Greedy Goblin

Friday, January 29, 2016

Instead of CSM: how could an NDA-free focus group perform?

I believe that the CSM idea is fundamentally flawed. In real world democracies, all voters and candidate have a common goal: to make their country better. They disagree how to do it, some say "tax cuts" others say "more welfare" but they all agree about the goal. In a game, the outcomes are zero-sum, any change that makes someone better off makes someone worse off and trying to destroy other player groups is a completely legitimate goal. Trying to form a "parliment" from such groups would be like the Americans and the Islamic State trying to elect a common president who will work for both groups.

So the CSM needs to go. However it's true that there is vast knowledge about the game among the players and it should not be wasted, especially since it can prevent unintended consequences. For example the CSM warned CCP that if they use entosis mechanic on citadels, the citadel guns will be pointless as the battles will be elsewhere. So how to make a player agency without letting the obvious rent-seeking to continue? I believe that the solution is focus groups that discuss problems and solution boundaries would work. To explain what boundaries I mean, let me show what I'd give in the imaginary "highsec wardec focus group":
  • The problem: many players play solo in NPC corp or expendable altcorp, while all reseach show that players that engage other players enjoy EVE more and more likely stay. In the meantime complete safety in highsec cannot be allowed without turning highsec into a pointless botfest.
  • Definition: "Real corp" consist several players who do not leave corp or stay docked when the corp has to compete against another group of players.
  • Boundary 1: Real corp membership needs proper rewards not just risks. Currently mining, missioning, complexes, incursions, trading, hauling and signatures are fully available in highsec for NPC or expendable corp members. PI is practically available due to low tax public POCOs and most of industry on stations. So either a new, corp-exclusive reward should be introduced, or current rewards must be made corp-exclusive. The point being: players must say "I'd rather be in this corp in a war than in the NPC corp".
  • Boundary 2: These rewards must be present for all relevant highsec playstyles, not just for a few. Highsec miners who just mine can't care less about incursions or signatures. So to make them join real corps, mining rewards should be corp-exclusive. Same for all other relevant playstyles.
  • Boundary 3: While doing so, the design must avoid rewarding "hiding corps". Such corps operate under the idea that no one notices them. These corps demand their members isolated gameplay to avoid interaction with other players to avoid being noticed. Being in such corps is probably worse social environment than being in an NPC corp. Hint: all "make NPC tax 50% and stop players from quiting under wardec" suggestions violate this boundary.
  • Boundary 4: We must consider that all highsec rewards are available in lowsec in more abundant numbers. A theoretical mining corp that stands and fights for his ore is better off in lowsec standing and fighting for better ore. Also being wardecced in highsec is more dangerous than living in lowsec: you are on your own against a more powerful enemy (otherwise he wouldn't dec). In lowsec you can hope that neutrals kill them before they can catch you and also you can batphone neutrals for a gank even if they don't care about you. So the system must give a reason why one should operate his corp in highsec instead of lowsec or WH, or highsec becomes depopulated and entriely redundant.
None of the items on my list needs NDA. They can be discussed with other expert players and devs freely. After consensus is made about the boundaries, devs can design an implementation without further player feedback, as the wisdom of the players are already condensed into the boundaries. They only need to care about not breaking these boundaries to design a good system.

Focus group members can also brainstorm ideas freely, without any obligation for devs to care, but with the chance that they might find something useful. Here are two random ideas that might have usable parts.

PS: there is another post today, the Legion of xXDeathXx 2015 analysis.


zax said...

"None of the items on my list needs NDA. They can be discussed with other expert players and devs freely. After consensus is made about the boundaries, devs can design an implementation without further player feedback, as the wisdom of the players are already condensed into the boundaries. They only need to care about not breaking these boundaries to design a good system."

Devs need player input whilst the choices, because in their design, even if based purely off player input, they may have overlooked something which will be abused, and you need someone who isnt in the project to spot this.

sure, they could tell the players all possible options without disclosing which one they will go with, but, all that means is that players will buy into the markets which will be affected by any change, or otherwise cover the bases.

Additionally, in politics, the goal is very much not the same from opposing parties in a parliament. You have those who wish to completely remove welfare, to privatise healthcare, to reduce business taxes and stop immigration in the same room as those who wish to increase the state, increase business taxes, and increase immigration.

