SGG Community Staff "Ask Me Anything" AMA transcript - 7 November 2019

In early November 2019, the moderators had an opportunity to converse with the SGG Community staff and answer player-submitted questions.

This AMA focused on Community and Player Support.

The following were able to participate in the discussion (ordered by length in noted position):

Note that this transcript has been edited for clarity and readability. Also, due to the length of the transcript, it has been divided up at logical points into separate posts in this thread.

Begin Transcript

:bow_and_arrow: What does the community staff do?

:man_technologist: That’s a very good question.
:woman_technologist: Well you’re looking at it.
:man_technologist: We do it all. From fielding and monitoring the Forum, collecting feedback from our Moderators, reading the player feedback, working with the game development, QA and marketing teams; and facilitating player feedback.
:woman_technologist: We also do social media engagement. We read every fan Facebook site, Russian fan sites, YouTube, forums, and Reddit, for example. We view YouTube and other sites where content creators exist.
:man_technologist: Basically all sorts of player communications. All of it is done by our team. Including all of the content on social media.
:woman_technologist: And then we basically speak for the Community back to our team here.
:man_technologist: Engagement with the players is our thing. Marketing tries to bring new players in and then we try to keep them informed.
:woman_technologist: All the in-game announcements are all done by us. Basically, any Small Giant interaction with players.
:bow_and_arrow: My understanding from past conversations is Kira is more hands on in support. I still see players contact her by name. That has sort of evolved as support is becoming a little more separate.
:woman_technologist: It’s a little bit separate when it comes to specific tasks, but we all work together as a team. The entire Community & Support team handles support tickets. It’s really important that we work closely with support. For example, if there is a big jump in ticket count there is probably an issue going on and it needs to be addressed on the forum.

:bow_and_arrow: That’s probably a good segue into how that balances out day to day. You just described like 25 different platforms where you get feedback from players and also where you have involvement with support (like when there is a bigger game issue such as a game outage). That seems like a lot, and there are two of you. So how does that balance out?

:man_technologist: Well, we do share the tasks with the entire Community & Support team, it’s not just the two of us. We do most of the forum management and social media tasks but then there are other tasks that are shared.
:woman_technologist: So do you want to share what your day to day looks like?
:man_technologist: That depends on the day. For example, if there is an issue in the game, it’s more firefighting.
:woman_technologist: Typical Day? In the morning, both Petri and I come in, I get coffee before I do anything. I then look at what’s been reported to us overnight through Support and open the forum to see if the moderators/players are reporting anything as well.
:bow_and_arrow: Is there a distinction between what the two of you do or do you both sort of do the same thing and it’s whoever gets to it first?
:man_technologist: I’m more involved in planning and strategy, and higher level tasks with management. Like what we can do and what we can communicate.
:cat2: What is your day like? As sometimes you’re on for a particular time then other days you’re on way past 5:00 PM.
:man_technologist: It is like normal working hours usually, but sometimes we are flexible.
:woman_technologist: If there is a major issue or something in the game, we have to stay a bit later. I tend to be a workaholic.
:man_technologist: We try to throw her out sometimes.

:bow_and_arrow: Is the person who is on call a member of the support staff?

:man_technologist: Yes. And then someone from the development side is also on call.

:bow_and_arrow: You work with support, QA, game designers and development, and management. Are there other aspects of the Small Giant team that you work with or are these all the major places where you interact with other teams?

:woman_technologist: There is not a team that we don’t interact with.
:man_technologist: We are still a pretty small company compared to other companies. We want to keep it kind of like small teams can do amazing things and that really helps with the needs of everybody in the company.
:woman_technologist: Marketing all the way to the server desk. I can’t think of one person that we haven’t interacted with at one point.

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:bow_and_arrow: What would be the one improvement you would most like to see in the game?

:woman_technologist: Given the huge importance of alliances, I’d focus on this.
:man_technologist: We always look at the player feedback and which topics receive the most feedback. Because we are always looking at player feedback, our answer does not reflect our opinions, but rather players feedback. For example, we hear a lot of feedback on alliance recruitment.
:woman_technologist: We advocate for improvements. We know improvements are needed and it would be a huge quality of life benefit.
:man_technologist: We also look at what we can do on the Community side as well. We ask ‘what we can do outside of the game, like in the forums and places?’

… Bad recording - microphone was moved…

:man_technologist: Also working with our Content Creators. These people are players, and as players, they often know the best way to explain things. We have seen so many great guides created by everyone. So we hope we can leverage these.
:woman_technologist: And we’re always trying to brainstorm how we can provide better support and improve communication with staff. We’re constantly looking at how we can improve alliance recruitment, advocate on behalf of the players, and work with the Content Creators to give player tutorials.
:man_technologist: A lot of things are time consuming and take time to be implemented, but we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. For example, moderation for chat, we are hoping to very soon introduce an automatic filtering system based on AI which will help with the moderation and stop bad behavior. We want to keep the forums and the chats safe for all players and there is room for improvement. We are looking at doing these improvements on our side.

:bow_and_arrow: This one came from the Forum questions — do you have any sort of mascot as a team?

:man_technologist: We were thinking of this before today, and we don’t really have one. I would say that Richard is the mascot for Empires and Puzzles. We have a GIF we need to share. An emoji from Richard.
:cow2: Is that why Richard is the only E&P hero emoji in the game?
:man_technologist: Well the emoji would not be in the game, more so in the forum.
:bow_and_arrow: Emojis have been something people have asked for, wanting more from the game added to the Forum.
:man_technologist: Yes, and that is something that I will make a note about and try to investigate. Because at the moment, I’m not sure if they technically can support it.
:woman_technologist: It would be nice. Sometimes I wish I could react with an emoji. It’s so automatic in all of our communications, texting or even discord, to react with an emoji.
:man_technologist: That’s up to the platform.
:woman_technologist: But it would be great to have Richard have like 5 different emotions.
:cat2: It makes so much sense that Richard is the mascot as he was the one that was in the commercial.
:man_technologist: Yes, exactly. That’s actually where the emojis came from – those commercials.
:cat2: I loved the commercial with him under the lights trying to figure out his lines. I just thought that was hilarious.

