Apparently, Vanguard has made a decision not to have official forums, but instead to have a Slashdot style front page referring you to affiliate sites with, one presumes, officially sanctioned forums.
I can see how this is at least worth trying. Centralized forums have the disadvantage that they don’t give communities of players the opportunity to express themselves, and so the voices that speak ‘for the community’ are usually freaking raving lunatics that shouldn’t be speaking – period. And those affiliate forums are going to exist anyway.
However I do see some issues. Having centralized forums provides certain commodoties like fixed identities and relevant stickies.
Distributed forums runs the risk of spoofing, of people only visiting the leaf or arterial locations and thus missing critical information. And without sound conventions, standards and requirements for affiliates, its going to be a nightmare. phpBB over there, vBB over here, jsBB in that place. And many people will wind up having multiple accounts (ala roles) per site.
And the affiliate forums, to which some players might have gone because they are smaller and quieter, will now have to bear the weight of true forumites deprived their central, “official” forum.
The /. concept for the VSOH home sort of works for me, but what makes Slashdot a success, even if you don’t ever use it yourself, is the ability to discuss the articles on the /. page; when a /. article contains a link to a forum post or a blog entry it is normal for the /. article to have many times more comments posted than the target material.
I would submit that Sigil are operating under an out of date assumption that consumers are likely to view a referrals page as more pro-active on Sigil’s part than simply having forums. They actually go out and collect the stuff thats important and centralize it. From their perspective it must seem totally obvious that they are doing this for the customer rather than just lazily throwing up some forums which nobody ever monitors.
The Internet has changed. It is no-longer the domain of engineers, programmers and scientists. Today’s Internet is “the Web”. Today’s Internet is truly owned by the lay public, via cell phones and blackberrys and myspace.
If the target audience *is* slashdotters who own Windows systems and play games, then they’ve probably made it. But given the system requirements of Vanguard the target seems to be the gamer-market to some degree. And that means a subset is going to perceive a front-page that directs them off to other sites as a referal service.
In short: “go away”.
In addition, the forums will still be forums, and the people in them will still be forumites.
Sigil may see the forums as unofficial and the front page as something else, but the forumites are going to see the official page merely as Page 1. Gamers-in-forums are gamers playing the forum game. Getting your thread(s) recognized is achievement. And gaming is all about achievements.