CSM Summit – September 2019

The CSM Summit was last week.  Many people would like to know what was said, but unfortunately, I really can’t get into the details.  This will be painfully vague and will likely result in salty Reddit comments.

If you are looking for a detailed description of exactly what was discussed, stop reading now.  Hopefully, after the minutes are released, I can go into more detail and specifics.

Instead, I’m going to describe what actually happens at the CSM Summit, since there appears to be a lot of misconception about this.

The CSM Summit is a 4 day long business meeting between CCP and a small group of their customer stakeholders.  It is not a detailed game design meeting.

Over the week, there are 30+ individual sessions with a wide variety of teams from CCP

Basically, there are 3 types of sessions:

What happened or is happening in EVE? – data, metrics, and analysis of various aspects of the game

What is planned to happen in EVE? – new game design, artwork, events, and other items in the development pipeline

What is the strategy going forward? – high level discussion of goals, options for improvement, and long term direction

Like any business there is a separation of responsibility between the different CCP teams and often in a session you’ll hear “our team doesn’t handle that, you’ll have to talk to team X about that…”   As an example, the Art team might show some neat graphics of a new in-game item, but will have no clue as the functional details of the item. 

What is NOT at the CSM Summit?  – the CSM presenting game designs, fists pounding on the table, detailed discussions of that special one thing you care about and posted about on /r/eve.

Many players think that the CSM shows up in Reykjavik with a printout of a big proposal that was posted to the forums or Reddit and makes CCP read it.  That simply doesn’t happen.  There are no manifestos pinned to the front door of CCP. 

What else happens at the Summit?  – another significant thing is the social interaction between the CSM and CCP. 

This is the first time that the CSM gets together in person in a room together. It’s easy to judge someone over the interwebs, but much more complex when you meet them in person.  Some feelings about people are confirmed and others are reversed.  Importantly, this is where a higher degree of trust and understanding begins to form on a team.  Even if a team doesn’t agree on everything, personal trust and understanding is critical to a team’s ability to perform.  This may sound like management woo-woo hand waving to some, but it’s a key thing that makes or breaks teams.

Out of sessions, the CSM is interacting with CCP staff, eating together, chatting about non-EVE stuff, and often going out for drinks late into the evening. Again, this is crucial to building the rapport and trust that is needed for the two groups to chat honestly with each other. Not only do EVE ideas get discussed in these moments, but the groundwork needed for further discussion is established in these moments. 

The summit starts with a bit of awkwardness and suspicion and ends with hugs and handshakes all around.  This can lead to a much better working relationship for the rest of the year.

Hopefully the actual CSM minutes will be made public soon and then discussed openly, until then, my comments will be necessarily vague.   But I will make these broad statements:

Yes, CCP is looking deeply at the data and metrics of everything that is going on in EVE.  There is a huge six-screen dashboard display on the wall on the way to canteen showing critical KPIs all the time.  The issue is interpreting the data into actionable analysis.  How do you define if a customer is “high sec” or “null sec”?  By logged time? Where the most characters are? What the characters do? Earning ISK? Undocking? Gate jumps?  No easy answers on how to interpret data with confirmation bias.

Yes, CCP has put thought into what they are doing.  That said, it is not “throwing random shit at the wall”, nor is it 4D chess with CCP “metagaming” the community.  It’s in the middle, with lots of variation.  Most of what I read in player posts or on streams/podcasts is wildly offbase as to what is actually happening.  People like to tinfoil rationales to support their ideas by either framing CCP as blind fools or crafty geniuses.  The truth is they are neither.  They are hard working people trying to make a complex game fun and profitable, which is no easy task 16 years after launch.

No, the CSM can’t make the CCP do anything. CCP runs the game as they see fit and uses the CSM to bounce ideas off of and better understand exactly what the players are doing in the game. The CSM doesn’t make them fix faction warfare or remove warp core stabilizers or nerf [insert your choice here]. 

Dunk’s Corner

So what do I think will happen? In short, it’s complicated.  CCP is facing some tough challenges.

While they are working hard to find ways to retain new players, they are also trying to find ways to excite veteran players in a world of many free to play options, WoW Classic, and near endless list of other things to drag customers away. 

Further, CCP is working on improving their internal processes and shedding technical debt, neither of which is easily seen or appreciated by players.  There’s a huge amount going on here that is only lightly described to the public. 

CCP has the people and skills to innovate and make amazing things, but the question is on their focus.

Is it going to happen?  I can’t really say. Both because of confidentially, but because there are so many variables in play, it’s impossible to predict.

What’s happening in the game now, is similar to what’s described in The Three-Body Problem.  When the Trisolarians are faced with a Chaotic Era, the dry out and go dormant.  Currently the Null Sec groups are turtling up to see how the Chaos Era goes. 

The truth is that players need a reason to log in. A goal of some sort that gives them a reason to get in and do things. The recent changes have not been motivating for many. Discussions of “faucets” and other abstract rationales are not good ways to give people hope for the future. IMHO, until some strong motivators appear, we are going to continue to see people disengage from the game.

Maybe this write-up helps clear things up on expectations for the CSM Summit, but feel free to yell at me anyways for not explaining exactly why [insert your pet peeve] isn’t fixed yet.