Oct 01

International Community Management – Take up Arms! The Time to Battle for Planet Utopia is Now!

Evolution: Battle for Utopia (EBU), for iOS and Android, is the best kind of mash-up game. Developers myGames have combined action, strategy and RPG, with a touch of Star Trek and city building. It sounds like a hot mess but instead it creates the kind of addictive fun that only an app game can deliver. Not to mention the graphics, which are better than some CG films. As with any freemium game, you can play for free with the option of IAP (in-app purchases) to speed up the game play, but a common flaw with this system is perhaps this game’s biggest ailment – to match the progress that the game is pressing you for requires frequent purchases. All too quickly the enemies become stronger than your weapon, the buildings need upgrading, and technologies need to be researched – although this is the driving point behind IAP, in EBU it seems uncharacteristically out of pace with the typical progression of freemium games. It doesn’t change the fact that I played for several hours, quickly losing track of time, to realize why many players say that EBU is their favorite game. Continue reading “International Community Management – Take up Arms! The Time to Battle for Planet Utopia is Now!” »

Sep 24

Game Companion Apps – Using the Second Screen to Extend Gaming Experience

The Spring release of Watch Dogs ctOS caught my eye. People were really excited about the gameplay and the idea behind it – maybe game companion apps (GCAs) are becoming standalone game contenders. For those unacquainted with GCAs (also known as ‘second screen apps’), they are apps that allow additional remote gaming features outside of the console or PC game on the player’s mobile device – what they offer varies from game to game. I have seen game companion apps before that usually provide some side content, maps, or a different customization screen, but Watch Dogs’ is different. It can be its own standalone game – as with most GCAs, the app is free, but with ctOS you don’t have to have the original game to play and you can play against console and PC players in tactical Mobile Challenges – for an app game that made me take a closer look. Somehow a console/PC can meet a cellphone somewhere in the middle to create a different gaming experience for both parties involved. Even though the addictive, casual gaming apps are common place on any mobile device, GCAs are striving to break ground in a new, and perhaps revolutionary, field. Is there a place between consoles and cellphones, and could this create viable, entertaining games? All of this got me thinking about “the second screen”.

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Sep 11

Video Game Community Management Review – Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin is brand spanking new and is making a colossal first impression. It was released on June 30th of this year and has already managed to snag GameSpot’s Game of the Month for July. Within four days of launching it sold 160,000 copies, quickly becoming Larian Studio’s fastest selling game (at the time of writing, the Collector’s Edition is still sold out on the Larian Vault). It’s easy to get pulled into the new game glow. On Original Sin’s website it describes the game as “a 3D RPG with old school roots” which is enough to make me feel tingly. Many others liken it to Baldur’s Gate, Skyrim and, personally, it reminded me of NWN – especially because of the inter-player relationships and “henchie” aspect. This nostalgia factor is something that modern gaming culture has been craving.

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Sep 05

International Community Management – Living a Fantasy Life with the Internet’s Friendliest MMO

If you’ve ever yearned for a game that will let you live the fantasy life of your dreams, allowing you to do things other games don’t, then this week’s video game community management review is just for you. We bring you Mabinogi, another long running, though underrated, MMORPG. While initially quirky in appearance (it promises that you can “live your anime life”), Mabinogi is actually steeped in tactical combat, complex character development options, and unending plots, quests and even jobs you can pursue. In truth, the appeal of Mabinogi lies in the fact that it’s unlike any MMO you’ve ever played. Nexon, the developers, really tried to create an environment where people can live out their fantasy lives, complete with customizable anime appearance (people who appreciate anime will automatically connect with this game). Throw in the passage of time, weather, commerce, Shakespeare, and the ability to rebirth and you have Mabinogi.

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Aug 28

Nintendo Localization – What Happens in the Treehouse, Stays in the Treehouse

Nintendo’s best kept secret is at their US headquarters. The Treehouse – an elite, tight-knit group responsible for localizing some of the franchise’s greatest titles – is located here in a high-security office. The only people that can step foot in these fabled rooms is the video game localization team which encompasses English translators – as well as French, Spanish and Portuguese for all of the North American market – the audio-visual department, product management and the quality assurance team. All of this security is to protect projects from leaks, company secrets and to maintain the Nintendo mystique. Nintendo has a reputation to uphold and wants to ensure that every single game that leaves its doors is polished, perfect, and with all the touches that you expect from them. It’s that level of intensity that makes Nintendo’s games such high quality – so the Treehouse remains a secret.

