We've just entered a two-week voting period in EVE Online, in which every subscriber is being given an opportunity to vote for their choice of representatives from the player-base. This democratic process allows players to decide which of the 31 candidates gets to represent them in the regular Reykjavik summits between developers CCP and the inaugural Council of Stellar Management (CSM). Nine councillors must be chosen.
Players will be deciding who they trust with their voice, and who they think will have the best influence on the issues raised at the talks. That is, of course, if they bother to vote. Just as in the real world, voter ignorance and apathy seems rife, and even the hardest of hardcore players seem indifferent to the entire affair. Has CCP done enough to promote the entire business?
We asked CSM organiser, Petur Oskarsson. "The answer to this is twofold. Those who have dipped their toes in the EVE water are very quick to understand the idea, and see its merits or flaws," he argues. "EVE is a very open game when it comes to content, and you can’t play the game without interacting with another player, it is simply impossible.
"Additionally, the development philosophy for EVE is special. When expansions are released the focus is more on making the game deeper, not broader... Instead of adding new solar systems, things are added that can be done within the existing systems, such as mining a moon, or building a space station. This sounds a lot like our current Earth problem, how we have to use the land we already have, instead of being able to spread out more.
"The potentials (and dangers) are obvious to everybody. Being able to speak directly to the developers regarding the issues and concerns the players have about the game is a very powerful tool, a tool that can be used for both good and bad," Oskarsson warns. "Those who are still EVE virgins have a very difficult time grasping this concept. Both the structure of EVE makes the concept alien, and the thought of people wanting to spend time doing a developer’s job."
So how do you make videogame elections make sense? Through a simple analogy, says Oskarsson. "Relating to the real world in those situations seems to work best - imagine if you were unable to suggest an improvement in your town or city; not that you don’t have any power, but the system that allows you to make a suggestion simply isn’t there. Most people can relate to that."
As it turns out, there are 31 candidates who can relate to that, and want to be the ones making the suggestions. Some of the CSM candidates are new players, and "people's voice" Vox Pop is an account created specifically for the election, but many have a very long track record in EVE Online. Candidate Serenity Steele, for example, was the entrepreneur responsible for the ISS project, in which public money was used to fund some of the first player-built outpost space stations. Whether the long-term failure of the ISS as a neutral money-making enterprise will affect Steele's candidacy is hard to predict.
One personality who is likely to remain popular is Hardin, of the consistently stable and popular Curatores Veritatis Alliance. Hardin has become well-known within the game for running his alliance, and for getting stuck into almost every aspect of the game world, from missions to large-scale player-versus-player combat.
It's that large-scale PVP that Hardin sees as one of the key issues for discussion at the summit: "Certainly lag is one issue that affects most players in some shape or form, and I want CCP to remain focused on tackling it, even if that is at the expense of some new content," he says. "When I first started playing EVE five years ago, a 15 vs 15 fleet fight could result in some serious lag, but today you can have relatively lag-free 100 vs 100 fights. However, as CCP has improved the game, we, the players, keep pushing the boundaries. It's not uncommon for 400 pilots to contest a system, at which point the game degenerates into a slideshow. So CCP has to ensure that its main priority is continuing to optimise and streamline the game to reduce lag - otherwise the game will become a victim of its own success."