EverQuest II has a history of complexity and depth often lacking in other MMOs. Players can be passionate, impatient, forceful, understanding, triumphant, technical, or blasé, sometimes all in the same posting. This can be a double-edged sword for the management of its forum and game communities. We quickly see through attempts to placate, and we can tell when the EQ2 Community Team have not anticipated or prepared for player outrage or confusion over a policy decision.
A successful Community Manager is not simply an extension of the Public Relations department.
A good CM must act as a liason or 'man-in-the-middle' between designers and developers, company management, marketing/PR, and the players or customers. They must play traffic cop, alerting the correct people to issues which are being reported and on the flipside, keeping an ear to the ground for upcoming changes and policies which might stir up dissent.
I refuse to accept the idea that "no matter what SOE/EQ2 staff post, players will be unhappy." This is not only a cop out, but has been proven patently untrue in the past. EverQuest 2 has had a number of popular and/or effective Community Managers that have engaged the community and made players feel that their input matters. Of course EQ2 has also had its share of absentee forum guardians who sought only to maintain order or an air of positivity.
The activity level of outlaw forums such as EQ2Flames has directly corresponded to whatever vibe has flowed from EQ2 forum management. Just within my time, the tone has ranged from a prohibition against anything negative, to incredible freedom, to environments which would make Delores Umbridge giggle.
Has irreparable damage been done to the trust between EverQuest II's players and its creators? Is there an opportunity for this damage to be undone? Anything is possible -- after all SOE just re-hired Brad McQuaid to continue working on 'Vanguard'.
After a few short months at the helm, Eric "Piestro" Cleaver passes the torch to Colette "Dexella" Murphy as EverQuest II's new Community Manager.