Game talkNext gen community relations

 Posted by (Visited 8600 times)  Game talk
Jan 302007
 

I’m with Tide’s Horizon on this one — it’s about time that more developers embraced the web the way LOTRO plans to.

More interesting is that the game is going to support extensive and complex community functions that twine with the actual gameplay. A Google Maps version of Middle-earth will be accessible to subscribers. Each character you create will get his or her own page on the game’s official website, and you’ll be able to blog it. Minigames on the website will affect your real progression in (currently unspecified) ways. The site will also feature an online Wiki encyclopedia of info about the LOTR Online universe. All in all, it sounds like a very robust package of community tools.

Of course, there are others thinking in terms of marrying social web techniques to MMOs. A simple matchmaking service, though, or even a full-blown social network, do seem like last year’s solutions. What’s appealing about what LOTRO says they’re doing is that it’s basically next-gen community relations techniques.

Currently just about all the models for community relations are essentially broadcast-based. Yeah, we run forums — sometimes — but mostly, it’s about putting info out there, developer speaking to customer. Even on occasions when we want to showcase user activity, we do it by hoisting it into the limelight; a user showcase is essentially admitting that only one channel matters, the official one.

There’s an element of truth to that, of course; more visitors tend to hit the official site than the myriad of smaller sites. You want to get the ferment of creative activity into the public eye because it makes the product seem more compelling and content-rich, so you showcase it where it will get th egreatest volume of eyeballs.

But that only speaks to acquisition. And honestly, most of your effort really should be directed towards current customers. Of course, you want to grow your service, but cost of retention is far lower than the cost of acquisition, and the longer you have retained someone, the likelier it is that they will stay effectively forever.

The interesting thing about leveraging all the contemporary ideas like Wikis, blog pages, and the like, is that they are about user investment in user-owned channels, instead of about getting celebrated by the official channel. As such, they are naturally retentive mechanisms. People who invest time in building the Wiki or maintaining a blog are more likely to stick with the game. And of course, manually showcasing player activities by hunting them out by hand will seem quaint when instead you can host blogs and automatically index all sorts of data about popularity, common terms, tags, etc.

A lot of the current thinking on community relations has been about moving all this stuff off of the official site. But the datamining value of hosting all this stuff is probably worth it just on its own. Currently, deep statistical analysis of your forums requires hiring a research company to do intelligence gathering — and they’d get the data via crawls. But if you host your own blogs, then you can simply index tags as users use them — or even build in a bit of auto-tagging for common game terms.

  23 Responses to “Next gen community relations”

  1. insensitive behavior that drives people away – and people came to your game because it’s fun game but like most other online games they stay because of the community. Every customer you shove out the door makes your product worse. Other people are getting this right. Why can’t you? Honestly, I don’t even know why I bother sometimes. Still, this thread at TGH reminds me about why I still love that place. Oh so tempted to post there again (Not where the poster, the myth, the admin, the one and only Rex was

  2. While I haven’t read through all of these articles yet, it sounds like exactly what I was referring to in my Auxiliary Pervasive Gameplay and (unfinished) MMO For The Common Man articles. Google maps of the game world, Wikis, and web-based mini-games are exactly the kind of auxiliary features

  3. s writing only when I have a full reaction to log (and not just a “wow, cool”). This should keep me from posting a link to everything. On using NWN for learning On consumer content (as opposed to user created content) On Viva Piniata On rich community tools for MMOs

  4. sites for WoW – this one just makes it official and does it better. So, in the interest of full disclosure, here are my top 3 WoW characters: Fortuno (druid)Thalonique (rogue)Coikai (mage)This whole topic of web presence for MMOs reminds me of an interesting post on Raph Koster’s blog. It sounds like Lord of the Rings Online is going to have a bunch of great community features like a gamelore wiki, character blogs, and a Google maps view of the world. Which all sounds really really cool. The whole definition of

  5. Integrating web2 with online gaming? Why hasnt anyone else thought of this yet? :p

    Communities are what makes MMOs tick. From my experience with a certain infamous MMO people stuck around after everything went to hell because they did not want to leave their community. It can be a wonderful thing, and every step in this direction is a welcome one to me.

  6. Great to hear. I love seeing companies embrace community relations.

  7. From my article on community relations:

    Sophisticated community relations aims to support opinion leaders primarily in the innovators and early adopters categories. These categories are dominated by major influencers, says Lawrence G. Cory who wrote “People Who Claim to be Opinion Leaders: Identifying Their Characteristics by Self-report” for the Journal of Marketing in 1971. This support is typically provided in the form of tools to help well-connected people better communicate with their human networks.

    In the world of the Web, other tools can be provided, particularly by technology companies, such as discussion boards, friends systems, and open publishing platforms. In general, these tools are mechanisms that help people produce word-of-mouth feedback that can be later analyzed for insight into consumer behavior.

    The important thing to remember is that insights into consumer behavior gained from this data are insights into past behavior. The ever-changing environment in which consumers make decisions is still relevant to their present and future behaviors. Measurement is not a substitute for environmental scanning.

    … it’s basically next-gen community relations techniques.

    Not really, Raph. Look at community relations practices in music marketing. The music industry has been doing real “next-gen community relations” for decades. Music marketers are probably the best at what they do. Unfortunately, a lot of people in games think they have to reinvent the wheel…

    If the whole Webby business is about pageviews, why would providers want people off their site to raise awareness of their product? Keeping players on the provider’s pages, churning out their own content and opinions, ought to help the community. Right?

