EVE Online: "The War on the Impossible", Part 2: Democracy

Dana Massey | 6 Nov 2007 23:19
Previews - RSS 2.0

The Debate

CEO Petursson moderated the panel and used that role to respond. He explained that when the game had 30,000 subscribers, he felt like a god, because they could simply deal with situations like the god of the Old Testament. If someone did something wrong, they smote them. Yet, as time passed, CCP has become more like the Christian God of the New Testament, a much more subtle force.

To Petursson, the Council of Stellar Management is more concerned with the management of the player society than the intricacies of game system design. To which Bartle responded that the corporations already serve that role.

Petursson agreed, but felt something new was needed based on scale. He cited a psychologist who said people can only truly "know" 150 people. So, for them, the first level of organization is the corporation of 150 people. Then there is the Alliance of 150 corporations. Now, with as many people as they have online, they needed to once again move above that and this is the inspiration of the Council. Bartle was not convinced.

CCP then said the Council of Stellar Management exists within the "physics of the world", not to influence it. This statement though is a direct contradiction to the design presented earlier in the day, where the councilors were to serve as people, not players and to consider whatever the players want, which theoretically could and should include questions of game balance and design.

At this point, Mulligan brought up a theoretical example where the Goon Swarm convinces the council to vote that all ships be replaced with pink ponies. It's patently ridiculous, but not really inconceivable. What would CCP do, she asked. They admitted they would not make such a change, as they would need a good reason why and none could be given. However, they argued this would never happen.

"We are a bit naive about human nature," they half joked.

With that example said aloud, CCP essentially bowed to the point Mulligan and Bartle made, which is that it is unfair to call it a democracy. Sure, the council is democratically elected, but once there, they are a deliberative group who must persuade CCP, not dictate policy to them.


While the idea of the Council of Stellar Management seemed quite unique and a noble step towards increased player participation in the creation of a game world, it is still too loosely defined and with far too many paradoxes to succeed.

If CCP wants the elections to be "of the game world", then the decisions the council makes should also be within the physics of that world. This is what they said they wanted themselves, but the base design they presented contradicts them.

Personally, I think they missed a step. A more logical government layer over top of the corporations would have been based on the races within the games and could have provided the game with an infusion of political intrigue and fun without the weighty paradoxes of what exactly that council does once elected. Instead of a deliberative democracy that contemplates whatever it wants - they made sure not to define that at any point during the week - they could have clearly defined mechanics, say a system akin to the management in a game like Civilization IV.

The above is just one example, but it is something that gives those elected real power to govern a world and keeps them safely within the confines of what that world is. It is also true democracy and would have left CCP free to then either have players elect or they themselves select people to sit on a focus group, which is essentially what the Council of Stellar Management in its initial design appears to be.

That is not to say that this is not a noble experiment, just that there seems to be too many goals and ideas jammed into one. Nonetheless, if any game is to undergo anything resembling democratic initiatives, EVE Online is that game. What they discover should not only improve the process as they iterate upon, but also serve as a lesson to everyone who builds and lives in virtual worlds.

Recommended Games
Kings Road
categories: fantasy
categories: 3d, fantasy
JX2 Online
categories: fantasy