Creating Memorable Public Community Adventures
For more than a decade, I have hosted public community adventures for hundreds of players at a time. They may seem easy to put together, however anyone that has helped me run them knows just how difficult they may be. Creating a memorable event is even tougher.
When we're looking to create a public community event there are several things we need to look at. The first thing to realize is that every player has a different motivation for playing. For some they play for loot and rewards, for others achievements and accolades, and for others they play for community. There is one thing that every human being craves from the time they're born to the time they die. Acceptance. People want to feel important, they want to feel useful, and they want to feel needed. If you can bring these things into your event it will be a huge success.
Now before we go into details, I want to be honest with you for a moment. Just because you create an event, doesn't mean players will flock to it. It also doesn't mean that players won't long for something else. Not every event you think up will be a great event that people remember. It takes practice and it takes understanding your audience.
For example the second season of the Telara Saga in RIFT. By the time we kicked it off players grew tired of closing rifts and doing zone invasions. They longed for something else. The interest of the community changed and by the end of season 2 the population was next to nothing.
Not a single person could tell you anything memorable about Season 2. However if you ask someone about Season 1 where we sieged the Defiant (rival faction) capital city of Meridian, you would hear wild stories about how hundreds slammed into that city and caused an entire block of servers to go offline. The event series literally drew over 800 players to the field for one epic battle at the gates of the rival faction’s city.
So what changed between the two seasons? The biggest piece that changed was the lack of an unsurpassable foe. In season 2 there was nothing standing in the way of success, no major villain, no unbeatable, unthinkable task to overcome. The best, most memorable, public community events I've hosted we're not the ones where the fight was easy, but was the one where we took players to a place they would never think to go or ever have the opportunity to see.
The most memorable experiences in a mmo don't come with the fights you should have won, they come from the fights you should have lost yet prevailed. They come from doing that which is not easily obtained.
Putting An Idea To Work
When conceiving a plan for a public community event it is important to consider a few key points.
Give a reason to attend
You need to offer some type of experience they normally wouldn't receive. Whether it's killing a creature so difficult it requires large scale coordination, or making use of a system only available to a select few, or a prize that is highly sought after.
Reward players for consistency
Offering rewards to players for participating is a great way to keep the population attending. Whether the rewards are distributed in game from killing a boss, or completing a quest, or something special you've managed to obtain that you want to raffle off, rewards keep players invested in your event.
Build a schedule
When thinking of your event you need to look at your own calendar. For your event to succeed it must be consistent. You need to have a schedule and keep to it. From my experience 3 month weekly events tend to be the most effective. 2 Months is doable but by the time the word gets around the event series is almost over. More than 3 Months and players grow tired of the staleness of the event and participation starts dropping off. The key to every successful public community event is consistency.
Spread the word
Once you have your plan set and your concept visualized it's time to get the word out. First off it's best to have some place where your event can be seen. Whether it's an entire website, or a forum post that you can point people to, you need a place for people to learn more information about your event. Once you have the information sheet in place it's time to promote it. I highly recommend traveling to the major hubs of the game you play and print a message stating the who, what, where and when of your event. In addition hit up the social networks, fan sites and official forums to drive more interest. With a little luck and perseverance your event will be in the spotlight and hundreds will come out of the woodwork to attend.
Get developer support
Many people have no idea how easy it is to get a little shout out or possibly even some prizes for your event. Simply sending the community director an email outlining your event plan and what you would like from them can result in prizes being donated and mentions on official social networks. It's a great way to get the word out. Many developers are happy to have players who want to run events on such a large scale.
Prepare for the worst, and plan around it
Anytime you gather a bunch of people together things will go wrong. This should be expected 100% of the time. If it doesn't it's a miracle. This is not just me being cynical, it's a hard truth. If you come into an event expecting it you will be much calmer and more clear of mind to deal with it. Having lofty hopes and expecting everything to be perfect is recipe for disaster. Any time you lead the public you need to expect them to do the opposite of what you say. There will always be people who don't listen, don't read, or outright try to sideline your event. It's a fact of life and the sooner you accept it as so, the sooner it won't tear down your event.
Attitude is everything
Many people don't realize how contagious their mood is when their leading an event. If you walk into a room angry others in the room will be quick to anger, defensive, or cold. If you walk into the room smiling others will smile too. The attitude you bring to your event will carry over your entire community so be sure that you are the light in the room mentally before getting started. This will make your events a lot more fun and keep the tempo up.
The burden of organizing and leading hundreds is no easy feat and you surely won't be able to do it alone. By trying it will lead to premature gray hairs on your head and a heightened blood pressure. Gathering a few friends to help you lead the mayhem will ease the tension and help you keep things on track. Plus it's always good to have a few people you can trust to pick you up when things go sideways.
Foghladha's Leadership Motto
There is something simple I teach every leader in the Gaiscioch family. "If you fail, it is your fault. If you succeed, it is their fault." The biggest tip I can ever give you is, do not pass blame on others. Instead pull the blame on yourself and it will show accountability and prevents players from attacking one another. You want to control the burden and keep it from destroying your morale. Simply saying "that was my bad, sorry about that" can often times lead to a few good laughs and turn the setback into motivation. In addition any time you succeed you should praise your audience and complement them. This returns back to the deepest human desire. Acceptance.
The road to leading a successful and memorable public community event is not an easy one. You will have to put up with a whole lot of ugly to make your event shine through. However I can tell you firsthand that when you see your event taking off, see people discussing it and praising it, it makes it all worth it. Just keep your head up and roll with the punches and remember to have fun.
Lastly, leadership is not about power and control. It's not about telling people what to do. It's about inspiring people to take action, to seek that which is out of their reach. The role of leadership is one of motivation, appreciation, and acknowledgement. If you can make people feel needed and appreciated you have a much easier time leading them to victory.
About the Author
Benjamin "Foghladha" Foley
Benjamin founded the Gaiscioch Social Gaming Community in 2001 and has since been the founder & activities director for this well known community. His role has gone beyond just running the Gaming Community and now includes running the Athletics Program in Portland, Oregon, as well as acting as the Managing Editor of the Gaiscioch Magazine, and is the Lead Producer on the Gaiscioch Livestream Productions. Additionally he networks with game developers to form relationships between Gaiscioch and development studios.
His experience in publishing dates back to helping his Grandparents who operated a printing press for over 40 years. In high school and college Benjamin excelled in journalism and played an active part in the school newspaper. Benjamin currently works full time as the director of technology for a franchise trade publication & education company.