Author Topic: Building a community forum around an indie game  (Read 424 times)

JeffNevington

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Building a community forum around an indie game
« on: February 15, 2017, 10:39:44 AM »
I think it makes sense to put this here...  I am in the process of putting together a forum to function as a community hub for followers of our insect-themed indie game "Empires of the Undergrowth".

The basic framework is in place (using simple machines like exilian does), but I am wondering what boards should be available at launch.  I hope the community will build over time, but in order to do that, we need our initial visitors to stick around.

At the moment I think it makes sense to have a "suggestions" board for ideas about the development and a "bugs / troubleshooting" board for reporting and fixing problems with the latest builds.  But what else do you think would be useful, particularly for a fresh forum.  So far we have a "Newbies" board for introductions and an "open" board which I am not sure is appropriate (or appropriately named).
Forum (WIP): http://forum.eotugame.com/

I would like to use the forum to post lets-plays of the game, and relevant things that might indirectly impact the game (news about our game genre and distribution in a wider sense).  We currently do this on Facebook but it rarely leads to conversations between followers.

We also have an added spanner in the works.  Up until this point we have been collecting peoples' comments, bugs, ideas etc on a social media platform called Stomt.  This allows people to make comments in 120 characters or less and they don't have to sign up to use the service.  It works surprisingly well for feedback and spam is rare.  I feel that our forum strategy should account for Stomt as there is going to be a definite overlap, but also a definite difference, I don't want to abandon our Stomt due to its accessibility. 
Stomt page: https://www.stomt.com/empires-of-the-undergrowth

I am not expecting an epiphany here, I will just try to approach the situation with common sense.  But if anyone here experienced in small community management has any advice to offer, I would appreciate it. 
:ogre:

« Last Edit: February 15, 2017, 11:51:52 AM by JeffNevington »

Jubal

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2017, 11:57:17 AM »
I think coming up to nine years running this place may classify me as "experienced" - possibly also "jaded" and "a dried husk of my former self", but "experienced" works too :P

The things that stood out to me:
  • You probably want a news & announcements board, and that should be at the top, ideally, including pinned posts for rules and a pinned game overview and stuff.
  • Possibly also a general gameplay/discussion/strategies board? I wouldn't be sure where to post about that at the moment.
  • Open board to the bottom: basically news -> topic -> offtopic seems to work well. I'd probably go Announcements, General Gameplay (if included), Newbies, Suggestions, Bugs, Stormt, Offtopic.
  • On your rules, feel free to have a look at the rather more detailed Exilian ToS: http://exilian.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=1514.0 I think the main things you might want to state explicitly that aren't included are "don't spam" and "no cracks/keygens/illegal stuff", which should be obvious but apparently aren't to some people.
  • Brief grammar point in the rules, you "defuse" (take the fuse out of, as with a bomb) rather than "diffuse" (spread out over a wide area) a situation!

Getting visitors to stick around isn't easy, especially for indie games (which is partly why places like Exilian exist - having a bunch of games/content hosted in one place helps us keep afloat). I think the main thing you need to do is give yourself as many bites at the apple as possible, keep plugging the forum on social media, and hope that your user base is big enough to get enough people through to build a community. Possibly also have the game itself flag up your site somewhere if possible. Once you've got people there, things like competitions etc can help keep a community running though they can be time consuming to run.

I should also point out (since it's my job to do so!) that we will happily offer a front-page link exchange with your forum, and/or flexible sub-board hosting on Exilian (which can include using your own theme, as many nested boards as you like, our support with moderation/advertising, etc) if you ever decide either of those is something you'd like. :)

Hope some amount of that is helpful, and very best of luck! Always happy to attempt further advice if wanted :)
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JeffNevington

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2017, 02:25:59 PM »
I would have to be mad to discount anyone who lists "Web community building" as a hobby & interest!

Everything you said makes good sense to me, I think I will follow your suggestion and lead with an announcements board.  General gameplay is also a nice one to stick up next as it will probably have the most interesting content for people to read. 

Thanks for the rules suggestions, I didn't want them too long to begin with but spam and illegal stuff probably does need to be up there from the start.

Also I had no idea there were two different spellings of defuse.  I guess people could 'diffuse' rude comments into a general grumpiness across several posts  :P

Maybe we could do a link exchange.  I am not sure where I would put it though.  I think modding might become a topic of discussion at some point, several people have mentioned an interest.  So if we made a board for that, we could link to exilian and you should get some relevant traffic :)

Splashy

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2017, 05:15:26 AM »
Jesus the SMF theme scene has evolved, it's not long ago that Exilian style themes were as good as you could get.

JeffNevington

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2017, 08:24:40 AM »
There is quite a range, plus we edited ours a fair bit (decreased the width, added borders, customized the breadcrumb)... I say "we", my friend John did it.  I like exilian though.  White on dark grey is easy on the eyes.  Plus we don't have stone groot  :ogre:

Jubal

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2017, 11:53:22 AM »
I'd like to give Exilian's theme a revamp some time (keep the colour scheme etc but make other bits look prettier, and maybe have a "light" theme for people who find light-on-dark reading hard), but that would require a volunteer to do it and we're currently running on a skeleton staff of about 2 people. :s

As for rules, if you're running a forum as proprietor you can afford to keep them pretty simple. Ours are comparatively very complex as we have e.g. a moderation appeals system so they need to be testable against that rather than the ease that "forum owner's word is law" allows. And yesh, if you ever find somewhere to link exchange or otherwise collaborate, just let me know. And do post a thread about EotU/the new forum in the Indie Alley sometime, then I've got something I can put in our newsletter etc which might help spread the word. :)
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JeffNevington

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2017, 12:49:22 PM »
I can only hope our forum does well enough to become bogged down with bans and appeals! 

You are right about posting in the Indie Alley, I have been meaning to get around to that.  I was putting it off until our next demo was ready, the currently available one is not well optimized so you need a fairly decent machine to get the most out of it.  Also one of the sound effects added in was accidentally set 10x louder than it should be.  Scares everyone to death.

The problem is, between demos, everything comes apart and turns into a building site - so it's not so easy to produce a fresh build even for the sake of changing the volume of a sound effect.  We could roll back, but it seems like the time is better spent elsewhere.  Always roll forward, never back!

Jubal

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Re: Building a community forum around an indie game
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2017, 12:22:06 AM »
Aye - maybe next demo then :) You can always do a post about the game even without an actual demo too, we're happy to use screenshots etc and spread the word about any development progress generally!

And yes, though not all the options there are good: if you're bogged down with bans and appeals you probably either have an exceptionally successful forum or an exceptionally antagonistic and unpleasant user-base, and you want only one of those two things ideally! :p
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