On the purpose of official forums

The main purpose of official forums is not for players to communicate with developers.

It is for players to communicate with each other, and for developers to broadcast messages to players (eg. patch notes.) I think forum goers would be much happier overall if more people realised this. And if marketing departments via community managers want to scavenge forums for feedback, the feedback would be more accurate if players just focussed more on talking to each other, rather than competing for dev attention.

Or in other words, GC should just stop feeding the forum posters. Plus it would stop us feeling so much that EU players are less important.

16 thoughts on “On the purpose of official forums

  1. Very interesting topic.

    Ghostcrawler (I think this is GC) was the first to introduce a “Dev talk and answer to players” style to forums. Dan Stahl from Cryptic/STO does quite read and post on the forums as well, but not as much.

    In former times, devs rarely if ever talked. Forums are hell at times, most people cannot take that much flak without firing back, which is unfortunately a thing you can’t or should not do in a dev or community manager position.

    I guess this is why most devs get told or decided NOT to engage in discussions with the forum base that much.

    In things of trying to get feedback from the playerbase, you are right that observation might be better than both observing and participating in player discussions.

    This said, Ghostcrawler for sure enriched the forums – but he also changed their character and player expectations.
    The other question is if observing forums and forum consensus cannot be horribly misleading. Forums are often frequented by either very talkative (trolls) or very invested players. Their opinions hold merit, but they are not really representing the overall player base that is always way more “casual” than those reading and participating on the forums.

    I am glad ArenaNet finally got a blog – the way of the CMs to communicate over the Guild Wars Wiki was quite odd, and did not reach all but the hardcore fans. Wikis are not made as discussion platforms. But I really like how the company sponsored ad-free Wiki developed. It is still run by fans and usually soaks up the best guides and player research done on the forums. Interestingly, Guild Was has no official forums – there are some major fansite forums, but official communication now seems to happen over the “blog” which has no comments enabled – they seem to leave that to the forums for player discussion. I think that’s a good solution.

  2. I do think it is a shame that they separate the US / EU forums, it makes me feel like we completely don’t matter as we cannot engage in discussions with someone like GC or Netharea (did I spell that right?).

  3. Feedback to developers makes the game better. Conversations among players can make the players better.

    The former is more important — “player improvement” is often a workaround to bad or incomplete design. Better to cut out the middleman and fix the game.

    • I’m sure they get more useful feedback from metrics (and POSSIBLY from expert players who will not be the majority) than from reading the official forums.

    • That’s a foolish viewpoint to take for an MMO. They rely on community as much as they do content; neither is more important, if anything.

      WoW’s going to suffer soon since it won’t replace those it loses due to lack of content (well, frequent updates) and lack of community via the LFD tool.

  4. Communicating via official forums is hard. When do I go to the front? When thing go wrong.
    A few days ago, login servers were broken and down.
    While seeking information on this, I went to the forums. I was surprised how well visited they were. Actually I wasn’t surprised, I was ashamed, ashamed, that I share the same DNA with those individuals who’s world breaks apart, when the virtual WoW shuts down. People who don’t react on an initial “Guguck!”, who claim that the alphabet only constsis of capital G’s and O’s, those people flood the forum and all the intelligence possibly found there within minutes, shoot @ the devs, telling everyone who wants to know and even those who don’t, the lack of professionality @ blizz, making it unusable for me.
    Sure there are some people sharing weird or sometimes good ideas, when everything is fine in the WoW, but I haven’t found a screen to get those nuggets of insight on the official forums, so every visit is a unique experience.

  5. “The main purpose of official forums is not for players to communicate with developers.”

    The problem with that is that there is no place you can point to and say, “Here is where you get to communicate with developers.”

    There are a lot of players out there who feel they deserve such a channel.

    And there are certainly devs who want to hear straight from the end users from time to time. Getting some direct feedback can be a wonderful tonic when you’ve been getting a lot of metrics, and feedback from your support and customer relations orgs, all of which is filtered through various lenses.

    Plus I feel that feedback from “expert” players is over rated, unless your whole population plays the same way they do. I know the analogy in my own industry.

    I think you should argue this point with people who declare that Blizz devs are arrogant know-it-alls who don’t listen to the players. If you find one who agrees with you, you can at least poke them for being inconsistent!

    Finally, I think forums are for discussions, not news broadcasts. If your forums are an ugly morass of bile and nonsense… and if your game has more than 5 players, it probably is… then many of your players will avoid it. Why would you then want to use THAT as a medium for the distribution of news?

    Game news should have its own, distinct feed, preferably on the front page of the game’s web site, with no comments allowed (go to the forums for that), and with an RSS feed for those of us who want to get notified automatically when there is news. Forums as the sole place for game news is a bad idea. Even a blog with comments seems less than ideal. That just becomes a thread of “I love it,” “I hate it,” and “What about my totally unrelated issue?”

    • “There are a lot of players out there who feel they deserve such a channel”

      They do /now/. But really it’s just biased to the minority of forum posters if the devs pay too much attention to the people who shout the most loudly. And I’m sure they are aware of this.

      To be honest, it’s pretty easy for devs to talk to players. I’m sure a lot of them play the game. They could just chat to their guildies.

      On reflection, I agree with you about a game having a news feed. In the past we’ve tended to rely on bboards for all communication but there’s really no need to have discussion on every news item.

  6. As a software developer myself, I *love* the fact that GC publishes as much about the product as he does. This level of communication is a rare gem in an otherwise black-box gaming industry.

    More not less.

      • Ya know I only read blue-tracker/mmo-champion and rarely actually read forum posts (other than my own realm’s drama crap from time to time). If I was actively engaged in the Blizz forums and lived in the EU the lack of blue posts *would* be annoying.

  7. I don’t know if you have done any PvP in the lower brackets or not, but there are some serious balance issues. Probably the most frustrating is that right now a rogue in the 30’s or 40’s that is spec’d subtlety can shadowstep behind someone, and one shot them with ambush. It makes for some challenging flag carrying in Warsong Gulch.

    I went to the PvP forum, and there was a 25 page thread on the issue and a couple of blue posts acknowledging the issue and stating it was something they wanted to fix.

    That acknowledgment was important to me, and I was able to go back and play knowing that it was a temporary situation. If that interaction had not been available, I would have had a totally different mindset and a very different opinion of Blizzard and their game.

  8. Speaking for those of us who play on Oceanic realms, the fibro hut round the back of WoW, I am…less than sympathetic to the plight of the Euro realm forums.

  9. Pingback: World of Warcraft – The New Community Site « The Ancient Gaming Noob

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