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Message From the King

Glen "Famine" Swan from Funcom's Age of Conan answers questions, and discusses the game, life, and the industry. Let us know what you would like to hear about.

Author: FC-Famine

The Advocates

Posted by FC-Famine Wednesday March 18 2009 at 11:53AM
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It looks like our resurrection entry was a success last week. I’m very happy that we are off on the right foot now after being dead for so long.

That being said, I was hoping to get some more developer focused content out today but due to the crazy week, me attracting the death plague yesterday, and the update shooting out today. I think it would be best to share some info on the next big community announcement, the Advocate program. The program itself was suppose to kickoff sometime this week but again due to everything that hit this week it has yet again been pushed off a little. We do however have most of the Advocates contacted and they are just waiting to be released on the community.

The Advocates for those who don’t know, is a volunteer program to improve feedback from the player to the developer and vice versa. In short, it’s like a player lead program based on certain aspects of the game like classes for example. Speaking on classes, we have also been actively recruiting 2 Advocates per class in Age of Conan. We will also expand this later on to include not only class Advocates but also role-playing, player-versus-player, crafting, and etc for the Advocate program.

Since the announcement I have seen many people become excited about the program but I have also seen many concerns with the program failing. Thos concerns are either with maintaining the program or the feedback process with the program itself. Addressing some of the concerns, I can see how many could view the program as something that will be hard to maintain as well hard to make succeed in improving feedback. However, maintaining such a program is not something new to us as we have done similar programs for years and years before as well had our ups and downs with it. Such experience will only help strengthen the program to really benefit everyone in the community with maintaining it and improving the feedback process.

Another concern is why we need such a program when you can just read the forums! We can read the forums all day and all night but that does not guarantee connection to the in-game communities that do not post on the forums. As many of you know, the community is far more than just the official Age of Conan forums. Thus, the Advocates are not just there to help us read the forums but there to also ensure we have a deeper connection with the in-game community as well forum community.

The program itself has been done many times before over many titles including our own. We have seen great success and great failures in them all. Our program will take those into consideration as well hopefully improve based off that same consideration. Other than that, we are just happy we can involve the players as much as possible with the developers as well getting those issues and concerns that matter smashed.

The Advocates will hopefully be announced later this week or next week. I also plan to have some more updates on the developer front early next week. That way we can really start getting into the main purpose of this bad boy with snagging those developers.

Oh and before I forget, we will also touch on some issues pre-launch and what we have done to correct those up till now. *cough*KyleHorner*cough*

dcostello writes:

           I know you are the professional and I'm just kid posting on this site, but my advice--you do not need to heed it--is to keep in mind the multiple factors within such a program and their effects.  What I mean is that players are not generic in anyway because they are essentially human beings with varying likes/dislikes and personalities.  I'm not going to preach relativism here because it does justice to neither of us, but I am suggesting that you remain aware or become aware of the multiple factors that comprise a player's personality.  For example, a player who does PvE and groups a lot has no problem with a mage class that has less health because the player fights easier opponents and the player has a healer accompanying him/her on quests (so the healer can keep the mage's health up).  However, a player with a mage class that enjoys PvP may demand for more health--which could ultimately spiral into a crucial decision between giving more health to the mage class or leaving it the way it is (neither choice would satisfy both ends of the spectrum).

          Therefore, you may need to brake every player personality aspect into groups and pairings.  So player A is a typical PvP, Mage, etc.  The problem with this is that the amount players needed would probably result in hundreds or possible even thousands, which might make the monitoring and feedback process difficult.  Another strategy would to simply pick out the most important or most prevalent personality pairings and ignore the other ones (this flaw is obviously inaccurate reports).  Or you could ignore my suggestions completely; this is fine with me because I neither play the game nor do I benefit from your (game's) success.

Wed Mar 18 2009 3:46PM Report
Rdlaban writes:

Whats this hint ""KyleHorner"?


Wed Mar 18 2009 5:03PM Report
AmazingAvery writes:

@Rdlaban he is a guy / blogger over at Massively who picked up on the re-birth of the dev blog here who Famine was addressing in relation to this post:

As he is a reader here too. Kyle said: "It's a good start, but a post talking about the mistakes made pre-launch and corrections since then would be a wise choice, we think. It never hurts to cop to your mistakes, and then show how you resolved them."

Wed Mar 18 2009 6:51PM Report
zerocool writes:

Sounds like the Team Lead thing Mythic did, and does (BEFORE E.A.)  Look foward to the good that can come from it. Devs getting info straight from the players.

Thu Mar 19 2009 1:15AM Report
Blaukool writes:

Sounds like the Professionals in Anarchy Online, but I hope this time you'll listen to the professionals of  ALL classes.

Are you planing/running something like ARK too?

Thu Mar 19 2009 5:21AM Report
Jasma writes:

Advocates will make direct player with developer playtime and show shit you want to improve. In my book that is pretty amazing.

Thu Mar 19 2009 5:26PM Report
weirdthall writes:

ARK already runs in AoC (under a different name).

Thu Mar 19 2009 9:57PM Report
Shadowslady writes:

its too bad there is not a way to incentivize (sp?) people hanging out in Guild Towns rather than the transfer towns or somehow get people to gather more in one place because a lot of what you want out of this could be accomplished just by having a true "hang out". in UO, it was the roof of Yew Bank. You could learn everything about the game via that roof.

Fri Mar 20 2009 2:47AM Report
Tarka writes:

AOC ARK's = "Followers of Asura" = players helping the GM's with petitions.

Advocates = players who are feeding back info collected from the community forums and in the game. 

