statement about keeping the presentation short with just a quick question and answer session so they could get into the proper face-to-face mingling and drinking with the players. Both CCP Soundwave and CCP Guard spoke briefly, then the Q&A began. I would love to be able to report more on what was discussed, but sadly due to poor acoustics and an underwhelming PA system, I couldn't hear much. The odd phrase or sentence fragment that I could decipher gave me the impression that it was mostly reiteration of Fanfest information for those who hadn't attended. At least that's what I'm going to tell myself so I don't feel like a really terrible amateur journalist.

The evening wore on and there was much spaceship chatter and mingling. It always amuses me that the standard EVE player conversation ice-breaker is always along the lines of "Who do you fly with?/What alliance are you in?" The answer invariably results in one of three responses;

1. Hey you're an ally, let's have a beer.
2. Oh, you're the enemy [laugh awkwardly], let's have a beer anyway.
3. Never heard of them [tumbleweed]. Beer?

That said, the conversation content thankfully tends to diversify after that. Beer is everybody's friend.

Creative Feedback and Piratical Shenanigans

One particularly rewarding conversation I was part of involved a group of us discussing the quality of volume of player-made promotional material that is available despite CCP's lacklustre support for said material. Obviously CCP are happy to promote some of the material once it has been made, but with the vast talent in the community, it was widely agreed that better tools would be a great benefit to the creative community and ultimately EVE Online. I'll be tubthumping in greater detail about this in a separate post, but thanks to MofoAnimal, Rhapsodyy, Maxx Ender, Lotta Mullarkey and others for the input and support. St. Chisholm, patron saint of EVE creatives, is surely smiling upon you. ;)

By the end of my Guinness-fuelled evening, I had met many folk and was pleased at the amount of unsolicited positive feedback I'd received about the Tech4 News audio broadcasts. I'm becoming increasingly aware that our proof-of-concept marketing experiment was perhaps more far-reaching than I had initially believed. My drawing board might not have quite as much work cut out for it as previously thought.

Just as I was about to leave, buoyed by the creative goodwill but ready for food/bed, I was ganked by the infamous pirate corp The Bastards. They seemed like a good bunch of lads and rumours that Marco Drack, ReBeLSKuLL and TFS Tibbs stole my wallet and made me sing naked in the street to get it back are unfounded. However, they have invited me to participate in their morally wayward shenanigans by flying to their home system of Evati and joining their Independence in-game channel. What could possibly go wrong?

The Bastards [L-R]; Marco Drack, (me), ReBeLSKuLL and TFS Tibbs. What's not to trust?
I made my excuses and left. I have hair-brained creative schemes to hatch.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Fanfest 2012: A Gallery of Geekery


In an effort to stir up the nostalgia and get me in the mood for tonight's London pubmeet, I thought I'd share some of my favourite pics from Fanfest 2012.

Tweetfleetmeet @ The Celtic Cross

Wednesday night, before Fanfest officially started, many folk gathered together to drink as much beer as possible in an unprepared local Irish bar. Whilst a great way to kick things off and make some early acquaintances, it never seems like such a good idea the next morning.

CCP Guard shows off his new sex face.
David K. Magnus' looks unsettled as his heightened super-senses warn him of an impending vampire attack. The hungry nosferatu plots his assault from the other side of the room. 

Who says guys can't accessorise? Keith "Mandrill" Neilson dyes his hair to match his 'friend' (sorry Keith, writing this caption was easier than photoshopping it out).

One of Iceland's few indigenous creatures is the Burrowing Snake, which seeks warmth in warm crevices and holes. This gentleman has just encountered one, much to his companions' amusement. 

The Venue

The venue itself was a step up from the dreary (albeit fantastically well-decorated) sports centre of the previous year. The Harpa Centre is a magnificent edifice which graces the otherwise industrious Reykjavik dockside. In high winds and inclement whether it is a test of character and strength simply getting to it across the exposed forecourt.
It could be said that the Harpa Centre's architectural influences suggest Caldari lines with Gallente flair...

...but the surrounding grounds are definitely more Minmatar-themed.

The perfect hangover cure: standing in a queue in a bizarrely designed building with projected moving images dancing across the walls.

The stark, volcanic rock corridors were other-worldly.

