2000-09-08: Getting Focused

Getting Focused

Sep 8 2000 1:31PM

During the one and a half years I have been with Origin Systems I’ve seen the Community Services Department grow from two people to a staff of eight people, including both Community Relations and Events Programming. I started as one of those two original people and now find myself managing the team of eight. I’ve seen us create weekly informative updates to the site (such as the redesign of the update center, the spotlights, and the BNN audio show), provide overarching fiction that affected virtually ever player in the game, and establish the boards as a place for players to gather and talk about the game. I’ve also seen many player suggestions and ideas go from being words posted on a message board to a feature in the game. Countless systems in Ultima Online have been the direct result of player comments and suggestions. Systems and features like skill management, co-owners, potion kegs, runebooks, etc. all came from players writing their suggestions on the various message boards. Simply put, this could not happen without the systems we have in place to gather feedback and the commitment of both the Community Services department and the Development team to make the time to read the message boards, e-mails and newsgroups.

But I’m not satisfied yet…we can do more. Being responsible for gathering the feedback of hundreds of thousands of people is no easy task. Even if only 15-20% of our community actively posts on message boards (although we have many, many more “lurkers” out there… speak up folks!), that’s still well over 30,000 people. So what can we do to help manage and organize the concerns and comments of such a large group of people?

Imagine being in a crowded room at a party. At large parties people often tend to talk about different issues in small groups. You can’t stand in the middle of the room and take in everything that everyone is saying… eventually it would all just sound like one large murmur. You need to walk right up to each group and probably even participate in each conversation to really focus on what they are talking about and why. And that’s the trick… not only understanding what someone is talking about, but also, why they are talking about it.

So why am I talking about this and how does it relate to Community Servers? I’m glad you asked!

Beginning today we’ll be expanding the boards to include nine new boards. These boards, which will be called the “Focus Forums” are designed to help the community and development teams to gather player feedback in a more organized manner. Each focus forum will center on a set of skills (for example, there will be a “metalworkers” forum for blacksmithing, mining, tinkering, and arms lore) and players will be able to post on the forum about the skill(s) that interest them. The boards will serve two initial purposes. One, to create an area where players can write suggestions, concerns and questions about specific skills. Members of the Community and Development teams will be participating in these forums to be a part of the conversation… just like in the party example above. And two, to provide a place for players to ask each other questions. Want to know how to be a tailor? Go to the “Trades” forum. Need help working up your stealing skill? Check out the “Rogues” forum. The Development board will remain the central place to talk about development issues that do not relate directly to one of the focus forums.

I encourage all of you to register for the boards if you have not already. Don’t just stand by the wall and watch the party, join in the fun!


Manager of Community Services