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Well, *Someone* Had That Saved Up For A While

Well, then, allow me to retort!

Jeff Freeman, formerly of SOE so don’t ask him a goddamned thing about SWG, he said so, has the post to end all posts qualifying exactly what he meant by “forums aren’t bad, just misunderstood” (he thinks they’re actually kind of nifty, just not, you know, the corporate ones).

First, some specific notes regarding Jeff’s post, then some general ones.

Specifically:

Lum was unfair as well. \’e2\’80\’9cIs Cao right?\’e2\’80\’9d

Cao didn\’e2\’80\’99t say that. He actually talked about how useful forums were (posts from non-trolls, anyway). On the other hand, I said something very much like it, months before. Official forums are trollful, and compared to fan-forums not as useful for player-to-player or player-to-dev communication. Outright useless for dev-player communication when compared to a blog, or even an email. I wasn\’e2\’80\’99t comparing official forums to nothing and proclaiming nothing to be better.

He talked about how useful forums were in a very backhanded “Your posts are swell! We love them all! EXCEPT FOR THE BAD POSTS WHICH I AM GOING TO NOW COME DOWN ON LIKE A TON OF BRICKS HERE IN A VERY IMPOLITIC MANNER AND EVERYONE WILL CORRECTLY FOCUS ON FROM THIS POINT… NOW.” Yeah. See, I’m actually going to give him credit for knowing both how his post would come across in that forum, and assume that this was in fact his intention. To wit:

If, however, you feel the need to throw another stone, indulge a rant, whine, pick apart another poster, argue a dead point, rules lawyer, quote ancient history, or engage in any of the other classic board game moves, don\’e2\’80\’99t expect us to pay attention. We have better things to do.

We have some SWG to make.

Being as that is how he, you know, closed his post, one would assume that is the point he wanted to make, and not “We think forums are swell! Did I mention that lately? I LIKE YOU! (except for you trolls over there)”. In other words: people who troll up the official forums make it difficult to do business, so we (SOE) aren’t going to pay any more attention to them. Trolls, that is. Unless they’re in EQ, in which case we like them. It was in fact a very negative post, despite the happy happy joy joy opening paragraphs. Correctly, people focused on the negativity, because that was the unusual part of that post. I mean, people post about how great it is to work on Their Game all day long. People don’t often get up and metaphorically slap around the more unruly customers in their message boards.

Oh, and while we’re talking about people who should know what they’re writing about:

And I am not post-Raph Koster SOE. SOE has it\’e2\’80\’99s own website, and this ain\’e2\’80\’99t it. Know what they have on their website? Forums! Of all people, that one knows better than to post to a developer\’e2\’80\’99s snarky blog and assign their silly opinion to their employer.

Guilty!

Now then, enough specific things I should have probably just left in a blog comment, and on to the more general navel-gazing. Minus all the “for the love of god LEAVE ME ALONE ABOUT SWG, YOU PEOPLE” (Hint to Jeff – there’s a LOT of free-floating anxiety about SWG/NGE. It flops around everywhere. Even *I* get the occasional angst-filled rant. And my entire involvement in SWG: I visited the SWG offices once. And am married to an ex-bio-engineer. Trust me: don’t go there.), Jeff thinks official forums are ineffective by definition.

Which is true, to a point. Forums are many-to-many. Blogs, even official ones, are one-to-many.

One-to-many communication has its strengths, as Jeff noted. You can clearly put out the word on what’s going on in your community. You can highlight what is happening through pointers to active community supporters, highlight unofficial forums, etc.

All this is true. However, one-to-many has weaknesses as well. Chief among them is… well, they are one-to-many. Only one person is talking. If you’re a community manager seeking to keep the “state of the game” on message and relentlessly quash community blowups, that’s a good thing. However if you’re a player who feels disenfranchised and wants their voice to heard, that’s not a good thing.

The true problem, I think, isn’t in deciding between one-to-many and many-to-many. Because, really, you need both. (Note that every MMO has many-to-many forums, whether or not they are officially run. And there’s advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.) The real problem is that MMO players feel they deserve a vote.

How you handle that demand for enfranchisement… well, that says a lot for the kind of game you’re building, the sort of company you’re running, and how much you’re willing to dangle your arse out in the heady breeze of potential litigation. But when players demand response from “Blue” or “moderators” on forums – what they are really saying is “I own part of this. I want my vote counted.”

And that’s where things get interesting.