Blog Banter 34: The Rise of the Spaceship Politician gets it's 0.15 seconds of fame in CCP Xhagen's CSM presentation. Photo also features important space nerds.

The impressive vermilion-hued amphitheatre has never been so embearded.


CCP T0rfiFrans and CCP Soundwave try to get their act together to orbitally bombard some console monkeys.

When Darkness Falls... Nerdified Drunkery

It's a common misconception that drinking alcohol in a cold environment warms you up. In truth alcohol consumption just lowers the imbiber's body temperature so the relative difference is less, creating the illusion of warmth and precipitating hypothermia. Also, it makes you not give a shit. Behold, alcohol-fuelled nerds in their many glorious forms.

At the Charity Dinner, who is enthralling these fine gentlemen whilst driving CCP PrismX to drink himself into a coma? ... (L-R: Stephen Johnston, Grideris, RvB's ShadowMaster, Well-Dressed Guy, CCP PrismX)

... it's John Zastrow holding court on the subject of spaghetti/DUST514/Goons/Law or possibly something else entirely.

The CCP developers played musical chairs all night and Sean 'CCP Sreegs' Conover joined our table where he entertained us with his fantastic impersonation of Goonswarm CEO and CSM6 Chairman The Mittani. Here's a short clip of his performance, rotated 90 degrees for your viewing pleasure:



The Virtual Worlds guys took us out on a storming friday night pub crawl featuring a beautiful trainee lawyer nicknamed EVE Online, "the real  Golden Circle" tour, the Sony After-Party and some rotten shark being handed out. Guess what the only part I managed to take a picture of was?

Despite my knowledge of his work in Kick Ass, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes, actor Mark Strong was unimpressed with being spotted in Reykjavik (it's actually @EVE_Scatha)


With the final big day of Fanfest to come, at 2am on Saturday morning you'd think the devs would have somewhere to be other than the dance floor at the Sony Party. (L-R CCP Alice with some other CCP funksters and the white blur which is CCP Flying Scotsman's shiny head and middle finger).

Saturday night: This happened.


The victorious Team Haggis show off their DUST514 Tournament medals whilst a member of the losing team looks on with envy.


Okay, we get it, you won medals. Are you going to wave them around every time you see a camera?

Sunday: Fanfest might be over, but that didn't stop us from one last night out. It all starts off so civilised...

... we even find some Pandemic Legion fellas being all civilised too ...


... but then the were orgies of licking ...

... strange toilet humour ...

... random acts of violence ...

... and dangerous drunken acrobatics.

The day after: It's all too much for me, this is more my speed - a cup of tea and a nice sit down.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Use Website PvP to Celebrate EVE's Community, Win Prizes and Harvest Elf Tears

With the multitude of website and smartphone apps available to enhance the EVE Online experience, the EVE player is blessed with more tech support than the Apollo moon missions. There are a number of talented and dedicated individuals who continue to pour their resources into providing quality EVE services to make our lives in New Eden easier and more fulfilling. Wouldn't it be great if we could show our appreciation of their genius and hard work?

The fellas at Guild Launch think so too.

Now I might be a little biased, but I'm quite fond of Guild Launch competitions and Mike, their Community Manager, has approached me with the opportunity to celebrate our community scions in their EVE Online Top Site Contest. With your help, both you and your favourite fansite operator could win some "phat lewtz".

I'd love to see the EVE Online community nominating and voting for the likes of Marc Scaurus' heroic save of the EVE-Bloggers service, Marcel Devereux' superb Aura Android app, Wollari's enduringly invaluable DOTLAN evemaps, the host of services provided by the legendary Chribba and the many, many other excellent sites out there. Surely there are deserved community shoutouts for the services provided by the likes of EVE-Central, Lost in EVE, Mintchip's Videos, Voices from the Void, EVE News 24 and more.

So raise the flag for your favourite and champion their cause.

Warning: Elven Jedi Ninja Looters

Looking at the Current Standings table at the time of writing, some random non-EVE sites have skulked in there, peddling their EQ/SW:TOR/Rift/WoW filth in an attempt to make off with the EVE Online-sponsored competition prizes.

Don't let this happen! Let's get some of our greatest community contributors in there and win them some stuff. You might come out of it with some tasty loot too.

