SOE Summit 2007: A Story of Communication
SOE Summits normally bring ideas of numerous players and media,
sitting in a room complaining about what isn't working, and suggesting
what would. The SOE Summit we attended, was nothing like anything I've
ever seen and addressed no game issues. A little baffled? So was I. Alan
Crosby (Brenlo) explained SOE had brought together a number of folks for
the purpose of discussing how SOE is doing with it's communications and
supporting fan sites. What was unique about this summit was, not only was
SWG represented (which was a first to my knowledge), but in addition to
the normal representatives from fansites/bloggers/podcasters, some very
unhappy players were in attendance.
Some of you don't believe me I'm sure, and I can't blame you, but it's true. The first night a Star Wars Galaxies player proceeded to yell at Brenlo and got even angrier when Coyote told him Greedo shot first. Another EverQuest 1 player who showed up was actually banned from the EQ1 forums at the time of the summit. By the end of the roundtables, a mob of SWG fans had swarmed John Smedley who talked with them very openly about the game. What happened in those meetings? Some of it will suprise you.
Session 1: A Tale of Success and Failure
We opened with a very blunt discussion of what SOE was doing correctly, and what needed work. One point which was immediately brought up was the need for further access to SOE development staff for questions. Personally I've felt this is handled a lot better than other companies (*cough* Blizzard *cough*) but there is always room for improvement I suppose.
Another strength SOE's games have concerned the new player experience. The tutorials, quests, and early level progression are something they are very proud off and with good reason in my opinion.
I knew it was inevitable, and was just a matter of time before customer service came up. I was very surprised to see Brenlo not so much as flinch when it did. He did pick up us blackberry very likely ordering a hit on the person who brought it up, but he very much embraced the subject. We were all informed the “canned” responses we all know and love? Going away with new CS training in process right now. I know you are all heartbroken, so please try and keep it together.
The point of the session seemed to be SOE wanting to get a better understanding of how they stood, and perhaps what they could do better with. Not a lot of MMO companies would take the time to find out what consumers feel on this level, so point to SOE for this one.
Session 2: A Legend of Fansites
As we moved into session two, the topic of fansite support was put into motion. It was mentioned the interview process could be cumbersome at times, and they acknowledged it's something they are working on. SOE wanted to know how well we were receiving formal communications from them regarding their products. Honestly, if you aren't involved with running a fansite, this might be of little interest to you, so I'll skip most of it.
One interesting aspect we did cover, was SOE trying to put together resources for fansites, the small ones in particular. A website with banners, icons, and avatars will go a long way for Joe Wantintostartafansite. Throw in FAQ's about what SOE expects, how to contact them and you have an incredible tool for those looking to get started.
Session 3: A Poem of Communication
This next session covered how SOE gets news to us, and where it's found. It was time for us fan site people to shut up and listen to the players speak. It wasn't unexpected when most people said they don't really read news on fansites. Most are just interested in patch notes and things which directly affect them and their playtime.
John Smedley gets a quick opinion on the SOE newsletters, and while most of us who are with a site use it for topic ideas, it's mentioned that Producer's Newsletters get the best results. They took note of it, so I'd expect we'll be hearing more frequently from Gallenite from the EQ2 side if they unshackle him long enough.
It's soon revealed the Launchpad 2 will provide a new one stop medium for news concerning your game. We actually got to take a look at it while we were at SOE headquarters but they mention features like friends lists spanning multiple games. Kendricke makes a comparison to My Space, but I think the difference is, this might actually be cool.
Section 4: A Haiku of Columns and Podcasts
The final session was a discussion on podcasts/blogs and where they fit into the SOE community. We had Ten Ton Hammer's very own Coyote who does his daily “column” Not Funny...Ever in attendance. He offered some insight into “columns” and how permanent links may not always be in the best of everyones interest. A true blog is someones feelings who don't always fall in the realm of a specific game.
Podcasting was brought up next and we had the very talented folks from EQ2 daily and Brent from Virginworlds . Brent pretty much wanted everything in an RSS feed, I think he has an addiction. The EQ2 Daily guys brought up the possibility of providing the wav files of sounds from EQ2. Some good ideas were passed around and it was a productive discussion.
Overall, this was an unusual summit, and covered a variety of subjects which are usually only discussed in lounge chairs, by the pool, with alcohol. It was a great opportunity for nay sayers to see SOE is really concerned about what they think, and was open to constructive criticism.
I've been doing this long enough it's easy for me to be completely unaffected, but this was one of the most productive summits I've been too. What exactly will come out of this summit, we'll just have to wait and see. One thing however, is for certain, SOE came to these meetings to listen.
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