Unofficial forums sound off on WAR's official forums

Caught up in the hubbub of Mythic's Call to Arms announcement for Warhammer Online was the revelation that they would soon be launching an official forum (OF) for the game. Since release, the brunt of these responsibilities has fallen to unofficial forums like Warhammer Alliance (WHA) and IGN's Warhammer Vault. These forums/fansites are currently the place to go if you want to catch the attention of a developer or simply engage the WAR community in a healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) debate on the state of the game or feature X vs. feature Y.

Obviously, there are benefits and drawbacks to having your community spread across several unofficial forums. Ryan Shwayder of Nerfbat recently came up with a list of three things official and unofficial forums can and can't do. One of the biggest questions people have right now is, "What will happen with the unofficial forums once Mythic launches OFs?" Will they remain relevant or fade away into obscurity?

We here at Massively decided to get the official word from the unofficial sources on this matter and had a chance to interview Mithan, head admin for all VN boards and Frank "PhoenixRed" Sanchez, assistant site manager at WHA. Continue reading below the cut where they answer some pressing questions.
What was your immediate reaction to Mythic's announcement that they will be hosting official WAR forums and why?

Mithan: I was expecting it. The biggest reasons really come down to the fact that today's market requires a level of feedback, support, and interactivity that you will only get from having your own OF. I've been running or involved in forums for well over 14 years now and I can say they are a huge asset for companies that use it properly (most don't) and I think it was just that Mythic moved to it. This will be good for the game.

"Blizzard and Sony have done a decent job of this... but they have not even come close to harnessing the potential available."

If anything, I was initially surprised by them NOT running a Forum. Obviously, we have tried to use that to our advantage on the VN Boards to try and provide an environment that the Developer, Fan Boy and Critic can enjoy. I think we did a good job until about December and then the inherent negativity in the community simply overran us. You need to realize that on our side of things, we really do want the developers to post on our site, but at the same time, we also have to allow reasonable debate of the game at hand. Our mods do a pretty good job of keeping things civil, but at the end of the day, they are only a few people who do this in their spare time. How much can they do?

So in the end, I think it was a combo of the negativity on the boards, the total lack of "control" in the medium and them wanting to capitalize on the opportunity that forums provide for them that helped them make the decision to take this route. Ultimately, I agree with it because I feel it is best for the game, even if it does hurt the fan sites.

What are your opinions on some of their proposed forum features (paid mods, strict COC, special privileges, etc.)?

Mithan: The feature stuff will be difficult but doable. Done right, they will turn their OF into a full "hub" for all sorts of in-game stuff being accessible out of the game (integrated mail system, pm system, bank system, etc) on top of the usual avatars and forum features that modern day boards have. Blizzard and Sony have done a decent job of this in my view, but they have not even come close to harnessing the potential available.

As for the moderation side of things, it will be difficult and have a lot of challenges and growing pains and I expect they realize this. Professionalism is expected if they are going to have a "strict COC." Examples of this include 24/7 coverage, very consistent moderation, and all the moderators being on the same page. To run them professionally requires a LOT of work and failing will result in many angry paying customers. We get away with issues on VN because at the end of the day, we are a free forum that uses volunteers. If you don't like us, you can go elsewhere and no harm is done. I expect they will start out with a Strict COC, learn that it doesn't work so well, and then ease up with time.

How do you feel about Mythic releasing official forums several months after release?

"They do NOT want to start with a negative atmosphere."

Mithan: The game has some issues right now and I would venture to say that the overall online "community" sentiment is negative (but hopeful since people WANT it to be good). Opening a board to that isn't going to do anything but transfer that negativity straight to their boards, which will be hard to grow out of. Their best chance at a successful launch is to get a patch or two out there that improves the game and then launch immediately after and ride the wave of optimism that comes from it. They do NOT want to start with a negative atmosphere.

Mark said he would maintain a relationship with your forums for all the past support you have given Mythic. Can you give us any details?

Mithan: I am not aware of any specific details but he may have spoken with Beibhinn or Swanny about it or is just making a general statement. Either way, we will try and maintain a board where hopefully Mark and the rest will feel welcome (and not threatened) to come and post a few times a week.

Where does your forum go from here? Do you have any big things planned in the near future?

Mithan: We will continue mostly as we have for the last few years. Our Boards are mostly a niche market now anyways, as most publishers have their own OFs, so the people we tend to get are people who have posted here for years and like the slower pace. The days when we were getting 70-80k posts a day are probably long gone.

This article was originally published on Massively.