In the latest installment of our exclusive Rift dev blog series, Community Manager James "Elrar" Nichols explains his role at Trion Worlds.
Have you ever wondered what exactly goes into being a community manager for a game like Rift? Then you'll definitely want to check out our latest exclusive Rift dev blog entry from Community Manager James "Elrar" Nichols. He explains how he is able to collect your feedback and bring it directly to the developers in an attempt to "close the rift between you and the game."
Keep reading after the jump to learn more about Elrar's role at Trion Worlds. Speaking of the Rift community, feel free to join our users in our ZAM Rift forums!
Closing the RIFT – My Role as Community Manager
By Community Manager James "Elrar" Nichols
Online communities have come a long way since the internet first started inching its way into our lives. List servs and usenets made way for forums, chat rooms, and now social media.
In this ever changing world, individuals are now connected to each other and the products they enjoy more than ever before. My role as community manager began to evolve in order to bridge the gap between the two.
It’s an interesting dynamic that I reflect on often when studying online communities as a whole. You, as a consumer, now expect a personal level of interaction with the products you invest in – it’s part of the experience and an area that allows companies to distinguish themselves from the pack.
With RIFT, we take this to heart and do our best to make the gap between you and the game as small as possible. Through frequent updates on the official forums, Facebook and Twitter (in three languages), we ensure you know the latest developments from the game and within the community. But it doesn’t stop there.
As community manager, I play the role of advocate for both players and developers. I’m often the counterpoint who provides insight from the point of view of how you might react to a given change or feature. What does this mean? Designers and engineers know the product through and through. For many, it’s their concepts and ideas come to life; however, like anyone who has written a paper or even a program is likely aware – you’re often your own worst editor. Sitting so close to the screen, it’s easy to forget that what is clear and understandable to you may be confusing to others.
Through active testing on our Public Test Shard and reading the objective and detailed feedback shared by you, I’m able to paint the broader picture for the development team to maintain their awareness of your needs. With this information in hand we can then evaluate whether its applicable to the game, what the value of making a change would be, or identify whether the feedback is based on perception or reality.
Perception issues are sometimes the most difficult to address. These are issues in which a significant portion of players believe something to be an issue where metrics seem to indicate otherwise. It’s difficult to say “you’re wrong” because if there is an issue (perceived or otherwise), right or wrong does not apply - if you’re not enjoying the game, we want to understand why.
These issues often lead to change because they can point out flaws in the way something is communicated or indicate an area of the game that needs to be made more “fun.” Often times we have to search for the cause of this perception which tends to be a much more subconscious reaction than the perceived issue itself. Solutions begin to fall into place once we understand why you really feel the way you do.
Through support, communication, and our own personal experiences we’re able to close the rift between you and the game. We’re always working to get you more engaged, learn from the past, and forge a future that incorporates your input in a way we think you’ll enjoy. With an MMO we’re never done and your feedback allows us to check our course and change direction if needed. My role allows us to understand which way the wind is blowing while the rest of the crew manages the ship.
The RIFT team is more engaged with the game than any team I’ve worked on – from top to bottom, including our marketing team, we’re constantly playing the game. This is an important dynamic that, in my opinion, is part of the reason we’re able to constantly improve the game at the rate we have. In a sense, all of us share the hat of community manager and I’m proud to be the one who shares our voice.
It’s uncertain how online communities will evolve next but it’s clear that the need for direct, frequent, and genuine communication will continue to grow as we become more and more interconnected each day. I, for one, look forward to it!