So get onto your favourite fansite operator, third-party developer or podcaster and get them to register their site so we can vote for them. Then we can all head over to the Guild Launch EVE Online Top Site Contest to show support for our community heroes.

Please don't let the wookie-worriers and fairy-fiddlers win.

EVE Sites in the Running

Follow one of the links below to vote for the website of your choice and show your support. You can vote once per day.

Guild Launch EVE Online Top Site Contest Further Resources 
For further enquiries, contact Mike Bilter, Guild Launch Community Manager at mike[dot]bilter[at]guildlaunch[dot]com.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Fanfest 2012: The Round Tables


Not being from a corporate background, I'm never quite sure what to expect from these "round tables". My experience at last year''s Fanfest left me disappointed at the lack of jousting and chivalry and it made me realise that there wasn't even a requirement for the table to be round.

This year they did away with tables all together, opting for a more audience/presentation delivery style. I understand the principle though - to allow developers and players to interface on an equal footing to discuss specific aspects of EVE Online. It is a great way to get a better understanding of the mindset of the development team responsible for your favourite (or least favourite) parts of the game.

Throughout the three days of Fanfest, there were four rooms playing host to these Developer-run round tables and whilst they were scheduled not to conflict with major keynote presentations, there were many other aspects of Fanfest with which they did conflict. Mainly each other. It is unfortunate that sacrifices have to be made and some potentially interesting sessions have to be skipped. I think there is an argument here for making Fanfest longer, to afford better access and coverage to the attendee. The "engine room" stuff like round tables could take place earlier in the week, clearing the schedule for the juicier high-profile activities later on. People could attend for the number of days to suit their tastes/wallets/annual leave entitlement.

Press Zombies Need Brainzzz

On the first day of Fanfest, I was unable to attend any round tables due to compulsory "press orientation" stuff, which mainly involved an early look at things that later featured in public presentations largely relating to DUST 514. Frustratingly, we were then asked not to talk about anything we'd seen. So for fear of leaking, I wandered the halls of the Harpa Centre alone, with a haunted look in my eyes. I avoided everyone I recognised for several hours, clutching my head and forlornly mumbling "I know things" then shambling away to the press cave down in the basement. Curse these corporate mind games.

On the second day my time was more my own. But annoyingly, there were many scheduling conflicts with the round tables themselves. I chose to dig in at the round table 3 room which had a number of interesting sessions back-to-back. My selection had a bit of an agenda to it, as I wanted to make contact with some key CCP developers to thrust some pre-prepared documents into their hands relating to various concepts discussed on Freebooted over the past year.

"New Player Experience" Round Table

The New Player Experience was led by CCP Legion and his Player Experience team (sadly now missing CCP Dropbear whom they have no plans to replace - I asked). The discussion largely covered issues that were discussed in Blog Banter 33 which was inspired by CCP Legion's devblog asking "...where and why people lose interest in EVE...".

Unsurprisingly, amongst the round table contributors were representatives from player-run training organisations like EVE University and others who would have a lot of input on this topic. It was interesting to note that much of the player suggested improvement was an echo of issues raised in the Blog Banter 33 Summary. Overwhelming evidence of the issues of greatest concern methinks.

From a new player perspective, it was widely agreed that good work was done during the Incarna phase, with the vastly more immersive and engaging avatar experience and audio-led Aura tutorials. It was evident that these improvements were a casualty of last Summer's upheavals with a noticeable drop in the quality of the tutorials where the latest revisions end and the old career tutorials begin. CCP Legion hinted that the existing career-pigeonholing pathways may be ripped out and something more dynamic would replace it.

One thing that I (and others) suggested was better use of the Captain's Quarters screen. The existing looped information soon becomes wallpaper and simple tutorial-driven "flash animations" of basic piloting principles would be a valuable visual aide to the new player. Imagine an animated diagramatic explanation of optimal orbiting, explosion velocity, range and fall-off, transversal explanations etc. Not only would it provide unique content to the Captain's Quarters, done right it could be quite entertaining.