A sample of a couple of the Richard Audition commercials from early 2018:

:bow_and_arrow: What drew you to your roles? Why a game company? Why community?

:man_technologist: My background is in business actually. I’ve been in the game industry almost 7 years. Back then, I did not realize gaming could be a career, as you would only think about actual game development. But I found the role and went from there. For me, it’s always been about communication. The game has always been very dear to me and helping other players as well. Making sure that players voices are being heard.
:woman_technologist: Same for me. I moved to Finland as my husband works for a different mobile gaming studio here in Helsinki. I moved here without a job myself and an opportunity opened up with Small Giant in Player Support. I’ve played mobile games for years and I met all the qualifications (for the job). They needed a native English speaker so I applied. I played Clash of Clans pretty competitively and we were a top 100 clan globally when I played it — years ago.
:bow_and_arrow: What is interesting to me is both of you have played games but the games you talk about are different. Kira talks about mobile games. I usually hear Petri talk about PC games. I’m curious, noting Kira and Clash of Clans is a good example, if games Petri played before also had a large community component or if that was not something you gravitated to.
:man_technologist: I would say, more in the professional role, not in the private player. Outside of that, not really. I’m more of a single player, actually.
:bow_and_arrow: That’s sort of interesting to me as I sort of always gravitated to more single player games. I didn’t actually know when I downloaded Empires and Puzzles that there was a community component at all. And in your first few days or week playing, you don’t realize it. And I remember when I discovered there were alliances, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this. Which is funny as, is probably the case for the other moderators, the community component is probably most of why we play now. It’s interesting that your personal background is not in community games.
:man_technologist: I’ve always been part of game communities outside the games, but not in the game really. Like part of forums until my mom took away my internet cables.
:bow_and_arrow: I’m curious for the other moderators, before you played empires and puzzles, were you playing other community oriented games at all? Or is this kind of a new things for you?
:cow2: Prior to this, I played two mobile games. One is Mobile Strike, and there are a couple of players who recognize my name from there. I’ve been using the name LittleKAF back from when I was in college, dating to the aol instant messenger days. So it’s a pretty obsolete name but I still use it. So I played Mobile Strike, then I went with a group to a game called War and Order. That was when I first started getting into community games. I used to view games just as a way to burn some time playing with something simple. It wasn’t until I started playing Mobile Strike that I gained more of an understanding of what was out there. That was really my introduction to everything. War and Order was very similar. Then I headed in this direction. Other than that, I go back to my youth and it was more console games and no community. Nintendo Power is probably the biggest community I had which was a magazine.
:cat2: I’ve played games since I was about 13 but most of them were consoles. Two big ones stand out as community games I played. The first is Knights and Dragons, which I honestly don’t remember; I ran into somebody who remembered me from Knights and Dragons, and I was like ‘I know four people from that game,’ but apparently I had a huge presence and just don’t remember it. The second is Game of War which I absolutely hated as the play to win community treated the play for free community like sheep. And I absolutely hated that. I’ve played other games in between but those are the two big ones that stand out. There’s nothing like this game. I’ve played so many other games and there is nothing exactly like this. That’s why everyone keeps coming back, even if they complain. They still come back at the end of the day as there is nothing else like this.
:cow2: Well there’s a few copycats now, but that’s a different topic.
:woman_technologist: No comment.
:bow_and_arrow: Obviously, the forum is an interesting experience as there are some players, that are very long term players, who part of their experience is almost like a cycle of frustration.
:cow2: This is the first time I’ve been on anything with a forum. I mentioned Mobile Strike. When I first started playing I was in a dead alliance as I didn’t know any better. Then I eventually got into an alliance that talked a little bit and then I eventually got into a very large alliance. I learned about Line from that group. I don’t even remember how I found the forum for this game. I was probably doing an internet search trying to see if there was any advice to help with game play and stumbled across it.
:cat2: We found Line for Knights and Dragons. They mentioned Discord but nobody used it back when I played that game. There is a huge Discord presence here and I think it’s because of 7DD. A lot of people use that one.
:man_technologist: Discord does offer a lot of nice features.
:woman_technologist: It’s definitely a platform that we’ve been having an eye on for integrating small aspects of the community. Like community support.

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:bow_and_arrow: Does anyone in the Small Giant staff ever play tricks or pull pranks in the office?

:man_technologist: Some small things but nothing elaborate.
:woman_technologist: I would say Scotty is our resident ‘dad joke’ maker. And he’ll wait for me at the elevator so he can jump scare me when the door opens. I would say the Community/Support team has quite a good time. We have to be able to have a good laugh and have a good time.
:man_technologist: We have a good support system in our team.
:woman_technologist: We like sharing funny translation errors and little stuff like that.
:man_technologist: And all the positive things we get from players. We have to remember that so many players enjoy our game. And it’s the quiet ones that catch us usually. So whenever we get positive feedback, we remind ourselves that this person actually took the time to write this. Because it’s easier to complain then it is to say something positive. So we try to share with the whole company when we get something nice. Whenever we get something good. And also constructive feedback, like when there’s something we should improve.
:woman_technologist: We read all the feedback from the official channels. Negative and positive. Sometimes they are not negative but things we can improve on.
:man_technologist: Sometimes we have to remind our developers that this is just a small amount of people on the forum. Even though sometimes they can be very harsh, we try to find the actual feedback that is there. But we do understand that harsh comments can come from people who are passionate about something or acting in the heat of the moment. Sometimes people come back and say they overreacted. And we get it — it’s just life — as long as they care.
:woman_technologist: When there are no Forum complaints or when there are no rage quit complaints – that might be the day when we don’t have jobs anymore.
:bow_and_arrow: Interesting that complaints are almost a measure of player engagement.
:woman_technologist: Yeah. It’s passion. Whether you’re about to rage quit because you lost a battle — we all have been there when we get a terrible board and lose — but I know if I didn’t care about this game, I wouldn’t have that reaction.

