Syl encouraged me to blog on this:
- player power vs. dev power. how big should each be, what's the correct balance, when are they too high? Or: when is player impact still positive, when does it become negative / where should devs keep the ultimate say.
In my opinion player power, when it comes to the design process, is detrimental to the quality of the game. Optimally a MMORPG is designed by one or two masterminds. Two only if they can argue without offending each other - ever. No three-man constellation is ever stable and more masterminds mean too many bad compromises.
The masterminds need to have the entire game design (the big! picture) in their head at all times. They need to share a vision for the game that extends beyond "getting rich". They should be supported by a diverse council of at least five professionals who care enough to argue with them without having any authority / responsibility. The coucil should meet regularily and the masterminds should be required to defend their design decisions in front of the council.
The only way players should influence the game on a game design level is via professional community managers, whose job is to report the status of the community to the masterminds/council. When it comes to forums, I absolutely agree with Elder Game.
The feedback part of the community managers' task is twofold:
1) Gather the few brilliant posts on the forum, anonymize them, and pass them on. Passed on posts should be marked to incentivise thoughtful and concise posts.
2) Help with interpreting statistics.
Optimally, the players consider the developers to be 100% non-responding to player demands. Once players feel they can have an impact, they start to play the developers instead of playing the game. This is harmful for the game and - more importantly - it diminishes the players' fun.
Player impact should always be indirect; via the community managers or via statistics. It is very important that the masterminds know how to interpret statistics. If necessary they should be supported by a professional statistician.
Statistics should be used to refine and realize the original vision, not to increase the cash flow. The reason is that refining and realizing the original vision is the best approach to making lots of money. Whereas making lots of money as a goal, turns out to be bad at making lots of money. Obliquity.
I am not a supporter of Eve's CSM. It is a poor man's community management.