I Was In The Room At The Time, And Yes, That Was A Good Answer!

Someone asked me “So what would you do if you had a forum with 5 million active posters?” and my immediate answer was “Shut it down.”

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49 Responses to I Was In The Room At The Time, And Yes, That Was A Good Answer!

  1. D-0ne says:

    It’s the only answer.

  2. Daniel says:

    What a crazy coincidence. I was just meditating on this exact issue and lo and behold here is a post on it. Not only is he wrong, he’s crazy wrong. I totally understand why he thinks the way he does; and it comes from the same fear that leads developers to ignore player input because its “safer”. But good companies are not running scared; they are running smart. If you can’t figure out how to make a forum of five million members work to your advantage, if you can’t figure out a way to make that add value to your product, you ought to be taken out and shot to put your poor dull brain out of its misery.

    Only in on-line gaming, a milieu supposedly driven by imagination, a milieu with the hubris to call an employee “junior world designer,” would the existence of five million customers panting for interaction, for integration, be viewed as a problem. Sincerely, it is a form of clinical insanity. Talk about hubris. Cutting five million paying customers off at the knees, that’s hubris defined and personified.

    It reminds me of the old Spock saying that wanting is not the same thing as having. Yes, all these pencil neck geeks with their plastic pocket protectors say they want the prom queen to want them, just until the exact moment she shows up in the flesh. Then it’s oh my fucking God what to I do, she’s stripping!!! She’s stripping!!! You have five million customers stripping before you screaming take me you god damn bastards and all you can do is shut it down. Shut it down.

    How sad.

    Deep in your pathetic little hearts you are just like Irwin from accounting. You claim you want success but secretly you fear it. You can’t handle it.

    How sad.

    Go back to you imaginary little world and your little toons where by golly you are God and you can fuck with class mechanics to your little hearts content and show every little 13 year old twerp who really is the boss.

    You guys disgust me.

  3. @Daniel: My reading is that *she* thinks that going the extra mile for a good forum to support 5 million users is awesome. But… simply having a forum with 5 million accounts is not providing “a good forum to support 5 million users.” And if you don’t go that extra mile, it might be a bad idea to do at all.

    If nothing else, it’s worth considering.

  4. Daniel says:

    @Matthew. First, it was an analogy, it’s the same fear regardless of sex.

    And second, you can consider it all you want but let me quote the blog owner from a few days ago.

    “Because I failed. Despite the fact that recommending a course of action that resulted in layoffs was, in a business sense the right decision – that was a failure.”

    If you can’t figure out how to make five million people who want your product work to your advantage, you failed. I don’t care what the reasons are and I don’t care who is to blame. You failed.

    “Shut it down” is an admission of failure. It’s an admission of incomptence. It’s an admission that you can’t handle it.

    And you can’t hide that failure under smooth talking words.

  5. Shannon B says:

    I have to say I agree with a lot of his points. Every forum I’ve been on that has rapidly grown popular has gotten less and less useful as the number of posters went up.

    When it gets to the point that threads are getting pushed off the front page in a matter of hours during peak times to make way for more ascii art, keyloggers, one line Something Awful memes and other barely legible scribblings, you’re wasting your time.

    Using WoW as an example is starting to feel like invoking Godwin, but it still works. So, take a look at their forums. Useful threads are pushed off into blackness within hours. Any thread in which a dev comments is suddenly filled up to capacity with ‘OMG FIRST!’ posts and other spam.

    Pretty much all of the sane and intelligent people I know stay as far away from the official WoW forums as possible. As a result, the really thoughtful and useful data appears on blogs, private boards and blog comments.

    Compare for example the ‘Elitist Jerks’ forum to the official forums. I’ve gotten far more use out of that without ever actually even posting than I’ve ever gotten from the official boards. I’ve seen better usable feedback and testing than anything I’d have to dig through on the official forums.

  6. etherealwolf says:

    is it an official forum? then yes, shut it down. forums are a waste of resources, and the bigger they get the more inefficient they become. any useful ideas/discussion in the official forum usually get drowned out by the seething maelstrom of fanboi generated static noise.

  7. Mist says:

    Look at the WoW forums RIGHT NOW. They’re currently ~80% cluttered with posts about the difficulties of Valentine candy achievements, and how if they can’t complete their holiday meta achievements they’ll all cancel their accounts…

    …and of course calls to nerf rogues, and rogues crying about the nerfs they just received.