Imagine if Aura went a bit "Gla-DOS" with her explanations, or alternatively, if there were a variety of characters voicing the tutorials according to faction. There could be a shouty (and slightly deaf) Minmatar artillery specialist explaining projectile gunnery, a hyperactive and unhinged interceptor veteran who's been cloned too many times describing tackling principles, a laid-back and sarcastic missile specialist detailing launcher techniques and so on. They could even make a little more use of the Carbon avatar engine and give us some talking heads without having to stress about multiple player environments.

CCP Legion was quite cagey about his plans, I got the impression they're still at the data-collection stage, but I like to think that the session was productive and may have reinforced some ideas and planted a few seeds that may bear fruit in the future. There were many other concepts discussed too, so there is much scope for improvement of the New Player experience. Best of luck to CCP Legion and co.

"The Future of Live Events" Round Table

The jolly Scottish giant CCP Goliath led this session enthusiastically, supported by CCP Affinity, CCP Abraxus (aka Hjalti Danielsson, author of The Burning Life) and CCP Gnauton. CCP Goliath explained that the Live Events team comprised individuals from other disciplines who got together on an ad-hoc basis. It was CCP Goliath who was behind the organisation of the CCP Christmas caravan events.

There was an interesting portion of the session where the Live Events team asked for suggestions for future live events. At this point the creativity of the player base shone, with a multitude of suggestions from interwoven multi-event narratives to the idea of a market/industry event to finally get Malkalen station fixed. This was interesting as a precedent has already been set by the donation of 30bn ISK's worth of items which led to the construction of Arek'Jaalan Site One: Antiquus in Eram, Metropolis.

Enquiries about the status of Arek'Jaalan had a curious response. Whilst CCP Goliath pledged to continue A'J in some form, there was a more measured reaction from CCP Gnauton and CCP Abraxus. CCP Gnauton explained that Arek'Jaalan was very much CCP Dropbear's project and his alone, so no-one else was that familiar with what has come to pass thus far. That said, CCP Gnauton mentioned that CCP Dropbear's documentation of the project had been "meticulous" and it would be entirely possible for them to get up to speed if the demand was there. I may be over-analyzing, but I thought I detected a certain amount of reluctance in his statements. I smelt politics.

I had the chance to speak briefly with CCP Goliath after the session ended and I took the opportunity to discuss the possibility of crafting an audio-driven narrative around live events. I explained the concept of Tech4 News and how it was created to provide an alternative means of content delivery to be more inclusive and attract a wider audience to storyline events like Arek'Jaalan. I had a number of portfolio documents prepared and left some of them with CCP Goliath. If nothing else, listening to the Tech4 broadcasts will give him an overview of Arek'Jaalan to assist him in continuing it.

"Story - Setting - Delivery" Round Table

Led by CCP Abraxus and CCP Gnauton, I missed the first portion of this session due to speaking with CCP Goliath (I really wish there was more time between round table sessions), even without further discussion, you rarely get time to absorb one session before you're in the middle of another.

After skulking back into the Story - Setting - Delivery session, the discussion ranged from the ongoing narrative development of unfinished storylines to the expansion of knowledge on underdeveloped bloodlines. There were some players present who clearly had very deep knowledge of specific areas of the lore.

CCP Abraxus and CCP Gnauton talked about the Immersion Project and what further development of the EVElopedia was in store. They want to have an expandable and explorable branching history that will allow the reader to focus in on specific events. It was interesting to note that throughout the discussion about delivery, they were very focused on delivering in the written form.

When the session ended, I took the opportunity to speak with CCP Abraxus about more accessible, less text-heavy forms of storyline delivery. This didn't go so well.

My initial approach involved brandishing a copy of The Burning Life for him to sign, however he didn't look down to see me proferring the book and offered his hand to shake instead. This lead to me fumbling like a dyspraxic buffoon to reciprocate. Awkward. I explained the work that the Tech4 crew had been doing over the last eight months, but it met with a fairly blank look which I found disheartening. He asked if I was the guy doing the Chronicle audiobooks, which he was aware of. I told him I wasn't perhaps a little too abruptly. Having already given away my one hardcopy of my Tech4 documentation to CCP Goliath, I only had a copy of my Curriculum Vitae to offer as any evidence of the achievements of Tech4. CCP Abraxus took it, but idly folded it into an easily disposable size as we spoke. I explained that Tech4 was simply a proof of concept exploring the idea of delivering EVE lore content to an audience that would be deterred by endless walls of text, but this was met with a look that suggested that such people do not exist. Everyone enjoys reading endlessly, even those who have specifically set out to play a computer game.

