EVE Online tries the World of Democracycraft experiment

A recent insider-meddling scandal inside the space-merchant game EVE Online prompted the creation of a democratically elected player council called the Council of Stellar Management (CSM). This newly constituted democratic institution is charged with helping the game developers balance out fun with fairness. I've often wondered whether democratic player-groups can vote for more fun, even when "fun" includes making the game harder and more frustrating at times.
1UP: When can we expect to see in-game results from the meeting?

AC: Well the immediate results were in the prioritizing of development effort applied to the game changes we advocated to CCP. Directly based on CSM advice, CCP will be rolling out game changes, balance alternations and improvements and additional programming effort on key areas. Of course, some of these things are going to take 3/6/9/12 months to see light on the live server, but a big part of the battle is to start the processing going and to know that we've helped to set the priorities for the next year of development for Eve. For me personally, the first big things I'm expecting changes on relate to Faction Warfare (the key content of the Empyrean Age expansion) being opened up to Alliance corporations and incorporating our advise and advocacy on a truly dynamic, open-ended plotline for the game itself. After that, I'm expecting CCP to roll-out improvements to the Black Ops range of Battleships and address issues with 0.0 Sovereignty and its current imbalance in favor of the defending power.

Building a Better Virtual World Through Democracy (via Terra Nova)


  1. Player voting and player participation in content annd gameplay decisions has been going on over at WWII Online for at least 6 years now.

  2. @4 LMAO. It does seem that way, doesn’t it?

    I played EVE for a while, but I do think I would have to be subjected to several Icelandic winters before becoming a real “fan”.

  3. I’ve played Spreadsheets In Space for a while now. It’s a really mellow game compared to WoW. Oddly enough … It’s the only game I’ve ever played that takes advantage of what I learned in my microeconomics, business calculus, and accounting classes.
    It is both far more boring and far more fun than people give it credit for.

  4. @6: “It is both far more boring and far more fun than people give it credit for.”

    Yeah, it’s kinda weird that way. ^_^

    I had to cancel my subscription as I’m currently without CC, but I’m missing it. A nice, quiet mining op, talking bull with my corp buddies, …

    As soon as I have a cedit card again, I’ll be back!

  5. EVE is a great game. It’s real dry, and honestly bewildering at times, but I’m a big fan. I also don’t feel bad about not playing, what with the nature of skill advancement in EVE. I guess I’ll admit that it’s not for everyone, but I think if you’re patient and clever it’s worth a shot. The payoff is honestly a pretty compelling MMO. For all my waxing, I was still confused by the CSM elections. I voted, but damn. Right now it’s hard to tell how this experiment will turn out.

  6. A lot of us oldest-of-old-school EVE players dropped out a few years back when the first dev corruption scandal broke. It’s really a great game, but something needed to be done- it’s souldestroying to work your ass off and then be militarily overtaken by johnny-come-latelies with buddies who are devs.

  7. This is a terrible idea, and I guarantee it will result in failure if the developers listen to anything the players have to say.

    First read the second page of this article. Game developers recognize that players do not know what they want. People play a game, but they do not understand what is making the game fun, or why they are playing it. If they have a frustration in a game, they will come up with a solution that has ramifications they do not foresee. Players will always ask for challenging things to be made easier and things which are too easy to be made more challenging. If you make the changes, they will start to ask for the reverse. The vast majority of game players do not understand game theory, and are not capable of making good decisions about how to change a game for the better.

    Take for example the game Tribes 2, the greatest fps of all time. So why is this game dead? The mistake of the developers was having the user community built into the game itself. The result is that almost every player went into the forums and complained. The mistake the developers made was listening to those complaints. They patched the game frequently fixing bugs, but also changing the rules. A game that was sold out on day one very quickly had nobody playing it anymore. Near the end, they put out a patch that restored things almost to the original rules. It was too little to late.

    Take for example Counter-Strike, the most popular multiplayer fps of all time. Tons of people still play the older version and the new version. If you were in the Counter-Strike forums back in the day you saw the same stuff. Ban the AWP, they said. Change the P90 back to the way it was, they said. The developers never listened to the players. They did what they knew was best, and they recognize that players don’t know what they want. The results speak for themselves.

    Go to the WoW forums. Look at complaints people have about the game. Then look and see how many of those changes requested by players were actually implemented by Blizzard. You would be hard pressed to find any significant number. Yet, people keep paying monthly fees to play this game.

    Players don’t know what they want. EVE has been trying to do everything they can to stay afloat. They put out Linux clients even, just to get those few Linux users. This sounds like they are getting closer to their last gasp.

  8. @#10:

    Zero Punctuation is hilarious, but Mr. Croshaw disappointed me a little bit with that review. Yeah, it was funny, but it seemed to me (a relatively casual player) that he missed a lot. I know he’s more inclined to do a negative review, because the more scathing he his, the funnier he gets, but he took a big dump on EVE without really understanding it. I mean, the guy basically tried to wrap his brain around a game in the space of a 14 day trial, and just couldn’t do it. So, he dropped a big steaming poop right on top of a decent game. But I digress. It was a funny review, at least.

