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Pirates of the Burning Sea

So, we'll see if this blogging thing actually pans out. Here's where I'll post my thoughts about one of the coolest upcoming MMO's and its company, FLS.

Author: Daveman424

Redefining "Friend"

Posted by Daveman424 Tuesday February 26 2008 at 6:49PM
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I noticed something interesting today. "Friendships" have taken on a new meaning with the onset of social networking. Now, clearly this isn't breaking news. Everyone knows that a "friend" on Facebook is not necessarily someone you even know. If you've ever played any of the Facebook app games like Battle Stations, you'll notice that friends help you get ahead in the game. Playing that game caused an influx of 20-30 friend requests per day. Initially, I accepted them all with a Limited Profile limitation on them. Then I realized that was stupid, and I removed them all. Now I'm proud to say that my Facebook friends are only people I actually know and have spoken to, whether in person or online.

So why do I say that the definition changed? Well, today, I spoke for a while with an online acquaintance of mine. She had recently been hired by a gaming company, and we spent much of the day talking at random points about random things. I had known who she was before this job, and I had definitely taken a liking to her, but not until today did we actually speak one-on-one, instead of through a public forum. Anyways, tonight I received a friend request from her on Facebook. I accepted it without thinking twice, and before I realized what I was doing, I switched over to LinkedIn to see if she was there, and if I could add her there as well. It seems that we now have this duty to make sure that any form of social networking site we're a part of knows that we've made a new friend. There's no reason why I should have been jumping from site to site making sure my new friend was added on all of them. But somehow, I've now been trained to think that that's the proper thing to do. It was a weird experience, that's all.

 

In other news, I purchased PotBS two weeks ago. It's been awesome so far. All the reviews have been generally positive, though they all agree that the learning curve is steep. Having been part of the beta for 3/4 of a year, I guess I missed out on that part. I never found it extremely complicated to learn, but apparently I'm in the minority. Anyways, I'm having a blast, and can't wait till I feel more comfortable jumping into PvP.

The Community Standard Defined (Part 2)

Posted by Daveman424 Monday October 15 2007 at 3:39PM
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Alright, so it's been quite some time since I've had a chance to update this. Let's see where I left off.

IRC. I work for Coldfront, a network of fansites for various games. I run one myself (Kingdom of Loathing), and so I am constantly in IRC all the time. Though, up until PotBS, I didn't really remain active in chat for social reasons. IRC is where I feel Flying Lab has gained the most ground and publicity.

I spoke before about how the developers are active in the growing community around them. This is especially clear in IRC channels. #burningsea usually has within it between 50-75 members, a large portion of whom are actively chatting. (I consider a "large portion" to be higher than 10-15) In addition to that, there are always 3 or 4 Flying Lab staff present in the channel, who also actively chat during their work day. I'm sure it's a nice break from their work to turn around and talk with real people outside the company about stuff (even if it is just complaining about the fact that we haven't received our beta invites yet). Even at this very moment, as I write this, Troy Hewitt, the community manager, is asking someone to ship him a marmoset in a box. And I'm fairly sure he's serious.

IRC has also been the location of multiple developer chats, giving the community a chance to speak with the developers head-on, asking those burning questions and getting legitimate answers. They have been considered huge successes, and we (the community) always look forward to the next one, in order to ask those questions that we didn't get answered yet.

 Now, for my least favorite part of the community: The Beta. The word "beta", in the PotBS community, evokes images of lush pastures, sheep, and sometimes even a freshly baked pizza (that one's probably unique to me). It is the Holy Grail of the community. The beta for Pirates has been going on for two years now, I believe, and some people have been waiting that long to get in. Basically, you apply, and wait. And you may never hear anything back, or you may get invited the next day. The communication between the developers and the community breaks down, to a certain extent, at the beta line. Michelle Williams, who is in charge of beta entry (amongst other things), is the woman to which we all must suck up to if we wish to help test the game.

Because a large portion of how the beta works is still unknown (and there are conflicting opinions as to whether entry is random or on a first-come, first-served basis), the community has this raging obsession with the beta. Up until rules were established in IRC, the channel was solely populated with people hoping to make friends with the Flying Lab staff in order to get a beta invite. The "New Member" forum was full of questions like "Did my app go through? Am I accepted?" or "Misha, why can't I be in the beta?". I tried my best to quell this annoyingness by writing an FAQ, explaining how beta entry "supposedly" worked, and it did seem to cut down on the random posts about beta. But you can still feel the driving focus of the community is on getting into the beta. Which is fine, believe me. And there's definitely enough information being fed to us to keep us busy in the meantime. But why not use the example of some other upcoming MMO's (The Chronicles of Spellborn comes to mind), and allow the more active members of the community a chance to join the beta? There are plenty of users I can name off the top of my head who are so knowledgeable about the game, without even being in beta (I'm guessing on this point, since beta testers aren't permitted to admit that they're in the game), that would be so valuable to the testing process. Why state to the community "activity on the forum has nothing to do with your entry into the beta"? Because there is no well-defined process for entry into the beta, people just complain and beg and plead, thinking that will help. I mean, I assume that's what they're thinking. Why else would they do it?

