Linda “Brasse” Carlson is one of the MMO industry’s most beloved community specialists, and genre fans everywhere boggled just a bit when Daybreak laid her off along with a number of other high profile employees last February. Carlson landed on her feet at Trion, and Massively OP recently caught up with her to ask about the new gig as well as her plans for managing Trion’s rambunctious playerbase.
MOP: How different (or similar) are your duties at Trion from what you were doing at SOE/Daybreak? Are you overseeing all of Trion’s MMOs or focusing on one or two? What does your new day-to-day look like? Are you having “The Fun?”
Linda “Brasse” Carlson: My role as Director of Community is similar but not identical between the two companies. Community management tends to vary a lot between studios due to the needs of different cultures and different games. Heck, it varies from month to month as our industry evolves! As I head up the Community Relations department at Trion, I am a generalist partaking in all of our games, while the Community Managers on the team serve as specialists in the games they support.
I help manage our team’s overall approach, responsibilities and roles, as well as our programs and policies. Currently we are working on new forum software (hurrah!), revising livestream processes, reviewing social media best practices, ramping up direct engagement with players, planning for trade shows, writing useful articles, reviewing forum guidelines and disciplinary processes, planning contests, looking ahead to stuff I can’t tell you about, plus meetings and more meetings about the meetings to make sure we’re all working together internally.
I also play all of our games (as well as a few others), but it sure is hard to get time to play when working in the industry – believe me, I am NOT complaining! Working in the game industry is the coolest and most challenging MMOG ever – I am most definitely having The Fun.
Trion has taken a lot of flak from the MMO community over the past year, in large part due to ArcheAge’s reception, as well as the state of the forums, which waver between spammy and toxic. What’s Trion doing to mop that up? Were you brought in to help player/studio relations? Are you tasked with turning that perception around?
I suspect that most game companies have taken a lot of flak over time. Us humans have strong opinions and wishes for the things we care deeply about, regardless of what that is, and we are not afraid to let it all out. In online gaming, it may seem like there is a lot of yelling, but we don’t take anywhere near the beating that the average sports team endures. That said, just like a sports team, if we’re not constantly seeking to improve, we’re doing it wrong.
We’re seeking to improve.
I certainly hope to have a positive effect on player relations at Trion – it’s my job! Our forums are our primary mode of communication with our players, and therefore a priority for the whole team; we are working to refine and improve our processes and policies. We also have more off-hours moderators and we’re working on new forum software to improve the experience for all.
No one LIKES banning people but I am not shy to ban any player who is ruining the forum experience for a hundred others. In truth, we only ban after careful consideration and documentation, and, except in extreme cases, after a series of warnings and suspensions. A perma-ban is the tool of last resort and should never come as a surprise.
Take it from me, a former troll, it IS possible to post, discuss, argue, provide feedback and be heard without being a jerk. People don’t put up with idiotic behavior in restaurants, cinemas or parks, and we’re not going to put up with it here. Posting on our official channels is a privilege, not a right – there are plenty of other, public forums out on the interwebz that will happily accept (and possibly even encourage) bad behavior. Not in our house. Be decent to one another (like 99.5% of the player base) and we’ll get along just fine.
Increasingly, we find that players are becoming part of the solution, by discouraging bad behavior. One way players can help us limit spam or toxic behavior is to use the “report post” button. A reported post alerts our moderatrs, who cannot be everywhere at once in person. Please keep it up! On the other hand, <squints at the reader> it is NOT acceptable when someone repeatedly reports other players because they are annoyed with them or don’t think we’re paying attention. Trust me, we are. Don’t make me smack ya.
As far as ArcheAge goes, I will freely admit that I had previously written it off as just another MMOG, by the time I had reached level 10. It turns out that I was very, very wrong – proof that even Dwarves make mistakes. The game becomes very deep and complex as you leave the shallow end, becoming an engaging, challenging lifestyle that inspires personal investment and loyalty. I think if folks head back for a second look, as I did, they are in for a very satisfying experience, especially if they long for a game with consequence and meaning.
ArcheAge retains a sizable, passionate and volatile gaming society, as befits a game of this depth. And yes, that means that emotions run high when things go wrong. We’re continually working to minimize these issues. Our dev team just returned from a trip to Korea to meet with XL, makers of ArcheAge. Everyone on both sides of the ocean are committed to continued improvements in the game and in our communications with the player base. I think we are already a long way from the launch, and heading in the right direction.
You mean beyond reaching max level in ArcheAge and Rift? I hope to become a solid part of the Trion gaming community. Every single game worth its salt develops a unique society over time, a micro-civilization in which a large population, influenced by their particular game world, becomes a living culture unto itself. That may sound a bit existential for a Dwarf, but it’s true. I want to earn my place as a player.
At the same time, I want to make sure that the Trion Community Team evolves and operates efficiently, consistently, and in collaboration with the player base on all fronts: forums, social media, events. We’re all in this together!
Finally, I am bound and determined to make a set of Dwarven armor out of this box of leftover Rift mousepads.
<raises a frosty glass>
Thanks for your time.