Now this is not the fault of the members of the CPM and indeed CPP Dolan posted a sit-rep on the status of the CPM here.
In it he makes clear that the CPM have been working hard but that CCP have dropped the ball, so to speak, as to how they integrate an advocacy group such as the CPM into the daily working practices of the development team's. As I've said before, this was likely the result of the change over to a monthly iteration pattern, to quickly address the problems that were evident in the release of Uprising in May.
But how should the working relationship between the CPM and CCP progress in the future now that the Dev's have acknowledged the problems of the past and spoken about rectifying them?
Before that however, we must first reveiw the reasons as to why there is a need for the CPM in the first place. In the above discussion thread there has been some heated debate as to the legitimacy of the CPM and some calling for its removel. Some of the reasons given on both sides of the arguement have a good deal of merit and some has been tin foil millinery of the finest quality. But ultimately I think the pro's of such a group, far outweigh the cons and that the playerbase should really have no fear of embracing it.
The main need for a small advocacy group is one of speed and turnaround. There are many ways feedback can be gained from the playerbase in a detailed way. Forums, questionares, mailshots and such like. But the main problem with them is one of time. It takes time to organise, distribute and analyse the data this sort of data collection returns, which is so much better used in terms of long to medium term goals and objectives. In the case of day to day development when a problem may crop up, such methods are useless. Feedback may be needed in a very short time and a fresh set of eyes may spot a potential problem that hadn't been envisioned.
People can become myopic when laser focused on a particular problem and concerns for the 'bigger picture' often not come into the equation. Games developers are not immune to such problems and need the occasional reality check from an outsider to slap them back onto course.
Another reason for the need of a CPM is the sheer scope of a game such as Dust 514. Changes in design don't just effect individual players, but large groups of players, each with a different way of operating, that because of the sandbox nature of the game, the Dev's aren't even aware of. A small group of players, picked/elected from the whole playbase can identify problems that CCP didn't even take into consideration. And thats before we even take into account that we are being integrated into an established gameing universe..
Now, I've been chipping away at this blog for a few weeks now and its seems that in the time since Dolan's above post there has been a substantial upsurge in the CCP/CPM relationship. Indeed from his own weekly reports thread in The Councils Chamber CPM member, Heinrich Jagerblitzen, has stated that they have have gone from a drip to drinking from a fire hose.
This all very encouraging and for those planning to stand for CPM, knowing that CCP are now actively involving them in the future development of the game, after so many stop and starts, and that the CPM is now having an impact. The main problem however is that, short of the for lack of a better term, politically motivated hard core of players, the general community is unaware of the turnaround of the CPM fortunes.
And this is of huge concern to me. As someone who is going to stand for the CPM the very fact that the majority of my potential electorate are oblivious to this is deeply troubling. It plays to to fears of those against the concept of the CPM because they're worried that it will become an Elitist group, serving only themselves and those that voted for them. We've all seen the lack of faith in our real life elected officials grow more with each suscessive election after all. Why should internet politicians be any different?
With this growing involvement of the CPM in design changes to the game, its now time for CCP to start really pushing the CPM as a way to work with the community. They already have several ways to do this that I've mentioned before. Mailshots, questionares, forums and such like. But these are a scattershot business, reliant on the recipiants taking part.
But a more direct approach is needed for the electorate of Dust 514, to ensure they are made aware of the CPM and they job they do. We now have the Daily Update when we first log into Dust. This should be used more often for items of interest to the community, Extended Downtimes, hotfixes, reminders to read the forums for the up to date news from CCP and New Eden. For the December Events, special contracts have been coming up to fight the Dev's. Why cant this be extended to members of the CPM or those standing for election for it? Emails, direct to each Mercs mailbox (a hint from me that mailing lists in Dust would be a good idea), direct from CCP would be a huge help as well.
We now have a dedicated community Manger with CCP SabreWing, who has been making great inroads in his time at CCP already. CCP Logibro, a respected former member of the community, is now acting as the CPM liaison. And with the regular tweets and forum trolling of CCP Foxfour and CCP Nullabor, those that take the time to find out, know what is coming up.
But its important that CCP now play their part in this exercise, to promote the CPM becuse its members have a handicap of CCP's making. The NDA.
I'm not going to debate the merits of the NDA here. I perfectly understand the reasons for it being there but with a community, as hungry for infomation as the citizens of New Eden, it causes real friction between the CPM and the community they represent.
For many, the explanation 'It's covered by the NDA', is one so infuriating that it's makes them question the need of the CPM in the first place and resent those that are on it. This is counter productive for CCP as the CPM is an important tool and to have the player base resent them is not at all helpful.
Now I'm not saying the wall of the NDA should come crashing down but CCP should learn from the mistakes of the past and be more a Reed in a breeze and less Oak in a tempest. It would be enough for CCP to say that something is being worked on and the CPM are involved. Nothing given away but acknowledgment that work is being done and the concerns of the community are being addressed.
For too long we have had an eduring attitude of secrecy from CCP and its work on Dust. I understand why. We've had so many promises that are yet to bare fruit, CCP are now afraid to say anything at all. I personally now dont believe for a minute, that the mythical MTAC's and Fighters will make an appearence in Dust, till it makes it debut on a more powerful system. The fable of attacking the ships of Eve from within, will remain just that for at least 3 years at the current rate of development. We still just have the one racial knife after all...
Ultimately, the success of the CPM is up to CCP themselves and how they promote its real value to those that doubt its need. It's not up to the CPM to do that job and until CCP make the effort to educate the community as to its value, the real life attitude to 'politicians' is the likely winner in any election.