  8. ixobelle says:

    i love the wow forums, y’all are crazy.

  9. Iconic says:

    Blizzard gets a huge % of their ideas from their forums, even though they never actively acknowledge individual contributions.

    I can name at least a half dozen things I’ve posted there that wound up in the game, even though they were ideas that got pushed off the front page with a few positive comments and nothing more.

    Somehow Blizzard manages to dig through all the crap to find the useful information. I don’t imagine that it’s easy, but apparently it’s possible.

  10. IainC says:

    Daniel. There are better ways to leverage those 5 million fans than by throwing them all into one forum and letting them go at it. If you aren’t leveraging your fanbase in every way possible then you are doing it wrong and I don’t think anyone is arguing that point but, as Jeremy said and as others have commented, trying to make a forum like the one described work is going to have a very low ROI. There are better ways of serving those 5 million fans than trying to meld them into an ubercommunity.

  11. Trislan says:

    If I had a forum with 5 million *active posters*, I’d consider making the game free and charging $15/month for posting access. Seriously, I can’t think of any site which has had even close to 5 million different people posting. (The WoW forums *might* have had 5 million distinct *readers* over their history, but I doubt it.)

  12. EpicSquirt says:

    Bug and (if you have no vision for your game) a feature request tracker would be good for a start. Only god knows what happens when a bug gets reported in a game.

  13. Freakazoid says:

    I think both sides have at least decent arguements, but I’d still keep a forum around. I figure with the money Blizzard has, it would probably be worth it to hire a few full-time community relations people who specifically browse the forums all day for good ideas.

    If a developer didn’t have that kind of money, I could see the forums themselves being turned into a game. Set up different rings of access and set up competitions based on how well you post. Anyone can post in the main ring, but they must be selected in the competitions to get to the next ring. The final ring would be pretty exclusive, giving basically one on one talks with developers, but there can only be a few dozen at most.

    Also, I like Trislan’s idea of charging for forum access instead of game access. A lot.

  14. Jade Falcon says:

    With those numbers of forum users you can only do it with heavy moderation,which generally for the company is a lose lose situation, you piss off those that play the forum game and you have to pay people,probably a lot of people,to watch over your forums and regardless how much money your making when it comes to business there’s no such thing as too much profits.It might not be right but that’s the truth of it.Until company’s start looking at the games from some other point of view then the accountants spread sheet I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

    As to a forum game having tiers, that’s just opening a whole field of mad customers thinking some are getting an inside edge over others regardless if it’s true or not.Also,again from the companys point of view,I would prefer my developers were working on the game as opposed to chatting it up with the players.

  15. hellfire says:

    Tying forum and game conduct into one package with a clear and restrictive ToS is a good start at preemptive moderation. If you can be banned from the game for forum misconduct the odds that you’ll spew random gibberish are generally reduced.

    In the case of WoW finding useful info from their forums? Lots of that comes from a very, VERY limited subset of any given group. The rogue forum, for example, has a half-dozen luminaries who are taken seriously be the community. When they talk, people listen, so to speak – and that includes the blues.

    The tangent to that is that many of those same luminaries do the heavy lifting in other forums, only relating that information to the masses when necessary. The only place with more mechanical knowledge of WoW than the EJ forums is Blizzard. Some might even argue that those names should be reversed.

  16. D-0ne says:

    Daniel :
    Not only is he wrong, he’s crazy wrong. I totally understand why he thinks the way he does; and it comes from the same fear that leads developers to ignore player input because its “safer”. But good companies are not running scared; they are running smart.

    A forum with 5 million members would be a mess. I know this because, I was one of 25 admins on a forum of 75,000 people. We had ~200 moderators and each was working about 4 hours a day moderating. Each admin was working about 6 hours a day.

    It was absolute chaos. For whatever reason, when you’ve got a forum that popular the bots attack with a vengeance. We were getting 12-20k actual posts from members per day and the bots were breaking in and getting 200-1000 posts a day on old threads…

    You know someone has to try and read all of those new posts.

  17. Chris F says:

    @Hellfire: You sir, have the right idea. The forum account and game account should be tied 100%, that a ban on forums is a ban in game. Do it enough and you can be permenantly banned from both.

