Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Elephant in the Conference Room

By now, many of you have tore your way through the recently released summit minutes. Others are taking their time. In either case, the questions are pouring in. And feedback. The full range of emotions from the community that comes with every major CSM information release. There is cheering. There are tears. There is hope. There is pontification. There is analyzation. There is circlejerking. There is hair pulling. All that good stuff.

Many of you have also noticed the absence of something from these minutes, compared to past releases. Details. About future plans. About really, really, really, important stuff that needs to go into those future plans. Stuff like 0.0, mining, industry, and corp management. Stuff like the elephant that never signed an NDA but managed to sneak his way into just about every single meeting at the summit. (He wore a giant blingy monogrammed necklace containing three letters – P.O.S.)

What happened to Modular POSes? What is coming this summer for those of us out in 0.0? What about Industry? But CCP, you PROMISED! All of this and more will be pouring out of the community in the days ahead, just as the CSM warned CCP that you would at our recent summit.  And these questions should be raised.

The issue here, as is often the case, one of messaging and expectation management. Speaking of which – lets rip the bandaid off right now. Are we going to see Modular POSes in summer? I sincerely doubt it. Are we going to see a complete 0.0 sovereignty overhaul on par with the recent Faction Warfare updates? I sincerely doubt it. The truth of the matter is, CCP has developed a new rubric for building expansions, similar to the design strategy we proposed in our talks with CCP Ripley, which will govern each expansion effort starting this summer and leading into the next decade’s worth of work on EVE Online. If we want to see modular POSes, or 0.0 improvements, these will have to be built into the new theme system just like any other feature. CCP is not refusing to work on these features, only warning the CSM and the player base that no one particular feature will have an entire expansion dedicated to it. So no, this summer will not be the summer of modular POSes. It will not be the summer of 0.0. It may be the summer of the beginning of both, however, depending on how well elements of both can be integrated into this new design strategy.

Take a look at Crimewatch - it took CCP the entirety of Inferno just to gut the code driving Crimewatch, let alone produce surface level features.  Frankly, there is a ton of work that can be done on POS code and the POS interface, even before we begin exploring a modular structure for their physical form.  There are a hundred "little things" that could be layered into an expansion to vastly improve POS life without even getting to the building-block aspect, and that can be addressed through code replacement in anticipation of a modular switchover.  The time for this process to start is now, not later, as CCP has fully admitted that this is a colossal undertaking.  The same all certainly applies to 0.0 as well.  We may not see modular POS's in summer, but we can certainly see the genesis of such.

That is the objective of the CSM in the coming months, an objective that will hopefully be supported by you, the players. Now’s the time to stand up and make some noise. Not the rage-filled, monument shooting type of noise (there is zero indication this is necessary), but a strong clear signal about the type of features you want to see is exactly what CCP not only needs to see, its what they’ve asked for. So don’t disappoint, folks! Two step is already well ahead of this of course, as the resident point man on all things POS-related within the current CSM, and he’s not only blogged about this issue but started what will no doubt turn into an extremely active thread in the days to come.

That’s not to say there haven’t been communication mistakes already. We can go back as far as FanFest, where CCP Soundwave infamously mentioned that 2013 would finally be the year CCP resurrects the dead horse and gets down to working on modular POSes. In the game of telephone that all players play whenever CCP makes an announcement, this quickly transformed into “But you PROMISED!” regardless of a tacit commitment on the part of CCP’s upper management. This is most certainly what CCP Greyscale was reacting to in the 0.0 section of the summit minutes, and what CCP Unifex is referring to when he discusses CCP’s business obligations.

Regardless of the players tendency to morph “this is what we’d like to do” or “This is what we’re planning right now” into “We promise to deliver this feature in this timeframe” and however much it may frustrate CCP’s upper management, this is no excuse for ignoring the fact that features like POS’s and 0.0 are simply extremely high up on player wish lists, and shouldn’t be easily discarded or skipped over simply because they are daunting and won’t fit into a single release. POS’s in particular come up year after year, and much like Charlie Brown running up to kick Lucy’s football, CCP has a tendency to pull out at the last second, no matter how many times we come back and attempt to connect once again.   

