Should Guild Wars 2 have Official Forums?

This has been brought up a few times on fan-run forums over the years, but I noticed that the discussion never really took off and there didn’t seem to be much thought from the OPs. It’s certainly something I’ve mused over several times as well.

I’ve always been a forum fan for any game I’ve played, some more than others. As such, I am personally in favor of official forums and can’t help but curiously suspect that the recently released GW1 support forums may be an attempt to test the waters.

There are lots of arguments against the idea. Many of the smaller Guild Wars 2 fansites may find themselves hurting if official forums are indeed implemented, which is always a disappointment.  And the handful of large, established forums already serve the purpose of a centralized location for discussion.

That said, the general consensus seems to be why bother with official forums if we already have a place to go where Anet themselves take active part in?

Well, let’s take a look.

Population & Focus:

We should consider the inevitable jump in population during beta and then release. If GW2 is remotely popular, we’re talking hundreds of thousands, possibly  millions, of people, many of whom will likely look for a forum community at -some- point in their gaming career. Guild Wars fans are a passionate bunch, but those of us who are active in the community still make up a fraction of what will (hopefully) be an eventually much larger whole.  With that happening, splitting the community among different sites becomes a much better idea. Official forums will likely be a hub for a few things: lots of newbie discussions, servers, recruitment, and support; basically stuff fansites likely don’t want to or can’t deal with.  They in turn can continue being optimal for more niche discussions: community events, news, pvp, lore, RP, speculation, trade, & fan creations.

Features & integration:

One of the things that makes a forum experience great is the integration of in-game information, something that isn’t impossible but highly unlikely to be done with a separately run fansite.  The simple ability to easily display your actual character and his or her progress, updating retroactively, for instance is popular. Avatar, level, title, link to an armory (very hopefully a feature included), etc.

Recruiting guilds can link directly to a guild armory as well, certainly not replacing an official guild site but being an easy-access start to their efforts. Being able to hot-link to in-game tooltips for skills, items, mobs as well would be excellent.

Lastly, with all the apps, social networking, and extra features that Anet has hinted at for GW2, it stands to reason that many more of these can be directly implemented to a forum system. Communities are more than just talk, after all.

Interaction with Developers and Support

This is another important aspect of the forum experience. The community managers and a few other devs are all great at interacting with us  via fansites, but with the inevitable waves of new players, it would be close to impossible to keep up with all the questions on account issues. Basically, Anet will likely have a dedicated support / IT staff for this sort of thing, and I find it highly unlikely they will be using a fansite to address these issues.
A more organized and flexible tracker for mods, devs, and the like would also be good to have.

What about a merge?

This is not an impossible scenario, either. The wikis were once independently run and eventually assimilated into the official Guild Wars web network. However it’s still an unlikely outcome since the number one contender would undoubtedly be Guru, which is independently owned and run by Curse.

All in all, I personally think official forums would be great, even if just limited to a few, technical areas. Many games already have (or have had) healthy communities with both official and unofficial outlets working and thriving at the same time. There’s no reason GW2 cannot continue this trend.

To the readers: I really want to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think official boards would be good? If so, what sort of features or forums would you like to see or not see? If not, why? Any other musings?

About the author: Izari’s one of those obsessive fan types who’s been playing Guild Wars since the first beta weekend in 2004. She’s been blogging about video games for almost six years and is thrilled to have fellow fans to write for and with about the game. She can be found on twitter and really likes coconuts.

Further reading:

  • Kattar

    inb4 WoW forums.

    • Anonymous

      I had some really good times on my server forums, tbh, back in their prime (2007 ish). 
      Don’t hate, Kattar!

  • http://twitter.com/MalchiorDeven Clint Oliver

    When does Kat not hate? :)

    Yeah, at first I was entirely against an official forum.  Now though, I can see the mass of people that will be coming to Guild Wars 2, so I’m thinking an official forum will be needed just to hold all the people.  Guru is already getting out of hand, and that’s no fault of the moderation staff.  It’s just the people that come in after every convention.

    I’m certain the fansites will always have their place.  One thing I saw emerge really quick with Rift was the sheer number of specific fansites for a number of the game’s mechanics and combat styles.  I can already see the same coming from Guild Wars 2, not just the news sites like GuildMag, but sites with a theme like NecroBator.