    Couple that with a single posting option per account (not by character) and have the name clickable to show ALL characters by that player accross all servers, and you just reduced the crap and slime on the forums.

    Reduce the anonymity a bit.

  18. Matt Mihaly says:

    Shut it down? Huh?

    Go look at Gaia Online. They were (maybe still are, not sure) the second busiest forums in the world, after the Yahoo forums. Why would they shut down something that brings in so much traffic? It’s the core of their business.

    I think what you’re asking is a false dichotomy: “Shut down the forums or maintain a bog-standard install of them.”

    The correct answer is almost certainly not to shut them down.

    –matt

  19. InterSlayer says:

    I’d love to see a user moderation system for MMO forums. You don’t really see it outside of news aggregation sites like Reddit, Digg, or Slashdot.

    It’d be amazing on the vnboards or wow forums for example, if people could rate threads, and replies in threads up or down, and have the severely low rated replies or thread hidden from plain view if they’re that awful.

  20. Matt Mihaly says:

    InterSlayer wrote:

    I’d love to see a user moderation system for MMO forums.

    We’ve got that on our new forums (launched on Friday) at http://www.eartheternal.com. It remains to be seen if it’ll be useful or not, though so far I’ve only seen a couple of ‘legitimate’ posts rated down into invisibility.

    I don’t think that’s the only solution. I just think the idea that you’d take a huge mass of people who are all consuming content on your site and turn them away rather than finding a way to constructively engage them is nothing short of crazy. Imagine if Slashdot decided that its forums were too popular and removed the commenting feature on their articles.

    –matt

  21. Matt Mihaly says:

    What I mean to write is that I don’t think user moderation is a quick fix for massive forums. It’s one thing to try, but I’m sure the solutions for managing large forums are both somewhat specific to the community you’re managing as well as composed of multiple parts.

  22. Jeremy Preacher says:

    Matt, Gaia has 16 mil registered users, but I’d eat an article of clothing of your choice if more than half a mil post in any given month – and my point was that the difference in scale does very much matter.

    That being said, the reason I wrote the whole post is because “shut it down” *isn’t* really a good answer. If you get down to the bottom, I actually start talking about tools and features that would be better ways to spend the money than on just trying to moderate a medium-sized city.

  23. roc says:

    Forums are a terrible channel for official communication.

    Forums -only- work when the participants are true peers. Having mods/admins that are a tad too visible or a too-strong social hierarchy between posters can even drag them down. If you have visible CMs and/or Devs as undeniably first-class citizens, you don’t have a chance in hell at decent signal:noise.

    Official communication and player community need to be 100% separated to properly serve either.

  24. IainC says:

    Jeremy, I was going to write a longish reply on your blog as well as here but then I decided it was better as a post on my own blog instead.

    In general though, yes.

  25. Ashendarei says:

    Honestly I think that with a few changes the WoW forums could be much MORE productive:

    1. definately tie account violations on forums to the game. it’s a solid deterrant, and alot of the spammers / trolls are (probably) doing it because they are unable to play the game (IE: at work).

    2. community shaping: Blizzard employees would frequent well written unbiased posts, and avoid the trolls, except to the extent of banning them and deleting their posts.

    Consequently, if players understand that they cannoy get away with being a pack of hooting douchebags, one of two things will happen: Either they’ll get their act together, or leave the forums. Either way it’s a win for Blizzard and the forums in general.

  26. hellfire says:

    User moderation only works if everyone plays by the same rulebook. Forums are essentially feudal systems clustered together by means of a shared vernacular or class/role choice.

    What happens when GoonSwarm decides to mod-5 everyone in a specific group that happened to piss them off? Two things: 1) Hilarity, as illustrated by Eve and 2) Chaos. Inmates running the asylum on your commercial property jut doesn’t sound like a sane strategic move to me.

    Transparency helps quite a bit, actually. Although a great number of people like low-brow arguments on the basis of that transparency. “Eat a bowl of wang, warlock, go back to your own forum and stop trying to get rogues nerfed.”, etc, etc.

    The only problem with holding people accountable is the whole holding them accountable thing. You have to have absolute set-in-stone policy for EVERYTHING. CMs would essentially be automatons applying a checklist to every post they see in the report queue. Without that you end up with pissy customers shouting to anyone who will listen that they’re being oppressed by some CM that hates them or any number of other tinfoil headgear-inspired bitching. True or not, it’s a bad position to be in and not conducive to getting things done.

