Austin GDC 07: Building Bridges – Next-Generation Community Management

by K. Samwell on September 6, 2007 in Trade Shows

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!

Page 1 – Introduction, Web 2.0

Date: Wednesday 05 September 2007
Lecture: Building Bridges: How to Develop Social Networks as Part of Community Management
Speaker: Richard Vogel

Why think of gaming communities in terms of forums and a web presence? We need to think communities as social networks. We need to allow gamers to develop networks (bridges) with themselves as well as with developers and publishers. There are many examples of social network sites like YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace. We need to look at what they are doing and captures the best ideas and put these ideas to work.

Richard Vogel

“So I’m going to talk real quickly, I’m going to be presenting what I visualize as the next generation of community management. I’ve been involved in the development of communities for about 10 years now and every time I start building one of these huge MMORPGs we look at it in different ways.

So one of the things that I am going to be talking about today, is every time I build an MMORPG I try to figure new ways to branch out and develop communities. And a lot of things have changed. This talk is about that.

We need to change the way we think of community management. It’s not just presenting information or managing online community forums but a place where we cultivate social spaces. And we see this now, prevalent on the web with YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook etc. What we’re not going to do is discuss these sites before launch, I’m going to talk about what you need to build at launch, when we go live, basically. And this is not going to be talking about how to build supporting fan sites, it’s talking about from the developer’s point of view what we need to do to develop a good community site for the next generation.

How we’ve evolved.

Basic website management is pretty much; you have your information page and you have your forums and you know, you have the Armory which we’ll talk about next which is evolving into where EQ2 players started where basically you have information being pulled from a database that you allow players to customize. Sometimes players don’t want to see or let you see all the information, and that’s an interesting point we’ll bring up later.

But these pages allow people to get information, and display it in a nice format. And there are different tabs are doing different things. Even with EQ Station / Sony Stations you have the ability to do guild management. But really, how can we evolve? Because frankly that’s pretty much the way it’s been, it’s basically pulling information and presenting it to you, now you manipulate it.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 has given us a lot of capabilities and power that we’ve never had before. And we should. There’s a lot of sites using Web 2.0 – it’s kind of now an acronym. What does it mean? Well basically it allows you a venue for a community of users to alter, add, and generate new content. This is very scary by the way for a developer, is to allow this kind of freedom on a website. Because it really is something you protect, it is your brand and that’s something you need to protect at all costs.

But now, the problem is I think we really need to let go. We need to actually make our websites like canvases. And also provide useful information, continue doing what we’re doing today, but also altering it and putting it into a new format. I looked at, there’s a great little link on BBC it’s a great news site and they had some really cool things, before I get into the discussion, I thought were really very relevant here, is, you know, some principles, they actually had fifteen I kinda just pulled out three I liked the most.

  • Do not attempt to do everything yourself. Link to, and this is what Web 2.0 does is, link to other content or other content and vice versa.
  • Treat the web as a creative canvas. Don’t restrict your creativity to your own site.
  • Don’t build up garden walls. Let people paste your content up on the walls of their virtual home basically, encourage users to take nuggets of content away with them, and link it back to your site.

How to embrace Web 2.0?

I want to talk about a couple of things. One is how to create fun, compelling addictive experiences, which by the way is funny, as I gave this similar speech to this at the GDC and Amy Jo Kim and I are kind of doing this in parallel, and she actually said a lot of things that I actually also had in mind, so I’m going to kind of refer to both hers and mine on the first part, and then create social spaces and developing viral presence on the web. These are three basic things that we need to think about in the next generation of community management.

Creating services that are fun and compelling and addictive.

You know we all know about applying game mechanics, that’s what, as developers, we do. But how about applying them on the web? We all know about cool-dom, we all know that these games are about levelling, collecting, getting feedback, exchanging and customization. These are the 5 basic principles that make up what we develop in an online game. Why not apply it to your communities? That’s really key. That’s what we need to think about these days. Everyone loves to collect, that’s one thing I found out running UO, people love to hoard. One thing I found out playing EQ, I always wanted the best and fastest way to get the coolest stuff. Same thing in World of Warcraft, you always want to get the complete set. Acquiring items is cool. Everyone wants to acquire items.

Acquiring Friends.

This doesn’t necessarily [unintelligible]. You can acquire friends. Social part of socialization.

Acquiring Points

It’s all about points, Points can be used for a lot of things. You can use it for getting positive feedback. It creates brand loyalty. One of the things about a point system you can create, everyone knows the reward system that American Express that you get mileage on your airline use – how do you redeem those for items? You have to think about that you can reward brand or customer loyalty through a redemption system. These are things we need to think about now, that we haven’t thought about before.

It all started by the way with S&H Greenstamps ages ago, and it has come today to the fruition. And a lot of sites by the way, especially some sites don’t use real currency they use this point system or coinage, that’s different than real money, but it translates to real money in the end. And you can also use it for social experience, people are giving rewards like YouTube social points that people give other players.

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