As that transition from fan to employee is always a fascinating transformation, we recognize that it's not an easy decision. Massively itself has raised a handful of MMO community managers, so this news is particularly of interest to us. For that reason, we tracked Tom down and asked him some questions about his new role at KingsIsle. Follow along below for the complete interview.
Massively: First off, congrats on the new position at KingsIsle! I know this may be a dream come true for you, but you mention in your recent announcement blog post that this has been a long time in the making and that getting a gig at KingsIsle was never an ultimate goal. What was it that changed your mind?
Tom Purdue: It took a lot of introspection. A busy father of three doesn't casually stroll into a game industry career. KingsIsle is a great company that I have spent many years getting to know; it's a game company I believe genuinely cares for its employees. As an added spark to the fire, I love Pirate101, and I get to continue being a part of a gaming community that I think is one of the best out there! Once I had my family's support, it was a dream realized.
One thing that I think prevents many fansite owners from making that leap to the development or community management side of things is the move -- especially when it involves family. Did you find it hard to convince the family that moving 1000 miles away for this job was a good idea?
I'm still in the process of moving my family, and it's tougher than I thought. The entire experience will be worth it, though, if everyone grows stronger and learns from the experience. I have all the faith in the world we will blossom here, but I don't want to mislead you by saying it's all been rainbows and unicorn spells. There have been some tears shed by everyone; we're human. On the other hand, Austin is a very cool town, and I can feel everyone's excitement growing as the reality of living here is upon us. Plus, now I'm offering my family a couch to crash on when they visit.
"If the Pirate101 community is anything like the Wizard101 community, the fans will start holding parties and contests from day one, and I will be there to support."
The game is great! I love tactical-based games, and for those already familiar with Wizard101, this is going to be an absolute joy to play. The real test will be grabbing an even wider audience than Wizard101, which is pretty huge by itself. You get everything from the first-time gamer dipping his toes into something new to the hardcore raider just stopping by to mix it up with something different. You also appeal to everyone from pre-teen to grandma. If tactical strategy and pirates help more people decide to give the game a try, then great!
What special plans do you have for Pirate101's community when the game launches?
That's classified information! I'm still on my second week at work, so I'm still thinking community kits and web graphics. If the Pirate101 community is anything like the Wizard101 community, the fans will start holding parties and contests from day one, and I will be there to support. Stay tuned; I'm definitely going to throw an epic pirate ship party.
Will you still be able to be involved with Wizard101 at all, or is it strictly Pirate101?
My job will be to focus on the Pirate101 community, but my roots are grounded with Wizard101. When I can help, I will. In fact, just the other day, I helped test a new housing game with the programmers and QA. SQUEE!
What would you say to community members from other MMOs who wish to make that transition from fansite to community management?
I really hope that it works for you like it did for me. Take a hard look at your life and the philosophy of the company you're going to work for to make sure that it's going to be a good fit. If it makes sense, go for it and don't give up! I wish you all the best of luck and hard work! Happy dueling!