    The key component is that Arenanet EMBRACES these fansites.  The fansite kit was a great start, and it’s really helped several people get their sites and blogs off the ground.  The next step is to go ahead and begin a fansite program.  This way Arenanet can recognize who they see as the most beneficial fansites for their product, maybe provide them some special tools for the fansite, and of course, generate additional advertising and ultimately revenue for the game.

    • http://belzan.wordpress.com Belzan

      I agree with a lot of your points. I hope ANet does with GW2 what they did with GW with the fansite roster. It helped fans find the sites and it acknowledged the sites who put in effort to help the community. For those who aren’t aware of this, check out this link: http://www.guildwars.com/community/fansites/

      • http://flame-throwing.com Cuth

        Totally agree with you Belzan. If Arena.net doesn’t create official forums, they need to have some way to push new people to the community. Hopefully the fan sites can each take a niche and Arena.net can give specific links to a number of them.

        I.e. For RP, go here. For Help, go here. For hardcore number theory, go here.

    • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

      “so I’m thinking an official forum will be needed just to hold all the people.”

      That’s precisely what you want to avoid.

      Forums can handle vast numbers of members, but the quality of conversation bottoms out rapidly once you start regularly getting over 2k CCU. Fansites deal with this by splitting up the audience: As a site gets bigger, and the quality drops, some members will migrate to quieter forums. Those forums eventually gain their own momentum, and may grow big enough to spark further migration. A healthy fansite community provides the ability for the population to naturally balance itself. 

      Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you work for) one fansite is currently dominating the Guild Wars 2 community, so we don’t see much of that benefit.

      • http://twitter.com/MalchiorDeven Clint Oliver

        I’m going to be blunt here, but honestly, I don’t want any of the immature, violent, and emotional forumers from the Blizzard forums in guru or any one of the established fansites (this does not include people from Blizz forums who are rational, understanding, and friendly).  I understand a few will get through, and that’s what moderation is for.

        It’s for that reason alone I will be selfish and say there could be an official forum for those kinds of people to whine at Anet all they want.  Doesn’t necessarily mean Anet has to listen (as we both know).  Beyond that, I know the people who want the smaller community or the more focused outlooks will go to fansites.

        That’s all I really got to go on.  It’s selfish, it’s crude, and it could be damaging to Anet, but it’s an attempt to save the community.  I don’t know which would be better for Arenanet in the long run, both on a reputational level and on a business level.

        • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

          Even if they all end up at whatever is the biggest fansite, there will always be other fansites out there – though they may not be on your radar right now. GW2fans.com, for example, holds a lot of promise as a secondary, smaller fansite. If it gets to the point that the most popular fansite is unpleasant and nasty, people can be encouraged to migrate there.

          • Anonymous

            I kinda have to agree on that one; it ties into my “official forums for newbies” idea. Not that I think all newbies are terrible trolls, but I feel like fansites tend to have a more experienced and dedicated playerbase. That’s the sort of thing I feel should be graduated to. 
            On top of that, official forums under the guise that Anet reps frequent there will draw most of the QQ and bitching in hopes of ‘being heard’ as opposed to a fansite. That is kind of selfish, yeah, but it does help the population of communities split into manageable niches. 

            I think all the small communities will gain some ground once the game comes out, as I said. right now there’s just not enough to really talk about other than repeating ourselves. 

  • Greibach

    I agree with Clint (Malchior). I never really like any official forums I have ever been to, so I originally would have said no. However, even now guru is getting more and more people and the feeling of a small community is starting to go away which is kind of sad. Not anyone’s fault of course, time always means more people, but when this game comes out I kind of don’t want to see such a massive influx into the guru forums.

    I definitely see where Izari is coming from too with the more special integration tools. Having an official forum would allow them to have more specific plug-ins and access to some of the cool features in the game.

  • http://belzan.wordpress.com Belzan

    There are definitely pros and cons to official forums. I have no experience with official forums, so I can’t speak to that, but I can see how the integration of features that you list in the article can be helpful and perhaps unique to official GW2 forums. 

    I also think retroactive official GW forums would be helpful once GW2 launches. Yes there are gobs of fan forums out there with lots of info (I’m looking at you Guru), but for new players to wade through that to find what they need can be horrid (and many will just use the wiki). Still, GW players would benefit from a place to ask questions about GW once the mass exodus to GW2 occurs. Granted, they could prolly still go to the fan forums for that, but I’m sure they’ll find a lot more trolls along the way. 

