Of all the groups involved in EVE Online, the democratically elected Council of Stellar Management (CSM) may be the most significant influence in the game's development. The council was originally created as a way to reassure players that the developer corruption exposed in the T20 scandal would not be repeated. Players voted for a list of representatives from the community, who were then flown over to Iceland to review CCP's newly created internal affairs department. Since then, the CSM has taken on a more advisory role to CCP, presenting itself as a conduit through which players can focus their ideas and any issues they're having with EVE.

With the fifth CSM term now coming to a close, voting has begun to choose the members of the sixth council. Players with active EVE accounts over 30 days old have until March 22nd to log in and register their votes. If last year's record 39,433 voter turnout is anything to go by, this year your votes will matter even more than ever. Competition is high for a spot on the council, and it's up to the players to determine who will best represent them in meetings with CCP. If you're having trouble deciding whom to vote for, stay tuned to Massively's EVE Online coverage this week for a breakdown of all the candidates in the running.

This week's EVE Evolved is dedicated to convincing you that your vote counts. In this article, I address a few common reasons people are put off voting, explain why the CSM is a force for change in EVE, and hear a few words from ex-CSM Stephan Pirson.

Pushing an agenda

When the CSM first appeared, it was clear that several large alliances had managed to secure a seat on the council through sheer weight of numbers. Players have always been concerned that large political entities would use the council to push their own agendas, but so far that hasn't really happened. The CSM process practically forces council members to handle issues that aren't part of their agendas or campaign platforms. If there's significant player support for a topic raised on the forum, the CSM has an obligation to discuss it at one of its meetings and vote on it.

To add transparency to the whole process, CCP publishes minutes of the CSM meetings publicly. What they show is that ideas put forward through the CSM are always discussed rationally by the group and then voted on. Those suggestions that make it to the summit are then judged on their own merits at the meetings with CCP. Ultimately, it's the developers at CCP who decide whether an issue is important enough to assign development resources to.

The "free holiday in Iceland" myth

Twice per year, all active CSM members are invited to a summit in Iceland. Once there, they meet directly with CCP's developers to discuss the important issues players have raised over the preceding six months. In any discussion about the CSM, someone will usually pipe up and claim that the council members are only interested in a free holiday to Iceland. That perception may have even fueled several people's desires to apply for a position on the council, as if the election were some kind of lottery and the summit were a prize.

I've brought this topic up with several previous CSM members, and every one of them found the idea either funny or absurd. The sheer volume of work that council members must voluntarily undertake during their term makes the trip to Iceland one of the most expensive free holidays ever made. Once at the summit, council members have limited time in which to relax and see the sights. CCP organises daily meetings, presentations and game design exercises to make the best use of the CSM while its delegates are in range of the Iceland offices.

That said, I've visited Iceland briefly once before and can say with confidence that any trip there is an absolute treat. After six months of work acting as a go-between for the EVE community and CCP, whatever time council members get to themselves during the trip is definitely well-earned.

A force for change

If last year's fifth CSM showed anything, it's that the council is a powerful force for enacting change -- both in EVE and within CCP as a company. During the June summit, developers insisted that no resources would be available to tackle issues the council had raised. This was further compounded by a devblog showing that no resources would be dedicated to bug-fixing, polishing or iterating on existing features for at least 18 months. The media's strong focus on the CSM turned this into something of a PR disaster for CCP.

Six months later at the December summit, CCP had done a complete 180-degree turn. A full team of developers has been assigned to work on small balance issues, bug-fixes and UI annoyances. CCP has even begun making a massive effort to communicate its plans with players and gather feedback from the community. With the CSM's involvement in countless gameplay changes and around 60% of the issues it has raised being added to CCP's development backlog, it's clear that the CSM is being taken very seriously at CCP.

I could spend all day discussing how influential I think the CSM has been, how much good work it's done for EVE, and how I believe its views are treated at CCP. In the end, the only people who can really tell us what it's like are those who have been on the council. I caught up with CSM veteran Stephan Pirson to ask a few questions about the CSM's role in EVE and why it's extra important that you vote this term.

Massively: Having been on the CSM for several terms, would you say the council's views are taken seriously at CCP?

Stephan Pirson: Yes, very much so. CCP always seems very eager to hear what we have to say and find out why we think the things we do. It obviously doesn't mean they do everything we request, but they do listen and appear to be genuinely thankful for the constructive feedback. CCP frequently comes back to us for more questions after we give them our general views on a subject.

With all the alliances putting a candidate into the running, we've heard players say that their votes don't matter. How important is it for the average EVE player to vote and pick a solid candidate?

It is absolutely vital. In terms of influence, the larger alliances have historically held a disproportionate influence on the past CSMs, and it's natural as they are more organised and dedicated, but they are not the most numerous. There has been a growing interest for CSM 6 compared to other terms, but it is absolutely certain that if the "little players" don't vote, this CSM could very well end up being overwhelmed by nullsec dwellers. CCP has been trying to get the word out, and so have a number of candidates who try to reach out in every nook and cranny to get people to vote. Every single vote is important, this time more than ever.

Can you tell me a little about the influence the CSM has had on EVE? What features and issues has the council helped push through into the game?

Our influence is more into helping CCP prioritize features according to the playerbase's needs (as opposed to CCP's perception) and giving feedback on said features to make sure they get as close to their potential as possible, given the resources available. There are a plethora of fixes and small improvements the CSM can be called responsible for getting to the top of the stack, so to speak, like the skill queue, UI modifications, asset searching, faction ship rebalancing, focusing CCP on drastically improving performance (lag), etc.

Another important contribution from the CSM is a change in deployment policy. Historically, CCP has adhered to strict deployment every six months and getting fixes out in the following month. This term, we managed to convince CCP to postpone part of their expansion until it was more polished to ensure a better reception by the players. CCP listened, Incursion got deployed in two parts, and the reception has been stellar.

Summary

EVE's democratically elected Council of Stellar Management has proven itself to be a great force for change in the game. In this sixth term of the CSM, your vote is more important than ever. A number of large nullsec alliances have entered candidates into the running, and it's up to you to vote for level-headed candidates who can represent all players equally. Stay tuned to Massively's EVE Online coverage in the coming week, as we'll be providing you with a massive roundup of all the candidates in the running to make picking one a little easier.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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