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Austin GDC 07: Building Bridges – Next-Generation Community Management
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by K. Samwell on September 6, 2007 in Game Developers Conference

We are at the Austin GDC, so you can expect lots of information, lectures and interviews over the next few days. First up, we have a lecture by Richard Vogel, focusing on the current state of social networking and a look at where it’s headed. It’s a long one, so grab a fresh beverage and read on!

Feedback, Exchanges, IM, YouTube



Feedback is very important, it’s what make things fun. It’s rewards ie: all your points that you use that you’re collecting, you can return and get something back for it. It’s great for learning, it helps learning it helps policing too. Again you have the feedback that players give or users give in this case, on eBay is a great example of feedback loops. One of the things about having to relinquish some control for your site, you have to police it. And some policing mechanisms are far easier to integrate that having customer service on your site all the time.

Exchanges

Exchanges are a very social part – it’s playing in World of WarCraft and any other online game MMORPG that I know of, including Habbo Hotel and others that is all about getting things you want from other players. This is a very social aspect. And exchanges is something we need to think about on our community site. How can we do exchanges, adding friends is a good example of exchanging.

A great one, if anyone knows LinkedIn, it’s amazing, anybody knows MySpace, anybody knows Friendsters, anybody knows Facebooks. All those are about the game of adding friends and exchanging. Comments are another form of exchange that you can do. Commentary on YouTube, commentary on whatever you want to do, comics, machinama, anything you have that’s going on. That’s also exchanges. Giving little gift cards like digital gift cards to other players is a form of exchange that’s very good to have and easy to implement.

Customization

It’s the key. Customization making players have the ability to customize their place on your site is cool. That they can show off. Customization is another game mechanic that’s been used in online games for years. It’s important, people want to feel different. There are places in like in Habbo, you can create your room, why not create your room or space on your community site, the same idea. Which gets into creating social spaces. It’s important to think about when we talk about the game mechanics I talked about is leveling, with feedback loops, with exchanging and with customization, these are the things you can apply that also help our social spaces.

Now when I talk about developing social spaces, I’m talking about providing a place for people that have similar interests, to meet and talk, and also a presence. And one of the things that can easily be done, in certain respects have been with Guild Hall, guilds was part of the management system but why not make it an isometric 3d space or a Habbo space with really good widgets, that allows people to customize it for their guild or group.

Providing clear homepages. There’s nothing wrong with actually trying to do that now, and have it sorted by interest, either by server, whatever categories you want, you must have private and public spaces in these kinds of things if you do them.

Blogging, blogging is huge. All purpose kit with building with widgets that you can have on your site. It’s important I think to have a MySpace on your website, especially if you’re doing a community for an mmorpg. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it creates brand loyalty. And make sure that when you customize your spaces, that you kinda brand it at the same time, we’ll talk about that a little later. So they understand where they’re coming from.

Sharing ideas like character builders is the best way to spend your points. Lots of things like this, you know it’s funny you see fan sites doing this and you don’t see US doing this and that’s really bad I think because I think this kind of stuff, we know how to build these systems, we actually developed them so why not put this stuff into our websites? Because it’s useful especially for people who don’t know what to play when they start the game, this is a great way to experiment with different characters.

Figure out what’s best. You also can run a whole bunch of blogging off that particular character builder area and have people explain to newbs what is the best way to spend your points on the character selection and class that you picked.

Showing off – again it’s all, I think everyone understands about customization, showing off, making sure that you have a place for people to show off and that’s where we go back to the homepages. The Armory has a little bit of this in there about the characters and a place for them to go and visualize. You know another thing is provide tools like in Facebook, add a game area for players on the server so people can kind of put a face to the characters their building. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not, but it’s kind of interesting to see yanno what your makeup is in your community, people can put a real face to it.

Instant Messaging

Why does instant messaging have to be inside the game only, why can’t it be outside/inside. So players can find out where they are, what other players are playing online at their time and what server they’re playing because I know, playing World of WarCraft for two years across 3 or 4 servers and I have friends on different ones, and why not unite that?

Friends lists anything you can do, locaters are a great idea, like Google Earth, putting Google Earth widget into your site where you can actually use your map and pinpoint where your particular friends are playing at a particular time, that’s kind of cool. Item finders – great one for an auction house. Guild management tools which have already started to come out which is really good to see, anything that promotes places for people to gather with similar interests in important for developing social spaces. Yanno, highlight player contributions, RSS publishing, player ips, machinama, have the top, yanno, rankings of machinama by players bubble up. It’s a great technique, Digg uses it YouTube uses it, it’s all pretty much [unintelligible] done by what players are doing.

YouTube

What’s great about YouTube is they sit there and they do things where the video that’s being watched right now, it rotates. It’s amazing. And you can see what promoter videos are and it’s a great way to highlight things that are going in real time. Anything you can do in real time is pretty cool. If anybody’s been to the Digg and went to there’s a section on Digg that actually has in real time you can watch someone Digg for articles or a whole bunch of group of people Digg articles and it’s amazing to watch.

But how can the player contribute, Fan Fiction, tools to aid the player like Curse. It’s a great site to organize that for you. Yes I mean I know I don’t want to sit there and say lets take away all the fan sites, what I’m saying is why can’t we incorporate this stuff. We should be is the central hub for these and linking to these sites, or providing some of this on our own, this is not hard to do. We can fun it up by having players contribute to it and certify it and then put it on our site, and then you can watch how many people pick and you can get the most popular ones as they’re being picked in real time.

Another important thing is developing a viral presence. This is important because it’s portable content. What I call memes and memes, we’ll go over in a minute what that is, needs to be brand focussed, meaning anybody that has portable content, you kinda know where it comes from, you brand it. That’s very important. And something I picked up over here that I think is very important, is an idea is something you have and ideology is something that has you. It’s really important when you want to think about the buzz, because it is an accelerant.

When you look at World of WarCraft, World of WarCraft keeps on growing because people keep on talking about it. People keep in playing it and talking about it, and suddenly it gets into mainstream, and becomes on South Park, and becomes talked about even louder and louder and suddenly it grows in momentum. Because, again, we’re a very young market.


Page List:
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1. Introduction, Web 2.0
2. Feedback, Exchanges, IM, YouTube
3. What are Memes?, The Future