:bow_and_arrow: When you look at player feedback, idea posts in particular on the Forum, players have a mixed impression on how much visibility those have. Do you find that feedback useful? Does it get its way to game designers? Is it considered in a meaningful way or is there so much volume that it is not all seen?

:man_technologist: I know the update to the most frequently asked improvements is long overdue, but we are looking into this. We want to update this. But it’s not just me doing it. It’s actually a designer sitting down and looking through it with us. We don’t want to say something unless it comes from the people who are designing the game. But they do read the Forum every day: the designers, developers and the whole company. I know sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get some things.
:woman_technologist: And players may have a bit of a misunderstanding of what that thread (the most Frequently Asked Questions/Improvements) is for. It’s not like you post an idea there and then we read it and we put it in the next version. The game design is done by the game designers. Of course we’re picking some ideas and many ideas are great. They are good improvements and good features and all kinds of good stuff. But it has to work in the game economy, the game balance, the game design and vision that the designers have. It’s not like the players write it there and then the game designers say ‘we’re going to do that, then that, then that.’
:man_technologist: It’s more so like a free space for any kind of ideas. Some will make the game and some will not.

:bow_and_arrow: Given that you have talked about having some role in both reviewing the feedback and collaborating and coordinating with the game design team, are there things that make idea posts more productive and useful? In other words, is there any feedback on giving feedback? What would you tell players to do more when they are giving feedback so that the feedback is more useful?

:woman_technologist: I would say ‘tell us what we can do to improve. What’s your frustration?’ We’d like to understand the root cause if someone is frustrated or harboring negative feelings and how we can improve.
:man_technologist: I also want to hear feedback about the community and Forum itself, as this is something we can address directly. For example, I’ve been asking about something on the forum, and when it comes up way later, some people are like “why have you never done anything like this on the forum?” Typically, no one has never told us anything about it or it got lost in one of the posts. Maybe this can be its own section; we can think about this. But community improvement is the thing we are directly responsible for and we can make changes there. Depending on the requests, but we can do lots of things on the forum.
:cat2: In other words, you’re looking for constructive criticism and not just criticism, which is a lot of what you see. There is a lot of criticism but not a lot of it is constructive.
:woman_technologist: Last spring when we had the AMA with Tim, after the call we had a brief discussion — the mods, Petri and I. We can take the criticism. I said then that we’re open to criticism. We don’t delete negative posts. Some people ask ‘why don’t you delete these posts?” We don’t want to stop anyone from voicing their opinion about the game – good or bad. But can you say ‘I hate this and this is why’ or ‘I hate this and this is how you can improve it.’ If it’s not constructive, it doesn’t really help us.

:cow2: Did Finland just freeze? :cold_face:
:cat2: Yeah, Kira isn’t moving. Neither is Petri. :no_mouth:
:bow_and_arrow: We got a message that Petri’s laptop died. :cry:
:cat2: Man, this is so unprofessional. I mean can’t they come prepared. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:
:bow_and_arrow: I know. We take time out of our day and this is what we get. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
:cow2: And the microphone being too far away? What sort of outfit is this? :crazy_face:
:bow_and_arrow: Do you think they’ll take this seriously, or do you think they’ll realize this is a joke? :thinking:
:cat2: Well they’re finally back. Sheez. :partying_face:

:cow2: Petri talked about the thread of frequently asked questions. In 2019, there was a post on what was accomplished in 2018 with a sneak peak of stuff to come in 2019. Is there a similar thread coming for 2020?

:man_technologist: Yes. We are looking into this. And more season 3 sneak peaks.

[UPDATE: The 2020 Sneak Peek and Season 3 Sneak Peek have since been posted]

:woman_technologist: I really like that year end post. We did a video for the anniversary and that was really cool. All that kind of stuff, we love doing.

Second Anniversary Video that Kira mentioned:

:cow2: This is related to the frequently asked improvement thread. When I think back to the 2019 sneak peak,the alchemy lab was talked about; so was the hero academy and costumes (which I think were called skins at that time). While skins was not in the frequently requested thread, the other items were. So these two things are different, but they are related.

:bow_and_arrow: Community members often give feedback that there is not a ton of direct communication. We don’t see frequent AMAs or sneak peaks posted. Certainly there is more interaction with your team than some of us have experienced with other companies, but not anywhere near as much as what players would ideally love to see. But we as moderators often hear you are excited about sharing more information. From your perspective, we hear that we want more and that you do too, so why is it that it ends up being the reality that there isn’t more of that? Is there a thought process, like a company policy, or is it a resource issue? What causes there to not be more?

:man_technologist: We have a philosophy of small teams do giant things. We have to find what the best use of our time is and then get better from there. So it’s a process and there is definitely things we want to improve. It’s kind of like a marathon.
:woman_technologist: This kind of goes back to the feedback where very specific things would be helpful. Because if the feedback is that we are just not active enough. Well how does that manifest? Maybe the expectations are that we are going to like or comment on every post. That was never our intention. The forum was always intended to be player-to-player. We’ve said that a lot and probably sound like a broken record.
:man_technologist: There is definitely room for improvement. We always try to start small and then gradually improve.