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Aug 06

Game Community Management Review – Lineage II

Being a fan of another NCSoft game, Guild Wars, I was excited when I was asked to dig a bit deeper into another one of their titles – Lineage II. One of the most exciting things about Lineage II is the fact that they proudly advertise the ability to play Truly Free (as they call it). This means that there’s no subscription and you don’t have to buy an access code or software. If players would like to buy in-game items that might help them on their quest then they can do it by using real money to purchase in-game NCoins. Players can play the game without spending a single cent – unless they want to.

 

Of course, it’s natural to think when games get this big that what’s going on behind the scenes is bigger than we could possibly imagine. It would take an army to support the hordes of players striving to improve their characters, complete quests, or find the perfect clan. It takes an army because Lineage II is so much more than the few characters you interact with on a daily basis. It has a huge Asian and North American following, multiple servers dating back to 2010, and over 14 million players. I was tasked with taking a look into their international community management and localization, so I started my research in the hotspot of activity – the forums.

 

CREATING BUZZ

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From Lineage II’s official site

 

At first glance, it appeared to be a very capable community. Players would respond and help other players and exchanges had a very upbeat and knowledgeable tone; a welcoming place and resource for new faces and a stomping ground for veterans. This is a big part of successful video game community management – when you can rely on players to help each other and provide each other with useful knowledge. Of course, this kind of relationship is to be expected on forums, but it really is the hallmark of a healthy community.

 

The sheer number of sub-forums seemed a bit overwhelming at first, but I quickly regained my footing. You see the typical News/Announcements, Questions, Discussion, Suggestions, Community; but a quick scroll down reveals Technical Discussions, Server Discussions, different Class Discussions, and the assorted archives. Staying caught up with these would clearly be an endeavor – and apparently it has taken its toll. The community managers are somewhat nonexistent. Other than the usual server maintenance announcements and events, the CMs are quiet and rarely even venture to clarify things when further asked. You would expect to find community moderators in their stead, answering difficult questions, making clarifications and helping to build relationships between the managers and the masses, but even they are missing. It was at this point that I realized the forums were relatively dead aside from a handful of people.

 

MAKING CONNECTIONS

lin2From Lineage II’s official site

 

I decided to move on to social media. Perhaps the faster paced day-to-day interactions were happening here. Lineage2.com only provides links to three social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. I was mildly disappointed not to see Google+ or a blog, but I figured that they had the big ones covered. When I looked at Facebook and Twitter two things occurred to me. First, there was no variation between the posts for either channel – if you followed one then you got pretty much the exact same information on the other. Secondly, 90% of the content was server maintenance announcements, peppered with a few screenshots from the upcoming release of Ertheia.

 

I began to scroll back through the history and all I saw were the same posts over and over again about the servers. Where was the fun? The engagement?

 

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A sample of the server posts

 

By the time I scrolled back to May I started to see more activity: contests, announcing winners, handing out buffs on servers, trivia, screenshot competitions; and then it just stopped. What happened here? It was a post-apocalyptic Facebook page. Though they still had events after this point, players were lucky to get one post about it. YouTube wasn’t any better. Previous years had anywhere from 15 to 20 videos uploaded – this year there are only two.

 

LISTENING

 

I decided to turn my focus to ‘why is this happening?’. The obvious answer is that fewer people are playing the game – and it seems to be true. Players in the forums share tales of woe about empty servers, the inconceivable amount of bots, and the question, ‘is it worth playing L2 anymore?’ What this game needs is not another update, more in-game stuff to buy, or screenshots – it needs more real people. Adding more community managers could help to create a buzz and get people excited to play again. Moderators could be appointed to help the CMs with daily tasks. Developers should shift their focus to eliminating the use of bots so that people actually work at improving their characters instead of relying on a program to do it. Lineage II is a great game and has the foundations for a fantastic community; it just needs to be populated. When a game starts losing players, the answer isn’t to reduce community management efforts in tandem, but to increase them in order to help combat this lull.

 

SUPPORT

 

This review isn’t all about what L2 needs to fix, because they do quite a lot right. Their customer support system is awesome. Everything is laid out in sections pertaining to common player questions: in-game support, account support, technical support and payment support. They cover all the bases upfront so that players can find their answers here before emailing the support staff. This is by far one of the most efficient systems that I have seen and I’m sure it helps many more people than the support team even realizes.

 

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Lineage II Support System

 

LOCALIZATION

 

It’s obvious that L2 has had some extensive localization – how else could a Korean game gain such a huge following all over the globe? The American website is huge with extensive information, links to community pages, the Marketplace, and downloads. While on the other hand the EU site is serviceable with basic information about classes, locations and enemies all available in eight languages – not the end-all-be-all resource, but it’s better than nothing. The Russian site is definitely a step-up from the European site by offering downloads, community links and server information, but the only thing that can compare to the content on the US site is on the Asian sites. Due to the game’s large Asian following you can find a lot of buzz on these here.

