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What all developers should learn from EVE Online

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How it works


Step-by-step breakdown of the process agreed on for the CSM to request developer resources.

1.CSM members talk with other players and among themselves to develop a list of 10 issues they want the CCP development team to address.

2.The CSM sends the list to Petur J. Oskarsson, who presents it to the development team.


Above: CCPers having fun between sessions

3.The development team estimates how many development hours each of the projects would take and sends it back to the CSM through Oskarsson.

4.Taking into account the time required for each of the changes, the CSM arranges the issues into a prioritized list and returns it to Oskarsson.

5.Oskarsson presents the final list to the developers and makes sure that they are considered and included in the development process. Oskarsson reports back to the CSM as progress occurs.


The second day: Spaceships are serious business


If someone had asked me to predict what the first topic debated by the CSM would be, I certainly wouldn’t have guessed an hour-long discussion of political philosophy. But I probably should have. The 13 people in this room - nine elected players, three CCP developers, and one moderator with experience working for the European Union - are breaking new ground in game development. The CSM functions as a representative democracy, and they’re in charge of making sure the system gives voters adequate input without letting them overrun the entire development system - no easy task.

John Zastrow, the only returning CSM member, jokingly referred to himself as “the George Washington of this CSM,” and he may not be too far off. If their plans are successful, years from now game developers could be looking back at the members of this year’s council as the Founding Fathers of a development structure that, for the first time in history, incorporated player feedback in a deep, meaningful way.

But the meeting certainly wasn’t spent entirely on lofty beard-scratching philosophy - it was still about a videogame, after all. This meeting, and all the meetings throughout the week, for that matter, were marked by the odd juxtaposition that exists in EVE: it’s a very serious, business-driven game that’s riddled with outrageous memes and the nothing-is-sacred irreverence of the internet. CSM members introduced themselves to CCP employees by saying, “Hi, I’m a space councilor!” in silly voices, and pictures of Kitlers (cats that look like Hitler) were brought up on projectors alongside flowchart diagrams that broke down the game’s development process.


The third day: Rocking the boat


As anticipated, the players weren’t shy about telling the developers what they thought needed fixing. The fist-pounding, shouting and occasionally messy exchanges between members would’ve fit right in on a reality TV show. One particularly bitter CSM member started his address to Sveinn J. Kjarval, the head of the Game Master group, with “I don’t hate you, but…” and proceeded to explain why he pretty much did hate him. It was a cathartic experience for the players; Zastrow told me, “Being able to look a game designer in the eye and pound your fist on the table to express your displeasure is something you just can’t do trolling forums. I can see the expression on their face change when I tell them what I think and see that it’s having an impact.”

 
Above: The moderator was essential in keeping the discussion focused

Considering the anger directed their way at times, as well as the occasional angry accusation from a CSM member that someone else’s opinions, statistics or responses were “bullshit,” I was impressed with the completely unshakeable composure CCP employees constantly maintained. At times, even I was ready to leap over the table and take one or two CSM members by their collars and let them know that they were acting like jerks, but the developers (represented in each session by department heads and rank-and-file employees across a wide swath of departments, including Programming, Design and Community Development) always maintained an imperturbable stoicism, like Greek heroes holding their ground against a lethal hydra of nerd rage.

It’s not easy to stand there and take a verbal lashing from your harshest critics, but instead of banning dissenters from the forum and retreating to their development cave to pretend that the naysayers don’t exist like some developers (you know who you are), CCP flew some of the most vocal critics to Iceland to let them scream in their faces so they could understand their concerns, and every player there respected them for it.

The occasional emotional brush fire notwithstanding, the atmosphere of the meetings, now past the halfway mark, was overwhelmingly positive - two groups with different perspectives coming together to understand why the other side felt the way they did, and trying to figure out how they could synthesize both perspectives into a concrete policy or game mechanic that would improve EVE.

CSM rep Tim Heusschen told me that he was particularly impressed with how seriously CCP took the CSM meetings; his favorite moment was seeing two developers grab pens to write down a suggestion he made. In fact, the developers took away a lot of good ideas, including one that a dev told the Council “is so good on so many levels that it arouses me somewhat.”

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16 comments

  • Foofah - May 19, 2010 1:24 p.m.

    In my opinion, and I have played some months, it lacks a reality factor. As a big SciFi fan I did not particularly like the fact that one can jump through planets, there was no cockpit and no real trading aspect like the great Elite had. It's fun for a while, but not lasting. At least not for me...
  • quicksilver_502 - May 18, 2010 8 p.m.

    eve is a great game to read about but i don't have the time or patience to play it.
  • db1331 - May 18, 2010 7:17 p.m.

