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Reader Comments (7)

Posted: May 18th 2011 7:52PM Yarr said

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@Beau Hindman

As to Derek Smart, regardless of his past and such, handling trolls by engaging in flame wars with them is completely unprofessional. It may be entertaining to read, but is not something any indie dev should ever think of doing. Let me use that word again: unprofessional. If you have a forum, it should have rules of use and trolling certainly breaks those rules. Just delete and/or ban the troll (for repeated offenses) with a polite message about the post breaking the forum rules. Problem solved, lawsuit avoided, stress levels reduced, and valuable time saved. :)

Also, twitter and facebook - fine as ADDITIONAL means of communication but NEVER a replacement for an official website. Don't force people to use a third party service to get information that should be on your official website (or blog even) first and foremost. NCWest allowed that kind of nonsense with the former Aion CMs and pissed off many, many customers; now they actually keep the official website updated and put any tweets on the front page of their own site as well.

Otherwise, a lot of good ideas there and why so many indie devs (and even big companies that are paying a large staff that should know better) keep making the same basic mistakes is beyond me.

You did leave out a few:

1. I've run across sites that don't have any links to actually download their game! Seriously, put up a download page, with system requirements and an actual link to download the game. I shouldn't have to search through forums or use a Google search to get your software.

2. Put your prices on your website in an easy to find location. If you are using some kind of 'points' you better make sure you clearly state how much they cost and how to get them. Trying to hide that info until one downloads and installs the game or other questionable means only makes sure I won't download your game.

3. Make a decent game-play video available or have a playable demo of some sort. If you can't host your own, put up a video on YouTube and embed it or put a link to it. I don't play (and certainly would never buy) any type of game without some actual game footage to check out first. This isn't the 1980's any more. Pick some of your favorite 'Let's Play' type people on YouTube and give them a free copy / game time, with no obligations. You'll get some honest feedback with matching video, plus good will with anyone that follows their videos, especially if you address/fix any problems they have in a timely manner. I trust my favorites on YouTube far more than any official video or 'professional' reviewer, because they are normal gamers just like me.
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Posted: May 18th 2011 6:43PM Beau Hindman said

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@(Unverified) I am not sure what games you are talking about, since I indicated that I was not referring to any games in the past. And although I do not know how involved he was in the process, Alganon took a leap in a positive direction when he came aboard. His next project looks fun as well. If you are claiming Alganon and his next project as evidence of his shoddy work, I'd like to hear why and how.

Beau

Posted: May 18th 2011 8:32PM Diatonic said

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Great article, thank you. I am sure that there are others out there that have toyed with the idea of putting together their own indie-MMO but are put off by the sheer challenge of the task.

These pointer, whilst obvious, are often overlooked by those indies and should be taken as good advice.

Take it on board!

Posted: May 18th 2011 8:44PM DeadlyAccurate said

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This was a fantastic article.

I want to add on my comments regarding a couple of your points.

#2, updating your game files. When you're trying out a trial of a game, and the first thing you have to do once the trial is *activated* and time is counting down is run 4 hours of patches, you're already making me angry. I'll be lucky to get through the character creator and the first few tutorial quests before I have to call it a night. There went one of my fourteen days.

#7, take care of the trolls. Yes! I don't know how many games have turned me off of them because of a certain level of sheer disrespect some players have for the others that the developers allow to continue. Suggestions are met with sarcasm and "go die" comments and expletives. Complaints are met with "go back to WoW." Just because the game may be hardcore, doesn't mean the players on the forums have to be jerks. Some of us won't say why we never subscribed to your game; we just leave.

Posted: May 18th 2011 11:01PM (Unverified) said

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Meanwhile, being constantly understaffed, it's a good idea to put some tools in to get your community together and put them to work. Make it easy to fill in the blanks in new player knowledge (even the best forget something key from their manual/tutorial). Set up a good system in the forums to mark possible troll behavior. Get some art contests up and actually USE the art from the winner for something cool (design-a-steed for LotRO comes to mind). Just look at the Mod community for the non-MMO computer games and you can see just how much creativity (and free hours) there is to go around. Make it easy for your community to throw big events, or small events. The easier you make it for your community to do your job for you, the more time you can focus on making the game fun for your fans and the more fun it'll be for you when you DO get around to playing. Added bonus is the buy-in folks get when they feel they've been a part of the success.

Posted: May 19th 2011 10:33AM Jorev said

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It is important to weed out the corrupt GM's and staff that are too friendly and thus biased with certain guilds that try and dominate a server, which is the case in Istaria. Developers should maintain a healthy professional distance between themselves and their customers. Utilizing players as support staff is always a mistake.
Nothing chases away players faster than the reality that the staff is in the tank.

Posted: May 19th 2011 3:58PM Stormcrow from Illyriad said

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@Jorev - very, very true.

We have a policy that no-one from the coding team, or anyone with access to the "Petition" queue (ie players who are reporting specific issues about what they're trying to do, to whom), can play the game as players.

This isn't to say we don't have people involved in Illyriad playing the game under pseudonyms - we do, and we make no bones about it.

But these 'staff' players are involved in areas that are not critical to the core gameplay. This isn't to say that what they do isn't critical to our success or failure - but they're 'staff' in areas such as graphic design or quest writing etc, and whilst they may be privy to information about what's coming up in certain respects, they don't have any access to what I'd call "the core gameplay".

We also have a few test accounts that we use on occasion, but we mark and identify these so that the general playerbase is in no doubt as to who they are. After a public beta incident (!), these test accounts are also forbidden from interacting with players in an offensive manner.

It's especially important to have these 'staff' players in a sandbox game environment, when the core dev team are forbidden from playing it, as it's very important that we get direct feedback (and bug/exploit reports) from highly trusted people who have a stake in the game's future because they're partial 'insiders'.

It's a very sensitive issue to developers, even when they're not indie game devs like us. The shadow of (for example) the T20 incident in Eve Online still surfaces in discussions even today, many years later.

We believe that the playerbase have to truly trust the game before they'll part with their money, and that means trusting it:
a) to be online and available every possible moment of the day or night,
b) to keep their personal data secure,
c) to not sell out - or otherwise suddenly change their interaction with it,
d) to to be fun and worth sticking with (!),
e) to grow and develop with them, and to listen to them,
f) to not stack the odds against the player by permitting cheating (from players or staff)

We're first time game developers, and we'd say that building and maintaining "trust" is actually the hardest won element in launching an unknown indie game, especially in the F2P genre. Beau makes the 'communication' point very well I think, and that certainly helps build trust. But the truism about "hard won and easily lost" is (self-referentially) 100% true.

Anyway, I've realised I'm now writing a small book, so will shut up now :)

SC

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