Admitting defeat, I trudged away despondently. Another day.

"Expanding the EVE Universe" Round Table

This session took place on the third day of Fanfest and was held mainly by CCP TorfiFrans and CCP Flying Scotsman. Torfi was making use of the screen behind the head table and showcased lots of tantalising concept art for future game content and work-in-progress assets of additional avatar content. The WIP included a host of new clothing items and tattoos (including arm/sleeve tattoos). Additionally there was the racial/bloodline blending technology that was later shown in his main presentation.

It was the future game content that I found really exciting. Stripped of all art assets to prevent delay in development, what Torfi showed us was a video of very rudimentary avatar exploration gameplay. Essentially it was just a boxy figure walking around inside a dark boxy maze with only a flashlight to illuminate the textureless walls. At one point there were multiple boxy figures, all visible running around like rats in a maze from an isometric god-mode view of the facility. Already you could see the potential for atmospheric, Alien-esque terror, muggings in darkened corridors, infiltration of hostile facilities and possible discovery of items of interest. If nothing else this technology could revolutionise the exploration mini-profession. Torfi effectively stated that, whilst a very long way off, this was his intent.

Another inspiring video he showed was a tech demo of a single avatar walking through a station. He explained that this used only the modular art assets that already exist in Captains' Quarters. Whilst no gameplay was evident, it was visually impressive as the avatar strolled through corridors and rooms of various sizes, across walkways spanning bottomless chasms and generally gave the impression of a vast (albeit unpopulated) space station.

At the end of this session, I was hoping to accost CCP Flying Scotsman, but he slipped away quickly. That man is like smoke. I did have the opportunity to speak with CCP TorfiFrans, where I wanted to give him my prepared documents relating to possible content and alternative uses for the avatar tech (as detailed in Free-to-Play EVE Online and Suddenly Combat: World of Spaceships) but I was laughably bad at conveying my ideas. I think I may have been a little star-struck and tongue-tied and just fluttered various sheets of A4 at him whilst gibbering incoherently. At least that's how it felt, I have no real recollection of what I said. I can only hope the documents I left with him will do my talking for me.

I'll try not to fret at the likelihood of those documents finding their way into a bin alongside the Curriculum Vitae I gave CCP Abraxus, I like to believe that Torfi reads Freebooted and I'm totally claiming I influenced his screenshot of a picture-in-picture UI element with my flawless photoshop skills as evidenced in EVE Online: Director Mode from last year.

Epilogue

I think there is an art to these Fanfest round tables and general game-focused discussion which eludes me. I am aware that CCP staff are briefed to be engaging and accommodating to all players, but in some respects this makes approaching them all the harder as you can't be certain how genuine their interest is. As a paramedic, I know how inwardly frustrated I get trying to maintain a professional demeanour whilst overly-enthusiastic first aiders tell me how to do my job. I was torn between not wanting to bother the CCP devs and trying to cram a host of ideas into a twenty second window before scurrying off.

If any of the concepts that I threw around are taken on board I can take some solace in that, but I can't help feeling that for me Fanfest 2012 was an opportunity missed. Must do better.

Personally agenda aside, the most important thing for EVE Online is that Fanfest, and specifically the roundtables, provided a fertile environment that allowed for the sharing of ideas from the great to the ghastly. Let's hope that the right ones filter through to the right people and we can all benefit from the continued evolution and enhancement of the world's greatest sci-fi MMO.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Blog Banter 35: The Public Perception of EVE Online

Welcome the the thirty-fifth EVE Blog Banter.

Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community. 

Is this perception deserved? Should "The Nation of EVE" be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]

For more information on what this is and how to get involved in Blog Banters, read this.

A list of entries will be maintained below and at the end of the banter period a summary will be written and linked here.

Blog Banters
Final Blog Banter 35 Review hosted by EVE Stratics.

Friday, 6 April 2012

BB34 Summary: The Growth of the CSM

The growth of the Council of Stellar Management...

A modest yet topical little blog banter proposal from CCP Xhagen that I thought might tide us over during the CSM7 election process that was to conclude at Fanfest. Secretly I was quite glad that only fifteen bloggers threw their thoughts into the ring on this one - it would mean less work getting the summary together. Well, fifteen officially.

