CSM 14 Spring Summit Highlights: Communication, Conflict Drivers, and Changes in the Works

2020-04-18

Header Art Provided by CCP Games

On April 17, the CSM 14 Winter Summit Minutes were released by CCP Dopamine in this Dev Blog. He also mentioned a new format that will move away from transcripts of each session, to more concise summaries. Those who wish to read the full (38-page) document can do so here.

Sessions at the summit, which took place between March 2-5 in Reykjavik, included all topics listed below. What follows is a summary of each topic covered by the minutes, so please click on the topic of your choice in the list below to read about the the relevant session(s):

CSM Summit Topics

EVE Leadership Opening Session

As reported by INN, the previous CSM session was largely defined by CCP’s seeming lack of vision for the game’s future. This event seemed to be a response to that perception, as CCP Mannbjörn spoke on leadership changes and a shift toward 4DX, a productivity methodology that focuses on the four key “disciplines” of Focus, Leverage, Engagement, and Accountability.

Mannbjörn also outlined CCP’s “three main objectives”: improving early player retention, challenging the player core, and territorial expansion. The first two were the focus of several later sessions, but the meeting minutes do not elaborate on the third objective – or indeed mention the term again after the opening session.

Following Mannbjörn, CCP Orca discussed new registrations, reactivation drives, and other projects to streamline the entry point into the game, some of which are currently in A/B testing. CCP Burger concluded the opening session by sharing the three main “pillars” of CCP’s creative focus: a living universe, conflict drivers, and meaningful connections.

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Quadrant 2 Roadmap

This session – occurring before the launch of the”Eclipse” theme on April 2 – was a look back at Q1, as well as a preview of what was to come. The changes in Quadrant 2, discussed during this session, have been covered by INN here and here.

In this session, Pandemic Horde’s leader Gobbins broached another topic that would be the subject of further discussions throughout the event. Gobbins took issue with the bi-weekly release of updates, noting that it leads to seemingly half-finished changes. In response, CCP noted that while this is a known risk, the increased number of teams working within this release schedule gives more flexibility to iterate on releases.

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CCP TV

The next session was focused on upcoming plans for CCP TV – a streaming project primarily through Twitch and YouTube which is still in the planning phases. Discussions centered around content topics, copyright issues, reusable templates, and support for content creators. Of particular interest to our INN community, CCP Spider noted that he is currently mapping out the streaming and podcast community, and provided an email point of contact at media@ccpgames.com for those seeking to interview a CCPer or to have them appear as a guest.

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Communications

Streaming content wasn’t the only communications topic discussed at CSM 14. In fact, CCP’s level of communication in general was a major theme throughout the summit, and the dedicated session shows that both CCP and the CSM take CCP-to-player communication seriously at present.

The meeting minutes for this session give the sense that this was one of the more adversarial topics at what was otherwise a largely congenial event. There is a very strong sense of disconnect between CCP’s impression of what needs to be communicated, versus what players – including those on the CSM – need to hear.

ExookiZ said that he “believes that CCP overestimates their ability to over communicate and encouraged them not to wait to announce things at events.” This was echoed by several other CSM members. Gobbins urged CCP members to continue their recent trend of appearing more frequently in streams and podcasts. Dunk Dinkle noted that a rapid response can help to control the narrative around impending changes as well as providing the player community with the sense that they are hearing from a “real person.”

Sort Dragon noted that “there is a diversion of what CCP and players consider to be a problem.” Olmeca Gold felt that CCP’s response at times gives off a “perception of incompetence” and that more – and more effective – communication can alleviate that perception. The Imperium’s Innominate stated that over the past year, CCP’s communications have grown worse – both in terms of protracted response time and the sense that there is “no communication until CCP figures out how to respond.”

It should be noted that this is one of few sessions to have a dedicated ‘Action Items’ section. These takeaways included identifying opportunities for improving the content and searchability of patch notes. That said, one gets the sense in reading these summaries that CCP communication – and the disconnect noted by Sort Dragon – will continue to be an issue going forward.

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Conflict Drivers

According to the meeting minutes, “CCP defines conflict drivers as a reason and means of getting into fights.” This session asked CSM members to outline why they believe EVE players both seek out and avoid fighting. While the discussion of why players fight stayed largely – according to the notes – at the philosophical level, the discussion of conflict avoidance got very practical, very quickly.

