Can We Escape From Official Forums?

I spent my writing time last night trying to write something about official gaming forums.

That seems to be the swirling topic of the moment, what with Mark Jacobs saying that Warhammer Online won’t have them, the Stargate Worlds team asking for input on how people see official forums (asked on a forum, so what sort of answers do you think they will get?), and SOE’s drama with, which considered themselves more important than the official forums but have since turned into the official SOE hate/conspiracy theory forums.

After a number of false starts that meandered off in to tales of the early days of Usenet or how I once ran a BBS, I boiled my thoughts down to two statements:

  1. Any official company forum tends to become a cesspool of vitriol, sycophancy, and unrealistic entitlement.
  2. Once there is an official forum, a company tends to use it for almost all game related communication.

So, basically, companies create this horrible place and then make you go there if you want the latest, up to date, accurate information about their game.

That apparently set in stone, the discussion then moves to how to make forums less horrible.

Darren says ban with extreme prejudice, Michael says don’t ban me bro, and Sanya wants to make sure you’re qualified to be running a forum in the first place, all of which strikes me as the classic “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” scenario.

These ideas seem to be more of an adjustment of the ratio of sycophancy to vitriol than signal to noise.

Yes, the community team sees the forums as being about community, which is a messy, noisy concept in and of itself, but I am willing to bet cash money that most people who visit the forums do so in search of information about the game in question. The forum regulars, those who play the forum game, are a minority of the player base.

What needs to happen for those of us who do not live in the forums is some way of extracting the informational gems from the forums to make them more accessible.

Mark Jacobs says he can do this. He can get all of the important game information to the user base via a new and improved version of the Dark Age of Camelot system, the Camelot Herald.

I wish him the best of luck in this.

The Camelot Herald is nice, but it is not enough, so he had better have some big improvements up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, does any game company do a good job of pulling the useful bits out of the forums for those of us who don’t play the forum game? Is there an example that other companies should seek to emulate?

7 thoughts on “Can We Escape From Official Forums?

  1. Tobold

    If the main problem is the people who play forum games, then how about limiting the amount of forum posts every player is allowed to do per day? You can’t troll much if you can only write one post per day, but it would be enough to ask a question and receive an answer.


  2. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    I am suspicious of any simple solution to the issue.

    There have been many forum posters in the past whom I wished had been limited in such a way though.


  3. swiftvoyager

    Battleclinic has a “Karma” system, where users can rate eachother. Perhaps there’s a way to improve on that system and use it to control the flames and trolls. That still doesn’t solve the problem that it’s really hard to find anything in a forum. There wan an unofficial forum for Lucas Arts Games that did a great job of manually compiling all the usefull stuff into sticky threads, but some of those got so long over time that the same problem of not being able to find what you’re looking for still comes up. A better search interface would be a good place to start making forums better. I also like forums where you can find all the posts from a certain user. Perhaps you could filter search results by criteria like the battleclinic karma ratings. Those are the first things that come to me as doable and effective options.


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  5. *vlad*

    The WoW forums are so full of hatred, name-calling and one-upmanship that most useful information is buried under all the vitirol.

    As for the mods, it is clear they are either under strict orders say/do very little, or they are don’t have the in-game experience to comment effectively.

    The WoW forum itself is a huge monster, and monitoring all the forums within it would need a host of moderators to be run effectively.

    I hardly ever go there now; I also worry that the site is targeted by keyloggers, as you have to use your in-game User Name and Password to post comments.


  6. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    The WoW forums are horrible, and doubly so when there are server issues. If an issue comes up that affects all servers, there is no way you can get to the forums to find out about it because the subscriber base overwhelms the forums. (Which is an indication in and of itself of how many people actually use the forums regularly and where people expect to find information… where they are directed to find information… when things go awry.)

    Blizzard does put up messages in the log on window, but those usually lag far behind updates in the forums.


  7. locksalish

    Does anyone else think the Refer-a-Friend bonuses being given out are (in-part) a means to get low level players leveled up in time for WotLK? Get them into the fray, more addicted and increasing the longevity of their subscription? ;)


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