Somehow, these diametrically opposed groups come to consensus, and pass laws. Perhaps in some countries all the differ on is "increase taxes" or "reduce welfare", but not in any European countries I could name, and definitely not in the USA.

Anonymous said...

"In real world democracies, all voters and candidate have a common goal: to make their country better. They disagree how to do it"

I disagree -- I'm sure there are plenty of people who say "More taxes might provide better infrastructure/eduction/etc for my country, but I enjoy how much more my income is than people in poverty so I'm going to vote against them".

Anonymous said...

Ah the usual "force people into a corp". When the eleven percent tax was introduced the aggressive element in the game thought it push all the little carebears into their arms of wardecs. *shock* NPC players stayed NPC. I would bet a ramp up to 90% and players would remain NPC.

Wardec dodging is simple. Slot A character gets decced - dock up, and play Slot B. Different ships, different region - no links between the characters. Wardeccer is left empty handed and out of pocket, and contentless. No POCO no POS - precisely so I have nothing to defend. (because the attacker will not any have a thing vulnerable either). #2 Or I dive into a WH for week, use an Astero - location agents do not work there. #3 I do not care if I cannot undock anyway. The industry jobs continues and market sell/buy continue.

I have absolute zero reason to interact with combat orientated players. I already complete with players at trading/market. Acknowledged PvP.

As for CSM. I keep expecting the goons to pull off some act of spite. "if we cannot have it, no one will" attitude. The hint: you want to KS a book again? well guess how far being a dick is going get you. Did not get you far this last time did it.

But I will almost agree with Darius Johnson, not much chop from the crop of candidates so far. The Circus of Stupid Malignment has too many clowns wanting to be in the ring.

Gevlon said...

@zax: and what makes CSM people special? I mean a team of quality assurance employees could do the same what the CSM does and more.

@Anonymous: no, no one says that. People insist on being good, they will say something like "more money for the rich will trickle down"

@Last Anon: exactly these are the problems that a good highsec war system should solve. And the CSM has only clowns and a bunch of idealists who will burn out.

Anonymous said...

Except CCP isn't a real world democracy - it never suggested the CSM (beyond it's election) is a move towards democratic game design.

The CSM is more like a privy council. A group of advisors to an absolute dictator (CCP), who serve at the pleasure of that dictator.

There is literally no benefit to CCP in making the process more "democratic".

NDAs protect them from unmanageable expectations and competition getting their ideas. It's practical business sense.

Gevlon said...

Except the NDA doesn't work. Leaks are all over the place.

Foo said...

There are 2 conversations that you are mixing.
1. How to choose a player representation group? I like proportional STV, which has as an advantage many disparate voices. There are of course other choices.
2. How much confidential information should they have? Personally I am agnostic in regards to how much confidential information any player representation receives.

I am an idealist who fully expects to burn out.

I am a pragmatist who would do what I can, with what tools I can get.

(The CSM is cheaper than a team of QA).

By all means continue to add your 2 ISK to the debate. You are not alone in your opinion.

I however feel it would server everyone better if the 2 'conversations' were addressed separately. Who should CCP engage with? What confidential information should be discussed?

Anonymous said...

The CSM is basically what you're proposing, a focus group. They have no power, they cannot change anything, they act as a sounding board for CCP to see how their ideas will play out.

No CSM member has any actual influence over the game, the only thing they might be able to do is tell CCP their idea is broken and why and CCP actually listening to them.

Anonymous said...

"Except the NDA doesn't work. Leaks are all over the place."
The really aren't as many leaks as you think, and the ones there are aren't very big.

The problem I see with focus groups is that it's simply a lower barrier of entry to get the same thing the CSM already gives. Focus groups will still turn into a mass of players from bigger groups towing the party line and pushing for changes that benefit them while the quieter voices won't be heard. At least with the CSM you only need to get one person on the CSM to pitch your idea and if they do their job right CSM will notice it.

Gevlon said...

@Foo: why should we choose a player representation group? CCP needs input, not loud opinions. A guy who knows what he says is more valuable than 100 F1 monkeys all screaming "Nerf [opposing doctrine]".

Zero confidential information should be given to them, as they'll abuse it. The main problem is that if group A sends honest guy and group B sends leaking shit, group B gets advantage over group A, all else being equal.

@Anon: no, because focus groups contain individuals selected for their expertise. I should not give feedback on capitals as I barely flown them. Rocket_X should not give feedback on trading.

