EVE Online pioneers in internet democracy

In times of war and dictatorships comes a glimpse of light, and it’s the game industry who’s leading the way. When MMO EVE Online creators CCP announced that there would be a “Council of Stellar Management” (CSM), many thought it was a PR trick. It was said that after the first democratic election of a MMO player council, the chosen ones would travel to Iceland and get to meet the creators face-to-face. Well, it was true.

More than 25,000 EVE players voted to select the nine delegates to represent them. The delegates then discussed with the players what needed improvement – from combat, the economy system to game design. The conclusions formed the agenda that now has been discussed at the three-day meeting at CCP’s headquarters in Reyjkavik, Iceland.

The meeting went nicely and, as far as I know, no shoes were banged on the table. Over thirty game related issues were discussed with game designers, programmers, storyline staff and members of the quality assurance team, which will integrate the changes in future patches. Not all issues could be fixed though, since development costs would rise too steeply. The council chairman Andrew Cruise, AKA Jade Constantine in EVE, says “We had a great dialog with the developers and they were exceedingly open to our ideas and suggestions and pretty straightforward in explaining technical limitations where not. It was clear that some changes we suggested were already on CCP’s agenda, but it was also nice to see the occasional ‘Eureka’, – ‘why didn’t we think of that?’ moment amongst the developers. This clearly demonstrated the value of the process both to us as players but also to CCP.”

During a detour to Thingvellir, the place where reputable vikings would go to chit-chat democratically about laws and disputes, Dr. Eyjólfur Guðmundsson, CCP’s lead economist, made a speech where he described the delegates as the first ‘Internet chieftains’ and ‘pioneers’ of democracy in online communities.

It’s going to be interesting how soon the ideas will be executed, and as CSM delegate Sean Conover puts it, “While it is very gratifying to be described as an ‘Internet chieftain’ what really matters is proving to our constituents, the players of EVE, that we have actually delivered results that improve the virtual universe in which they play. To that extent we are reliant on CCP continuing to be an active partner in the process and delivering on the promises made in Iceland.”

EVE Online has always been considered a highly evolved MMO game, and this is just further proof that they’re in front when it comes to user dialogue and innovation. Who knows, maybe we’ll see other examples of this in the future? I really don’t see anything negative about listening to the players, indisputably the most objective experts there are.