Although Mythic Entertainment headman Mark Jacobs has constantly been anti-official forums, the developers at Warhammer Online are preparing to unleash their first hosted forums for their recently released MMO. This is definitely a flip-flop for Jacobs, so rather than banter about the whys-and-what-fors we're just going to post Jacobs' official letter to the WAR community:
So, IÂm pleased to announce that in the next few months Mythic will be hosting, for the first time, its own Official Forums for one of its games. Now, I expect that some (okay, a lot) of you are wondering what form these forums will take and why, after so many years of being rather vocal against OFs, are we doing them now. I hope to answer both of these questions here today.
First, as to the form the forums will take, I think it is safe to say that our Community Management team has the mandate to create and moderate the best game forums for any MMO. We have spent a lot of time both looking at other gamesÂ support forums and talking about how we can do even better. Our forums will have all the expected niceties as well as our own twist on things. We will also have only full and part-time paid experienced moderators on the forums who will be part of the Mythic team. The forums will be laid out in an easy to access manner, low on the graphics/flash nonsense and we will not be running ads of any kind on the forums. We will have a code of conduct on the forums which the moderators will enforce but this code will not be there to stifle debate but to ensure that name-calling, insults, threats, etc. whether to Mythic, EA, other developers and other players will not be tolerated. This is a similar policy to the one we had with our beta forums and similar to that found on some other forums.
In addition, only players with an active WAR subscription will be allowed to post on the forums. There will be a number of different account ÂlevelsÂ on these forums and players who show that they can contribute to the ongoing improvement of WAR, whether through suggestions, critical evaluation, user-generated content, peer-to-peer (in other words, contribution has its privileges) will be given greater access to private areas of the boards where Mythic developers (including myself and strike team leads) will be posting extensively, in addition to our posting in the public forums, and talking to these players about key issues/concerns. As an FYI, simply praising Mythic will not get players this access, weÂll be looking for those people who have shown either through our beta program or post-launch that they are actively interested in engaging in the kind of critical thinking and/or bug reporting that can help us continue to improve WAR. Also, we plan over the long-term to give additional rewards, centered on the game, for those that have really helped us out. However, players who engage in behavior that violates our Code of Conduct will have their posting privileges restricted and they will be denied access to the forums.
We will be releasing much more information about the forums in the coming weeks and we hope to being inviting people into our forums in February to participate in upcoming Public Tests. What you see when you log into our forums will only be the first stage of our development of these forums. WeÂve only been working on these forums since December, so we havenÂt had a ton of time to work on them, but we think weÂre off to a great start.
Now, as to why I have reversed my rather vocal stance on internal support forums for a game. Quite frankly, I still believe that OFs are not a panacea to cure all the ills of a game. I still also remain convinced that having OFs are not a guarantee of success for an MMO. However, I do think that right now we should have our own OFs because it will allow us to communicate with and better support the players of WAR. I spent a long time thinking about this and then talking about with this with Rob and senior leadership at Mythic. It wasnÂt an easy decision to make due to a host of factors, including the cost of running these forums properly but in the end we decided that it was the right thing to do. And I want to emphasize that one of the most important factors in running these forums was that we were going to spend a significant amount of money in order to run these forums properly. While I donÂt want to put too fine a point on it and say we are sparing no expense (two movie line quotes in one sentence, FTW!) excellent (and upgradeable) forum software, paid moderators, etc. in order to give our players a great place to post and interact with each other and with the Mythic community management team and developers. If we couldnÂt have done that I would not have changed my mind.
We have had some great experiences on public forums over the last decade but the time is right to operate our own forums. I would be remiss if I didnÂt take the time to thank places like the IGN Vault and the Warhammer Alliance as well as the other sites that I and/or Mythic folks have posted to over the years. We hope to continue our relationship with such sites even as we move forward with our own forums as a thank you for the support (and the occasional rotten fruit and salad mixings) that have been thrown our way. I still believe that there is a major role that these sites, and others like them, can continue to play for WAR and other MMOs in the future. Our CM/marketing team will be happy to talk to you about that going forward.
So, every journey begins with a first step and we are in the process of taking our first step into the world of official forums. I expect we will make mistakes and encounter bumps and bruises along the way but in the end I hope we will have the best forums of any MMO. A bold statement to be sure but that is our intent.