    Adam, check this out: Death of Page View Metrics? The comments are equally enlightening.

  8. I’d go one step further and claim that the Fourms (and web-like community stuff) and the game should be integrated into one UI, and accessed via one log-in.

    Also, http://www.mxac.com.au/drt/DatingGame.htm

  9. I think a lot of current community thinking is in the LOTRO vein, but we are stuck in the lag between ideas and implementation. Many of these systems need to be planned for in early design (to it it well), and if it takes 3+ years to design a game… you see where this is going.

    Community is going back in-game in a big way (as it should) and integrating with the web as the tools and development catches up with ideas.

  10. Not really, Raph. Look at community relations practices in music marketing. The music industry has been doing real “next-gen community relations” for decades.

    I am not really familiar with music marketing in that sense. I mean, I know plenty about how grassroots marketing is done, but not what the big labels do. Can you elaborate?

    FWIW, though, I really meant “next gen for the MMO biz.”

  11. Some of these features (MySpace-style character home pages, blogs, flickr for screenshots, etc.) are really just another form of user content. Instead of users creating textures or models they are creating public journals, personal ads, and slideshows. And that’s a good thing! Every piece of user content a player generates for your game retains them just a little bit more.

  12. I was going to quote a few sections of your article then decided against it, I have no comment….except:

    It sure would be nifty if someone were able to combine and aggregate all these features into one site…hey wait….oh nevermind…I’m in the middle of a site redesign (partially Morgans fault) :)

  13. […] Raph discusses Lord of the Rings Online’s plans to have official character blogs and such: A lot of the current thinking on community relations has been about moving all this stuff off of the official site. But the datamining value of hosting all this stuff is probably worth it just on its own. […]

  14. It’s cool to see developers doing more to take the ancilliary content that users already produce and bring it within the fold. Hosting the data on your own servers has one more possible advantage: once you’ve got all this knowledge from blogs/wikis/etc. sitting in your databases, you’re only a step away from being able to reformat it and make it accessible from within the client. What’s more fun: to alt-tab out to the browser to look up quest spoilers, or to gaze into your own personal Palantír for fully tagged and searchable advice?

  15. I always thought Neocron was ahead of the curve. With your character logged into the game world, you could log into their game forums. It’s been years since I’ve checked back. But with just that level of integration, you’ve got private messages, community management within both game AND discussion, ability to push dynamic event-based content, closed-system general account management AND copious data mining techniques from which to choose.

    I’ve also found Maplestory (and the other Nexon services) to have a high degree of transparency between “Game” and “everything else”. To support their business models they really do need this of course. But it is something of a vision of the future how robust and integrated their services.

    That’s not to slight what Turbine is doing. They are doing some stuff that is fairly unique. However, it’s mostly unique in how wide-reaching the features are. Other games have semi-realtime updated online maps (Shadowbane, Planetside), out-of-game account and character management (EQ2Players), lore- and game-based wikis (ATiTD, WoW) and even minigames (Neopets). But none of them have them all together wrapped in one singular total offering. For that alone, they should get kudos.

  16. […] Raph Koster correctly noted that: The interesting thing about leveraging all the contemporary ideas like Wikis, blog pages, and the like, is that they are about user investment in user-owned channels, instead of about getting celebrated by the official channel. As such, they are naturally retentive mechanisms. […]

  17. The first MMO to go Web 2.0…

    One very surprising thing to note is that these Web 2.0 innovations did not come from the current crop of “casual MMO” folks. For the most part Habbo Hotel, Runescape, and even the recently launched Nicktropolis are still Web 1.0 endeavors — largely…

  18. I’ve always wondered why EQ never allowed the merchants behind the lines of NPCs in Luclin to manage inventory and prices from a web site. Its integration with the web like that, that I see as key to next generation stuff. If the stuff is mundane enough to not require you be online, let it happen “offline” (a.k.a. still Internet connected just not with the 3D graphical client). Hell, web bandwidth is much much much cheaper than the stuff necessary for the game. Game developers feel perfectly comfortable creating a head for the game that is text only for system administration duties but to create a head for the game that is not 3D and put it in the hands of a customer, why that’s insane…. The Web, a set of web services for portal developers… Why continue to restrict the interface that a user uses to access your game when you can expand the reach of your game and save money on infrastructure at the same time?

    I’m with the others on this in that the web is waay under utilized in many MMOs.

  19. I’m with the others on this in that the web is way under utilized in many MMOs.

    That’s partially due to the attitude that MMO games are packaged entertainment goods rather than online entertainment services. That isn’t to say that MMO games aren’t goods. They are goods. The manufacturing business model supports the development of these products; however, MMO games should be marketed as services, even solutions.

  20. even solutions.

    I agree and have my own ideas on this but: How so?

  21. We recently engineered many of these features in our latest Players service at http://www.vgplayers.com.

    These services definitely are a large investment for any MMO developer to do properly, and getting the game team excited about being involved is a definite must.

    I’d even go so far as to propose that providing guild websites, blogs, auto-event tracking and other sticky elements is going to be as important as the core game content over the next few years – people want a place to showcase their achievements and hang out with their friends.

  22. […] In other words, MMO meets Web 2.0. (Hat tip: Raph Koster, who has some thoughts on this daring move on his blog.) […]

  23. […] subject: Just thought I’d point out that Raph just posted a few sold links on "next generation community relations" Some interesting thoughts and links that are right up the alley of this discussion. […]

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