In Part 1 of this series, I established that the three major categories of CSM supporters actually see the role of the CSM in different ways. There is no consensus on the purpose of that role and therefore all three groups express dissatisfaction with the concept.
In Part 2 of this series, I concluded that the dissatisfaction derives from a disconnect between the abstract concept of the CSM being a player-elected body, that meaning all players, and the reality that only a small minority of players actually elects the CSM. Thus, the CSM does not qualify for the adjective "player-elected" nor is it representative of the capsuleer community as a whole. It is in fact a lobbying group with the pinpoint focus and limits of expertise such groups invariably have.
Now the question is what should we collectively do about it? What follows is my suggestion. I have no delusions that they represent the majority opinion, if one even exists. Before I roll out the suggestion though, you need to understand what each of the three categories I've schlepped everyone into wants from "the process," a general term for everything CSM related. I will save you all the analysis. Here is what I concluded each group wants.
CCP wants feedback on their ideas for Eve Online expansions. They want expansions that will grow the business. They don't want to be told how to run their game, though they are not opposed by any stretch of the imagination to good ideas. I think they get plenty of "good" ideas through both the CSM and those who actually participate. But the people giving that feedback are the same 16% or so who vote. They are not the majority of Eve Online players by any stretch of the imagination.
Players just want Eve Online to be fun to play. That's an incredibly nebulous desire. What is fun to me is not fun to everyone. We all play Eve Online for different reasons. We all want different things from that experience. About the only thing we share in common is the desire to fly Internet spaceships. Some think the bomb is PvP. I don't. As I told a friend the other day, I don't exist to facilitate anyone's PvP. This was said not as a recipient of PvP, but as a potential participant. I'm still not into that sort of game play. I did it for real for too many years and frankly I'm tired of death and destruction - even virtually. But that's me, not anyone else. In the end, we all just want Eve Online to be fun for us.
The CSM Member
These folks genuinely want to represent the Eve Online player base. They also want to help mold the future of Eve Online. They want to present to CCP good ideas, and help them plan expansions the player base will love. I do not really believe they do this for free trips to Iceland. They would gladly do it over Skype if that was the way of it. But the CSM can't provide good input on things outside their experience. The null-sec representative is not as qualified to speak on high-sec carebear issues as the high-sec carebear representative for example - and vice versa. They each have their own expertise and lobby constituent. And IMO, none of them had the expertise to pass sound judgement on Incarna. It was outside the realm of any Eve player experience. That's why the wave-off never happened and Incarna crashed and burned.
Now before continuing, let's get one thing straight for all those who brought it up. Just because you hold an election doesn't mean you understand what the electorate really wants - or that you know what the elected have in mind. If you voted for a Chancellor who then sent your sons and daughters to war, did you vote for war? Don't forget that Hitler was originally elected democratically I've had the opportunity to talk to more than a few Germans who lived through Hitler's regime. They did not vote for Hitler because he wanted to start World War II. They voted for him because he promised to end the crushing economic situation that arose with the depression; a situation made even worse by the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler used that promise to increase his military capacity, which is a no-brainer in perfect hindsight. But it also raised the economic prosperity of the German people. That's generally known as stimulus, and it worked well for Germany during the 1930s. The point is very few (I'm certain there were some) who initially voted for Hitler voted for World War II. Just like most who voted for the CSM didn't vote for Incarna.
Also, you can't assume those who voted are a representative sample if they are not a majority. The fact that they all participate when most don't also belies that misconception. To have a representative sample, you have to follow the rules governing statistical analysis. When done right, statistics are a very powerful predictor. They can also propel a person to stardom. Just ask Nate Silver. The current CSM process does not conform to such rigorous requirements. It is not representative - period.
What "the process" lacks is that rigorous statistical requirement. The proof is Incarna. CCP thought it would be awesome and the CSM let it happen. That was a double fail when the general player population had it dropped on them. Through all the review and all the discussion, it was a complete miss with the player base at large. To be sure, there were indications of dissent, but without a mechanism to quantify that dissent and represent it in an unquestionable manner, the only thing CCP really had to make the decision with was an Icelandic gut feel. I personally don't work an entire project based on a gut feel. Yeah, I know they had plenty of game industry feedback that said Incarna was the way to go. Guess what, Eve Online isn't your standard game with your standard herd oriented player. Who knew? Well, actually, there was a way to know but it wasn't through "the process" as currently implemented.
You see where I'm going now don't you? In television land it's called Nielsen Ratings. In politics it's called polling. In marketing it's called focus groups which lead to test markets. Sometimes they go wrong as happened in the Truman election and the Fabreze product, but generally they work and work well. As an aside, if you have not read "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business", read it. You will be fascinated.
Businesses do surveys all the time. My company recently had every employee take a detailed web-based survey on how the company was doing. It was third party. It was anonymous. It had 87% participation from the over 10,000 associates employed in the United States. It told them things the management chain would never have admitted to upper management. I can't talk about specifics. You understand the scope now? But as much as it was negative in many regards, it will make our business much, much stronger so long as the company follows through on the recommendations the survey firm presented.
So finally, here's my suggestion. CCP should use the Eve Online client to poll the player population at large - randomly and according to proper statistical methods. Make sure an professional polling firm is engaged to shape the questions appropriately CCP can already distinguish real person from multiple characters pretending to be real persons. Their war on bots indicates this to me rather bluntly. They should leverage this ability to create a polling routine within the client. Don't make it optional. Force the player to answer before they play. It's done all the time now. Just go read an article at Christian Science Monitor. They make me answer questions before I get to read the article. Many 'zines give you advertising first and articles second. This keeps their 'zines free. You may, and I stress may, drive a few players away. You will lose far fewer accounts though than because of Incarna. Hell, award ISK or Aurum to those who answer questions. That too is done all the time. Entice them and they will give you feedback.
Then make the CSM process the survey results. Have the CSM quantify and qualify the feedback. Make it part of THEIR presentation to CCP. CCP should not do this internally. Let the CSM apply their experience and expertise as players to those results so CCP gets a player's perspective rather than a developer's perspective of them. The CSM is uniquely qualified to bring that sort of interpretation to the table. Give them some facts and figures to back them up when they say something like, "Incarna's going to be a real flop." It will provide them and CCP with inarguable facts rather than best guesses and unsupported assumptions. Oh, and make sure the raw survey results are published BEFORE the CSM goes to Iceland. Make the Nate Silvers of Eve Online jump for joy. That way everyone knows what the player base really wants before any decisions are made. That would make the term "player-elected" absolutely moot, wouldn't it?