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:bow_and_arrow: A frequent criticism to ‘Small Giant being a small team trying to do big things’ is that you make a fair amount of revenue — so why not add another team member?

:man_technologist: That’s really not for us to comment on. I will just say that in general it doesn’t make it easier to have a huge team. It’s just more noise – too many cooks in the kitchen.
:woman_technologist: We have a very special culture here and having more people doesn’t always mean better results. It could just mean more hierarchy and bureaucracy. And we are a very flat team here. There is never a time where we cannot go and talk to a coworker, there is no process. If I have an issue, I can go directly to the team with that.
:bow_and_arrow: Your premise is that you recognize that there are places where you are capacity constrained, but there are benefits to keeping the team the size it is.
:woman_technologist: We are also always looking at how we can improve. Perhaps some things that we do manually can maybe be done automated and that would free up time for us. We’re always looking for things like that.

:bow_and_arrow: You mentioned that it’s useful to have more specific feedback on things players would like to have more communication about. I think we actually do know some of those things, and some we have already talked about. Such as updates to the Shortlist of Frequent Requests. And there’s talk about the Raid Index that was published in June – some people would like to see more of that sort of thing. Sneak peaks are something people ask about often. Release Notes are another place where people have asked for more detail and clarity. And likewise the bugs that come up – so we know this is a ‘Known Issue,’ but what does that mean?

:man_technologist: We have to draw the line somewhere. On the Bugs & Issues topics, as an example, we try to say when something will be fixed, when possible. However, it’s not always possible as there are a lot of moving parts with the game development. We try not to over-promise or say something and then disappoint people. And sometimes these issues are beyond us. It can be something outside of this company. But we try to give updates.
:woman_technologist: If we get information that this will be fixed in version 25, then we write that. If it’s “we found the issue and we’re working on it,” then we write that. If we don’t get a timeline from the designers, then we don’t promise any timeline.
:man_technologist: And some issues are so rare that it’s hard for the QA team to reproduce. With the release notes, we try to include all the player facing changes – that’s the goal. But there have been cases where we made a mistake; then we try to update the notes. But to include all the small details could be problematic. There are a lot of “under the hood changes” that we feel will be more confusing to people.
:woman_technologist: It could be a lot of technical jargon that players won’t see or notice anyway, so adding that would just be noise at that point. We try to keep it as clean and easy to understand as possible.
:bow_and_arrow: For the things that are more game design oriented, there are often two separate pieces of feedback that I see on Release Notes. One is that sometimes they are incomplete, meaning that people sort of discover there is something that was left out – that is sort of an oversight issue, which we just talked about. There’s also a separate piece of feedback about the Release Notes related to game design decisions. When there is a game design decision that is not technical or even a bug fix, but is more of a change to balance or a new feature, you sometimes get a one-line bullet and a lot of the information that is ultimately shared is coming from other players. Some information is from Beta, and others is from players who played it once it’s released and they are sort of puzzling it out. Is there some way that there can be clarity on those latter type of items, since the game designers have clearly put a lot of thought into it? One thing I’ve heard recently on the forum is it would be nice if Tim would do a five minute video saying, “Hey, we’re releasing version 25. It’s got these new things in it. Let me tell you about one or two things I’m excited about that we spent the last few months on."
:man_technologist: That is a good suggestion. I cannot promise anything in the short term as it’s always a question about what is the best use of time. But I do understand the players always want to have more information and clarity. We can look into implementing some improvements, maybe start small and add something.
:woman_technologist: The Release Notes are simply release notes, and are not the place to go into these thought processes. But can we elaborate in a different thread or in short videos? We are discussing these things all the time and would love to do this. Personally, it would be cool to have a YouTube 5-minute videos with every team lead. Maybe one day?
:man_technologist: But then that would take from something else. But that is some feedback that we need to take into conscience consideration.
:woman_technologist: I do understand that if you just read a bullet point in a Release Note you are like ‘why is this feature even here? I want to know more.’ And again, that is why we love our community, and are so proud of our community, because it is up to the players to say ‘I use it this way’ or ‘this is what we’ve been asking for.’ Zephyr’s threads are so wonderful where he breaks down and converses on each new hero and each new feature. Can we do more of those? Maybe.

:bow_and_arrow: You mentioned earlier about collaborating with Content Creators. Some players say it is great that there are content creators in the community while others say that this should really be a Small Giant role — why are you not publishing infographics or putting out your own guides on new features? If the premise is that players are going to do this, that it is both reflective of small size and the community that you are trying to foster (where you have players that are engaged and want to do this), is there a way to facilitate that more? Are there certain resources that could be happening with the Content Creators so they can have an easier time doing that work?

:cat2: For example, there is a calendar that players are putting together and they have to guess what the dates are.
:woman_technologist: The calendar dates are tricky because they are all subject to change. If we give an official calendar then we are responsible for it. If, beyond our control, the designers decide to change a date (like for example, the Pirate event calendar), are we shooting ourselves in the foot by having a published calendar?
:man_technologist: And then some of the things we like to keep as a surprise. We are happily surprised when all the people have found the mechanisms around the schedule and are actually really close, like when the Rare Quests are spawned. It was never meant to be that way and we thought an official schedule would take the fun out of it.
:woman_technologist: I do understand that players like the ability to plan ahead, especially when it comes to ascending heroes. They want to know what Rare Quest is coming up for materials, or what event is coming, and which heroes may be featured. I understand why this is important. But it’s kind of a tricky one. Does it take some of the fun out of it, it everything is planned to a T?
:man_technologist: So we want to keep the balance of being surprised and that there’s always something new in game, instead of everything being published before hand, taking the fun out of it. But any time there is a schedule change we do want to announce that before hand. Or if there is new content, we always want to say those dates. That might be something we can discuss for improvements. Such as, would players need it more before hand, or when is the right time, and through what channel.
:woman_technologist: Back to the content creators, we are looking for ways we can better work with them and better support them. It is definitely something we are brainstorming behind the scenes.
:man_technologist: One thing we are preparing is a fan kit for all the content creators or any player. This would have assets which are nearly finalized that they can use on their websites or videos. That is coming up.
:cat2: Do we get to know what the fan kit will be once it’s finalized, so we can tell people?
:man_technologist: Yes, it will be free to share for non-commercial purposes. It’s basically images and pictures that are not available yet, like wallpapers.