  27. Sanya says:

    I hate to say this, because it’s a dearly beloved sacred cow, but the idea that ANY studio gets any measurable percentage of ideas from the forums is simply not an idea based in reality.

    The reports generated from the forums are the Top X Threads as seen by traffic. Five thousand people claiming that an encounter is bugged are not usually wrong. That thread is sent up the chain.

    The thoughtfully written post with a clever idea is almost certainly never read if it is made in a forum with critical mass, unless you have an exceptional community manager both IN PLACE and EMPOWERED to pass up ideas to the people who actually matter.

    I’m sorry, but the explanation as to how the clever ideas get from the forum to the game is almost always “coincidence.” The people at the studio are usually gamers and love games, and are paid to have ideas. They had the idea, whatever it was, six months or even a year before it was posted.

    You can usually trace a direct line from a player reporting a bug to the fix, but not content.

  28. Sutro says:

    Heh! Yeah, from my admittedly less-privileged area of knowledge, designers don’t hurt for ideas. For some anonymous person on the Internet to come up with a feature that a.) glows in brilliance so far and away as to exceed anything the designer has on his mental plate, and b.) is actually executable is a likelihood measured in microns.

    I can see where feature -priority- can and has been affected by forum outcry, but yeah, Sanya’s dead on about feature creation (outside of things like “I’d really like a button here!”).

  29. D-0ne says:

    hellfire :
    User moderation only works if everyone plays by the same rulebook.
    What happens when GoonSwarm decides to mod-5 everyone in a specific group

    That is exactly why users rating each other does not work. I’ve seen it tried in various places and it won’t work on a MMORPG forum.

    Here’s why:
    1. It only takes a tiny amount of organization between a relatively small number of people to destroy a user rating system.

    2. See the old EQ forums where a “star” system was used to rate users.
    What happened? Guilds took over. Down graded all who said anything contrary to their mantra to the point of never being upgradable to even one star and they upgraded each other to the point of being “not down gradable” from five stars.

    3. What this means is that a user rating system quickly becomes a means of control for organized units of users and no longer serves the intended purpose of “upgrading” the forums content.

  30. Matt Mihaly says:

    Jeremy wrote:

    Matt, Gaia has 16 mil registered users, but I’d eat an article of clothing of your choice if more than half a mil post in any given month – and my point was that the difference in scale does very much matter.

    I don’t much care how many registered users a site has to be honest. Outside of using those numbers to convince clueless press that your game is popular, I’m sure we both know that number doesn’t mean anything.

    As far as how many post – I don’t know. Just mailed someone I know at Gaia asking if that’s public knowledge as now I’m curious. I doubt they’ll release the info.

    However, worth pointing out that Quantcast claims Gaia had about 2.2 million people stop by last month, generating about 1 billion pageviews. That’s quite large and their core ‘activity’ is forum posting. No idea how many of those 2.2 million posted last month, of course.

    –matt

  31. Calandryll says:

    It’s rather amusing that so many seem to have only read the headline and not the actual blog post by Jeremy. While the “shut it down” quote is funny, the point of her blog was actually that “shut it down” is the *wrong* answer.

    The problem with most mmog (or other game) forums is that developers think the primary reason they have forums is to give players a place to talk to them. It’s not. Forums are a community building tool, they are far more useful as a tool to let players interact with each other, rather than interact with developers. We’ve been setting that expectation incorrectly for far too many years.

    We need to stop blaming the players for the forums being a mess and start looking at ourselves.

    The point Jeremy is making is that the way we run forums needs to change. And the fact is, other than some minor features, it hasn’t changed since the days of Ultima Online, and probably even before that. We open forums, we let people post, we ban troublemakers, and we try (but fail) to keep up with them. Then some exec comes along and (correctly) states that the cost to run the forums isn’t worth it. Or, worse, a game launches without forums, struggles out of the gate, and the silver bullet solution is to open forums so “we can talk to you all better!” – talk about setting yourself up to fail from day one!

    Shutting down the forums or hiding behind fansite forums isn’t the answer. We need new answers and I think that was what Jeremy was saying.