According to CSM members, some of the issues inhibiting conflict in EVE include:

  • Issues with requiring multiple time- and manpower-intensive structure bashes to take down a single structure, which automatically repairs itself unless prevented
  • Infrastructure requirements for resource extraction
  • Alternative business models more profitable than conflict (e.g., renting)
  • Lack of meaningful mechanisms for passive income
  • No meaningful mechanism for disruption or harassment short of all-out war

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Corp Recruitment

This session centered around the observation that “players who join corporations hang around to play EVE Online longer.” Suggested improvements to the recruitment process included:

  • Revisions to Corp Finder
  • Reductions to the overwhelming and distracting clutter in starter systems, and the consolidation of those systems
  • Suggestions for new player-friendly mechanics, such as nullified shuttles and removing restrictions on pod jumping
  • Placing new players who start around the same time in a single corporation and chat
  • Incorporating achievement of the “Magic 14” skills into the tutorial experience
  • Incorporating the Sisters of Eve Epic Arc as a sort of “advanced tutorial”

Discussion by CSM Members focused on the lack of support for smaller fleet sizes, hearkening back to the previous session’s discussion of the need for players to feel a meaningful sense of impact somewhere between zero and all-out war.

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DDOS Retrospective

This session was a review of the DDoS attacks in January and February. There was some discussion about the implementation of auto-bans, but much of the content from this session was understandably redacted for security reasons.

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EVE Leadership AMA

An “Ask Me Anything” session with CCP Leadership included discussions for reopening the Chinese server, the Korean localization, content “stagnation” (what it means and whether or not it is occurring), the void left by removal of the Alliance Tournament, additional discussions around communication, and whether CCP Hellmar is planning to stick around (spoiler alert: Yes).

In another example of the communication disconnect, Hellmar noted that “130 people are working on a lot of different stuff in EVE right now,” in what he called a “company-wide push for better processes that will maximize the potential of teams.” Dunk Dinkle pointed out that while CCP and CSM know this, much of the player base “is assuming that there are only a couple of developers working on everything.”

“The perception,” says Dinkle, “needs to shift away from that.”

It should also be noted that only CCP Hellmar (CCP CEO), CCP Goodfella (CCP Brand Director), and CCP Dopamine (Senior Community Developer) were directly referenced as being present in this session.

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EVE Online User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX)

CCP dedicated a session to discussing user interface improvements. Topics included updates to the Overview, module activation buttons, hitpoint values on targets, simplified overheating, and improved travel mechanics. Dunk Dinkle cautioned against “remov[ing] functionality for the sake of aesthetics.”

The infamous “red dot” featured in this discussion as well. CCP Muppet Hunter attributed issues with the dot not to a lack of useful application, but to “edge cases” such as ammo swapping which have caused problems. He noted that “the feature was primarily tested by new players who had positive feedback about it, but there was an opportunity to carry out more testing with more experienced pilots.”

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EVE Portal

The next session dealt with feedback on upcoming changes to EVE Portal. According to CCP: “EVE Portal wanted to experiment with a PLEX Market to make it easier for players to trade it.”

This would remove location restrictions and allow players to access PLEX buy and sell orders from anywhere in New Eden. CCP isn’t seeking full adoption (it is unlikely, for example, that PLEX traders will use this). The goal is to experiment with unbinding PLEX trading from character location. Additional suggestions for the team to focus on after dealing with the PLEX market included the overall state of the EVE Market, Planetary Production, Corp notification pings, and the Skill Planner.

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EVE Tournaments

This session returned the focus to the void left by the removal of the Alliance Tournament. According to CCP, “there is an undeniable appetite among the community for some form of tournament play in EVE Online.”

Discussions are ongoing about what future tournament play in EVE would look like, and “all options are on the table.”

CSM members, by and large, were strongly in favor of the AT’s return. The discussion revolved around mechanisms for making it more about player skill than about how much money an alliance spends to participate. Possible innovations included pre-fitted ships, incorporation of something similar to Formula One rules, and opening up a way for groups outside of established alliances to participate.

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Faction Warfare and Lowsec

Discussions in this session centered around improvements to Faction Warfare. Topics included the recurring theme of “Risk vs. Reward,” the ability to manipulate LP to switch between factions and control the markets, and the impact Citadels have had on the importance of territory in FW. “From the non-FW lowsec players, the most common request seems to be something valuable added to lowsec which they can fight over.”

This session also included a preview of the then-upcoming “Loyalty to Lowsec” update, covered in detail here. A follow-up was planned after the summit to discuss these topics further.

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Industry in EVE

Dunk Dinkle led a discussion on EVE industry and shared results from the community survey. He noted that industrial activity is not something new players typically dive into, that it is largely (though not entirely) the province of Sov-holding alliances, and that industrialists typically use multiple accounts. Most industrialists largely gather their own construction materials, and the major “pain points” revolved around moving materials and sharing between characters.