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:bow_and_arrow: What is your favorite fan communication that you have received?

:man_technologist: We were talking about this. Surprisingly, we haven’t received that many yet but we have received a couple of gifts in the office which is really nice. It’s nice getting those. We’ve also received lots of personal emails and messages. It’s really awesome to hear from the players.
:woman_technologist: The fan art contest was one of my personal favorites. Just seeing the amount of creativity and love for the game. That was really meaningful. And it was really great seeing the way people who did not submit any work reacted to the work. Also the way the community really supported the artists was really great.
:man_technologist: We were afraid at first, wondering if there was really going to be enough interest. But then we received those amazing graphics and statues and cosplay. Everything. It was really cool. And that was one of the questions we received – are we going to host more of these? – Yes. Definitely. And we’ll look at ways to improve it based on some feedback that we received.
:woman_technologist: We can definitely improve it. And we definitely want to do it again. Whether we do it every summer or we do it twice a year. Would that be enough? Too much? We are always thinking of Forum challenges.
:man_technologist: And of course if you moderators have any ideas as well. I know the Thanos idea was awesome, as well as the Hero Madness challenge. I know it’s a lot of work for [the Mods] but if you need any help from us, we will always try to help you.
:man_technologist: I’d like to do Hero Madness again in March, but the person who led it may not be as active so we’d have to figure out who else can do bracketology.
:bow_and_arrow: Those two challenges in particular – the Thanos challenge and Hero Madness – were highly laborious for the moderators from a logistical standpoint, so it would be good to see how we can do them more efficiently next time.

:bow_and_arrow: Someone asked, noting that we often see weekly gem giveaways on Facebook, if the Forum is the main platform, why are you doing all these gem giveaways on Facebook? I do understand that you’re marketing on Facebook and Instagram instead of the Forum as the Forum is already full of current players.

:man_technologist: One correction, it’s not really marketing – it’s community. It’s actually for the existing players. Well, it is marketing a little bit but it’s more so for engagement. We do it more in Facebook because of the reach. We have more than 1 million Facebook likes. We have found out that it’s the most efficient way to engage all the players. But the Forum is the core and it’s our most active players. I cannot promise we’ll do weekly challenges on the Forum but we should do more challenges there.
:woman_technologist: Since it’s a smaller community, it would be the same people winning over and over.

:cow2: We’re talking about Facebook and the Forum now. Reddit has also come up. Where is the division of players at between these various platforms.

:woman_technologist: Facebook is the biggest globally.
:man_technologist: It depends on the game. Our audience is a bit older, so Facebook has proven to be the most popular. Facebook is more about engaging the current global player base. Note that the Forum is only English and will be staying that way, at least for now. Or maybe there will be separate platforms in the future as we go to Asian markets, but the Forum will most likely be staying in English only. Also for the moderation reasons. But we are looking for other ways to engage global audiences or global communities. I know that in Asia, which is a huge growing community, we’ll have to think of new ways to engage them.
:woman_technologist: We’ve been looking at how we can better engage the Asian communities.
:man_technologist: Like Korea, Japan, and China.
:woman_technologist: The Russian community has their own very active social media site. We don’t engage there but we do read it every day. I’ve been in contact with the admins there. Reddit is growing in popularity. When we initially opened, we thought that would be our main platform.
:man_technologist: Before the launch of Empires and Puzzles, we started with Reddit only. And then we found out that players were asking about the Forum. And then we found out that people like it better as a platform. So we concentrated our efforts there instead of Reddit.
:woman_technologist: But we read Reddit everyday and it is growing. Instagram is growing and we are trying to post more there to engage the community.
:man_technologist: And Twitter. But Kira had a good point. It’s all about the global reach. As the Forum doesn’t reach as far out as Facebook does.

:cow2: Are you looking at a different forum for Puzzle Combat? Or since it does come up and @DaveCozy answers all those questions (as he plays it right now), is it worth adding a new category for it?

:man_technologist: The plan for now is to keep it under the existing Forum as it’s still in the very early stages and is still being developed. It has only been soft launched in a few countries. During this soft launch period, there most likely won’t be a forum category because it’s not available for all players yet. So we want to wait for the global launch, and then we will have something. The current plan is that we rebrand the Forum, but it will have separate categories for Empires and Puzzles and Puzzle Combat. Because it’s easier than having separate things and some players play both. Discourse should support that pretty well. So if you don’t want to see the Puzzle Combat stuff, you don’t have to, or vice versa. That’s the current plan because the number of players that can even play at the moment is really small.
:woman_technologist: And our idea for that community is that it’s like what we have for Empires as well. We want it to be community driven and organic. We don’t want to create all of these platforms and try to grow the community ourselves.
:man_technologist: And we are still in the process of trying to figure out who is the audience and what does the player base wants. For example, maybe they like Reddit better. So we don’t want to make huge preparations and then have them say we hate this platform.
:man_technologist: Some of our players already play Puzzle Combat so maybe it is a discussion that we should have. Maybe we should have something on the Forum.

