Let Them Play

It’s officially CSM season, and that means a lot of EVE-style politicking and snide remarks over what the CSM actually does. Many of the campaigns have a similar message: fix sov, grr Ishtars/Tengus, and herp-derp POSes. The more serious candidates even discuss these hot-button issues so you, the voter, know how they would handle these problems. But if you think the CSM can make specific game design decisions, you’d be kidding yourself. CCP sets the course for the EVE ship and the CSM can move the tiller a few degrees left or right to avoid disaster. People get very upset upon learning this, but it’s not a horrible system. I was on the CSM for two terms; if I got to make all the decisions this game would be a veritable disaster. What the CSM does have the influence to do – and has proven time and time again that it can do – is influence CCP policy. Outside of communication, this is the dream role of the CSM and one on which the voter should place significant importance. So for CSM X, what sort of policy should we be asking our candidates about? The most impactful change that we the players, represented by the CSM, need to achieve is lifting one of the most long-standing, counter-productive, and draconian policies out there: the restrictions governing how employees play their game. Not pushing harder for this while I was on the CSM is my single greatest regret. At the time, though, I didn’t fully appreciate how vital a role it could play.

Kil2 (CCP Rise)

To understand the origin of the policies as they currently stand, let’s start with a brief history lesson. If you’ve played EVE long enough, you’ve undoubtedly heard this story in some form or another. Back in The Day™, CCP employees had no restrictions on what they could do in the game. CCP’s rules extended as far as “don’t tell anyone you’re a Dev and you’re good to go.” Many of the Devs and GMs played in player alliances – CCP even released a list of alliances and how many Devs/GMs were in each one. The game was fairly new, so these guys were all established in their respective alliances before the tryhard anti-spy maneuvers were put in place. Suffice to say it was pretty easy to exist as a dev in an alliance without being noticed. Long story short, an employee named T20 was caught making some T2 BPOs for himself and giving them to his player character. He was caught internally, and then exposed externally a few months later. There was much community outrage, as one would expect. Shortly thereafter Thou Shalt Not Play came into effect. Now I don’t know the extent of CCP’s IA rules, obviously, but the core of it seems to be that devs/GMs can play so long as they aren’t linked to CCP. But how are you really going to do this in practice? In the modern era of EVE Online practically everyone is worried about spies; it’s even an EVE meme! Collectively we’ve gotten pretty good at catching spies, too, which means trying to hide your identity effectively becomes a chore. In the recent CSM minutes CCP Seagull talked about a strategy of making current players happy as a means to bring in new players. Obviously not quoted verbatim, but this is an excerpt from the Winter Summit minutes: “In the past there was more of a clash between doing things for veteran players that would have no benefit to new players versus making new features that work to draw in new players. Now with this idea of using players to bring in players, developing for veteran players by extension is developing to bring in new players.” That’s huge news for the most organized groups in EVE – the ones that CCP employees are currently unable to experience. 1 CCP devs are ridiculously accessible to the community, be it via the official forums, Reddit, or even Twitter. It’s almost unprecedented for a game, especially an MMO, to be able to chat with the devs so freely. Now more than ever if feels as though our voices are heard, but there is still no replacement for experience. If a team at CCP is working on nullsec, perhaps they will ask the CSM for some pain points, analyze data, peruse the forums attempting to separate the rage from the reasonable, and then go into their meeting. Imagine, though, if they could go into a meeting and say “hey you know what bothers me when I play?” as a source of input, along with all their other information. It is important not to conflate “let them play” with”make them play”. I’m sure there are plenty of people at the company who have no interest of bringing their work home with them. But if a dev wants to, even for a short while, I say don’t stop them. Likewise, those playing the game should be able to keep their anonymity – I can imagine the local banter and convo spam otherwise. But it should not be mandatory, and there should be an acceptable gradient. If a dev wants to hang out in a player alliance on the down-low, just a simple conversation with the CEO to explain the situation shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. As a community, though, we must ask for this. We must tell CCP that we trust them to let this play out, and more importantly that we won’t go shoot a statue if we lose a fight to an alliance with more CCP employees than our own. EVE players are astute – we’ll never turn a blind eye to abuses – but we have to collectively agree to keep the tin-foil-hattery to a minimum. We have to want this, and we have to ask for this to keep improving the game. We need our CSM to fight this battle with us. Talk to your candidates about it, make this a talking point, and let CCP know that we want to #LetThemPlay  
Tags: ccp, csm, elise

About the author

Elise Randolph

Pandemic Legion FC, Alliance Tournament commentator, former CSM and widely known as one of the most chill guys in all of EVE Online.