  32. Jeremy Preacher says:

    Matt – if their core activity is posting, then Gaia isn’t running a game, they’re running a forum. (I don’t know much about Gaia, but looking through their site, it appears that that’s not a terribly inaccurate assumption.) And I said explicitly that if that was my business goal, of course five million active users would be a success.

  33. Klaitu says:

    A better answer would be to sell it to someone else. The amount of page views that 5 million people generate would be most encticing for advertisers.

  34. Matt Mihaly says:

    Jeremy Preacher wrote:

    Matt – if their core activity is posting, then Gaia isn’t running a game, they’re running a forum. (I don’t know much about Gaia, but looking through their site, it appears that that’s not a terribly inaccurate assumption.) And I said explicitly that if that was my business goal, of course five million active users would be a success.

    That’s another false dichotomy. They’re running both. They’re running an experience (as do most MMOs) that encompass an MMO (called zOMG) that they recently added after launching largely as a forum site. They added various small activities around the forum over time, extending the experience beyond just the forums, and then added an MMO recently.

    They are not either a set of forums or an MMO. They’re both part of the same experience, just like the forums and WoW-the-game are part of the “World of Warcraft” experience. When you look at it from that light, which is how players experience it (watch how fast they’ll get pissed if Blizzard took the WoW forums and themed them, in, say, Hello Kitty-style graphics, as that’s not congruent with the overall World of Warcraft experience), it doesn’t make any more sense to shut down immensely popular forums than it does to shut down the most popular zones within the MMO just because they’re “too popular” and causing headaches for users within them.

    I didn’t read your post originally (guilty, sorry about that) but I see that at the end of the post you’re heading in the right direction. You wouldn’t shut down a popular WoW zone. You’d use a combination of design and tech to solve the problem and retain that immensely popular feature of that overall experience.

    –matt

  35. Jeremy Preacher says:

    “Supporting the WoW experience” is the fluffy bunny way of saying “Supporting the WoW business model.” My contention is that if you’re bleeding money out the ears trying to moderate a tremendous forum when forums don’t have anything to do with your actual business model, then you’re missing opportunities.

    Now, communities are almost certainly part of the business model of an online game, and supporting them is definitely relevant. But we get way too stuck on forums as the only way to do that, and they’re just really inefficient past a certain size.

  36. Iconic says:

    “I hate to say this, because it’s a dearly beloved sacred cow, but the idea that ANY studio gets any measurable percentage of ideas from the forums is simply not an idea based in reality.”

    I guess that depends on what you mean by “measurable.”

    I know for a fact that many ideas are lifted directly from the community. It may not be your personal experience, and I don’t claim it is the case for every studio or game, but I know that Blizzard takes a LOT of ideas from players.

  37. Veritas Gax says:

    Daniel :Only in on-line gaming, a milieu supposedly driven by imagination, a milieu with the hubris to call an employee “junior world designer,” would the existence of five million customers panting for interaction, for integration, be viewed as a problem. Sincerely, it is a form of clinical insanity. Talk about hubris.

    Really? *Only* in online gaming? Because I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes scratching my head trying to come up with a SINGLE EXAMPLE of another modern product class that offers customers as much access to product development as gaming. And frankly, only sports comes close to fostering the sense of entitlement and indignance that games create in its customers.

    Of course game developers want to listen to their customers. We like to work on successful products, because then we get paid bonuses and enjoy some of the fruits of our labors. And since many, many games require a ton of labor and don’t end up producing any fruit to the guys in the trenches, I think we’d all agree that given a choice, we’d all choose to cater to customers rather than our own egos, as if the realities of game development were that black and white.

  38. dartwick says:

    Its my impression that as a game designer that no forum could actually provide useful insight on games other than to relay exploits and game stopping bugs. They are simply to easy to manipulate and they are victem to trends.

    The only exception would be a very small forum where you actually knew almost all the posters – like an early stage beta forum.

  39. Freakazoid says:

    Sanya :I’m sorry, but the explanation as to how the clever ideas get from the forum to the game is almost always “coincidence.”

    Well then, there are an awful lot of coincidences out there.

    I don’t pretend developers are retarded (though they get close sometimes), but don’t ask me to believe they’re saints.

