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SWG's Community Manager on in-game events


Perhaps you can remember a time when the developers of MMOs were directly involved in player events -- either running them or just attending player-run events. In our interview with him on Massively Speaking, Richard Garriott mentioned a couple of times about hanging out with players as Lord British in Ultima Online. If you recall, Star Wars Galaxies had a whole team, lead by Jason "Pex" Ryan, that was completely devoted to creating and facilitating player events. It may seem that these days are fading with the scripted events common in more recent releases. Lydia "Zatozia" Pope, the newly appointed Community Manager of SWG, hopes to change that.

Zatozia has been with Sony Online Entertainment since May of 1999 when her department was still known as Verant. Under the customer service banner, she ran Historical Events for EverQuest. These were live GM-run events that were used to transition EQ from expansion to expansion. She was also a member of the Stormhammer Legends EQ server team, which specialized in GM-run events and storylines specifically for that server.

Zatozia is now the Community Relations Manager for Star Wars Galaxies, and we were able to speak with her about her personal plans for the title as well as how the SWG community is affecting other SOE titles. Click over the break to catch the full interview.

Massively: You're currently on Galaxies. How would you say that community differs from EQ or EQ2 or others you've worked with in the past?

Lydia "Zatozia" Pope: The community for Star Wars Galaxies is very highly active. It's probably one of our most active communities. They do a lot of live events themselves. They run a lot of player-run events. They are constantly submitting videos, artwork, event recaps, and things like that. That's something that our EverQuest community does, but generally, Star Wars is the top-ranked for that for our games. They are so active. Because we have the Senate, the Senate helps everyone become active. The Galactic Senate is even more active than it was in the past. They rotate every six months. They do weekly recaps that the development team and the community team look at to base what the state of the game is. I use that information for our reports.

[In] our other games, where we have community leaders, we don't get that in-depth with the feedback. Because of how active the Star Wars community is, we can get that from them. We're actually modeling the Galactic Senate... we are looking to change some of our other games over to that system because it works really well.

Why do you think that is? Do you have an opinion as far as that's concerned? Why do you think the Galaxies community is more active or at least more vocal than the other communities?

"We're actually modeling the Galactic Senate ... because it works really well."

One of the reasons I think it does work is because Star Wars has a lot of player areas in the game like player housing and the guild halls. EverQuest didn't have that until after awhile. It has a lot of social areas within the game itself. That alone is something that allows people to communicate better with each other. So, they are seeing each other more often.

One of the biggest things players do in Star Wars Galaxies is have those parties. They have a variety of animations they can do like dancing and special effects with their dancing. There are a lot of areas in the game that allow people to do a lot of social activities.

You mention the more vocal population. Massively has an IRC channel that we hang out in with readers. And they all know that I play Star Wars Galaxies. I play on Starsider, so there's always people there. They are always asking, "What is the population like?" I say that it's like how it's always been: It's huge. That's because I'm on Starsider. How would you say, in general, the population is? And what kinds of things are you looking to do to make, maybe, other servers more active or to increase the population or at least the activity of the population?

We don't give out population numbers. I think each of the servers has its own spurts of when there is a bigger population on at the time. We actually see big jumps when players run their own events. That is something I'm trying to do -- facilitate those events more. We have the calendar on the website. We are trying to teach people -- me and the events senator -- more about how to submit their own events, what type of events they can run (for people who aren't used to running elaborate events as some people are), [and] doing event recaps (showing how their events went). A lot of times you'll hear people talking about an event they had, but you don't see any screenshots. You don't see any feedback about the event afterward.

As you could see at the party on Friday, people like to get rewards for doing events. So, that's something I'm working with the development team on -- working on some new badges to use for events. So even if we weren't able to attend an event, the event promoter can submit a list of people who either won a challenge or won some type of activity at the event. We can just go in and flag them for that badge. I am working with the development team on a whole new system of badges that are specifically designed for community events.

That's really nice.

When we did our event on Friday, a lot of people already had the Live Event badge. It's an older badge, but that's the one I had available to give. So I was like, "Well, I have another one I can give." So Teesquared and I were scrambling try to figure out, "How do we give this one out?" We had it planned for [another event]. There were other ones that were more specific that didn't fit that need. So from there, we [said], "We really need to get some new badges for people because they really wanted that."

One of the other things I'm working on is running my own events. The community team -- not just for Star Wars Galaxies, but for all our games -- are setting up schedules for monthly events. For some games there may even be weekly events. Like Free Realms, they do an event every week. We are scheduling events that the community team can run. At the next event, you will see more than just me on the community team. There will be other people on the community team attenting the event as well. That will help people see that there are other people on the server. A lot of time people just don't know that they're there [because] they are so spread out. It gives people a little gathering activity to participate in. Hopefully we will get some player-run events to do the same type of thing.

If I could reiterate here, what you plan is to give event planners the ability to -- not give out the badges themselves -- but give you a list so then you can give out the badges for specific events?

The Events Senator and I are going to work on some guidelines, so it's not just one person saying, "I'm going to run an event," without actually running the event. We will have guidelines, and we will definitely have to have a recap of what took place during the event, screenshots of the event, and everything. And we may even have it to where particular people have to be involved in the event, so that we can see that the event did take place. On the community team, we are not going to be able to attend every event that players run because they run a lot of events. We want to leave it to the promoter who does have all the guidelines. They will get a badge for running the event, and -- we're still working on the details on it -- but maybe if someone did something outstanding at their event we can give them a badge for it.

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