However, certain -ahem- other events meant that the CSM debate became a steaming hot potato and the amount of column inches generated over the last fourteen days that could technically be included in this summary would keep me busy for weeks.

But I think the community at large is pretty much sick of all the unnecessary drama so I'm going to stay focused specifically on CCP Xhagen's question of "How would you like to see the CSM grow, both in terms of player interaction and CCP interaction?" and I'm going to focus specifically on summarising those banters which directly addressed CCP Xhagen's question.


Morphisat's Blog

After a few months of laying low, Morphisat returns to EVE Online, spaceship bloggery and gets stuck into a blog banter. He is quite open about his distrust of the CSM process, but also admits that their performance during the Summer of 2011 gave him more faith. He identifies the value of the CSM but recognised that there seems to be a tendency for CCP to slip things by the CSM as evidenced by the lack of consultation regarding ship command skill change proposals. Disproportionate representation due to bloc voting is a concern.


Haberdashers Run Amok

As well as proposing a lyrically poignant and entertaining theme tune, Corelin's Killers, Thieves and Lawyers explores the idea of a wholesale restructuring of the player advocacy group, doing away with the existing CSM and replacing it with the Stellar Advisory Council. The SAC would be made up of representatives specific to particular playstyles and interests rather than simply those who can marshal the most bloc votes. Whether this would work in practice is not for me to say, but it is an interesting idea and I'm sure the opportunity to call representatives "SACs" would lead to some amusing memes.


Achernar 

Achernar compares the existing CSM system to similar real world electoral processes. He goes on to suggest that in a culture of innovation as befitting the CCP stable, that the CSM might want to adopt a less traditional model, suggesting "liquid democracy" as used by the German Pirate Party. How this might work, or indeed if it could, you will have to consider for yourselves after reading Achernar's blog banter, Experiences with Space Democracy.



Ender Black's Pod Goo

Referencing his naval experience, Ender gives a very cogent analysis of factors affecting the Credibility of the CSM. Like Morphisat, Ender refers to the damaging effect of bypassing the CSM in the stakeholder process as occurred in the Skill Tree changes. He also discusses the power of the unified CSM voice versus showing constructive dissent to the players; "...it is important for the players to see some of the dissent among the delegates because they are not in a leadership position but in a representative position and natural law dictates transparency...". He goes on to look at the apathy problem which empowers bloc voting.

EVE Stratics

Nikolaj Vincent talks about his own experiences as a "player rep" for Sony Online Entertainment and gives some sound advice about effective use of "face time" and communication and how best to represent the players when liaising with developers. He raises some interesting concerns regarding how a candidates effectiveness could be measured and communicated to potential voters, especially those new to the EVE Online environment who would not be familiar with e-famous spaceship politicians.

Tilt180

Scitor Nantom gets straight to the point with a request for a "dashboard" web presence allowing transparency of the CSM-CCP process and visible progress of issues similar to the system used on OpenCongress.org, citing the benefits not only to the paying customer, but also investors.

Sand, Cider and Spaceships

In a proposal bearing some similarity to Corelin's earlier Stellar Advisory Council restructuring, Drackarn goes into more detail, outlining specific roles, relationships and spheres of influence. He even did some drawing, which definitely deserves a gold star and a smiley face from teacher ;).

Those roles were originally discussed in greater detail in his entertainingly illustrated post about CSM 7 - Electoral Reform.


Rinn's Rants

Mara Rinn revisits the skill tree devblog miscommunication as referenced by many banterers and points out that it was not the first time the CSM had been circumvented prior to a significant game change. During Fanfest 2011, the null-sec anomaly nerf occurred, much to the chagrin of many perplexed players. The theme of this particular "rant" of Mara's is communication. Citing the common belief that "CCP doesn't do communication" and that despite relatively good communications from CSM5, CSM6 managed to "present one unified voice, and then proceeded to use that one unified voice to say nothing, since The Mittani was already communicating with his constituents through Goonswarm internal forums". Well she does like a rant.

