I have worked for Paradox just over 10 months now, and had quite a lot of experiences meeting the fanbase of Crusader Kings 2 in particular, but also Paradox fans in general. You hear a lot of nasty and concerning things when you start out as a new game developer. “You want to go out on the forum battlefield? Why would you martyr yourself!? You have so much to live for!!” I figure I’d write down my thoughts after becoming a season forumite these last months, for posterity’s sake.
Nah, it isn’t actually quite that bad. Most of the time, anyways. I usually split the forumites into a couple of categories, though I guess it would be more of a scale rather than hard set categories:
- The Newbie: These are entirely new to the game, and the ones starting threads asking for help, clarification and advice for the game. They are usually relatively uninterested in engaging with the devs, as they seem to have enough on their platter just getting used to the game.
- The Occasional Forumite: These are players who aren’t active forumites, but rather drop by occasionally. In other words, they are often not entirely up to the date on whatever is happening in the game.
- The Veteran: These are active forumites, and they are usually up to date on every event that happens on the forums. E.g. they know about the accidental leak last Thursday, they know what the Devs said about a certain topic 3 months ago, and know the game down to every detail. They are passionate gamers, to put it lightly.
- The Jilted: These are the players who once used to love the game, but have gotten bitter or disappointed with the game over time. There is usually a handful of these, at the very least, in most active game communities. They still remember what the game used to be like, the good old days.
An important thing to keep in mind when looking over all these categories, is that most players interact with a Dev and stick around a forum because they are passionate about the game in question. They care. They want the game to be as good as it can be. Rarely do you have actors that are simply trying to cause issues for the sake of causing issues.
The first lesson you have to learn as a dev on a forum is that everything you say matter. People will put extra value on your every word, and they will remember what you say even months or years later. A good example of this was the “Hellenism” debate that happened on the Crusader Kings 2 forum. Adding the Hellenic religion as a functional religion in CK2 had been a debate for years, and every time someone asked for it the very same dev quote was pulled out as a reason for why it wouldn’t happen. Even when it got more and more obvious we were infact doing that very same thing for Holy Fury, people were still in denial until we outright confirmed it would indeed happen. That random thing you mentioned 2 months ago? Someone still remember that, and have the quote saved just in-case. Keep that in mind, always.
The second lesson is that while there is a handful of people who remember your every word, there is hundreds who drop by every now and then, and will ask the same questions over and over. That is the nature of a forum where a lot of people drop by to get a singular question answered. My advice would be to prioritize answering a question once, and let the forum itself handle answering the repetition of that question. After all, you have the active veterans who still got your quote saved, why bother spending dev resources on constantly answering the same question, when they will do it for free?
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, miscommunication will be a daily occurence. Most games are sold in a plethora of countries, from Europe to NA to Asia and/or Africa, and will have players of all types of nationalities. In more cases than not, players will have English as their second or third language, and that might be the case for you yourself as well (it is for me). Miscommunication will happen, and people will take your words out of context, or misunderstand what you are trying to say. In some cases people will misunderstand, and leave the forum, because they got the (wrong) answer they were looking for. In other cases they will misunderstand and propagate the incorrect explanation of the question they used to have. In either case, my experience has been that you just have to try to continue being as clear as you can be, and clarify if people seem to misunderstand. There is no hidden trick to it, it is just the downside of having so many people of different backgrounds gathered in one place, with one common language.
Keep in mind that whatever you say as a dev matter, people will misunderstand and take things out of context. But they do care about the game and what you say, it is simply how a forum works. Try to be as clear as you can be, and remember that forumites are in-fact grateful that a dev is willing to set aside time to communicate with them, and assuage their fears about the future of the game they love and play.