    Very interesting read. I've never played EVE, but I've heard nothing but good things about it. I know the EVE community is supposed to be very mature and helpful as far as gaming communities go. I think what CCP is doing here is brilliant, and maybe some of the companies behind all those failed MMOs should follow suit. I also completely agree with Azymuth about the Lost Planet 2 ad. That thing is the most obnoxious ad I have ever seen, no lie. I mean it was coming to the point where I either was going to stop coming to GR or install adblock plus. I like you guys so I decided to install adblock. Seriously though, do I need to see a video pop up for some shitty game on all 4 pages of an article?
  • fhuzzy - May 18, 2010 6:55 p.m.

    If you'd like a 21 day trial instead of a 14 day trial, drop me an email fhuzzy at gmail.com
  • Deathofasin - May 18, 2010 5:32 p.m.

    the way i fugure things, all MMO's should be like Mabinogi. free to play and if you put real money into it you get good bonuses. this game looks amazing though but i think FPS's and Team based combat games are better.
  • MisterAdequate - May 18, 2010 12:24 p.m.

    EVE is a superb game, and I genuinely think that CCP are doing the most important work currently going on in the MMO field. For my part I just don't have the time to invest in order to really enjoy and appreciate EVE, but I played it in the past and I respect it as a truly impressive and groundbreaking game. Long live CCP!
  • SHAD0WNINJA - May 18, 2010 8:36 a.m.

    EVE is an amazing game and you should all try it if you haven't already (14 day free trial). It's great that CCP are actually giving its community such a large say in its development.
  • Llanthas - May 18, 2010 7:23 a.m.

    Eve is far and away the best MMO I've ever seen - except MAYBE star wars galaxies before SOE raped it silly. The world and culture is like nothing else I've ever seen. I honestly think every gamer worth his salt should at least try the free trial period.
  • Nodoudt - May 18, 2010 2:39 a.m.

    I've noticed a lot more companies leaning towards working with players to release content. For instance, a buddy of mine plays this casual MMORPG made by the Indie game company Artix Entertainment, and apparently each week they release new content based solely on what the players request in the forums. Sure, it's a lot simpler than EVE, and is usually aimed at the younger audience, but I think it's really cool that a company would take the time to let the players decide what effects the game, and they seem to have a lot of fun with it too. http://www.aqworlds.com/ Found the link to the site. I gotta admit it's pretty cool. But back on track, I seriously think that more companies, ESPECIALLY ones working online should really consider accomidating the needs of the player, because in the end that just nets you more people and more money, and that's definitely the key to staying afloat. reCaptcha: its radiated
  • Azymuth - May 18, 2010 2:03 a.m.

    OK, I felt guilty and finally read it. It was a good article. The first page is like double the lenght of the other two pages, so it makes the article appear like a lot longer than it is really. Also it would be a lot easier to read without this stupid Lost Planet ad. Seriously, this video is more invasive than Assasins' Creed 2 DRM. It is unprofessional. Yeah, I am a whiny bitch. Sorry
  • shadowarrior99 - May 18, 2010 1:17 a.m.

    why did i play wow instead of this? Oh, my cousin, and i never heard of it
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 18, 2010 1:10 a.m.

    @Azymuth: I recommend you do - it's fascinating. I have never played, no do I believe I will play, EVE simply because of the initial investment required to have any kind of meaningful presence. However, all I've heard of EVE is astonishing: in a way, EVE Online is that Final Frontier the modern-day pioneer yearns for. I'm constantly amazed at the players' dedication. As a gamer, I'm glad our medium is able to encapsulate all people - the casuals and these borderline LARPers. Also, the developer interaction is, so far, unprecedented and very cool of them.
  • nadrewod999 - May 18, 2010 12:57 a.m.

    EVE is very fun, I just wish they would give longer trials (Wait, what am I saying? Twice as long as WoW (7-day trial, decent graphics), better looking than Runescape (several hundred hour trial that never expires, terrible graphics), I think this might actually be an MMO I want to be a fully paid member of. LONG LIVE EVE!)
  • PlainLikeVanilla - May 17, 2010 11:47 p.m.

    Wow that sounds awsome, maybe I should give EVE a try.
  • Azymuth - May 17, 2010 10:48 p.m.

    TL;DR

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