    Finally, I’m a little hesitant to commit to official forums as well. Right now there are 2 wikis that say essentially the same thing. One is official and one is not. I feel like the official forum would get preference over the fan based forum, if not by fans, then perhaps by GW staffers. 

    One more thing I just thought of. If there are official forums, they can take care of all of the general forum issues, providing opportunities for multiple niche fan site forums that cover things from RP to PVP to guides to title hunting to dynamic event mapping (because you know that last one is going to be someone’s pet project!). 

    So yeah, food for thought.

    -Belzan

    • Anonymous

      Yes.
      And another afterthought to that; there really is only so much volunteer mods can handle in any given fansite. I would know; I was a mod for one of the most popular Bleach fansites during it’s prime (BleachForums) and it was such a pain.

      The influx population for GW2 will likely require the sort of 24/hr monitoring that only paid mods can handle and have time for, and that’s something that will likely have to be on Anets plate. 

      • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

         You can provide that kind of coverage with volunteer moderators, it’s just about numbers and management. We had 50 staff on Guru at its peak, from all over the globe, and could have ramped that up further if necessary.

  • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

    The biggest negative to official forums is staffing. For it to be effective in the long-term you would certainly need a dedicated admin and a moderation team. Moderation teams need managing, so either you let that soak up community managers time, or you hire coordinators. Are your forums multi-lingual, in which case you will need localized moderation coverage? How do you ensure your mercenary mod team remain motivated and objective?

    To me, all of that more than outweighs the benefits of bringing some game integration to a forum. Nice as it is to have toys, it’s just a daunting amount of work and responsibility. Plus there’s no reason ArenaNet can’t create an Armory style page, and then fansites could add a custom field to profiles where that can be linked. Not quite as elegant, but most of the benefits can be achieved through other means.

    I think, over the years, Guru proved that fansite forums can be run with excellence and professionalism. They can be relied upon, cooperated with, and left to manage their individual communities on a day-to-day basis. That takes a huge weight off the developer.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not knocking Guru by a long-shot, I think they’ve done an awesome job so far. But I just don’t see them being able to keep up with the likely population jump come GW2, not the way official forums can (under the assumption Anet hires mods to take care of their forums). That and account support is something that I feel needs to be handled by officially Anet IT. 

      Guru’s also already having issues with many people, even those well known within the community, starting to shy away because of the nature of the discussions and in some cases moderation. I think the mood will change of course upon release since right now the forums are a whole lot of speculation and filler.

      The interesting issue (in regards to your reply to Clint) is that, for whatever reason, we’re -not- seeing a strong migration to other sites. IncGamers is the only community that has, so far, been comparable and even they seem to pale in comparison. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but I figure without an official game to talk about / not enough people there’s really no room for more than one major forum. Who knows once the game comes out and there’s actual, factual things to talk about.

      Overall, I think the only fan-forums that will really get anywhere would be extremely specialized ones (lore, rp, pvp). But that all remains to be seen in either case.

      • Aonsao

        I disagree. Guru makes money off of the forums. They are more likely able to handle it than ArenaNet. In addition, ArenaNet can’t accept volunteers to moderate like Guru can.

      • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

        Didn’t mean to imply that you were knocking Guru – I was just using it as an example to enforce my point.

        Regarding the ability to keep up, I’d say Guru is again an example I can lean on. As the biggest forum for Guild Wars, it was always a pretty healthy and happy place. Could an official forum emulate that? Perhaps, but you would have to commit heavily with staff, and hope you hire the right people and can manage them well.

        It comes down to a simple fact: Volunteer staff from the community, with good management, are always going to be superior to any average paid moderation team. They know the game, they know the community, they are passionate, and their success isn’t based on taking home a paycheck. 

        As for why there isn’t another large, successful community hub: We got in there first and fastest with GW2Guru. We had the benefits of a previous community to direct over, and we had five years of experience to build a forum that was welcoming, friendly, constructive and interesting. It was a recipe for huge success, and pretty much shut out all competition. Will that change in future? Who knows. It’s under new management, and that’s their worry.

