Another aspect of the summits that's really valuable is the opportunity to build "big picture" into how we interface with CCP. On Skype and on the forums, we're often talking to between one and three devs, usually on a very specific topic -- the jump clone timer skill, say, or the marauder rebalance. The summit allows us to widen the focus from individual features to both the short- and long-term development of EVE the game. That's great for the CSM, to understand how individual features fit into the big picture, and to allow us to influence EVE development in a macro as well as a micro sense. It also allows CCP to get player perspective on the big picture, something that definitely doesn't happen in the Features and Ideas thread.This. Only a lot more so. ;-)
If I had to sum up the Winter Summit in a single paragraph, I would say that the Summer Summit -- overall -- was more productive. That summit was a lot closer to the release of Rubicon and the CSM as a result could have a lot more specific and influential impact on specific features and ideas that were going into that expansion. Still, in terms of the seven Summit days I've spent during this term, the second day of the Winter Summit was the single most productive day I've seen as a member of the CSM. Dear Heaven, we covered a lot of ground and got a lot of work done that day! From ship balancing to the UI to discussion of EVE features promised but not yet implemented (I got that session title out from under NDA, BTW) to looking at EVE metrics to going over one of the major features of the summer expansion... whew! As I said, it was a pretty intense day.
Don't let anyone give you the impression these summit trips are a free vacation. CCP puts us to work and very reasonably expects a return on the money they spend flying us to Iceland.
But overall, the Winter Summit was a bit more abstract than the Summer Summit. Other than parts of that second day, there were fewer discussions about specifics, more discussions about "EVE development philosophy", if I can call it that. Every blogger writing about EVE these days knows that the game is at a cross-roads: we've now had several expansions in a row that have been all but "fan service": fewer big ideas, more pleasing the existing customers. It's worked: it's stopped the bleeding, and mixed in with the fan service have been a couple of really innovative ideas (the new Crimewatch system and the new scanning/site system, primarily). Bigger ideas are coming... CCP has announced they're coming... they've shared some of those ideas with the CSM.
But their last big idea was Incarna and even without being on the CSM I can see that CCP are a little cautious about over-reaching and face-planting again. They're moving cautiously, testing their footing with each step, and they're definitely not leaping without looking this time.
In my opinion, it's a risky strategy but a good one. 2013 was a year spent rebuilding and reinforcing a lot of the underlying structure that EVE rests on. There's a joke in the movie Armageddon (perhaps the finest bad movie ever made) about the Mir space station being more than ten years old at that time and most Americans not keeping cars that long. The same thing applies to EVE: what other game are you playing or software are you using that's been in continuous use for that long? I can only think of one for myself. I'm still using Paint Shop Pro 8 for most graphics editing work and Wikipedia informs me that's now ten years old.
Anyway, the devs are feeling the pressure also, so a good bit of the summit focused on various potential development directions for the game. Particularly in sessions like the null-sec, "future of big fights", EVE features update, and a couple of NDA'ed ones, there was a good bit of abstract discussion. It was almost but not quite to the level of "What should EVE feel like?" But there was also a good bit of discussion about what the best uses of dev time will be over the next year. That made the summit feel less directly productive -- a lot of the stuff we talked about may never see the light of day -- and more tiring. Answering the question "What do you want for your next car?" is a lot easier than "What kind of car do you think you'll want ten years from now and why?"
At first blush last Friday night, then, I felt like this summit was less valuable than the Summer Summit. But on a week's reflection, I realize it was just as useful... just more abstract.
OK, what else. CCP Dolan continues to run a really good summit from an organizational stand-point. The best schedules feel effortless while they're going on and that's how this felt. He also came up with the best idea to enhance summits in pretty much the entire history of the CSM. Having a stenographer record the talking points of each session at a summit has been tried before and failed because the stenographer didn't understand the subject being talked about. This time, he got an actual CCP employee with EVE experience -- CCP Logibro, mostly -- to do the recording of talking points. And despite Logibro's self-deprecating humor about "I hope I'm doing this right", his notes were absurdly good. Giant kudos to both of these men!
Here's how good Logibro's notes are and how good the notes taken by several CSM members this time were: the CSM compressed the 22 sessions that I counted down to 18 actual sessions that need to be documented and have Minutes written for them. The summit's been over a week. I consider ten of those sessions done. Ready to send back to Dolan for review. I expect the rest will be done this weekend. There's not gonna be any jokes about "Months" this time.
There were only two technical issues; one was a failed USB extension cable. That one delayed one session by about 15 minutes because the camera and microphone were plugged into it. No big deal. There was a second technical issue that on its face initially seemed major -- it prompted Dolan to write the most profane e-mail I've read in several years -- but which is turning out to be pretty minor. That one is for Dolan to talk about if he wishes to.
Iceland in winter is not nearly as scary a place as others have made it out to be, or at least it wasn't this time. Mittens wrote a thing where he came back from winter in Iceland and immediately had to lay out in the sunshine for lack of it. Trebor Daehdoow told us a story about how the members of CSM5 had to link arms to keep mazzilliu from blowing into the harbor during their Winter Summit. Yeah, we got a tiny bit of snow and a bit more rain and one day of pretty stiff wind. But winters in Connecticut and Colorado scoff at the Iceland winter.
And that, Dear Reader, is all I can think of. As with the Summer Summit, I'm glad I was able to go! I believe we provided good value to CCP for the money they invested to bring us to Iceland. I want to thank our CCP hosts who were so gracious in meeting with us, talking with us, and sharing their hopes and concerns for development of EVE Online with us. They again acted with incredible understanding as we from time to time subjected some of their ideas to... ummmmm... our interpretations. ;-)
Now I have a few more session minutes to write and/or edit...