One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow. I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.
You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.
That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing. There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.
Social media has made things a bit better. At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers. Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.
The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines. Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.
And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.
And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.
That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.
Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged. That is literally the base function of their positions. If you can only do one thing, do that. But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.
Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be. And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.” (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)
Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.
I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.
And it has worked pretty well.
It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it. But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.
For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games. I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.
Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever. They seem committed to the platform for now.
Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion. The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.
Amazon Games is a little iffy. They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game. They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for. Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?
And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.
So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me. The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.
I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them. LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago. Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)
Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.
CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.
And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us. I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove. I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.
Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news. It is out there, though your mileage may vary.