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Posts tagged ‘BatsyBatsy’

22
May

AOEO and Orcs updates

Quite a few updates to make here for one post.. I guess I have been slacking and should of got these out sooner! I blame University for taking up too much of my time! In the last week we have had some new AOEO news and a new trap spot light for Orcs Must Die. So without further adue, here goes! Read moreRead more

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3
Jan

Robot Entertainment signs off from Age Community

January 3rd 2011 marks the day when Robot Entertainment officially retires from Age Community both the forum support and the support for ESO. Robot took over the support for Age Community and ESO shortly after Ensemble closed its doors In February 2009, the support in place at Robot was similar to the support offered at Ensemble. Microsoft has decided to take operations of Age 3 in house and will be lead by some of the same Community team behind Age of Empires Online plus a dedicated community administrator for Age Community. Read moreRead more

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4
Sep

Age of Empires community fragmentation begins as new forums launch

 

As announced previously Microsoft is continuing with its new community venture for Age of Empires Online and has announced the launch of a new community website at www.ageofempiresonline.com. As a result of this launch this will see the immediate fragmentation of the Age of Empires online fan base where by there will be two official forums for the Age of Empires series, one for legacy games such as Age 3 and Age of Mythology and another for Age of Empires Online. Why Microsoft has chosen this path is bizarre as having two forums for one franchise can only offer fragmentation. It would be like Halo Reach detaching from Bungie.net and setting up shop somewhere else (Edit: Halo Reach actually does have multiple community websites). Or Lionhead breaking away its Fable 3 forum from its website. It doesn’t happen with other IP but its ok to do so with Age of Empires.

In the past Microsoft has typically treated Ensemble developed games poorly in terms of community investment. Since the closure of Ensemble Studios, Age Community has suffered a number of bugs with modern browsers resulting in the website looking terrible in , including  in Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 7 and 8. Images are cut off and out of alignment and despite launching a new game in the Age series Microsoft has still not invested money into making the website look suitable, and even usable in the cases of cut off web buttons. The website looks rough and patched together and does no justice to the Age franchise. Then we also have Halo Wars which was promised “exciting things to come” when Microsoft’s 343 Industries took over. The result was community madness with almost no moderation and no ”exciting things” has ever been forthcoming.

It is a no brainer that by splitting up the community for the same franchise is bad for the community. Age Community has been incredibly successful, particularly at Ensemble Studios and boasts almost 90,000 users at the time of writing. Now all these 90,000 users will be forced to setup another account on a totally different website should they want to discuss and hear news about Age of Empires Online in an official environment. Moreover, those who check forums often will now have to flick between the two as some may not realise Age Community is not the official site for Age of Empires Online. Especially seeing as Age Community purports to be the official community website for Age of Empires as a whole based on its domain name and branding.

The whole process seems messy, unthought out and has negative impact on Age Community. Despite having a dedicated community team at Microsoft they have completely missed the massive oversight of the community fragmentation having two forums will bring and have been unsympathetic to the Age Community by not investing in that website going forward and over the past year knowing that another Age game was around the corner.

Microsoft are hiding behind legal and technical issues which had apparently required them to develop a new community. However both these explanations are questionable seeing as the new website runs on the same software as Age Community. Having looked at the website closely it offers no benefit whatsoever other than to fragment and duplicate community content. The gamertag integration could easily have been implemented into Age Community as evidenced by Ensemble’s work with HaloWars.com which shares the same community software again. The supposed “legal issues” are also dubious and Microsoft have not been forthcoming about what these issues were. Robot Entertainment has worked on Age Community and Halo Wars after Ensemble’s closure so there has been no problem before using a third party developer to look after community websites. I have not been able to determine what the legal issues could possibly be and can only assume it comes down to poor decision making and lack of attention to the fan base of Age Community that has resulted in this ill advised decision.

Age of Empires looks like a great game but the community management is way off course for Age of Empires best interests in my opinion as you may have gathered from the tone of this blog post. I am very disappointed.

Robot Entertainment has stated that they will continue support of Age Community for as long as Microsoft allows and will continue to look after the community going forward. Microsoft has not given clear indication of plans for Age Community and no-one from either company has updated the Age Community homepage beyond just an announcement so far. For reference I include comments from both Robot Entertainment and Microsoft below:

“Microsoft does have a community team in place to support Age of Empires Online, but that doesn’t change the fact that Robot Entertainment is very interested in and dedicated to all players who are a part of our community and who play the games we develop. Dunkman/Aloysius and I will continue to support and maintain AgeCommunity.com and the players there until such time that Microsoft decides to change direction with the site.”