This is exactly why CSM7 has made a point all year of emphasizing the need to follow through with POS work in 2013. If we have anything to say about this, it’ll be the last time Charlie has to run up to kick the ball.  In our opinion, POS’s, along with 0.0 and Mining/Industry issues, form the three prongs that have the most to offer to the players in terms of both new features and much needed fixes. POS’s compliment industry, of course, and they also can play heavily into 0.0 gameplay and can solve many of the economic issues plaguing nullsec. Read Weaselior’s excellent article from if you want a sense of where I’m going with this. “Destroying the Shipyards” would be an excellent theme to tackle.  POSes are not a veteran-only feature, regardless of how CCP may see them.  Kelduum Revaan has spoken often to CCP about how common it is for new players to ask "How do I get my own starbase?" and than are crushed when they find out what is entailed.  

Lastly, I wanted to give everyone a quick rundown of where the CSM sits with these talks with CCP. As of yesterday, the release day of the Winter Summit Minutes, the CSM has received a set of presentations from each of the development teams in the form of a video recording. The details of these presentations will remain under NDA until further notice, but it was an opportunity for every team to pitch both feature sets and themes to CCP Seagull and the CSM, to kickstart the internal discussion. We are reviewing these presentations with a fine-tooth comb, evaluating the merits of each feature and theme, and comparing it to the feedback we’re receiving from each of you regarding what you’d like to see in summer of 2013.

CCP is making good on their commitment to involve the CSM in these high-level, pre-planning discussions, and this means that your input is in a better place than ever to make a difference. Stop by the POS thread. Speak out about the need to improve 0.0. Speak out about the need for more tools for the enablers that construct all the cool toys we’ve been blowing up in 2012’s PvP-oriented expansions. It is by no means too late to make a difference, and to influence CCP, and as I said before, they asked for it. I’ve been warning everyone our busiest months are still ahead, and now you all can see why. So no moping, no raging, no hair-pulling, let’s put our noses to the grindstone and work together as a community to get what we need addressed in the coming year. We’ve finally arrived at that place every past CSM has longed to be, and that the players have longer for us to be – perched in the right place, at the right time, to help steer the course of an expansion effort in a direct, tangible way. Let’s make the most of it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

CSM Winter Summit 2012: Minutes Update

Recently Xander from Crossing Zebras has been inquiring anxiously on Twitter about the status of the CSM summit minutes. I replied at length, but wanted to share this with a wider audience as well. One of the questions regarding the process was actually asked by Marc Scaurus, who wanted to know what the procedure was for producing the minutes.

Up until now, there hasn't ever really been a standard procedure. CSM6 outsourced the minutes to CCP, to painful result as they had to question almost everything CCP wrote about the summit sessions. Another criticism of CSM6's minutes was that there was no transparency in who said what within the sessions, the CSM was described as a single-minded entity in [most] of its public communications. CSM7 has taken major steps to correct this, not only writing our own minutes but attributing individual statements to individual members, as many in the community have requested. The first pass at this was time consuming, involved a lot of trial-and-error before the "right" balance of detail was achieved, and the minutes were released in what would normally be an unacceptable time frame.

In contrast, the minutes from the Winter summit session have been written in record time, completed just over two short weeks since the summit ended. Without the trial-and-error process used to come up with the new transparent form of summit minutes, it was much easier to expedite their creation. We also hope this methodology can be used for all future summit sessions. So to answer Marc Scaurus's question, here's the procedure we are settling into:

1.) We submit sessions to CCP Xhagen.
2.) Xhagen disseminates them to the CCP members participating.
3.) They make edits / approve them.
4.) They go back to Xhagen.
5.) While this happens, they also go to CCP Manifest for PR / NDA approval.
6.) Once We have approval from PR and from the participants, they are returned to the CSM.
7.) They than get reviewed one more time by the CSM, and than are labeled "locked" in our mutually shared GoogleDoc.