  9. I think more games should implement this system. Democracy rules!

    Picture, if you will, the Council of Liberty City Pimps taking a vote on demanding a new patch from Rockstar that will always make the police look the other way whenever a prostitute is manhandled.

    Or, if you prefer, picture the Interdimensional Plumbers Guild delivering their petition to Nintendo, demanding that the princess shall always be hidden in the FIRST castle and no other.

    Personally, I´m gonna start a rally for good christians to make Namco expel all their ghosts from their games, hence making the games less of an affront and much fairer to play at the same time. Who’s with me?

  10. @#12:

    Yeah, Tribes 2 was awesome in it’s heyday, and the doting relationship the developers eventually had with the player base, I’ll agree, probably in part led to the quickly flagging popularity of the game. (flagging, get it?)

    Yes, CS:S and 1.6 is and are both decent, and exceptionally popular games. But I don’t think it has much to do with ignoring the player community. AWPs and P90s aside, CS is at heart an effort of player community – a mod cum standalone product – and remains so. Matches and servers are totally customizable. You can restrict weapons, lower hitpoints, even change gravity settings. I’m sure you know all this, but my point is that I don’t see much of a connection between ignoring its gaming community and the success of the game itself. I might be stretching, but a big difference between Tribes 2 and CS is T2’s very weak launch with a very buggy, unstable build of an otherwise wonderful game. Players saw promise, and Dynamix scrambled to keep up with the initially reasonable expectations of a community that just wanted the game to work. It’s pretty likely that down the road this shaky start created a relationship wherein the developers couldn’t help but indulge the masses, however confusing that must’ve been, and the players just liked being endlessly indulged. And since I guess you can’t please everybody, everybody just stopped playing.

    As far as I can tell, the point of EVE’s Interstellar Nerd Council isn’t to foster a reactionary, doting relationship between developer and player. Instead, its mandate is closer to creating transparency in future builds and adjustments, and having developers and players address issues and introduce new features more soberly than anyone could have before. Listening to a Nerd Council of 12, all with a vested interest and solid knowledge in and of the game, is way easier than trying to earnestly listen to the entire community at once. At least that’s the point. Whether it works or not remains to be seen.

  11. There are a few open-source MMORPG’s such as ManaWorld that aren’t influenced exclusively by profit making purposes and although I can’t say they are on the same playing level as some of the commercial developed MMORPGs I have enjoyed hearing second hand about the politics etc.

  12. I’ve been a capsuleer since the day the Mac client came out. What I value about Eve is the freedom it gives you. There are no fixed quest lines, no required paths to take, no classes, nothing. I recently switched from producing ships to blowing them up, much to the dismay of my surroundings. And for the first time, I can put the stuff I learned in sociology to good use – when confronted with pure, brutal laissez-faire capitalism, people tend to act in rather predictable ways, and it’s extremely interesting to wach what happens when those patterns are distrurbed.

    Also, in my professional opinion, blowing up stuff in space is awesome.

  13. Such a fun game (Most of the time)!

    I’ve been a pirate in EVE’s universe for about 3 years, blowing up hapless industrialist’s life savings and recent mineral hauls. The amount of hate you get for unconsentual PVP is sometimes just hilarious. Non-combat player tears are not why I play, however, as the remarkable thing about the game is that even the combat system has depth and complexity! People talk about how diverse and expansive the player-driven market is – and it is – but then the combat system alone involves the signature radius of the ship matched with the size of the guns you are firing on it and THEN transversal velocity comes into play with a host of other factors that determine how much damage is done.

    The Zero Punctuation review is supposed to be comedy, as all of his other reviews are. You really can’t watch the one review and expect to believe the words of a person who attempted EVE for 14 days… The skill system works in real-time (even offline) and the beginning skills alone, those skills which allow you train actually useful skills faster, take a couple of weeks alone.

    The epic scope of EVE comes into focus when you start getting involved in 500 man (all real players) fleet battles in space with lasers (pewpew!) and torpedoes (BOOM!?) flying all over the place, battles that determine who controls a region and it’s resources…

    The game has seen some very large shifts and plenty of small changes since it’s release, which usually results in veteran players getting frusterated and leaving and newer players staying frusterated and complaining because the learning curve is one of the worst in the industry (as the developers are aware of).

    Follow the link to see what I mean:

    The CSM council sounds so amazing on blogs and paper but the criticisms of it are plentiful. The election of a CSM representative usually devolves into a popularity contest with a lot of the candidates acting as the self-serving politicians we see in real life. Coupled with the gripe from the community that the CSM largely ignores the ‘big, important’ issues of the game and then announces it’s success at changing some ridiculously minute detail of the game that very few even noticed or cared about.

