Could you run a successful, profitable business on the basis of a free to play platform?
Could you run that same business satisfactorily for the competing demands, quirks, special interests and moods of over 100,000 customers? Some of which invested in your product, most of which did not.
How about if you added five years of history, good decisions, bad decisions to the equation?
You do not need to agree with how this game and community is managed to recognize the colossal job it entails and the enormous pressure the caretakers of this place must feel every day. “Admin” really do have the worse job in some ways.
Sometimes I wonder if they realize, once you accept the challenges of the job, that a lot of the damage is self-inflicted. I wonder if they can recognize that the best mechanics, the best revenue models are trumped by, in a word, community. The eRepublik community is an awesome community despite, rather than because, the game it is attached to. This was not always the case.
Community is a top down process until it reaches a critical mass at which point it can be self-renewing. The game once recognized this by providing regular and topical interaction with its player base. It provided outlets for all manner of player hopes, aspirations, rules... and yes, frustrations, griefing and anger. This was done through basic forums and the active support and intervention found there.
Over the years, the avenues of communication between the powers that be and the players has first been restricted and then slowly removed. Was it thought that it was counter-productive to have these outlets? Were they being misused? Perhaps and there is always compelling arguments to make to reduce nuisance and noise created by customers with no stakes and/or selfish interests. However, by removing yourself from the large majority of interaction with your customers, you eventually erode trust. Success thrives on trust.
Now we are “victims” of change. Nothing is explained, no vision is communicated and so there is no ownership amongst players. There is no incentive to invest because there is no narrative to subscribe to.
All the above is a rather longwinded preamble in answer to the latest anniversary celebrations and the announcement of a big summit.
The Event itself is a great initiative. Having participated in this type of party in the past with different communities, I can say that the experience is a fantastic one. The bonds formed there and the stories exchanged and created can, and often will, last a long time. Removing the anonymity of the internet allows users to present their rational, human side out to great effect. I also love the fact that “management” wants to offer a stage to analyze the game. I am very much in favour of any conversation in which there is real exchange on the future of the game and community.
But then you start parsing the words and it makes you wonder... is the announcement of this summit really only a PR move? I see the mention of “official delegates”. What is an official delegate? Who are they? How were they chosen? What roles will they be asked to play?
If I don’t know the answers to these questions... well then I have no interest in the process because they will not represent me. I may never learn what is talked about and what is presented. The dollar that you are chasing is currently in my pocket. Communicate with me, allow me to invest myself emotionally once more and maybe you will earn that dollar. We are not even talking of any special consideration other than educating your player base with a few basic facts.
Speaking of special consideration... when I see the agenda item “massive gold giveaway for attending countries and citizens”, that makes me cringe. Not because I don’t think it is a good idea, I think it is a fantastic idea to close a party with some truly worthwhile gifts. Again, I’ve attended these things and prizes just foster more of a fun time. My problem is that we’ve already established that this summit is for “official delegates”, ultimately these must be the elites of the game. So the message becomes, we will reward those in the community with special status.
I know at this point, the argument loses objectivity and becomes unfair. But what I’m trying to get at is that we need each other to continue making this a successful venture. An anniversary celebration is a perfect time to stress that but because of past practices and the noticeable weakness in communication, this does not translate.
Maybe I will be surprised and the roadmap will be published after the reveal at the summit. Maybe I’ll be further surprised by seeing the introduction of smaller giveaways to the New World at large. Heck, maybe you’ll knock me right over by starting to solicit and listen to feedback and then reporting back to us your findings.
As I write this I wonder at the consequences and that is a terrible thing. There should be room for opinions such as these. Admin should be given an opportunity to moderate it and if inclined, participate in the exchange. We don’t have that and so those conversations are pushed to private exchanges, external forums... we step unto our soapboxes, reinforce each other’s negative views and never participate in a positive way to solutions going forward. After investing 4 years of time, it isn’t what I would want.
What I want to do then is to attempt to end on a positive note.
The summit is a fantastic idea.
The giveaways and party is even better.
The fact that a roadmap even exists should be music to all our ears.
My unsolicited advice going forward?
Starting with the summit, engage your players. Do not just make it a sneak peak, make it a forum to start exchanging ideas. Keep monetizing the military (and to a lesser extent the economic) modules. You need to be successful too if we are to have this pleasure long term. But work on the political and media modules. Make them your vehicle to stronger community development. Give us options with consequences, make us answerable to our peers.
After five years nothing can be perfect, it is the nature of the linear beast, and in any case you can’t please everyone but you can make things a fair sight better.
Make us stakeholders once more and you may be surprised by the outcome. To paraphrase a wiser man than me who recently said, don’t let this be the beginning of a fatality event.
What is this?You are reading an article written by a citizen of eRepublik, an immersive multiplayer strategy game based on real life countries. Create your own character and help your country achieve its glory while establishing yourself as a war hero, renowned publisher or finance guru.