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:bow_and_arrow: Is there a plan for another round of Beta applications soon?

[UPDATE: there has since been a new round of Beta applications, which has also since closed.]

:man_technologist: We need to look into it. Maybe. Hopefully. I know that Season 3 is coming soon. I cannot make any promises yet. We want to keep it kind of small because we know it can be time consuming. And maybe it’s something we need to revamp. So we may take away inactive players and bring in new players instead of opening a huge list. We can think of new ways on how to include more, especially the active forum users.
:woman_technologist: And some of our content creators, who are not active on the forum, should be there.
:man_technologist: One idea I have been toying with, it’s not a promise or anything, but maybe the Forum Regulars – if you have the Forum status of Regular – you would get free access. You would not have to prove that you are active and have been providing feedback on the Forum. If it works, we can make it very visible that this is how you get access. We can then change the settings for Regulars too if it’s not working at the moment. It’s currently at the Discourse [Forum software] default settings.
:bow_and_arrow: That premise is interesting as there are conspiracy theories about how to get into Beta. It will be clear that we are looking for people who are active and give feedback and meet the following very specific criteria. This is a way more straight forward response than saying ‘hey, every now and then they open applications. And in a very weird, Harry-Potter-sorting-hat kind of way, they decide who gets in.’
:man_technologist: We have a very structured way of screening the applications. I sort of started the open application process thinking it’s democratic and everyone gets to apply. But the problem is we get tens of thousands of applications.
:woman_technologist: And it’s all done manually. We have to go through each one by hand.
:man_technologist: Because we want to really check their engagement as well as what they are doing in the game, like are they misbehaving.
:woman_technologist: We have to check moderation history. How active are they are playing the game? And we have to consider that time you are playing in Beta is taking away from playing in the real game. That’s a consideration as well.
:man_technologist: And maybe we can find a new way to brainstorm. But it may be changing so it’s not always the same people.
:woman_technologist: We can be public about our criteria.
:man_technologist: Yes. Definitely. And it’s basically decided by us, not the developers. While they don’t select the applicants, if they have someone they think should be added, we add them.
:woman_technologist: We had a Reddit user who started doing hero feedback. @mhalttu saw it and said ‘this is really good feedback and he’s someone that could be really good to have in Beta.’ So I reached out to them to see if they were interested.
:man_technologist: And that’s a good point. Maybe we need to be more active in communicating that this is the way that you get into Beta. Because the main intention of Beta isn’t to be like a QA testing. We have added more QA here. We needed more and we have a QA team here now. It is more about adding early feedback. Even though designers are doing all the automation and using tools to predict battles, it’s still desired to get actual player feedback. And also feedback about how new features look. That is the most important part of the program. So that’s why we cannot add tons of people that would never really share any feedback.
:woman_technologist: They are not Guinea pigs. They are not out finding bugs. That’s never been the intention.
:man_technologist: Even though sometimes it’s very helpful.
:woman_technologist: Yes, it’s helpful to see if there are bugs in the game but that was never the main purpose.
:cow2: That was the first that I’ve ever heard that. When I got into Beta, the first time my question was ‘what am I supposed to do?’ So I tried this and this and went in with the mentality of ‘can I break the game’ because if I can break the game now, then a million other people are going to totally break the game and we’re trying to catch it. If that’s not the intent, which is what I just heard, it’s more so – just play it. Give us your comments. If you catch a bug, great.
:woman_technologist: This is good feedback as players often ask “what is the point of Beta?” Just play it! Play it like you would the normal game. We don’t need you to be hyper focused on every little detail like bug hunting. Just play the game and give active feedback.
:cow2: That’s good feedback. I haven’t heard that before and I think I have been doing more bug hunting. And I’ve been doing stuff that I would never do in the game, and stuff that I think others wouldn’t do because it just doesn’t make sense, but I was trying to say ‘hey, has anyone thought of this. Would this break it.’ I was thinking that was the role and I guess I was wrong is what I’m now hearing.
:man_technologist: Well I wouldn’t say that’s wrong. That is one way of doing it. We keep getting feedback that we should give very clear instructions on what to test but we want people to go freely into Beta. Because we want feedback like “hey, I couldn’t even find these Hero Costumes,” – that would be a problem with that feature.
:woman_technologist: If we want to test a feature, for instance the Costume Chamber. If we helped you open the Chamber, then we wouldn’t get average player experience feedback. We can’t help you open the Costume Chamber or use the Keys to get the Costume. We want to see you naturally open it and say “oh, here’s the chamber” and “oh, this is how you do the mechanics” like an average player would.
:man_technologist: But definitely there is improvement here. Like how to provide feedback and, in general, what are our intentions.
:woman_technologist: And I will say that there has been feedback that has been overlooked, not read, bugs reported that got missed. And that’s completely on us. It’s human error.
:man_technologist: And we have made some improvements there. For example, we created the Beta Bugs category.
:woman_technologist: And we are learning from it. We took that as a learning opportunity here in house. And I can’t say it will never happen again but we’ve improved.
:cow2: One thing I’ve noticed is that whether it’s you guys or somebody else, almost every single Beta bug gets some sort of response back to it.
:man_technologist: This is the new way. Even though it was always done this way, it may not have been visible enough for the Beta players.
:woman_technologist: It’s always been read, but now it’s more visible, and that is one of the QA team members that is responding.