 So, to sum up my two long posts, Flying Lab has created a burgeoning community, one that I'm unusually proud to be a part of. The developers keep open communication with the community (for the most part), and do their best to stay as in-touch as possible with us. If only the beta process wasn't the focus of the community, we could have one of the coolest communities online. Maybe once the beta opens up to all, we'll see an actual community formed on the basis of the love of the game (and its developers), and not on the hopes of getting into beta.

 PS. Come join us in IRC chat! Connect to irc.coldfront.net, channel #burningsea. See you there!

The Community Standard Defined (Part 1)

Posted by Daveman424 Wednesday September 26 2007 at 9:30AM
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So, in my last (and first, theoretically) post, I talked about what drew me to the PotBS community. Why I'm here. But now I'd like to talk more specifically about Flying Lab's uniqueness in its approach to community. I'll start off with some disclaimers. I've never gotten as involved with a community as I have with FLS before. Therefore, things I say are unique to FLS may very well exist with other game companies. I am not specifically pointing out why FLS is better than all other companies. Rather, I am just showing the elements of communication that make a game company (in this case, FLS) "good".

The most obvious thing a new member of the community notices is the blatant presence of the developers in the community. All FLS staff are clearly defined by their red names on the forums, and a quick search through Coldfront's Dev Tracker shows that they post extremely often, whether it's about the game, or completely off-topic (in the case of Tom Tobey). This blatant presence is extremely reassuring in a sense, because everyone knows that they are being listened to, and that their complaints will not fall on deaf ears.

One bad thing, however, is the use of the Developer Questions subforum. This forum leads you to believe that your questions will be answered by the Devs if you post there, but instead what tends to happen is that  a new member, eager to get their voice heard by the developers, posts a question that everyone else on the forum has heard twenty times before. I admit I did this myself when first joining the community. So instead of the new member getting an answer from the developers, he/she receives one from the community members who know the answer. And that's not good enough for the new member, so they say "Thanks for your response, but I was really looking for confirmation from the developers". And this degrades into an argument over whether the answer was legitimate or not, even though it is posted all throughout the forum.

So how can we improve upon the Developer Questions forum? It need to be changed. All those sorts of questions belong in either New Member Questions, or in General Discussion. Developer Questions should be closed off to be read-only, or, even better, make it like the News forum, where only the Devs can post a new topic, but community members can respond as they see fit. Then add a question submission form somewhere, from which the questions are not publicly visible, and the developers can pick and choose which ones they wish to respond to, and post them in the forum. While having that forum open promotes the "openness" of communication, it only works if the developers actually respond to the vast majority of threads in that forum. So close it off a little, and answer all questions in that forum. It will make the community happy to see their questions answered by the developers, and it will make the developers happy because they can deal with whichever questions they want, ignore the really bad ones.

 

Okay, this post has gotten way too long. Next time I'll continue this discussion about the FLS community, specifically talking about IRC as well as the beta process.

My Involvement with Flying Lab Software

Posted by Daveman424 Monday September 24 2007 at 9:27AM
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Hi there! I'm not sure how much exposure this is going to get, but I just feel like this would be a good place to put my thoughts down on paper.

My name is Clackling. I'm currently the site manager of http://kol.coldfront.net, a fansite for The Kingdom of Loathing. Also on Coldfront is our PotBS fansite, which works very closely with Flying Lab. So that's how I got into Pirates of the Burning Sea. Also, I remembered a former staff member of Coldfront, Rhaegar, had gotten hired by FLS, and so I knew it had to be good.

Between a combination of IRC and PotBS's forums, I've become very involved in the community. I've made friends with many people in FLS, since they're so good at communicating with their fans, and I love being involved. I've always had this part of me that refuses to pay monthly fees for MMO's. I completely understand the necessity to charge a monthly fee, but I just can't commit to spending that sort of money. However, PotBS may be the first game that will convince me otherwise. Not because of the gameplay, which DOES look really original and fun, but because of the community that has risen around it. I like the people here, and I think that's what I've been looking for in a game. WoW is HUGE, and I feel completely lost any time I try out a free trial. EVE is awesome, but again, I feel completely lost.

Maybe it's the fact that I joined FLS's community before they launched the game, I don't know. The point is, I've found a niche that I like, and I hope to stick to it for a long time.

 

Next time, I'll post about the pros and cons about FLS as a company. As in, what I think they do right, and what I think they could improve upon.

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