  • Aonsao

    No. Unofficial forums are ALWAYS better. You can’t properly moderate official forums without someone complaining “ANET TOOK MY POST DOWN BECAUSE THEY ARE NAZIS”. QQ. Unofficial forums can be properly moderated and the offending user can’t say shit because it isn’t Anet doing it.

    • Anonymous

      I feel like that’s a moot point. I hear people calling forum mods on guru (and other unofficial forums) nazis as well. No matter where you go, people are going to disagree with most moderation, either because they feel they are always right or they just fight for the hell of it. 

      • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

        Guru forum mods may already be getting called nazis (amongst other unpleasant things), but it would be a whole lot worse if they were seen to be officially representing ArenaNet. If the community thought they had an agenda to promote the game and cover up mistakes there would be a whole lot more conspiracy crafting and angst.

        • Anonymous

          of course, it’s always going to seem worse coming from an official company. but that company is also responsible for their image, so they can’t really let people run amok on their forums, either.
          I feel like the official rift forums, for instance, were on the more lenient side of things, where the wow forums were stricter (in some cases, although mostly when reported by fellow posters).

          Forums are just a tricky subject overall. 

  • TedTheShred

    A-Net doesn’t need official forums, they need a kick-ass community hub.

    New players click the “Community” link on the official page, but they don’t get a simple list of fansites. They are instead presented with content. Snippets from twitter feeds and blog posts and forum posts and pictures of fanart and papercraft and events that are happening in the game right now. Some of it is official, most of it is unofficial. This page is maintained by a smaller team who go out and find the very best content, the best conversations, the hidden gems.

    All carrot, no stick. It promotes the growth of quality content and valued discussions (“Woo hoo! My blog post hit the top of the community page!”) without simultaneously requiring the resources necessary to successfully moderate an official forum (“Those facist mods delete anything their company disagrees with. Booo!”).

    It unites a fractured community without stomping over their existence.

    • http://www.dan-e-gray.com Dan Gray

      The problem is that you *do* want to promote a fansite forum, if you don’t have an official forum. You want your players to easily find a place to convene, find groups, guilds, trade, discuss the game… Not everyone will go out of there way to google for a forum, and many haven’t yet been introduced to what forums can provide. It’s crucial that you make it an easy step for new players to get involved in the community in that manner.

      Then you get the problem of implied favoritism, so rather than promoting one good fansite forum, you are left with having to promote every decent fansite – thus the list you describe. Not to say that your others ideas have no merit – they just fall by the wayside as being more time consuming, and it is left to the fansites to pick out hidden gems.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/belgeode Drew Bolton

    As far as I am concerned, Guru IS my official GW2 clearinghouse. The fact that the devs themselves frequent there gives me promise that they feel it is a viable entity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Urban-Chili/100002850944953 Urban Chili

    Yes I think they should have an official forum so everything is in one place. I hate having to check blogs, FB, Twitter official site aso to get ALL the informations. An official forum will also have more members to help and spread the news.

  • KM

    A game like this absolutely needs its own forums.  I feel very strongly that one of the failures of Warhammer Online was the lack of official forums at rollout.  New players should have an official place to go and ask questions and get a sense of their servers community and the game community itself.  Fan forums are not enough.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to see a place like GW2 Guru be regarded as official forums.  I put up with them because there is not much else out there right now but the admins and mods are horrible.  I’ve never in my life seen forums where speech was stifled as much.  Make a thread and it gets locked because there was another thread on the topic, bump a thread because you don’t want to get accused of creating a new thread needlessly and it gets locked because they consider it a necro.  Argue about something with another poster and the thread gets locked or the participants get emails scolding them.  Not to mention post deletions for whatever arbitrary reason the mod comes up with.

    So yes. Official threads please.  With less draconian moderation and certainly never ever deletions of peoples posts. Let Guru become a barren wasteland once something official and better comes along.

  • Kash

    I wouldn’t mind a fan site being the place to go, but something other the Guru is definitely needed. Right now they seem to be the place everyone goes to, but it’s near impossible to get a decent discussion going. I understand there needs to be moderation, like stomping out a thread that’s nothing but flames and buzz word original posts, but that forum goes no where in the sense of community building or understanding of the game. 

    You only get as much information as their mods deem suitable. 

  • http://www.theguildwars2forums.com/ Guild Wars 2 Forums

    I believe by now they have official forums.. But I do enjoy reading older posts regarding Guild Wars 2. Keep it up! 

    Cheers.