:bow_and_arrow: Related to Beta, a frequent reality is that content gets shared despite the prohibitions. I think there is often a sense in the community that the rule-abiding players are sort of punished, and have to go through all this extra effort of transcribing information to share since you don’t get to share screenshots. Meanwhile the people who are breaking the rules see everything like 5 minutes after it’s posted in Beta. Why bother having these rules enforced on the Forum when it’s like the Wild West everywhere else, with content being shared on Facebook and on Line?

:man_technologist: It’s a good discussion regarding what are the rules that we need. We cannot moderate what’s going on in Facebook and such.
:woman_technologist: That’s the thing. Our own channels (such as the game itself, the forum, our official Facebook page) are the only platforms that we can control. We cannot moderate what’s being shared on Facebook (fan groups etc.) and on Line or other fan groups. And we don’t know who that information is coming from. We don’t know the source. And we’re not going to do a witch hunt on our players and try to investigate.
:man_technologist: And in a way it’s good to have some sneak peaks from the players. So maybe in the future, you would be able to share. We could add a watermark or something. The problem with sharing the screenshots isn’t about the copyright, it’s more about players being confused because with the hero cards, the stats might change. So, if you have screenshots floating around and it’s different than the release version, it creates confusion.
:woman_technologist: Everything in beta can change. If we share one thing and the value changes, it causes miscommunication and some confusion.
:cow2: You just answered my question. I was always pondering in my head ‘what is the information they don’t want shared?” At first I thought there was a desire for a small group of people because things can change. But @zephyr1 puts everything on the Beta Beat threads so that can’t be right. Then somebody else mentioned it’s copyright of the card which you just addressed. So no, it’s more to avoid confusion if changes occur. In the back of my mind, I’m wondering what exactly is it that we are trying to protect. And I don’t think the community knows that either, and that’s why there are so many people trying to police it.
:woman_technologist: We appreciate the players that are trying to police it. It means they care about the community.
:man_technologist: And sometimes we have taken action on it. For now, the rule is there. Especially for videos because so many things can change.
:woman_technologist: And beta is not meant for players to get exclusive sneak peek knowledge prior to anyone else.
:man_technologist: And that’s one thing we should communicate – beta comes fairly soon before the actual release. It’s not like they are very early versions as those are the ones we are testing here. It’s like a stage where they are really playable and just before the launch. But the bigger features, such as Alliance Wars, they are tested longer because we want to get that early player feedback.
:bow_and_arrow: I’ve pointed it out to players that if their impression is that beta is about us as players serving a role in game design, that they are mistaken, as really a lot of the game design has already happened by the time we see something in beta. There is some fine-tuning and feedback, but it’s not like we’re having early conversations where Tim is saying ‘I’m thinking about adding something to the game. Let’s talk about ideas.’ It’s not like that. It’s more of a feedback very close to when things go live. But sometimes there is a gap.
:man_technologist: Those are the bigger features. They are introduced earlier. We have sometimes made drastic changes because something wasn’t working. But I understand that sometimes we just have to launch a feature as it is even though some players are disappointed or they don’t like some of the features. Sometimes it’s better to just release the feature if it’s working and then work on something new instead of staying with one thing. For example, matchmaking. It’s a never ending project. It’s not perfect but it’s working fine.
:woman_technologist: From our experience, as I would say that perfect is the enemy of good. We can spend so much time perfecting something and it can be a lot of time wasted when we could just accept it is working fine and move on to something else.

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:man_technologist: We are running out of time, but are there any important questions we are missing?

:woman_technologist: Who is our favorite mod and why?

:man_technologist: That’s a question we will refrain from. I’m not sure if this metaphor is apt, but they’re like our own children. Not in a bad way, but in the way that we don’t have a favorite.
:cow2: I figured the answer would be Coppersky.
:man_technologist: {Filled with emotion} Our first.

:bow_and_arrow: The only major topic that we haven’t touched on is game chat. You talked about the move towards automation for moderation. Maybe it’s not worth having a conversation about how moderation is working currently, then?

:man_technologist: We’re going to make an announcement about this. There are some technical aspects we cannot say. But there are questions about how moderation and reports are being handled. We cannot really talk about that. We can say that each report is gathered and then are processed by real human.
:woman_technologist: I want to clarify that when we say we are working on automation tools, there will always be real people reviewing chat. Reports aren’t just going to be left to bots.
:man_technologist: This just helps us to act on inappropriate behavior earlier. As sometimes we have found out that players just don’t report. And same on the Forum. Like if there is something happening, more people flagging helps the system to take it down. Discourse has an automatic moderation system. Like, if three people flag a post, the post will be automatically hidden. Same with the chat. We have some automation already there.
:woman_technologist: The system we have now is reliant on players reporting to us. And we have found that sometimes things don’t get reported, and if they don’t get reported, we don’t get to it soon enough. So we are looking at some automation that will help that process.
:man_technologist: Kind of filtering the messages. And hopefully we will have this for the Forum as well.
:woman_technologist: When it comes to alliance recruitment, we know we can improve on that. In alliance recruitment in general, there is lots of room for improvement, and we understand the frustration with that.
:man_technologist: But regarding the chat rooms, it’s like adding more is a bit tricky. Because chat is easy to do, but it’s not the game. It’s part of the game but it’s not the main purpose. It adds more risks. So, if we add a new room, is may be abused, such as used for inappropriate private chat.
:woman_technologist: Empires & Puzzles is not a chat app, it’s a game app. Chatting is a very important part of the game, we understand that, and the community wants more rooms but you run the risk of it getting more diluted, instead of a global community chat. However, we’re definitely looking at improvements.
:man_technologist: But definitely automation will help us detect moderation problems earlier. And we always encourage players to report but not to abuse the report tool. Don’t send reports on things that are not bad. But if you see actual violations, more players reporting the violating content will help. That’s why we need these automation tools. And we understand that in an ideal world, players shouldn’t need to do [reporting], but at the moment it helps us detect the problematic behavior sooner.

