1. Ideals of Aggro Tactics Part 3: Redefine Community Norms

      written by Ray Benefield
      It has been a while since I've posted a blog post. Mainly because within the next week I should have a Community Manager that will begin to take the reigns. Part of the process is actually going through the emails one at a time and replying to them. No blanket email... that's lame. I can't wait to have others start to take part in what is happening here. Delegating means more time for stuff other stuff. But today I wanted to post another ideal for Aggro Tactics, and this will explain why I am hiring a Community Manager first over another developer. Community means the WORLD to me so I will take who we handle it to the extreme.

      Why so Important?

      I'm sure many of you have heard that expression or saying... something along the lines of without your consumer your product is worthless. That philosophy strikes true with my ideals. For me, my target consumer for Aggro Tactics is a gamer that wants to be part of a community. Not just a player in a game, but part of a system where people talk, compete, discuss, and become good friends. Friends are a HUGE drive in many games and forums. I know many people who HATED World of Warcraft, but would continue to play because their friends were. That is a powerful drive. I WANT that in every game I play. I was part of the Armored Core, Halo, and Too Human communities partly because of that community feel. Well with Halo it was the forge community. The collaboration, the competition, the wealth of discussions, etc. The community is a powerful force that promotes a strong level of exponential growth for everyone involved that you don't see in many games. There might be pockets of communities, but it is rare for a game to have a HUGE portion of the players be a part of that.

      Board Games

      Something I got into while transitioning out of my "play games like a full time job" phase were playing board games with friends. It started out because I wanted to play the game, be it Magic, DnD, Munchkin, etc. But it turned into something more. It turned into wanting to be around friends, laughing my ass off, and just having fun. That was just raw enjoyment and happiness. That is something that a lot of video games lack. The communities I was part of didn't lack that and that is why I got so engrossed in the system. I love that social feel. I want Aggro Tactics to be one of those systems. A game where you actually understand your opponent's philosophies, ideals, favorites, etc. I want that to come into play. Understanding your opponent is a never ending system of limitless possibilities and infinite depth. That's powerful. Look at Poker and MTG... a huge part of those games is the way you interact with others and understand others. I want that for Aggro Tactics.


      That leads into a very important part of creating a social environment... communication. A very important aspect. This isn't a console game, so headsets may be out of the question for a while. Aggro Tactics is an asynchronous game. Something that asynchronous games lack nowadays is that communication. They support chat, and maybe forums but they don't embrace it. Every player is just another named situation and nothing more. Asynchronous communication is a MAJOR part of our society. Text messaging, voice mails, forums, leaving notes, etc. Version controlled wikis, open source projects, large project planning, etc. all rely on asynchronous communication. Chat isn't asynchronous, it doesn't really work with that style game. A forum that is hard to get to doesn't really work for games where people spend like 5 minutes playing. Spending one minute to load up the forum is 20% of that ambiguous time segment. That's a lot. I want to address this in Aggro Tactics because of how important community is to me. Forum will be a key contributor to Aggro Tactics.


      I have spent over 25% of my lifetime days on forums. They are a large part of my life. We used to use Skype for realtime chat on RP. But I didn't like it. Why? Because it only allowed those who were really actively there to partake in discussions. It was unfair to those with weird times and availability. So forums were my home. A place were, when I found time, I could be a part of something larger than myself. And others took to that as well. This place used to be hopping with activity, but if a community doesn't get its tender loving care... it dies. I know that. And it sucks. I want Aggro Tactics to provide its own sustainability. Where there can be some caretakers, but people continue to flourish on their own and are just getting support by the management. That happened here at RP. I wasn't around, but the community was strong enough to keep going for MONTHS. I didn't do ANYTHING. But it kept going, and that is amazing. That is a strong community. But that is something that must be built. And after all this time of working with forums, I think I've learned a few tricks.

      Redefining "Forum"

      So I'm starting a forum from scratch. No vBulletin, phpBB, SMF, etc. No software. All hand-built. Some of you may ask why? It takes a lot of work to build a forum. A web developer is going to be very important to me so if you are reading this and know or are one keep that in mind. One of my goals is to redefine the norm of forum. I don't like that most forums use post count or time since joined as ranking system. I don't like the fact that if double posts are so forbidden and yet the system allows them. I don't like that posts of a few words long are weighted just as importantly as longer posts by the system. I don't like that most of the time I have to load up a browser to get to forums. Why can't devs just make the forums available in-game? So that's one of my main goals. You should have to load up a different screen. You are already interfacing with a database in most games, why not do the same with the forum database? That is one of my key goals is seamless integration of the forum and game. Game stats/notifications on the forum, and forum stats/notifications in-game. It really isn't that difficult in theory.

      Another goal is promoting a QUALITY community, not community designed around QUANTITY. I ran an experiment of sorts with a forge challenge that you can view here: http://forum.reachingperfection.com/Game-Design-Discussion-f3274239.html (look at the posts with a cancel sign over an elephant on the left). I posted level design theory articles and stated that their responses to those articles didn't count towards the contest unless they were longer than a tweet (135 characters). You know what I noticed? People started making HUGE posts. Why? Because they would get into a groove of posting and by the time 135 characters came around they need to finish their thought so they kept going. They built momentum. There were only like a handful of posts out of 100+ that were close enough to the limit that I had to check. That is powerful. So one of the things I'm doing is promoting/designing systems like that... systems that create a quality community of individuals that promotes discussion and participation. I've got a lot of tricks and ideas up my sleeves, and I think they will work.

      Another observation from my time spent in forums. At XForgery.com I welcomed people with open arms. Both on their wall and especially in their introduction posts. You know what that did? Increased user retention. People stayed because of that welcoming. And I got others to do it to and it created a cycle that made a powerful close-knit community. A system that promotes people welcoming others into the community will more than likely be part of the design. Things like this are what I feel a forum needs to be a good tool to promote a community.

      Community is a MAJOR goal

      If we tie that in with Aggro Tactics we can create a community that will sustain itself. One that keeps people coming back for more because of the people involved. One that promotes growth for everyone involved. And one that welcomes new members with open arms. Systems that promote maturity, discussion, fairness, and fun will be explored. I want to innovate what community means. I want to build friendships that lead to quality competition in Aggro Tactics. I know your favorite piece is a Wizard through our history of play and I can use that against you... but you might know that and counter that with a different piece selection to trump my decision. I want to promote meaningful rematches, dedicated tournaments, space for group experimentation for tactics, community progression through guide creation and research, theories of gameplay tactics, and eventually content creation for others to enjoy. But for an asynchronous game to provide that... they need to have a solid community with a solid communication system. Because that community offers incentive and meaning to what each player does. And meaningful actions are a POWERFUL motivator to create a hobby. So what are your thoughts on this matter?


      EXEM said...