  40. geldonyetich says:

    It’s sort of an old paradigm, really:

    The lazy or efficient automatically avoid unnecessary responsibility. (“5 million subscribers? Shut it down!”)
    The foolhardy or daring automatically shoulder too much responsibility. (“5 million subscribers? Hell, make it 10 million!”)
    The enlightened automatically question everything. (“5 million subscribers? Why?”)

    5 million subscribers on a forum are problematic in that you can’t really strain that much information from them. At best, you can expect to pull some pretty gnarly, “Majority Rules” polls. However, forums are the usual survey bias, and useless towards the long term benefit of the game because most forumites care more about instant gratification.

    SOE tried listening to their customers, and we hated them for it. Even the NGE in SWG was the result of the surveys of the players that left (who far outnumbered the players who remained). Basically, the only good response you can get out of a player is whether or not they’re enjoying themselves… and even then, you have to be on guard that they’re not just faking the pain in the name of favorable balance adjustments.

  41. Merkwurdigliebe says:

    Shadowbane with this has little to do.

  42. Boanerges says:

    Sanya is right. Devs don’t glean much of anything from forums because the signal-to-noise ratio is so low. With 5 million posters it’s nearly indiscernible. If you have a good thread that your hapless dev DOES find and lets on that he found it, it’s like turning on a light in a bug filled swamp in summer: you get swarmed. The thread balloons, bad ideas get tossed (or class warfare breaks out) in and the STN ratio goes through the basement. The best example of this was Whineplay (the original SOE boards) where the path to having someone official read your thread was to chain bump it until you got the desired result or got it locked.

    Devs and players get the best interaction when you have invitation-only forums where you pull one troll maneuver and you’re out. You’re there because you make good, non-ranty posts and the devs can get info from you. People tend to scream “Elitist!” when they find out but that’s just because you had a party without them. Private forums make for a good hub-and-spoke system where third parties with class and guild boards get a rep or two in and those reps filter from their own boards and disseminate down. Thus you get good STN ratios where actual improvements can be made.

    Basically, the only good response you can get out of a player is whether or not they’re enjoying themselves… and even then, you have to be on guard that they’re not just faking the pain in the name of favorable balance adjustments.

    I’ve been part of those private discussions (SOE boards) and I can say that they bore fruit FAR more often than anything in a public forum. It was even beneficial to have a dev say why they wouldn’t do something rather than making 50 bazillion posts about it in vain. Your characterization about what feedback players can give is flat out wrong. Players are often the first to notice something is wrong and can sometimes even tell you how to fix it. Show me a MMO that fails to listen to its players and I’ll show you WWII Online. I never had a dev just up and capitulate to a request. If anything, they erred on the side of caution and verified for themselves before saying or doing anything.

    In the end, you don’t NEED official forums of the public variety, especially when everyone who plays your game is automatically registered to post in said forums (hence 5 million posters in a game with over 10 million subs). It’s not a sign of failure in shutting them down because we’re talking about forum tied to a MMO. As Jeremy said in his linked post, if it were just about anything else then you’d be crazy to can it. But those 5 million people mostly expect something from their posting, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time posting about a game when they could be playing said game. That’s not a successful forum, that’s a towering inferno waiting to happen.

  43. Moorgard says:

    Sanya :
    The thoughtfully written post with a clever idea is almost certainly never read if it is made in a forum with critical mass, unless you have an exceptional community manager both IN PLACE and EMPOWERED to pass up ideas to the people who actually matter.

    The last phrase is the critical piece.

    It doesn’t matter how many great/smart/sane/useful posts are made on a forum if there is nobody actively trying to look for those posts and nobody on the dev team who wants to hear the feedback. In my book, mining good posts and passing them along the chain is one of the most important functions of a community manager–regardless of community size.

    Any company that doesn’t hire exceptional community managers and/or lacks devs willing to listen to them isn’t practicing any kind of community management worth a damn.

  44. geldonyetich says:

    Boanerges :
    I’ve been part of those private discussions (SOE boards) and I can say that they bore fruit FAR more often than anything in a public forum. It was even beneficial to have a dev say why they wouldn’t do something rather than making 50 bazillion posts about it in vain. Your characterization about what feedback players can give is flat out wrong.

    I’m not sure how that has anything to do with what I was saying. Sure, a forum can be used to make announcements to the players.

    However, my point was that you can’t trust the average player to understand (or care) how the change they want will impact the long term health of the game quality. The core of this is that the vast majority will go for instant gratification if they think it’s being offered.