 

The official social media outlets are a bit lacking outside of the US. The Lineage 2 Europe Facebook and Twitter accounts are in English, but there are separate pages for Polish and German. Other than that there are no localized language posts on the main Europe page like you would expect. On the Asian side of things, all things Lineage II are announced on NC’s official channels for each language. This doesn’t seem to detract from the L2 mood since the official channels make a serious effort to respond to Players and create dialogue. Of course we can also rely on the fans to provide information and inspiration in any language.

 

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The Japanese vs. US sites

 

The amount of fanpages and clanpages is astounding and would deserve an article all to itself. Not to mention dozens of public and private servers that cater to any international audience – the amount of information is unlimited. Lineage II truly has worldwide fans and their love and appreciation goes into the country/language based pages they create. Not to mention the individual social media networks devoted to each niche of players based on their location or language – Lineage II proves that a game’s global reach is supported by their fan following. The creators have done an amazing job of localizing their game. The translation work makes you feel like it was made just for you, the player, and you might not even realize the detail they put into it. This is what constitutes a good video game translation – you don’t even realize it’s translated. Couple that with the ability to find localized material online and you’ve truly created a world-friendly game.

 

That is why the connection between community management and video game localization is integral; because once you have reached that worldwide audience you need to preserve the connection with people. I was more than a little disappointed to see a fabulous game with nearly nonexistent community managers – a nonexistent community! From what I could see L2 had that, but for whatever reason it is dwindling, and the lack of CMs, moderators, and overall excitement in their social media is not improving their situation. They have everything in place here to have the most vibrant MMO community on the web but they’re not taking advantage of it. Players don’t need to be bombarded with new things to buy and server updates – they need a community to make things exciting and developers to crack down on bots so the game can get back to what it was; players coming together to complete quests, improve their characters, and have fun.

 

CM Scorecard:

Creating Buzz: **

Making Connections: *

Listening: **

Support: ****

Localization: ****

 

I was very impressed by the scope of Lineage II. Their localization and customer support system are very well thought out and implemented, and their loyal fanbase further promotes their international image and stellar game. Now if they could step-up their community management game then they would be a force to be reckoned with – and it wouldn’t take much – because they already have the framework in place, they just need the people to populate it.

 

MO Group International provides excellent international community management, video game localization and quality assurance testing at a price that fits with your project. We offer our services in over 40 languages and can custom tailor our video game translation services for your needs. If you’re interested in our specialties and services then feel free to contact us today for a free quote.

Jul 25

Bubble Witch Saga’s International Game Community Management Strategy in Review

The Witching Hour: Game Community Management in Bubble Witch Saga

You may have heard of King.com via its plethora of successful Facebook games such as Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes Saga. King.com’s incredibly simple, and therefore incredibly addictive games have caught up with the Internet the world over. The bright colors and simple concepts make the games attractive to people of all ages. The question is, how does King.com keep their gamers happy? International community management is the answer, and they have the immense job of handling plenty of ardent fans from around the globe. Let’s take a look at Bubble Witch Saga.

Bubble Witch Saga is active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as well as on their own specialized forums. Like any good international community management team they must deal with fans’ complaints, problems, and ideas while promoting the game. They also keep a channel of communication open between players and developers. They’re sort of like the referee in a football match; they want the best performance for both teams and they’re there to resolve any issues, protect your interests, and keep everyone well informed. For example, recently on Bubble Witch Saga there was a rumor spreading that it was possible to obtain around 5,000 free Facebook credits. Community managers are there to dispel said rumors and keep you informed:

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Rumors such as these can often cause friction with disappointed players, and this is where community managers have to step in to diffuse the situation. Issues like these are what community managers deal with on a daily basis; on the Internet rumors spread like wildfire, and they are there to contain it.

Community management is not always visible on Bubble Witch Saga, but that does not mean they are not observing and monitoring the community. They will step in when needed, and on channels such as their Facebook and Twitter pages they provide useful and entertaining updates on the game. In fact, the forums are quite cleverly set up. Gamers post questions and fellow gamers answer, which creates a sense of community within the game. Truly desperate questions like losing money you spent can be directed at customer support, but other questions can be answered by other gamers. This doesn’t signify that the community managers don’t care – it’s quite the opposite in fact – by abstaining from the conversation they are stimulating discussion amongst users to promote the community and strengthen it.  However, it can go the other way, and one question leads to a list of questions that the community managers need to answer.  Here is one such example:

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Bubble Witch Saga also has its own website which hosts forums and support pages. This demonstrates the success of the game, and makes it easier for community managers to see what gamers have to say about Bubble Witch Saga. When it comes to the forums, the layout is clear and succinct – a player instantly knows where they should go for whatever they need. Moreover, fans in the forums appear happy overall, and when they aren’t, community management is there to offer support. King.com is setting a fair example of what community management should be. Without effective community management their games wouldn’t be half the success that they are and, by the level of attention to their support, it’s evident that they are aware of this.