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PVE ISK Risk vs. Reward Balance

Led by Gobbins, the discussion returned to the balance of Risks and Rewards in EVE. Gobbins observed that “CCP seems to approach low-risk, high reward situations by nerfing the rewards,” and suggested that they instead focus on increasing the risk.

He noted the importance of “stakes” in upping the risk by giving players “skin in the game” for taking a given action. “The example of Rorqual miners getting hotdropped by dreads” was discussed as “an example of a stakes system working correctly. Both parties have to commit when they initiate their actions.”

The lack of stakes in many EVE activities, says Gobbins, contribute to a lack of conflict. “Either you get caught and instantly die, or you run away in time, losing nothing.”

Possible ideas included some way to up the stakes for ratting by introducing some way to steal ratting bounties, replacing bounties with some sort of looting mechanic, or depleting bounties in a single system over time. Suggestions were also made to increase the stakes in attacking and defending a citadel. Mission running – and Venal Burner Missions in particular – were also discussed as being broken with regard to the risk/reward ratio.

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Live Events

This session focused on in-game events as a means for increasing the game’s Daily Active User (DAU) counts. CCP discussed the event tied to the Loyalty to Lowsec update, along with suggestions for additional future events and mechanics. Suggestions included different reward types, events tied to the Resource Wars, factors aside from damage-dealing (such as repairing or scanning), and additional filament functionality such as filaments for caps and supercaps.

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Login Incentives Brainstorm

This session focused on login incentive rewards. The focus on rewards “with a short expiry time to encourage players to use it without penalizing those who can’t play every day,” likely explains the proliferation of controversial login booster rewards in recent days. Additional suggestions included rewards tied to buddy interactions, cosmetic rewards like character backgrounds or poses, Loyalty Points for a new LP store, and Omega game time for 30 days of consecutive logins.

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Military Organizations within EVE Online

Legacy Coalition’s Military Director Vily gave a presentation on military organizations in EVE. He began with the logistics of what large alliances need for military operations: external chat and voice comms, authentication for APIs, fleet management, participation metrics, in-game chat channels, forums, and administration for financial and IT infrastructure.

Vily then turned to the issue of trust – something that has played a key role in EVE’s storied history. He noted that “on the leadership level in an alliance, adding one more leader increases the risk exponentially.” He discussed the vital – but frequently underappreciated – role of logistics groups. Vily also advocated for the addition of one-way fueling mechanics as a means to increase efficiency and decrease player burnout due to performing necessary but arduous logistics functions.

A number of additional improvements were discussed in this session, including a global taxation system, improved fleet functionality, more API tools, better in-game voice options, and access control lists for hangars.

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New Player Experience

In a brainstorming session on improving the New Player experience, suggestions included better “Aura” functionality, improved career agents (and missioning system in general), better skill queue, and more support for gaining the “Magic 14” skills. The Imperium’s Merkelchen noted that the advice frequently given to new players to “work an extra hour to buy PLEX rather than working on something together (minmaxing vs. social interaction)” creates a situation in which “a player has to change their preferred activity to make money.” Innominate noted the lack of new player-friendly options for ISK-making after the tutorial is complete, and Vily noted that “running level 1 or 2 missions for days would still not allow a player to afford a cruiser.” CCP Muppet Hunter acknowledged that “entry-level rewards need to be balanced across the board.” Further discussion revolved around the possibility of making faction choice more consequential, and acclimating new players to losing their ships.

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Non-Consensual PVP

Olmeca Gold led a PVP-focused discussion, noting that with the exception of the Blackout period, non-consensual PVP has been steadily declining since 2018. Though rarely profitable, non-consensual PVP can be seen as a gateway to consensual PVP, and hunters take on a risk to themselves, while providing risk to what would otherwise be completely risk-free PVE activities.

Discussions revolved around the right balance of PVE risks, the imbalance between overpopulated and empty space, and possible methods for adding rewards and tools to benefit hunters.

Unsurprisingly, this notion of incentivizing hunters drew some of the strongest adverse reaction from PVE players on the associated EVE forum thread.

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Resources and Industry

This session revolved around the recent and ongoing resource allocation changes across New Eden. CCP is seeking a way to increase the value of underused items and ores, and seeks to move toward a more dynamic system and away from the status quo in which “the universe has more than what players need to sustain themselves.” CSM members noted that “CCP needs to write a blog explaining what they think is the problem and what they want to do to fix it. This would potentially align the community on what is actually the problem in the game and get support for CCP to address it.”

