Former Meridian 59 Dev on Community Management

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary

Brian Green, former developer on Meridian 59 (and currently on the Storybricks team), has posted an intriguing essay on the realities of Community Management for an MMO, the day-to-day challenges, and how it can go wrong if mishandled. At one time or another, I have made many of the same points as this article, but it is nice to see it all written down in one place.

Many times people see community managers only as the people who post news about a game. Sometimes they’re derisively painted as the mouthpieces of developers or management, the hapless people who have to give the bad news and hope the community doesn’t decide to shoot the messenger. The reality is (or should be, at least) deeper than that.
Community managers facilitate the feedback cycle between the developers and community by acting as a useful filter and translator between the two groups. Community managers collect information from the community to bring issues that are important to the community to the developers. Conversely, they also take information from the developers to share with the community in a way they understand.

Continue Reading “The Misunderstood Role of Community Management”

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Comments (11)

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green

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    To clarify, I’m still a current developer at Storybricks. Thank you for your kind words! I felt that some people don’t quite understand what a CM is (or should be), so I felt it was important to write up my point of view.

    Reply

  • Feldon

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    Thanks Brian. I’ve corrected that point.

    This approach to Community Management is something I really wish SOE would return to. The exact issue you describe of treating CM as an extension of PR is what has eroded the trust in the EQ2 Community over the last 2 years.

    Reply

  • Greygore

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    I haven’t thought about Meridian 59 in years. It was the first graphical online game I played. Before that it was all MUD’s.

    Reply

  • badcat

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    I agree Feldon I wish the CM would be something a little more than a pr mouthpiece. The past few years I lost a lot of trust in soe, that is on them and some of the very bad decisions being made by higher ones up the food chain, than our current cm.

    It is still a much better game than any out there, but trust is at an all time low for me at least.

    Reply

  • Piestro

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    Good read although I disagree with CM’s being embedded in Dev Teams. While it can be an advantage, the problem with being embedded in Dev is that you often end up going a bit native. You can start to think like a Dev, and that’s fatal for a CM. The goal is always to be emotionally objective, and being embedded with a Dev team leads to a certain pride of creation in many circumstances. Every place you can put Community has its own perils.

    Reply

  • Kiara

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    I entirely disagree.

    Whilst, I don’t think that a CM needs to have a cube right in the heart of the Dev team, they absolutely need to be close. The CM needs to be part of the Dev team, because they need to trust each other and be comfortable sharing information back and forth.

    The worst thing that can happen is a lack of trust between a Dev team and their CM. It creates an adversarial relationship and an Us vs. Them attitude. It makes the entire experience an uphill battle where the CM has to fight to do their job, which is, btw, advocating for the Devs just as much as for the players.

    They can’t do that if they aren’t a part of the team. They most certainly can’t do that if there are people actively trying to force a wedge between Community and Dev.

    So, Brian is absolutely right. The better the relationship between Dev and their CM, the more feeling of team there is there, the better the CM is able to do their job.

    Being emotionally objective = being removed. Being removed from your game, your team, your community = BAD CM. If you don’t care about them, why the hell should they care about or trust you?

    The goal for a CM should be to care about their community (the devs and the players both). The ability to keep a cool head is not the same as and should never be interchangeable with being emotionally objective.

    Reply

  • Feldon

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    EQ2 players had the strongest connection with the EQ2 developer and design teams when they had access to a strong EQ2 Community Manager who acted as an advocate for both players AND developers and earned BOTH their trust by being straight with them. Having a Community Manager who “speaks player” and has some grasp on what developers and designers do is completely invaluable.

    I’m starting to see Dexella engage the community and act on behalf of developers, which are both good signs leading me to be cautiously optimistic. A lot of trust has been lost in the EQ2 community over the last couple of years. She has her work cut out for her.

    Reply

  • Piestro

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    Oh I totally agree about the strong trust based relationship, being able to speak player, and being actively engaged with your game, team, and community. If you are adversarial with your Dev Team then you’re lost right away. There needs to be mutual trust, respect, and understanding with your team and with your community. If you don’t respect your community and commit to being honest with them then you will quickly become worthless as a CM.

    Emotional objectivity for me needs to come in on specific design decisions and creations. If I’m in love with the design of say progression in the next expansion, I have a harder time reading and understanding player perceptions of it. It’s a pride of ownership that Dev has (and should have) that I believe is dangerous for CMs. By working with, but not being part of, Dev I think that becomes easier. I make sure to spend a lot of time in the area of the team I’m working with, making that direct connection every day.

    With good management, and a good CM, any structure has the potential to work. What works best for me personally is not going to work best for everyone or every company. I think there are dangers with other structures as well, with Community reporting to Marketing (if Community becomes just the mouthpiece of Marketing then it’s not Community at all anymore) or CS (where the focus can easily shift from communication and the larger picture to direct resolution of player issues) being the other two most common situations.

    Reply

  • Brasse

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    This is one of the oldest debates in Community Management, hehe. There are no two Community teams that are the same, and there is no single “right” way to go about the process. Much as with defining what is “fun” in a game, one size does not fit all.
    This would make a great discussion over dinner. I’m buying if you all come down to San Diego. ;-)#

    Reply

  • Atan

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    Ask yourself how someone becomes a good filter or translator between the community and the dev team when they don’t even understand or play the game they are a CM for ;)

    Reply

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