- Justin Korthof.  Community Manager at Robot Entertainment


The decision to make new forums for AOEO wasn’t simply, “we want to fragment the community”. This was never the intent but there are legal issues that arose (which I am not at liberty to talk about) that made it necessary for MGS to create new message boards for AOEO. I have every intention on keeping AgeCom updated with AOEO content. AgeCom wont be recognized as an official outlet – as AOEO.com will be – but will be up-to-date with content. I can’t tell you exactly right now how AgeCom is going to be utilized in the future, but AgeCom will not be forgotten about and abandoned to the wasteland.

 Robot Entertainment’s community team isn’t being utilized for AOEO – but they do still run AgeCom. While they’re not “officially” the community team we (Cosy and myself) ARE in constant and close contact (if it assuages your fears any – I’ve been friends with the Robot team since before I took this position) and have no intention on changing that. Our (the MGS team) main concern as a community team is the community.

- BatsyBatsy.  Community Manager at Microsoft Game Studios

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20
Aug

Robot Entertainment not officially involved with Age of Empires Online community

 

Some disappointing news has been revealed today over on the Age Community forums. BatsyBatsy the Community Manager for Age of Empires Online has stated that Robot Entertainment’s community team will not be utilized for AOEO. There seem to be some legal issues having Robot Entertainment manage the community output directly which is a great shame. Those who may of thought Robot Entertainment were building new community websites for its new projects may well be disappointed to hear that future AOEO community content will not be derived from the studio.

The decision to make new forums for AOEO wasn’t simply, “we want to fragment the community”. This was never the intent but there are legal issues that arose (which I am not at liberty to talk about) that made it necessary for MGS to create new message boards for AOEO. I have every intention on keeping AgeCom updated with AOEO content. AgeCom wont be recognized as an official outlet – as AOEO.com will be – but will be up-to-date with content. I can’t tell you exactly right now how AgeCom is going to be utilized in the future, but AgeCom will not be forgotten about and abandoned to the wasteland.

 Robot Entertainment’s community team isn’t being utilized for AOEO – but they do still run AgeCom. While they’re not “officially” the community team we (Cosy and myself) ARE in constant and close contact (if it assuages your fears any – I’ve been friends with the Robot team since before I took this position) and have no intention on changing that. Our (the MGS team) main concern as a community team is the community.

- BatsyBatsy of Microsoft Game Studios.

Additionally, not having Robot as the source of community content also relegates AgeCommunity.com into unknown territory. AgeCommunity.com was established by Ensemble Studios as the hub for all things Age of Empires and has been the website supporting both Age of Empires 3 and Age of Mythology. Despite Ensemble’s intentions as having this as the one stop shop Age of Empires website it will no longer serve as the official AOEO community website. Instead Microsoft will setup their own forums at www.ageofempiresonline.com and will be managed by a community team at Microsoft and not the team at Robot who many members will be accustomed to.

BatsyBatsy of Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) explains that there were legal issues although it is slightly confusing as to what those issues may be. At first thought it would appear that because Robot Entertainment is a third party developer for MGS, Microsoft is required to protect the continuity of the Age of Empires community and by having community operations in house they can ensure the website is managed in a way they feel fit and are not dependent on a third party company for maintaining a community for the highly regarded Age of Empires IP. If Age of Empires Online was developed by Ensemble Studios as an internal MGS studio, the Ensemble team would of been able to continue the AgeCommunity.com legacy as they would be apart of Microsoft and thus automatically fulfilling Microsoft’s communtiy goals.

There are slight mixed messages with the above theory. Robot Entertainment was contracted as a third party developer to support the HaloWars.com community and the community for Age of Empires 3. If Microsoft cannot legally have third parties managing thier community games why was Robot responsible for both these IP’s? Why can they not continue with AOEO? Unfortunately these questions will probably go unanswered.

As a result of these ill-advised decisions at Microsoft Game Studios the Age of Empires Community faces fragmentation as both the “Age of Empires Community” and “Age of Empires Online” community run side by side. In the past Microsoft’s taking over of Ensemble communities has faced backlash from members owing to poor community management. (See the Halo Wars fiasco here and here). However, because the Age Online team at MGS is different to 343 Industries the ageofempiresonline.com website may well recieve better treatment and attention than Halo Wars.

Despite having no “official” involvement with the Age of Empires Community, Robot Entertainment continues to have its own independent discussion boards at RobotEntertainment.com. This will enable fans of the series to reach out to the developers at Robot Entertainment. 

Readers may have gathered from this post that I am very much in favour of developer run communities. Looking at internal MGS studios Lionhead and Rare, they both have thriving communities for their games managed by the studios directly. The community websites created at Ensemble Studios were always full of information and excellent management. It is a great shame Robot Entertainment will not be able to continue this legacy with AOEO on an official AOEO website. I am extremely disappointed that Microsoft is treating Robot Entertainment as what would appear to be a ”purely the developer of the title” stance.

Should any more information become available or statements received from either MGS or Robot I shall update this blog post.

Update: Robot Entertainment responds to this article

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