It should be noted that this session appears to have been (at least partially) addressed in a pair of devblogs posted by the EVE Ecosystem team here and here.

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Rapid Content Delivery

In this session, conversation returned to the pace of content updates. While the feedback around the increased pace – and the Team Talos “brand” associated with these updates – is generally positive, there is concern that much-needed large updates are being set aside in favor of smaller, quicker changes. Gobbins suggested a change/iteration cycle in which two change cycles are followed by corresponding iteration cycles. Vily countered that the large issues can result in paralysis, and that two-week iterations are vastly preferable rather than trying to “fix everything at once.” Once more the conversation turned to communication, and CCP “identified opportunities to improve communicating all the different things they are working on.”

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Ship Balance (Sessions 1-3)

Three separate sessions discussed upcoming balance changes. The first of these discussions include the roots for many of the changes we have seen in recent days, including the nerfs to Capital Effective Hit Points (EHP), Muninns and Lokis, and the push to make Battlecruisers and Battleships more attractive to fly. CCP’s desire to address “capital balance with a sprinkle of subcap work too” will likely fuel even more reactions than have already been seen in the wake of the recent updates, with regard to possible unintended consequences, as nerfs to one area – seemingly unintentionally – impact other areas of the game.

The second Ship Balancing discussion began with a discussion of nullification, and whether this mechanic belongs on combat-capable ships at all. There was further discussion about lowering supercap EHP, as well as a preview of the changes we’ve recently seen to supercarriers – specifically the elimination of support fighter tubes – to prevent them from acting as “a solo machine” that is “able to take on a small fleet.”

The third session focused on ways to get people to commit to battle. These included discussions that likely led to the recent buffs to short-range ammo, making it more effective to commit to a fight past the point of easy extrication. There was also extensive discussion about cyno mechanics, including expanding their availability to more hulls (such as HICs), restoring the jump ranges for dreads and carriers, and implementing separate cynos for caps and supercaps.

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Wormholes

This session was led by ExookiZ, and discussed various aspects of wormhole mechanics. CCP took pains to remind readers that the final session took place amid “World War Wormhole,” which was a conflict largely ignored by the wider player community. Generally speaking, the “risk vs. rewards” balance was seen to be in a good place – particularly on the higher end (C5 and C6) – while the supply vs. demand balance was seen as less healthy, particularly in C4s and low-level anoms. One suggestion was that WH resources should be more useful in construction, as this tech is currently only used in two ship classes.

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Conclusion

All in all, this event was seen by CCP and CSM members alike as significantly more productive and congenial than the CSM 14 Summer Summit. Imperium Financial Director Aryth said that “Going in, there was confusion between CSM and CCP on specific aspects of previously released features and what that meant for future releases. The initial concerns were discussed and addressed and we gained a much clearer idea of what CCP’s overall intentions and goals were.”

According to Sort Dragon, “During the summit, I saw CCP’s long-term plans for the future, and the reasons behind the changes they have made, and their reasoning behind future changes. These plans are big, and they’re bold. I’m looking forward to seeing how they implement them and how they communicate them with the player base in the future.”

ExookiZ called it, “a very positive summit. Compared to our first summit in September, it was obvious that a lot of CCP’s reorganization and refocusing has begun to pay off.”

And Pandemic Horde’s Gobbins noted that “The improvements to new player retention are driven by solid data and the stats show that the current work has already been bearing fruit. The impact of these improvements on the game population as a whole might not be noticed at first but are projected to make a big difference in a matter of 2-3 years.” Gobbins also cautioned that “conflict drivers” remain a “blind spot” at CCP, “partly because it is believed the changes to the economy will also drive conflict. That prediction seems flawed at the moment, but hopefully the topic of conflict drivers can become more prominent once some of the urgent issues with the economy are dealt with.”

For CCP’s part, CCP Dopamine said that “the knowledge sharing during this summit was particularly beneficial. We had four presentations delivered by CSM members that provided insight into the areas of expertise of individual members. I consider this to be one of the biggest impacts we get from the council.” CCP Rise called the CSM “a critical resource for […] Team Talos. This session, [the CSM] worked hard to help us shape changes to wormholes, gather feedback from the front lines in low sec, establish an updated plan for capitals, and above all explore options for the future of structures big and small. Without the CSM, it would been very difficult to roll-out so many veteran-oriented changes at such a fast pace, as we have been doing over the past few months.”

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Check back here at INN for further commentary soon to come on specific topics and discussions from the CSM 14 Spring Summit.

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