The Assimilation of Information on the Community Frontier

If you’ve been on any major gaming forum, it won’t take you long to find a post that says something a bit like this:

“The devs don’t care. They don’t even play their own game.”

This statement is frustrating, and not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

One of the most important jobs of a community team is finding, assimilating, and distributing your feedback. This means reading even the worst rage posts that many players can otherwise choose to avoid. Posts titled things like this:

“WHAT THE HELL, DEVS?”
“We’ve been lied to.”
“Fire X person – this is unacceptable.”
“PVP: What kind of bs is this?”

The reason why we read these posts, and the core reason that we’ve found ourselves doing community work in the first place is that we care. In fact, any developer worth their salt (any company, for that matter), will have a team that is specifically designed to read through your – the player’s – feedback. Now, my good friend (and fellow community team compatriot, Frank) has a fantastic write-up on what we look for in a post here. However, I would like to take you through the process of how this information is found, assimilated, and distributed.

First, we read. We community-folk read everything and even go looking for more. This means our own official forums, the appropriate subreddit (IE. /r/guildwars2, /r/SWTOR, et cetra), fan site forums, Twitter, Facebook, and even forums such as MMO-Champion, IGN, and Destructoid. Once a majority of the posts on the specific fan forums (meaning official forums, matching subreddit, and fan site forums) have been read, we go hunting.

This is where it gets fun. Sometimes we’re looking for something specific, like feedback on a system in the game (say, PvP or crafting). Other times we’re just mining for gold. The best tool that I’ve found for this is Google. If you’ve ever used some of the more advanced searching tools on Google, you know what I mean. For example, if I’m looking on MMO-Champion for PvP feedback, I will look for “TERM GAME NAME site:MMO-champion.com.” Most of the time these search functions are faster and smoother than the built-in site searches, plus I can weed out extraneous, old information easily by only displaying feedback from a certain time period.

What we read is everything. We’re not just reading the opening post – we are also reviewing (depending on the quality of the thread, sometimes I must skim, looking for key words) the responses as well. We want to get a feel for how other people feel about what is being said. Are they agreeing or disagreeing? What kind of things are they adding to the discussion? Are they angry or apathetic? I can remember days when I would pull up the /r/SWTOR subreddit and all of the links were purple. So, I’d go back into hot threads and look for new replies.

When it comes to the assimilation of information, unless it is simply a rage post full of personal attacks and hyperbole, I want to know what you have to say. Again, Frank’s post goes more into detail about this.

And then we assimilate. As you can imagine, with many games and game communities, there is a lot of information to go through. Because of this, typically many people are involved in the process of reading and we pass information (and your threads, tweets, or posts) around a lot.

Once we’ve read your thoughts and gotten a feel for the community’s feelings on certain topics, we may write up a report. What goes into this report really depends on what the community team needs. With specific concerns or threads well worth the read, we may hyperlink to them specifically. However, if it’s a subject that is extremely popular, we do our best to summarize the thoughts and feelings of the community, good or bad. A (very) general example of what I might write:

Many players are unhappy about X feature. I’ve seen several threads today that are very negative in nature. Some people are unhappy because they feel like it is a “grind,” specifically because the drop rate of X item is considered too low. For many players, this destroys the fun and immersion in the world. Instead of exploring the universe, they must repetitively farm X mob in an attempt to get X item. One suggestion that many players seemed to like was the idea of an “epic” quest line as a part of their story that would expound on the lore and reward them at the end with either a part of their weapon or the weapon. This way, players could earn their items without the necessity of grinding.

We will also include any concerns we might have based on what we have seen or read (whether on the Net or in the game world itself). However, that’s not to say that our feedback and reports are entirely negative (though I think they tend to be). Sometimes, we find really awesome things the community has done (fan art, fan fiction, or even instances of players helping players) or things they really enjoy. This could be something as simple as a UI convenience feature (such as mousing over the map in Guild Wars 2 to quickly read map completion in that area) or an entire patch that is really well-received. These sentiments are passed on internally and let us know that we’re doing a good job.

Another thing we look for are excellent suggestions. Things that make certain features in the game simpler or more fun for players (we call this “quality of life” suggestions), such as the mouse-map feature in Guild Wars 2. Of course, we urge players to submit suggestions in-game, but we will never dissuade you from posting them on the forums. And if it’s an idea that multiple people like, the better the chance is it ends up in a report in the office.

Finally, it is distributed. Depending on your responsibilities within the team, this may just be writing an email (hell, any of the tasks I’ve mentioned above may be done by different and specific members of the team) with worrisome concerns, links, and any general feedback, feelings, and suggestions. For others, it may be communicating these concerns more directly with the development team and beyond. It really depends on the team and the developer.

Regardless of how the information is moved internally, someone on the community team is reading what you’re saying, regardless of the tone. What you’re saying – what you’re thinking – is valuable to us. We want to know how you feel, what you think of the crafting in the game, or what you think would improve your PvP experience in the game.

Now, I know you’re wondering why we don’t respond to your post if we have read it. However, the simple truth to this is volume as well as “tied hands.” The meaning is exactly as it sounds – sometimes, our hands are tied. We can’t respond because we aren’t certain about the time a fix will be coming, or if that change will be made. Sometimes, we simply cannot talk about big issues because we aren’t allowed to yet. However, we will always do our best to acknowledge your post and your feedback when we can.

So, next time you make a long, thought-out post about how you think your dungeon adventures could be improved based on the frustrating experiences you’ve had, yet you only receive a handful of replies – take heart, because I promise you: we’re always listening to what you have to say.

2 thoughts on “The Assimilation of Information on the Community Frontier

  1. Pingback: Overly Positive » Adventures in Community

  2. Paulo Agustin

    Thank you and Mr. Frank Sanchez for the insights on various aspects of your role as Community Managers. I never realized you had to at the very least skim all those threads on the official forums in addition to the forums on other sites. Eyestrain must be an occupational hazard, in addition to the stress that comes from sifting the wheat from the chaff in threads that are either vitriolic, stupid, or a combination of both.

    SO ASIDE FROM LOTS OF WINE, as you said on Twitter, you all just shake it off, power through, and soldier on?

    P.S.

    You might also say the Devs care (or have the opportunity to) because people like you and Frank care. Thank you for caring.

    Reply

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