@Last anon: the bad leaks are not that gets out to Reddit. Those are just annoying everyone. The bad leaks done in secret, to the group leadership and you only see that when a change is announced, the group adapts immediately.

Anonymous said...

EVE in the second decade, it's still the same old rehash. The CSM structure was already technically flawed from the onset, putting a heavy emphasis on a small group of individuals in the "advisory" capacity. Voters are irrelevant, the silent majority is decoupled from the CSM members i.e. each individual CSM member is more less free to act as they see fit. Nullblock voters aren't truly voters, they're basically serfs voting for alliance blocks. There is ONE null topic, and there are multiple alliances cajoling & jostling around that topic. Can you see the idiocy surrounding this?

Morever, discussing democracy is futile (since this isn't true democracy), nor should "democracy" be the default overriding form that an instituition should take. The average social human being is timid and tend to conform to whatever political correctness that is currently fotm, regardless whether made sense or not.

Reforging CSM into neutral player interest groups (see talk by Maria Sayans will take some upheaval. The question is twofold, does CCP have the willpower to effect the change and can they implement it without doing a botched up job (which they're historically famous for)? I imagine it'll upset those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Anonymous said...

"The bad leaks done in secret, to the group leadership and you only see that when a change is announced, the group adapts immediately."
Adapting quickly isn't a sign that a leak got out, it's simply a sign that the group was paying attention to what CCP were releasing. Honestly, I don't know of any recent change where we the public did not know nearly everything about it ages before it was released. Like the entosis changes were outlined nearly a year before they were rolled out and very little changed over that time and they were finalised over a month before being put live. The real question is why did groups like BL not adapt when they had literally months to get ready.

Anonymous said...

"no, because focus groups contain individuals selected for their expertise. I should not give feedback on capitals as I barely flown them. Rocket_X should not give feedback on trading."
In line with this though, you should not give feedback on sov or even nullsec at all, but Mittani should, right? You see, focus groups would still be out to change the game to benefit them. All the traders would be thinking about how to make trade better, not how to make it more balanced, so what would having a focus group change other than lowering the barrier for entry and getting rid of player votes of confidence.

NuTroll said...

Goal of CSM is player representation
Process of CSM is representation of select players

Therefore process needs to go, therefore CSM needs to go.

Conflating the goal with the process is the mistake that is made all to often, only to the benefit of entrenched interests that the Goal was supposed to dislodge. Doing the same thing over and over is a form of insanity.

Benevolent Monarchy (ie a purely neutral CCP) beats all other forms of government. Democracy included. The problem IRL is keeping the monarch benevolent (and competent). That isn't a problem in EVE, because your money can go elsewhere.

CCP already has all of the data it needs to get player input. Chat logs. Public Chat channels are already public data. Economic and Market data, jump logs etc... Players chat about EVE in EVE all the time. Its just a matter of mining the relevant data and putting it under a focus group.

CCP is already involved in manipulating human behavior on a mass scale, it wants to get a group of mostly peaceful humans to engage in predatory behavior. Most people are more carebear than wolf, they just don't like to admit it.

As to Goblin's proposals about highsec, I agree highsec must be nerfed. but the real nerf shouldn't come in lowering the income of highsec. The nerf should come in the making of highsec more difficult in terms of pve, and low and null easier. Ratting should be easiest in low, easy in null, and really hard in high, unless you want to earn new player level income. Roid yields should be lower in high and highest in low while ok in null. That means if a miner takes the same pod with the same ship, he should mine more m3 per hour in low, off the exact same roid. I don't care how the lore justifies it.

Explorers and Incursion runners should be able to clear out those sites in null / low with pvp capable t1 fits, and get a higher payout than if they took the Big Faction BS and t2.5 logi out into highsec. People aren't going to risk those big value ships in dangerous space, since smart players know that the cheapest ship that does the job well is the superior ship. But they will take cheap fits for good fights to battle over valuable resources.

Lastly, assets held in highsec stations should be subject to some form of taxation. If direct is not possible due to subjective valuations in a player driven market or because it would ruin current trade meta, then it should be some form of fees for services. Such as stations charging per m3 of storage held, or increasing fees on manufacturing, trading overhead etc... The structure should be progressive as to be free or almost free for new players and substantially more expensive for higher end players.