Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cross-circuiting to "B"

Anyone who follows EVE is by now aware of CCP Zulu's Iterative development and what's happening in 2011 devblog, and the controversial threadnaught it spawned (1742 posts at the time of writing).

In the devblog, Zulu revealed how many people were working on EVE, and what they were working on. Unfortunately for him, EVE players are spreadsheet-whores, and after a few taps on their pocket-calculators, they realized that after all the people who were being dedicated to Incarna, the DUST linkup, EVE-Gate, Planetary Interaction, and Infrastructure (including the LagBusters) there was almost nobody left who could work on making changes to EVE that the players have asked for -- such as the 168 items in the current CSM backlog.

Now, the CSM is supposed to be a Stakeholder, and Stakeholders are supposed to be able to compete to get resources for backlog items they think are important. However, if there are few resources to be competed for, that doesn't really amount to much, does it?

Needless to say, the eruption of what I will diplomatically refer to as "concern about the future of EVE" was somewhat energetic, even by the volcanic standards Icelanders are inured to. CCP responses in the thread consisted of very limited, technical answers to questions, which predictably did nothing to stem the tide of player discontent.

Faced with a tsunami of extremely coherent rage, CCP Hellmar posted a note that basically said "we are listening and working very hard," to which the player response was "no you aren't, and no you aren't".

Oh my oh my, what is a mild-mannered CSM like your humble correspondent to do? If the dev-blog is taken at face value, then not many of the CSM's backlog items are going to get implemented in the near term, and possibly not for 18 months, or even longer.

Well, since the hordes of players telling them they were wrong clearly wasn't having any effect, I decided to take a different tack. I posted a two-part open letter to CCP Hellmar making a business case for why devoting resources to the concerns of existing players was smart business -- it was in effect an insurance policy against the possibility of delays and other business disruptions.

A couple of days later, I tried another tack. CCP Explorer had been making some very technical answers to questions about CCP's development process (which, of course, was totally avoiding the point of the whole thread). So I asked him, in what I freely admit was a somewhat teasing manner, for advice on how CSM could compete for the apparently limited developer resources available.

All in good fun, of course, and I hope I made a positive contribution to the discussion. But until I hear otherwise, I have to proceed on the assumption that the CSM won't be able to get significant attention to its issues.

So, how can CSM be effective given the circumstances we find ourselves in? Well, obviously we'll keep on lobbying CCP for more resources to be devoted to player concerns. But it has also occurred to me that if CSM can't get big things done, maybe we can slip some small things into the cracks here and there.

One of the most overlooked, but most promising things in the Summit minutes is the fact that CCP now has 3 people devoted to maintaining and improving the client UI, and improvements to the UI will be noticed by everyone. So I've started up a User Interface - Big Wins, Fan Favorites and Low Hanging Fruit proposal, with an associated forum thread to collect and crowdsource UI improvement suggestions.

My hope is that we'll be able to give the CCP UI team a prioritized list of UI improvements, big and small, that they can pick from and implement when they have some extra time.

Come and help us try to make some lemonade.


  1. I'm impressed by your intelligent approach to this situation. I believe you are correct that a business case is the most likely to be heard by CCP.

    Keep up the good work, and don't get discouraged.

  2. Sneaky One (o.-)b

    Though got to critize something:
    should be:
    just for the protocol ;)

  3. Ah, good catch on the url, thanks -- and fixed.

  4. Trebor, always the sensible, thoughtful one :) Nice blog post. And excellent engagement of the community with the UI proposal. ♥