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The CSM Devblog Heard ‘Round the World

Yesterday, CCP released a CSM-focused devblog that was a bit..unusual. It asked several sitting members of the CSM (all of whom are running for reelection) to share their thoughts on how the year has gone for the CSM so far. Typically, retrospectives are saved for when a thing is done – and while the term for CSM9 is swiftly approaching its end, the winter summit hasn’t even taken place yet. However, that’s not really what this post is about. No, this post is about the actual content of the CSM responses.

First came corebloodbrothers, who is running for reelection all on his own as not a single colleague of his from CSM 9 has said a single kind word about him or his performance this year. Having already done my lowsec questionnaire and interview followup with him, I have to say I kind of like him as a candidate – he gives no fucks, is a good communicator in general (his english writing ability sucks but it is not his native language), and generally seems like one of the more well adjusted Eve players I’ve ever encountered. However, his contribution to the devblog consists of a pretty large chunk of copypasta directly from his candidacy thread, so…well, nothing really new here.

Next up is corbexx, who may have been one of the busiest and most productive members on the CSM for the last couple years. He recounts the research efforts he made on behalf of the wormhole community and CCP; his strong voice of reason during the summer summit, where apparently CCP wasn’t really getting what the wormhole community is all about; and his setup of a wormhole focus group on Skype, complete with CCP developers in the channel. I have some thoughts about this last bit, but that’s for another post – in general, it seems corbexx is satisfied with the year, though he does mention that sometimes teams at CCP don’t make much use of the CSM. Interesting…

Sugar Kyle, lowsec’s lovable representative on CSM9, comes next, echoing a lot of the ‘communicate, communicate, communicate’ mantra that corbexx voiced. Most of her CSM duties appear to be communicating with the playerbase, though she did also contribute heavily to the production of the summer summit minutes. She, too, mentions issues working with CCP in general, though, stating that “a lot of time is spent advocating player concerns and worries” and that there isn’t always a resolution to these concerns. Hmm, I’m beginning to sense a pattern here-

Oh wait, it is Sion Kumitomo’s turn and oh god is that a bomb in his hands, the fuse is lit, WHAT IS HE DOING-

Yeah. You should read what he had to say directly, then come back here – here’s the link again in case you need it.

Done? Good. Let’s talk about this. From the get go, Sion is taking no prisoners here. He states he is “deeply frustrated and increasingly having to defend an institution in which I struggle to believe.” He then states flatly that there will be some cheerleaders on the CSM who will pointedly not talk about what he’s talking about, but that he doesn’t know how they can say that with a straight face. Apparently, communication lines between the CSM and CCP have degraded severely over the last year.

Sion does state that the CSM is partly to blame for this – no one was prepared for the switch to 5 week development cycles, and it wasn’t until arriving at a point where, just a few days before a release, the CSM realized they didn’t even know what was going into the release that a problem was recognized to exist. They should have recognized this sooner, in Sion’s estimation, but he does take the time to (non-specifically) call out totally AFK CSM members as not being exactly helpful.

He goes on to state, though, that CCP also carries a good amount of the blame here. “In some cases, the CSM has been specifically sidelined. In other cases, the CSM has been treated as an enemy, something to deal with if necessary but otherwise best ignored.” Pretty damning stuff, though to be fair this isn’t exactly new territory. Sion does specifically compliment the efforts of CCP Falcon and CCP Leeloo, but in general it seems that inside the actual dev teams, the CSM is treated at best as a sort of novelty – a significant step back in CSM-CCP relations.

After this snippet, which I’m amazed was even put into the devblog, Mike Azariah shares his thoughts about the term, side-stepping for the most part the elephant in the room. And then we get to the part that makes this perhaps one of my favorite devblogs ever:

“It was well known that I was a staunch supporter of the CSM process before being elected myself onto CSM 9. I was of the firm belief that while the process wasn’t perfect, the CSM offered a very real way of allowing players to actively engage CCP in improving Eve Online. I am happy to say that for the most part, my suspicions have been confirmed.” – Xander Phoena

Whomever structured this devblog certainly didn’t do Xander any favors by placing his text below Sion’s (though he did at least have some buffer in the form of Azariah there). Xander goes on to state that “the system works” in regards to the CSM, after reiterating the other common theme of communication with the community.

Now, sans Xander’s contribution, this devblog paints a grim-but-clear picture. With it, things get a little muddy. It certainly seems that some breakdowns must have occurred this year, given the oblique references from Sugar and Corbexx (who, along with Sion, are widely acknowledged as the most active members of the CSM this year). However, is it as dire as Sion suggests? Hard to say. At least one member of the CSM is really quite complimentary of the way things are right now, and while his job has forced him to be a little disconnected from events at times, no one can doubt Xander’s good intentions and work ethic on the CSM.

I met and spent a significant amount of time with Sion at Eve Vegas last year and found him to be a very well adjusted, even-keeled, pragmatic sort of individual. If I didn’t already know several people that held Sion in the highest of regards, I’d still trust the guy to deliver the straight dope when it comes to Eve. He’s a passionate player of the game, but not one that appears prone to fits of pique, delusions of grandeur, self-importance, or entitlement. Having shared beers and food with him, in short – I trust the guy. If he says it’s bad, it’s more than likely pretty bad.

Sion is running for re-election and as a top billed member of the CFC ballot he’s basically guaranteed not just a new term on the CSM, but a permanent delegate seat at the table. What does this devblog mean for CSMX? It’s hard to say right now. And going back to an earlier question, how does a devblog with that sort of blunt language get published by CCP on their own website? Is this evidence of some sort of internal strife within the company, or…what? Again, hard to say.

All I know for sure is that this CSM election just got a whole lot more interesting!