Currently, we have "locked" all but 5 sessions - two of which we have not received back from CCP (the Dust514 sessions) The other three are the FW session, and the two 0.0 related sessions. We are reviewing these three right now before locking. Of the three, the second 0.0 session appears to have some odd redactions that involved CSM member's opinions, not CCP's words. We will be challenging these redactions, which of course means another slight delay.

Delays in the 0.0 and Dust sessions aside, the goal is to get the rest of the minutes published this week as soon as a supporting dev blog from CCP Unifex is released.

...and that's all the CSM7 minutes news that's fit to print!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Clear Skies

Well, its unstoppable. We're now 3/4 of the way through our CSM term, and while there's arguably more work to do in the final quarter than in any of the other three, there really is no way to prevent people from rampantly speculating about the coming election. So before we get swept up in minutes madness, and planning the summer expansion, I just thought I'd take a moment to make it known that I will not be running for re-election in CSM8. I'd rather get this over with now, for a few reasons. It means I get to kick back and relax as the shitstorm heats up, and step out of the spotlight, and it also means that if another candidate from Low sec / Factional Wafare wants to step up and lead, they have as much advanced notice as possible.

Don't get me wrong – these last 8 months have incredibly fulfilling, if not always what I would call "fun". I knew in advance I wouldn't be able to continue my classes at school, I knew it would cut into my time to actually play the game, and I knew in advance it mean exposing myself to the masses in terms of legitimate (and deserved) criticism, not to mention the (often undeserved) paranoia, tinfoil, and slander. I've made enemies, but much more importantly, I've made friends as well. Getting to know each of you has certainly been one of the highlights of the year.

But what many of you don't know about me is that this journey also started about 6 months after getting married, to my partner of 7 years. To put this into perspective – I've essentially spent the first year of my married life intensely involved with space politics, and not entirely on my family. THAT, my friends, is true love on the part of my wife, her patience and support of me taking this opportunity has allowed me to enjoy this incredible experience. However, she deserves more, and I knew not long after the election was over (which was exhausting as a non-bloc candidate) that I would be a one-term representative. When someone gives you a gift like this, you don't take advantage of them.

For many of you closest to me, this is not news. You've protested, questioned, doubted, but I warned you this day would come. I'd love to put this off even longer, its not easy for me, but I've decided it's just better to clear the air now and shed politics as much as possible as we enter this busy period of minutes review and expansion planning.

I am only prepared at this time to make two unequivocable endorsements – Mynnna, the GSF's lead Economic advisor, and Malcanis, whose writings were a huge inspiration and source of wisdom during my own campaign and CSM term. I've written back and forth both to Malcanis throughout the year, and Mynnna I have spoken with almost daily for months now, he is incredibly talented, level-headed, and diplomatic. His economic expertise is unparalleled, and will no doubt bring good advice to CCP in the coming year Both of these candidates wield their words like a scalpel, they understand that the CSM is about more than having good ideas – its about effective communication. No matter how smart you are, if CCP doesnt respect you and want to listen to you, you're not going to have any influence. Both of these men are more than prepared for this and both deserve your votes.

Good luck to the other candidates this season, and I look forward to continuing my work as part of CSM7 as we finish off the year. This is not the end, just an announcement of the end. You'll soon see not only how important it is that we keep focused and aggressive in the final months of our term, those of us that won't be running again. Some may divert energy into elections, but I will not be, nor will I be slowing down.

We have a white paper to rewrite. We just launched Dust 514 onto Tranquility and there's a massive community there that needs to be served, whether they have a voted-in representation or not. We need to get 0.0, POSes, and Mining/Industry back on the agenda for 2013, so that CSM8 can do for these areas of the game what I did for FW. CCP is making good use of the CSM these days, more than they ever have historically, so there's never been a better time to step up and put the work in. I will not be endorsing any CSM8 candidates that are not already demonstrating in advance they have been a workhorse on behlalf of the community. It is time for the age of half-dead councils to come to an end.

Many thanks to all of you in the EVE community for your support, your advice, and your appreciation. I could not have done this alone.


Fly dangerous,