At Fan Faire, she took the time to speak with Massively about a variety of topics, including forum wars, social media, the future of SOE's Facebook games, and even a revamp of the popular Guide program in EQ and EQII.
Read below the cut for highlights from the interview.
The first area that Carlson discussed was SOE's recent effort to make use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. She said the important thing about using socia media is making sure to use it regularly and communicate with those players that follow it. If you set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account, and then don't use it, people go away, and you won't get them back. Facebook has worked out well for them, although the forums are still the primary means of collecting feedback from the playerbase. Forums provide the venue for more lengthy discussion about various game topics, while Facebook is more limited in terms of back and forth feedback. It makes up for that in convenience and the ability to quickly pass along important information to fans.
She said that Twitter is a bit more difficult because it's very immediate. For SOE, it seems that it's working better for them to use one central Twitter account to cover all games. Because it's so up-to-the-minute, they can use it to relay quick information to fans, and fans can also use it to report important in-game issues like crashes or bugs that need immediate attention. Social media is fairly new, so they're still experimenting in ways to best use it, and she added that they're always seeking new ideas, even from players.
We asked about forums and whether Carlson has seen any change in the tone of forum posting through the years. She said that it comes and goes, and that when there's an announcement that's problematic, there will always be a spike in forum posts, and they can get pretty emotional. The negative feedback is fine with them, because it's been an important part of design decisions. The problem comes when people use abusive language or break the forum posting guidelines, and it's only then that a Moderator steps in to give a warning or a temporary ban.
She added that when you look at forums from 1999, it was a very mean, hostile place. Their role as Moderators is to make the forums a place where people can feel comfortable posting feedback without being attacked. Even in a bar, she said, "you can be thrown out for being a jerk, and that's a place where they serve alcohol and people get surly on purpose!" Furthermore, she explained that SOE's demographics have changed over the years and today, people are older, more mature, and are bringing their families into their games. As a result, SOE wants to make sure that the forums are a place that is welcoming to all of the playerbase. They are constantly revising their forum guidelines, and they're always careful to stay dispassionate when responding to players, to keep the line of communication open with both the players and the company. As she put it, "we like you, but we don't like the way you have just behaved. It's not just about the trolls, it's about everybody on those forums and making them all comfortable, because it's a really cool place to hang out. There's a ton of information there."
Next, Carlson talked a bit about the Guide program. There are hundreds of volunteers that work on setting up live-events and in-game quests, and they've been a presence in SOE's games from very early on. As Carlson said in the Community Address, "if you haven't seen a guide in game, you're not doing it right." They're currently in the process of reviewing and revamping the program, and are talking with the Elder Guides to get ideas on what they'd like to see in the future. She stressed that this is something they're working on with the Guides, rather than imposing changes on them. The main focus is to give them better tools and also to report back to the development team on what the Guides do in game. Guides are an amazingly engaged group of people in EverQuest and EverQuest II, and SOE wants to continue to do more with the program down the road.
Lastly, we asked what she considers the hardest part of the job, as well as the best part. She said that the answer is the same -- the people. It can be very difficult when players personally attack you, and the only way to get past it is with a good sense of humor. At the same time, the best part of her job is meeting and talking to the players. She enjoys hearing their feedback and listening to their opinions, because they've provided some fantastic ideas over the years.
Thanks to Linda Carlson for taking the time to speak with Massively!
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