However, it is not always obvious how to access forums or support pages in other languages, as everything is in English. This could be a problem for those who enjoy the games, but know no English. On Google Play you can find Bubble Witch Saga in French and Spanish, but when you visit the Facebook page or official website, everything is in English. While it is useful that you can access the game in different languages, it could be a little difficult for the gamer if a lot of the information and support is only available in English. However, use of other languages by Bubble Witch Saga can be found, such as on their Twitter. A fan asks something in Spanish, and they are replied to in Spanish. If there is enough demand, then perhaps there should be a separate Twitter page for Spanish, as well as for any other languages supported.

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One aspect of the Bubble Witch Saga game community management that is an asset to King.com is the Facebook page. It is easily accessible, full of information, and clearly laid out. There are many useful pictures and updates to keep fans in the know. Similar to that is their Twitter with pictures and updates. However, again the Twitter posts are not localized into other languages, although there does seem to be a Spanish resource available to answer questions, as the above screenshot implies. For both Facebook and Twitter, much can be said about employing a multilingual community management strategy. Not having a variety of popular languages makes it harder for international fans to engage with the game. If there were localized community management then King.com could open up a whole world of new opportunities and possibly even expand into new markets.

There are two features which are missing on the Facebook page which is interesting to note. There is no wall for fans to post anything to, and there is no way to send a private message to Bubble Witch Saga. In this sense they aren’t accessible for communication, although they make the game easily available to users. The only way that gamers can communicate through the Facebook page is by making comments on the pictures and videos that are posted. This leads to many gamers trying to post questions on the comment section, derailing the topic and causing much confusion. Moreover, some users are simply spamming the posts by putting ads for coins and the aforementioned free Facebook credits, which suggests a neglect of moderation on this page. This is unhelpful for the majority of users and should be removed by the community management team. Here is one example of recent spam on the Bubble Witch Saga Facebook page:

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These sorts of posts are annoying for gamers and community managers alike. However, if a gamer is forced to ask a question on such a post, they will get a notification from every other person who posts after them. For the gamer it can feel like all the other fans’ comments are spam, especially if they are not getting their questions answered by anyone. And not all the questions are answered, or if they are, it’s only after a significant amount of time. Questions are addressed sporadically. Moreover, if you have a question and you are on the Twitter/Facebook page, it’s not immediately obvious where you should go for customer support, nor whether there is any other language support for non-English speakers. Surely if you offer the game in French or Spanish then support for these languages should also be offered?

International community management is a challenge, and it is one that King.com and the community managers at Bubble Witch Saga have taken on relatively well. The game has a huge following and plenty of positive reviews. Information and useful data is provided to gamers as well as the opportunity to communicate with community mangers and other fans. They also prove that multilingual community management works, and can be discreet. Their style is to be emulated but King.com’s approach could be improved by offering an equal level of support for each of the languages that they cater to. Effective multilingual community management can help a business with its online community by reaching out to others who previously felt isolated, or even by reaching out to new markets. English may be a widely spoken language, but customers who are offered support in their own language will feel more comfortable interacting with that service and are much more likely to share their positive experiences. Game community management will never be a simple job, but when your fans are happy it is rewarding.

MO Group International is an expert in multilingual community management, and localization. With experience in over 40 languages, we can provide high-quality advice and professional services tailored to your business needs. Please head to the website for a quote on our services.

Jun 27

UNICEF and Star Wars Charity Event Kicks off – MO Group International Recognized as Founding Member

MO Group International Joins Star Wars: Force for Change to Support UNICEF’s Innovation Labs

Obi-Wan said that the Force binds the galaxy together. Now it’s time for Star Wars fans to come together to prove the weight of his words. The Star Wars: Force for Change charity sweepstake is supporting UNICEF’s Innovation Labs to help solve many of the common problems in developing countries. Some of their projects include: supplying rural communities with low-cost water hand-pumps, registering children so they can be reunited with their families after natural disasters, and the solar-powered Digital Drum which provides children with educational material in communities without electricity.

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