    The CSM is a step in the right direction, but the majority of the community regards the council idea as laughable due to it’s inherent lack of power. CCP is still very much a company that, although very different from larger game companies, is still out to make money and make the game progressively easier for the newer player.

  14. The CSM or player council in EVE serves a number of purposes. It provides transparency to an extent after the dev scandals of a year and more ago and so players get to see the internal security processes and systems which will ensure dev scandals won’t happen again. Another aspect is a bridge between thousands of people whining on forums about game balance or nerfs and the devs who need to know what’s really important to the majority of players. And this has started to work. Each council member can stand for 2 six month terms of office. The real people, not character, someone with 7 accounts and 21 characters can still only stand twice, ever. So there is rotation of CSM members on a six monthly cycle. There are CSM forums on the website so players can raise issues and discuss them with CSM reps and reps bring issues to regular meetings and a quorate vote is required to get them on the list of issues to bring to dev/csm meetings.

    This is not a hollow process but a very democratic process based on an ancient model of Icelandic government, one of the first democracies.

    The game itself is a persistent sandbox single shard universe, with a sci-fi theme, the only MMO of it’s kind. It’s very complex, has a high percentage of IT folks playing it (a lot of the CCP employees are ex-players) and a high average age for a MMO, about 28-30.

    It’s a fantastic game only a fraction of which I’ve gotten to grips with after playing nearly 2 years. I’ve not played any other game in this time. I’ve been to Iceland in November twice now to celebrate this game with fellow players and plan on playing and returning for EVE Online Fanfest for the foreseeable future.

  15. EVE is a great game, but as many have said “It is not for everyone”. I think that if you liked the Civ series you will probably like EVE.

    The CSM seems to be a good idea as it allows an official channel for the playerbase to make suggestions to CCP. However, to call it democracy is a bit of a stretch. CCP still maintains dictatorial control over the game. Which means that the players can’t vote themselves money. Although as others have commented, CCP does continually try to make the game more accessible to new players to the dismay of veterans, but nonetheless it seems that very few veterans ragequit because of those changes.

    Apreche noted that this was a last gasp. The CSM has been functioning for a year and the playerbase has been continuously expanding. CCP does what they think will make the game more fun, not simply what people think they want.

    As for the ZP review, it cracked me up. However, he did make one big mistake, he didn’t join a player corporation. It is a multiplayer game, and an enormous and complex one at that. If you try to take on the universe all by yourself, you may have some small successes, but not like you would if you had worked in a group. Joining a player corp. also helps considerably with the learning curve.

  16. Just to point out – minerals are not used in EVE Online for levelling – skill training is real time. Cash is used to buy skills, sure, but the costs are usually fairly low (except some of the more advanced skills) and, as such, I feel the article is misleading in the way it reports EVE.

  17. I guess EVE is only really popular to a certain mindset, but I love it. I did, however, vote for a candidate who wanted to make it so we can personalize our ships a bit.

  18. #25: Lol, yeah, the number of people on random forums putting a little red “III” triangle over their portraits, etc is significant. Personalisation here we come…

    And, like #23 and #24 said, this is year 2 of the CSM, and as #23 said, they’re democratically elected, but all they do is choose which player threads to forward on to CCP as suggestions. In the end, CCP makes the decisions, as a (sometimes) benevolent autocracy.

    As for the negativity: Eve is a place of “pure, brutal laissez-faire capitalism” (making it a playground for amateur sociologists, economists as well as swindlers … and tax lawyers…), with patches of outright anarchy (resulting in interesting feudal-style interactions between smaller power blocs). That’s part of what makes it awesome. And the Zero Punctuation review was hilarious (after a year’s playing, I only found out what triage modules do last week, and am a long way from using them), but could not possibly give an accurate reflection of the game just by playing a trial account.

    What really interests me are the major 0.0 power blocs, and who they represent as players. You have Band of Brothers, the elite PvPers who are constantly accused of getting kick-backs from the developers, then you have GoonSwarm, a gigantic mass of Something Awfullers, who joined the game to destroy it, but just ended up another player in the political game (with a huge logistics base from all the players they draw from the forum), and of course the various (and huge) Russian alliances, made up of deeply nationalistic Russians whose play style is straight out of a Soviet strategy textbook. (And of course, mixed in with this are jokers, serious players, half-serious players and the like, from all over the globe, but with a fair degree of over-representation from Europe.)

    It’s fun, but the level of interest in terms of sociology and economics is in the emergent effects within the rules of the game itself, rather than in the pseudo-democracy of the CSM.

  19. I had two characters. I was a Gallente HAC/Miner. I had a Navy megathron. I had billions and more ships than the U.S. Navy. My other toon was a nasty little minx of an interceptor pilot.

    I walked away.

    They never will fix that game until they get rid of the russian mafia and chinese goldfarmers that dominate it.

    /Fark AAA and Fark BoB and Fark CCP. Never see me again.

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