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So when game designers shoot down an idea for whatever reason, a response saying so and why would be nice that way players dont keep waiting and suggesting it over and over and over

Wanna declutter that space? There’s step #1

(Working right now so didnt get to read everything in full, just skimmed, will probly have more feedback after work)

Thanks @littleKAF @KiraSG @Petri @zephyr1 @Rook for puttin this together and takin the time to have the discussion

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:heart:
@ScottySG
Still reading will comment more later.

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Thank you again to all the mods for the time they put into this and the other hundred things you do out of your love for E&P and the community.

I appreciate how @zephyr1 tried to hold their feet to the fire, albeit briefly, in regards to constructive feedback, its current organization, and set up. Players have given an abundance of good ideas and QOL fixes already, and wouldnt adding additional hires to the team help this?

Yes, they were successful with a small team initially, but that doesnt mean its in SGGs best interest to stay small. Is it “too many cooks in the kitchen” to hire someone to make a precise and comprehensive list of ideas/feedback and keep it updated. To just hire someone specifically for writing code for a specific non game content but QOL task?

SGG has done a fantastic job and we all acknowledge that, but I find it hard to believe the addition of a few members to work on these issues will destroy the game process.

TBH, it sounded like alot of “corporate talk” from middle-high management." The issues have been identified. Everyone knows the solution is simple, hire someone. But due to “fiscal reasons”… which is usually a copout, management is unwilling to step up to their leadership/board of directors to advocate for what is really needed to affect a real positive change.

Is SGG scared to tell Zynga that they need more help/hires because they overpromised or prideful and want to have control over the game they made?

Edit 2: Maybe scared wasn’t the right word. I know that SGG started off as a small group and the game an extreme success in a short period if time. When something is so large and multifaceted there are so many different aspects (marketing, development, content, programming, etc) that I can see how a small group might be overwhelmed, or hesitant in their interactions with a large company like Zynga in asking for additional resources/help especially since they may not have educational/training backgrounds in that area of business. (and I dont mean the lawyer/legal aspect)

Edit: My response sounds a little harsh when I reread it, but that was my immediate reaction upon read through (Yes, I appreciate this wonderful game SGG has made, but improving to maintain their competitive edge over other companies is a good thing. #dont nerf my account)

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Why the random smiley? Did you impress yourself when you figured out how to do the drop arrow thing?(i mean i was pretty happy when i figured out how to make a poll so…lol)

Was it ever mentioned who actually knocked the mic off the table? If i had to guess, I’d guess it was petri

@Petri… the emoji is in the game so I’m guessing you meant the gif emoji wont be in the game?

Havin had direct responses from you throughout the forum, i believe this 100%

Translation:
Looking for cheat codes

Even the devs get bad boards?

Can we engrave this statement at the very top of the front page of the forum?

This is something that every player in this game needs to know. Though i will say that when i see the same suggestions or complaints for 2 yrs or even a year+, my patience does run a bit thin but glad to know that the designers are also engaged with the forum especially the ideas section

I see players trying to point this out to other players, but it’s typically not well recieved. Idk how/why but some players do actually think the process goes:
Suggestion, acceptance, implementation. They just don’t fully grasp there is more to it than that. I mean alchemy lab was a discussion for how long before it was an implementation?

Brilliant and from what I’ve heard/read was very very much needed, thanks for that

Too much to quote in the beta section, I’ll just say that the way you guys go about beta as far as directions makes a lot more sense now than it did when i was getting asked by players what they should be doing in beta(i mean if someone got a job at a place i don’t work at and called me to ask what they should be doing, yea a wth definitely comes to mind as first response)

Exactly. I try to point that out actually when players request more rooms. The # of rooms we have now i believe is sufficient enough in my opinion. Have you guys thought about making alliance recruitment the first chat a new player opens instead of general chat?(i know this has been answered somewhere but I’m too lazy to search as zephyr1 well knows)

I like the idea of automation to an extent. Glad the reports and violations will still be handled by human eyes. Now will the automation be able to be triggered by players? Say 3 players hit the report button on 1 message, will the message just become hidden from everyone the way flagged forum posts do? i can see that becoming misused very quickly and creating more problems, so definitely curious about that

Hmm all in all it was a cool read. Not as interesting as past AMA’s that were more game/content related and not so much focused on the social part of the game, but i think it definitely gave some insight on important issues and common pieces of conversation amongst the community

Anyways, thanks again for doin this. Looking forward to the next one

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I actually didn’t do that smiley face. I did the bulk of this post, but it was a group effort. @zephyr1 did most of the links and I think this section too. I’ll take credit for coming up with the transcript “avatars.”

I don’t recall. I don’t think it was knocked off. Just moved to an awkward place.

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Well i figured you did the avatars since yours isn’t a sheep lol

Microphones don’t move themselves. The public deserves to know who is responsible for the microphone troubles lol

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It’s an emoji for the guide to emojis…geddit?


We were talking about adding emojis to the Forum, using game characters and icons. It’s something people have brought up before.


:+1:


And crappy Summons, too!

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Well by looking at their chosen avatars, i don’t think they mind summons all that much since they use constant reminders :man_shrugging:

I mean you don’t see any athena, gm, guin, panther avatars runnin around for staff members(that I’ve seen)

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I should keep a running tally :rofl: Unfortunately, Kira had another fright this afternoon coming out of the elevator.

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I think that was me. :see_no_evil: Bloody microphones!

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Hahahaha

Knew it

Glad we can put that case to rest lol

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Young Petri’s childhood trauma

91b64b5145da3f7bd14444e4a49d70a3

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