Thursday, May 18, 2006

Brand Manager's Log: The value of community

So we're several weeks into opening up BOTS to the public and a little community is beginning to form. What has amazed me is the tremendous value our community has provided so far. Just to name a few items:

  • Bug reporting - which seems like a no-brainer since we're in testing phase, however, the worse case scenario is that no one tests and everyone just plays. This hasn't happened.
  • Game critique - providing feedback on the game itself; strengths, weaknesses and recommendations
  • Community - a nice warm and welcoming community has been formed with veterans (we already have them) helping out newbies.
  • Moral support - overall, the feedback has been positive which is rewarding for the development team, as well as myself.
  • Ownership of the product - this last one I didn't expect but I have already seen players taking ownership of the product by creating content (guild sites, imagery) of their own and identifying themselves in certain ways via the product.
Now I'm not going to take credit for all this good stuff happening, however, I do believe that certain actions on my part have helped facilitate these things. Here's my list:
  • Create the ability for users to communicate - this was easy, I shopped around for the most accepted message board system out there and implemented it. In addition, the game itself has some features for users to talk to each other and interact.
  • Encourage engagement - my approach to this was to practice what I preach. I have made myself as accessible as possible and frequently communicate via the same channels as the players. I didn't think this was something unique but many players have told me they have played other games where the developer side has never interacted with them or if they did communicate, it was via one-sided announcements. That's unfortunate. I'd like to think that being engaged myself and being open to the community, I'm promoting a certain behavior that gives our players the sense that they can follow suit.
  • Promote fun - Whenever possible, I try to throw fun into the element. We ran a tournament the other day and I created a room and invited players to beat me silly in the game. I know that's a dumb example but it's difficult sometimes to remember that games are about fun.
  • Know when to stay away - Even though I want to be engaged as a player as much as a brand manager, I have to know when to step back. There are certain threads on the message boards that I have been dying to jump in and be vocal, however, I know that due to my position of power (ha ha), it would sway the conversation. The community needs to work out issues on it's own.
So these are a few things I've noticed from our community and a few practices I'm trying to maintain. I'm not sure if this post is a recommendation or more of a mid-term post mortem. Either way, I'm pleased with how it's going. Unfortunately, we have a small group of testers right now, I hope this holds up when the masses join in.

No comments: