WC: You said that they're bringing up problems that you guys have definitely been aware of, that have been on the radar for a while, but some of them - without seemingly any game design background at all - have been proposing solutions, and I've seen some kind of nods of approval from you guys. Have you been surprised by the quality of their ideas? Do you see anything there that's actually worth investigating?
NW: I think definitely their plans, their ideas have merit. I had no game design background before I started working here, I was just a guy with some good ideas about game design! Then I got hired, and of course I've been working here for N-Something years; I've read a lot on the subject and now I consider myself well-versed in game design and game psych theory. But yeah, when you start out you're just a guy who likes games; you see a part of a game you don't like and you say "If you did it this way, it would be better for me!" I think that's what they're saying, and that's kind of how EVE is. It's evolved from hardly anything in it, and the players say "please give us this feature," and we just do it!
WC: So do you see any future game designers among those nine CSM members?
NW: I don't know if we'll necessarily be recruiting from them!
WC: Oh, not necessarily for you guys! Just in general ...
NW: It's entirely possible. This is definitely an interesting type of - I mean, we're really forging ahead and treading uncharted territories here, so ... This is definitely something to put on your CV - "I was on the Council of Stellar Management," a democratically elected representative of a game with a quarter of a million subscribers.
WC: I know that the way the CSM was originally conceived, it was sort of an 'oversight' role. Obviously, that's been replaced by your internal affairs here after the whole "t20" incident. Now it seems to be more of a community management in the sense that they're filtering the forums, they're accumulating these opinions and figuring out which ones have enough merit to bring to you guys. I'm just kind of curious, how much hesitance was there for you guys in terms of - it seems like when it comes to actual stuff like deadlines or concrete plans to investigate or dedicate man-hours to some of the issues that they're bringing up, you guys are really reluctant.
WC: That completely makes sense, because they're fans of the game and not paid employees; they shouldn't have anything to do with the the financial sense of the game. But at the same time, they all expressed a pretty pressing need to bring something back to their "constituencies."
NW: Yeah, as they should, really. But the thing is, it's also an issue of just educating people. Unless you actually work in game development or some other form of software development, it's kind of a "black art"; you need to know, "How does it work, that this game gets created?" You know it takes a lot of money, but what's the process that things go through? Especially as a company like CCP grows from three people to 300 people - I started when there were 30 people - the whole process changes. You have to put more processes in place, with a massive organizational role ... compared with a couple of programmers with some ideas to make a space game.
So when they come here and they say, "We want this!" just because we said "Yes," and even if we said "Yes, we want it too, really badly!" it doesn't mean it's going to be in the game next week. There's a whole process. So getting people educated about how something goes from an idea to a design - maybe it's just a sentence like "I want to be able to 'X.'" Then that ends up in some backlog, now we're using Scrum and Agile Methodology, and that gets prioritized. But just by having them here and saying "We want these things," they bump up the priorities, so it makes it into the game sooner than it would have. Or it ends up on the backlog, because it wasn't in the backlog yet.