Since it was announced at CCP's Fanfest 2007, EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management has changed dramatically in both scope and intent. Originally announced as a way for players to snuff out CCP employees' unauthorized involvement in the game world after it was discovered that a CCP employee had provided an unfair advantage to his in-game alliance, the CSM has since evolved into a new kind of democratic community management where EVE's most prominent (or at least politically-minded) players meet directly with CCP programmers, game designers and producers to deliberate on the game world's most pressing issues.
Last weekend, after conducting nearly 20 hours of online meetings in the EVE game world, the CSM met face to face for the first time in Reykjavik, Iceland. Delegates sat across a long table from prominent CCP employees, and a director and sometimes-diplomat from from the University of Iceland moderated the group's extensive discussions on interface issues, game balance and other design considerations. Never in the (admittedly short) history of online gaming have players been granted such unvarnished insight into the design of their game world, and the significance of the event wasn't lost on either the players, the developers or the journalists who were privileged to be able to attend the event. As Dr. Eyjólfur "Eyjo" Guðmundsson, EVE's resident economist put it to the delegates, "You are now part of the inner circle."
One of CCP's more prominent employees in attendance was EVE's Lead Designer, Noah Ward. Noah took a few minutes to sit down with WarCry after the second day of CSM meetings to give his impressions of the event thus far.
WarCry: Have you been surprised at all about how it's gone? What were you expecting going into it?
Noah Ward: I haven't really been surprised about it at all, I've been - I guess initially what I felt was the first issues that they brought up were maybe not as "grand" as we had hoped for or expected, you know, some little niggling UI issues and that kind of stuff. And we were thinking that they were going to bring up broad, sweeping things. I think that's just due to the fact that this is the first one we've done and they didn't really know their place or what their role was, how it was going to work out or what they were allowed to even ask - how it worked. It wasn't like the issues that they were bringing up surprised I think any of us.
WC: That was more yesterday, right? When they were talking about minor UI things?
WC: Today has been more substantial I think, based on what I've seen.
NW: Yes, definitely more substantial today. But yeah, the issues that they bring up aren't things - it wasn't coming out of left field, it's definitely stuff that other players have voiced concerns over in the past. I think as the CSM evolves and moves forward the issues are going to - well, some of these things are long-standing issues that need to be addressed, and as we solve some of these longer-standing issues it's going to be newer stuff and more forward-looking kind of things. Or at least I hope we'll come up with more forward looking things.