    What you can determine is if they’re currently enjoying themselves, and that would encapsulate their explanations as to why they’re not currently enjoying themselves. Even they won’t understand the exact reason why, but a good developer can extrapolate where the real source of the ill stems from.

  45. geldonyetich says:

    To put some analogies on that, player feedback is a bit like going to the doctor and demanding a certain medication, or going to a mechanic and demanding a part may be replaced. Sometimes, the customer is right, but that’s usually going to be luck: they’re not the expert here.

    What a responsible developer does is use their forums to have the players describe symptoms and to understand what their preferred result would be. The trouble with really large forums is that it turns into a popularity contest, and suddenly there’s far too much pressure being put on the developers to make the wrong decisions.

  46. Tim says:

    D-0ne :
    A forum with 5 million members would be a mess. I know this because, I was one of 25 admins on a forum of 75,000 people. We had ~200 moderators and each was working about 4 hours a day moderating. Each admin was working about 6 hours a day.
    It was absolute chaos. For whatever reason, when you’ve got a forum that popular the bots attack with a vengeance. We were getting 12-20k actual posts from members per day and the bots were breaking in and getting 200-1000 posts a day on old threads…
    You know someone has to try and read all of those new posts.

    Online communities are a broken windows thing (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixing_Broken_Windows). If this is what’s going on in the forum, then the community managers either allowed it to go to hell and just lack the skill to deftly steer and work with a community. CM is not an easy task, and not one to be managed with hammer and tongs, nor spin and PR.

    Bad communities can also be a sign that the product just plain sucks. No amount of community management is going to fix a bad product. People coming into your forums to tell you things suck may be right, and you don’t fix that by shutting down your forums or moderation. You do it by fixing your product.

  47. Sinjinn says:

    With 5 million _active_ posters. How many actually paying subs would you have? A factor of _alot_ safe to say.

    Yes its going to take an experienced set of brains to filter the noise, but guess what, you have a boatload of cash coming in the door, pay good people and keep them.

    You just realize there is a cost associated with it, and you need to budget accordingly.

  48. Sullee says:

    Sanya :I hate to say this, because it’s a dearly beloved sacred cow, but the idea that ANY studio gets any measurable percentage of ideas from the forums is simply not an idea based in reality.
    The reports generated from the forums are the Top X Threads as seen by traffic. Five thousand people claiming that an encounter is bugged are not usually wrong. That thread is sent up the chain.
    The thoughtfully written post with a clever idea is almost certainly never read if it is made in a forum with critical mass, unless you have an exceptional community manager both IN PLACE and EMPOWERED to pass up ideas to the people who actually matter.
    I’m sorry, but the explanation as to how the clever ideas get from the forum to the game is almost always “coincidence.” The people at the studio are usually gamers and love games, and are paid to have ideas. They had the idea, whatever it was, six months or even a year before it was posted.
    You can usually trace a direct line from a player reporting a bug to the fix, but not content.

    As a professional tester this isn’t surprising but a good bit annoying. Sure the ideas of better ways to spend the money are good if you are hell-bent on community but frankly games have prioritized community way too high. As pointed out community will happen and doesn’t require official sanctioning… decent QA on the other hand?

    Not trying to be bitter but I can go read a post-mortem in J Mulligan’s book (which isn’t exactly new these days) and yet the SAME game company repeats a lot of the very mistakes they indicated they learned years ago.

    I dunno.. I guess I’m tired of seeing people talk about WoW numbers when they don’t have WoW numbers and aren’t likely to ever have them. I get that you folks like to fantasize about it but let’s stay focussed on having successful non-WoW games first and worry about how to handle the BIG numbers between dips in our Scrooge McDuck swimming pools filled with money.

  49. IainC says:

    “As pointed out community will happen and doesn’t require official sanctioning…”

    If you simply ‘let community happen’ then you will get precisely the community that you deserve.

    Regarding the point about ideas rarely coming from the community to the game, I think a lot of people are conflating ‘good ideas’ with ‘feedback on what is broken’. Certainly in a beta community, feedback on bugs, unpopular features and broken systems is relatively easy to pass up the chain so that someone who can use that information sees it. Stuff like your lovingly crafted 30 paragraph post on a realistic Were-weasel life-cycle mechanic, not so much.

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