Fri Mar 20 2009 8:59AM Report
Tarka writes:

Keep up the good work Famine :)

AOC's issues can't be solved overnight, but with a committed playerbase and good dev direction, you'll get there 

Fri Mar 20 2009 9:01AM Report
Deewe writes:

Keeping in touch with the player base is a nice thing.

Although the advocates (or any other system) will never exactly reflect the players want nor needs.

In this way you need a way to validate the data with the whole customer base or it could lead to major issues. We saw this on other games...

The only easy way is with polls but not on the forums as only a very few % of player go there but in game. I'd say first gather and discuss issues/changes with the advocates & players. Then, and only then, when you think you have a solution poll it in the login screen of the game.

1 account = 1 vote. You may eventually put an incentive like giving a free display item to players who took the time to vote.

Now when a change occurs players who are against do know they are in the minority and you know you are pleasing all the other less voicy ones that pays the bills...

Fri Mar 20 2009 12:16PM Report
Jasma writes:

Well. An Advocate can join a Raid i.e and explain face to face with the Dev... maybe even show him how things went wrong. I belive in the Advocates.

Fri Mar 20 2009 4:35PM Report
FC-Famine writes:

@Deewe: You are right. They will never represent the entire player base. I don't think anyone can do that successfully. We can however validate the data good enough though as we set the standards simple with reporting that data. Either it's a concern (much like a suggestion but needs attention now), issue (a bug that needs clarification), or just a suggestion (duh!). 

Polls on the other hand are not as effective I feel. Just as you said, they can't represent the entire playbase and the forums for sure is not the entire playerbase. However, I think some polls might be of use later on down the road for the forums.

Sat Mar 21 2009 6:25AM Report
Vinterkrig writes:

wow, goodjob at being really late at something that shoudl have been in from the start

Sun Mar 22 2009 10:14AM Report
Jasma writes:

@Vinterkrieg. I agree... then on the other hand most other MMOs have not even gotten around to think on such a program. So Kudos to the FC team.


Sun Mar 22 2009 12:16PM Report
rawgutts writes:

Well I gave them another try since the last blog post and 14 more bucks.    It was the very last.


They have made improvements on lag issues in towns and such and some additional content for the mid range player base, but you are still forced to go to one area if you want to level with quests (aside from grinding).  Player stats still mean absolutely nothing. The gear still looks the same, you have a couple nice sets but nothing that makes you stand out from the other guy. The chat and guild system is still iffy as well.  No real looking for group party system as well. Most people are shouting (spamming) on the main global channel and after that you just turn it off because it's so spammy.

Bugs and exploits are still around, I was able to find 5 bugs in a couples days and a two glorious exploits that I will not go into detail on.


Bottom line for me, it's not just fun for me. I look around the game world and it is gorgeous, but it has no life in it. Good people are hard to find and if you do find someone it's some crazy gold farmer that ninja invites you for the hell of it...



Mon Mar 23 2009 9:58AM Report
clearSam writes:

its good to Know that Funcom is actually making an extra effort to get players feedback.

whatever they are doing  was clearly successful in the latest patches. also o think the devs and qa are getting more familiar with the software since they are releasing less and less bugs on patches.

if the next patch adds and implements itemization successfully (which will fix the market, the trading, the gathering, the crafting etc...) we will probably be looking at the best fantasy MMO ever.  

Mon Mar 23 2009 11:08AM Report
Qetuu writes:

How do you know - that guy is  good for this job and that one is not? You'll show us results of advocate feedback? It will be possible to look at your work with advocates?

Fri Mar 27 2009 8:57AM Report
FC-Famine writes:

Qetuu: Well it's not going to be possible to find the most class advance player within the forums for every role in the Advocates. The point is not to look for that player but to look for someone who has a basic understanding of the class, good desire to advance in the class, and encouragement to represent the class community without just representing themselves. Many players fit that bill and would do their best to represent or aka be an advocate for the class community.

As for work from the advocates, it's all there stickied in the top of every class forum. The top issues, concerns, and suggestions are what the advocates are working on. You can input what are on those lists to be pushed on. The return feedback on those lists is what the program aims for with the feedback process.

Thus far we have done 1 round of top issues for each class. Basically, we asked each advocate to give us one issue a piece to submit directly to the system designers. Issues in short are supposed bugs that need clarification on it being a bug or not. Those top issues have been returned to the advocates with feedback on the issues being bugs or not. Additional feedback on bugs were given on when they would be addressed or the current status of the bug itself. Feedback on issues that were not bugs were issued developer reasons on why they feel it's not a bug.

All feedback received from the developers and passed down to the advocates were cleared to be given to the community. Some of those comments can be found on our official forums. Thus the feedback process is working, slowly but improving.

Wed Apr 01 2009 7:47PM Report
Qetuu writes:

Thanks for clear explanation. So if we said A than we need to say B. I looked at official forum and saw lack of RP-adcvocate. Its any chance  FC give RP-community advocate to direct connect with developers? Do you think is necessary? Forums all full of feedback and suggestions about new content only for expand RP so what do you think about this?

Sun Apr 05 2009 4:59AM Report
FC-Famine writes:

Yes! I think it's very necessary to have someone for RP, PVP, and even PVE like Quests and Raiding. RP and PVP will come first though.

I think the forums are a great source for us to reference but there are other channels to factor in here. Like for example, this blog and your comments! Many of these channels are honed and filtered to the developers. It's just a matter of taking what we can to set the right focus for any specific update on the way.

RP wise, we took the issues of the NPC Talespinner in one of the INNS and we have moved him further away from the center spot where most of the players have their RP sessions (he was telling a story on say_channel that flooded their sessions). Next up we look into the RP naming policy to help resolve the conflict there. :)

Mon Apr 06 2009 3:09PM Report writes:
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