Vanguard: Distribution of Forums

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I would submit that Sigil are operating under an out of date assumption that consumers are likely to view a referrals page as more pro-active on Sigil’s part than simply having forums.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.

12 Comments

I think this is a briliant idea from their standpoint. They will “choose” which sites are affiliates that get “mentioned” and have developers post on (occasionally). What do you want to bet that behind the scenes the Son..err Sigil “Community Staff” will strong arm those sites to be even more heavy handed with the ban stick and post locking then they could ever be?

The fun part will be when they wake up and see that every time some site gets “promoted” to affiliate level the time before the IGE gold sellers buy the site will be measured in days.

Try and find ANY useful information on the web about EQ2 that isn’t owned by the “enemy”. Heck, you can’t even download an interface mod without visiting the “ememy”.

Ya know, that brings up a related topic…

What is it with the MMOs putting their customers in a position to go to an external source for vital information? Clearly, I believe, the majority of people playing these games DO use these external sites to look up quest information, gaming guides, phat loots information etc. Why as an MMO company do you force people to get the info someplace else? Imagine if Disney forced you to leave the amusement park to get food?

I am not saying the games primary interface should have this info, but certainly their web site should. With nice ads for other games or complementary products etc. If I were a stockholder of one of these places I would be pretty upset that they force people to “leave the park”.

Because the MMOs generally do not want to just give you the data/quest answers/etc. philosophically. Those things are ways to shortcut the game. It’s like skipping to the end of a story. To do so would completely undercut the design of most MMOs – you’d essentially being playing a prettified version of that web game that played the game for you and just showed you your stat changes (I can’t remember the name – someone will surely). That kills the mystery, which is what Thottbot and Allakazam do. Some players like that. Some designers don’t mind it, but I think more for that fact that it means they don’t have to answer questions all day about where the Whatsit of the Whosit is.

At some point, the game guides and such completely destroy the purpose of playing a game – especially a quest type game – but any game with ‘fixed’ content.

Also, cost, expense, etc.

Also, the idea of ‘closed park’ is pretty dead with the internet and the ability to Alt+Tab. 6-7 years ago, games were still done that way, but no longer. I remember people hacking Asheron’s Call 1 just so they could play their own MP3s from within the game – someone even made an AC gui for it so it looked like part of the game.

Wow. Bad idea.

There’s a lot to be said, marketing-wise, for having direct control over the rules, social norms and moderation effectiveness of any site that you are counting on to play a key part in introducing customers to your product, providing support once they’re subscribed, and being a bi-directional venue for developer-player communications.

Imagine if the only website for WWIIOL was akin to the offsite “outlaw” versions of OT, with a little game discussion added to their topic mix. Would that be a good place for Gophur to conduct debugging communications, or Killer/any other development staff member to occasionally participate to inform players about future plans or to straighten out incorrect information?

The only upside potential I could see for such a plan would be for a game company that wants to decrease opportunities for potential customers to interact with existing customers before subscribing, and doesn’t plan on any developer-player communications anyway.

Looks like this baby is getting released un-finished because they’re out of money and time. So, this whole webpage thing might simply be down to cash – not have enough to do the website they wanted.

http://www.quartertothree.com/game-talk/showthread.php?t=32303

My favourite quote from that thread so far (and it’s tough, there’s some epic snark on display):

“There’s only two good MMOs anyone has ever played: the one they quit to play their current one, and the one they are soooo dumping this game for when it comes out.”

ROFL!

BTW, I’m not sure if the WWIIOL forums are necessarily a poster-child for “central control providing pleasant forum environment”, but if you ever thing the WWIIOL mods are heavy-handed, go spend some time in the forums for Egosoft’s X-series games. OMG!! They bring whole new worlds of meaning to “uptight & pissy”!

One of the worst things that can happen to the practical market perception of a subscription product is to provide an effective means for self-aggrandizing attacks by a few deviant customers with excellent communications skills and just enough insider “dirt”. Lack of sensibly purposeful control of official forums could be that means. So could encouraging your customers to visit unofficial/uncontrolled forums.

I see a possibility for distinction between ‘boards’ and ‘forums’. Boards being those places where people rant and bitch and vent, egoize, grandstand, and play the board-game.

Forums, on the other hand, could be like the forums that SoE ran for EQ for a long time, where people can post but only staff see it, and in a sort of reverse dev-tracker, they post fragments of the ones they believe worthy of discussion, along with responses.

Lots of people hated it when they first did it, but I think it provided some of the best customer service going. It certainly cost them plenty of forum-whiners, so its no surprize that plenty of whining was heard and very little praise. But those forums became meaningful.

Smart guy that Smedley :) Or maybe it was the robots Sanya sent him :)

Perhaps not in other games but I think to a meaningful extent here, the community tries to participate helpfully in researching the various historical objects that may be candidates to be modeled, and otherwise tries to help with suggestions and testing in regard to mechanics and production issues.

Of course, that’s not to say that this game’s managers value such activity enough to explicitly support it. Suppose they do, though.

The kind of participation in question of course is intended to benefit the developers, but often necessarily involves interactions between customer/participants who are working simultaneously on the same or similar issues. My observation also has been that that kind of Forum activity is popular and interesting to a certain stratum of customers (i.e. those with an interest in military history and gamed-simulation), even when for reasons of time, other priorities or whatever, the Rats don’t see or don’t care about the thread-content.

Per the distinction drawn above, that kind of activity wouldn’t work on a “board”. If the concept of a “forum” is that they’re developer-free, it wouldn’t work on a “forum” either.

i noticed that you guys aren’t part of http://vanguardsites.com
it would really help if you guys joined!

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