Emergent Patroller

Emergent Patroller further advocates a system of play style representation over the existing organic voting system. Improved communication is again a point of discussion. According to Emergent Patroller, improving on those two points should be the key focus in facilitating improved player/developer interaction. "EVE is the most community driven game on the market, therefore it would only make sense to develop a good method for interacting with that community."

Rollins' Ride in EVE

Tommy Rollins identifies that EVE's complexity is one of its attractive qualities, but as such so many things are in development that it may not be possible to consult the CSM on every aspect. However, "...the CSM doesn't need to be a part of every minute detail. They need to be an efficient sounding board for significant changes." Tommy suggests that the occasional failure for the CSM to be consulted might be a symptom of the CSM not being a focus within CCP. He discusses the subject of NDAs versus CSM's communication effectiveness and concludes that despite some failings, "The CSM is a great institution, and I think at this point, CCP cannot shelf it." He also gets bonus points for referencing Incarna: The Text Adventure as an example of the "awesomeness" of the Walking in Stations game design.

Ugleb's Journal

Again a vote for a play-style representation system, using a possible Hilmar quote to underline this, stating he recalls "...Hilmar saying in an interview (somewhere) that he felt CSM6 was ‘overly concerned with a single playstyle’ ". Ugleb was supportive of the principles behind the "primary" 100 likes system, but identifies that it "...was the right idea, but not the right implementation."


EveHermit's Blog

EveHermit did not vote in the CSM elections as he found the process of accurately researching the candidates frustrating, "If there was a detailed message, it was often spread across 100 blog and forum posts, scattered to all corners of the Internet." In his banter, Do we really need the hassle of Online Spaceship Politicians, he goes on to suggest a more formal process and presentation for candidates to allow voters to grasp their representative's interests and focus more easily. Power-bloc induced apathy was also a factor in his failure to vote.



A Journey Through the Mind

Splatus paints an interesting picture of a cynic reluctantly addressing a subject in which he has little interest, but goes on to make some interesting and unique points. Chief amongst those is his approach to the play-style representation theme. Rather than encouraging candidates to run for a specific play-style linked role, Splatus approaches the problem from the other end. Once candidates are elected, based entirely on popularity, they are then given a specific play-style focused "portfolio" toward which they contribute for the duration of their term. His thinking is that this "portfolio-based approach will limit the partisan nonsense that some CSM members spew ... and overall create a collaborative environment with CCP and the players."

A Missioneer in EVE

Mike Azariah's banter was one of the later entries and as such he got swept up in the whirlwind of controversy that grew out of a minor incident at Fanfest. Whilst it could be argued that candidate screening and/or public behaviour is a concern, I'll not give the controversy any more oxygen here as it is an issue beyond the remit of this banter. If you wish to read more about the events and its impact on the CSM then Mike's blog is a good place to start.

MALEFACTOR

Marc Scaurus, the neo-neo-Blog Father and  the world's only podcasting dinosaur, has been in the thick of all things CSM over the last month, having interviewed many of the candidates on Voices From the Void. With regard to communication, in CSM7, Here We Come, he eloquently claims that CSM6 "shit the bed" with their player communication during the Summer of Incarnage. He calls for more transparency, decrying the need for a single anonymous CSM voice. He'd like to see the CSM elevated beyond a simple focus group by "obtaining real, substantive, two-way communication of ideas, proposals and facts between the players and the devs."


In Conclusion

It seems that there are two key factors that were mentioned time and again throughout these banter entries. The first was a desire for increased transparency and communication between the CSM and the players, but equally the reinforcement of the communication pathways built between CCP and the CSM.

The second and more complex suggestion is one of player representation. There were many suggestions that  play-style-related  positions of office should be created in order that a broad knowledge-base is ensured within the CSM. That being said, the majority of these banter entries were written prior to the election results which served to provide a fairly broad and even-handed knowledge-base amongst the successful candidates. Does this suggest that the existing organic system is sufficient for providing effective and diverse representation. I wonder if those championing a more rigid system still feel it is necessary.



[Edit: This Blog Banter edition ran over the Fanfest period (which I attended) and as a result was a little disjointed - it ran for a little longer than planned and I fumbled some of the admin. Apologies to all contributors for the wobbly service this month and especially to Marc Scaurus for him inexplicably dropping off of my list during the summary write-up. Issues now rectified, will look at tightening the bolts for next month.]