The Laws of Online Communities

I went ahead and updated an ancient page called The Laws of Online Communities. It includes some of my observations of online communities over my many years on all sides of the game development fence (player, fansite creator, community relations manager, and designer). I added a few more laws to the mix, and I’ve mirrored them below.

Law #10: Developer posts are valuable as long as what they post has value. It’s great to allow for transparency and open communication between fans and your development team, but it is only valuable as long as what the team posts is useful. The Signal/Noise ratio doesn’t only apply to members of the community, it applies to the company as well.

Law #11: Never announce something before you’re 100% sure it’s going to happen. If it’s something very minor, it’s often okay to mention that you are thinking about doing it, but always be clear that it isn’t a sure thing. If it’s something major, don’t even go that far, or people will expect it to come to fruition even if you indicate that it may not.

Law #12: Never lie to your community. Honesty is the gateway to trust. It is better not to answer if you aren’t sure, and it is better to tell the hard truth even if players aren’t going to like it. They will respect you and your company more for your honesty.

Law #13: Never try to mask a negative as a positive. A nerf is a nerf, a buff is a buff. Players are smart. You can’t fool them into thinking something is a good thing if it isn’t. If something that players perceive overall as negative has positives, feel free to highlight them, but don’t pretend that everything is pie and cake if it isn’t.

Law #14: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it” – Kay, Men in Black. Build relationships with individuals, and realize that an individual can be reasoned with. People are smart. Treat members of your community as individuals, not just as a faceless crowd.

Law #15: Encourage and reward constructive contributions from community members. Whether positive or negative, acknowledge and thank players who provide constructive feedback, organization, and sanity to your community.

To see the rest, check out the page:

The Industry Is a Soap Opera

The game industry is a soap opera sometimes. It can be fun to watch, it can be depressing to watch, it can be a lot of other things. Whatever it is, it’s emotional. The latest controversy is with Quest Online and Alganon–David Allen was fired (you might remember a similar episode with Artifact Entertainment and Horizons) and Derek Smart (controversial himself) has replaced him. It’s rather crazy. I’d just go ahead and read Smart’s post if you want to know what’s going on there. The far more depressing controversy recently was with Activision. Rather than comment on it, I’ll just lead you to Broken Toys. Wow, on both counts.

Update: The Saga Continues…

MMO Predictions for 2010

2010 is underway, so it’s time for me to make a few predictions about the MMO industry this year. I’m not going to make a ton of predictions, but I will try to make them fairly specific and measurable. Without further ado, my predictions are beyond the break. Continue Reading »

MMO Predictions for 2009 Revisited

Before I go into any 2010 predictions, let’s take a look at my predictions from last year. I diverged from my tradition of safe bets, and went with more specific predictions (and many more of them) than ever before. How’d I do? Read beyond the break. Continue Reading »

Keep Defenders for the iPhone/iPod Touch

A friend of mine here at 38 Studios just launched an iPhone/iPod touch game. It’s called Keep Defenders, and is described on the site as: “Keep Defenders is a highly addictive, fast paced real-time combat game. The object of Keep Defenders is to defend your keep as waves of enemy soldiers attack from all directions. If your keep is destroyed or you lose all of your units, you have been defeated. Use your spoils to hire reinforcements and turn back your attackers!” It’s pretty darn fun, so give it a go! Check out the video after the jump. Continue Reading »

Boston Post Mortem [ March 2009

This month’s Boston Post Mortem has a very special speaker! Jamie Gotch, programmer at 38 Studios and one of the developers of the award-winning iPhone game, Fieldrunners, will be talking about his game. I’ll see if I can roll out with the wife to support the big jerk. This month’s meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday, March 10, 2009) at 7:00PM and will take place at The Skellig in Waltham. More info can be found on the Boston Post Mortem website.

E3 Is Back

Looks like they finally realized it was a terrible idea to throttle E3 back in the first place… E3 is back! At least, it seems to be. Hopefully they allow booth babes and loud noises again, because it was a riot (despite me cursing the name of any noisy booth near one I was working at). I suppose this means I might go to E3 again.

Boston Post Mortem ] January 2009

This month’s Boston Post Mortem game development meeting will be at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, January 21st at The Skellig in Waltham. The speaker will be Looking Glass alumnus Randy Smith, most recently of EA LA. Randy was one of the people who shaped the design of the entire Thief series (my favorite series ever). He also writes a game design column in Edge Magazine. I’ll definitely be trying to make this one. More can be found on the Boston Post Mortem website.

What Is the Grind?

I love defining terms. It creates controversy, but it can make things easier. How do I define the grind? “Necessary repetition.” I started off with the following definition and streamlined it: “Necessary, laborious, unvaried repetition.” The grind is mitigated with variety in an MMO, and is encouraged with the required repetition of significant content (e.g. repeating a quest, repeating a dungeon, etc.). I hate grinds, and refuse outright to do them. But, give me some variety in how I can gain faction, loot, etc., and I’m happy to work for it.

MMO Predictions for 2009

I’ll try to look at how I did with last year’s predictions a bit later (along with the 2008 Nerfbat MMO Blog Awards). I suspect they’ll be fairly accurate, if only because I didn’t take many gambles. This year, let’s see if I can throw a few predictions out there that are both more specific and a little less likely, just to see how I do. Read beyond the break for my 2009 MMO Predictions. Continue Reading »