Nov 022011
 

There has been some discussion about what Senior Community Coordinator David Bass said on a recent Mos Eisley Radio podcast with regards to their plans to host a second Fan Site Summit next week. Some sites have claimed that David Bass dissed all the uninvited fansites by saying that they would die off after SWTOR launches. We thought it would be useful to post a transcript of the section under contention. The following section begins at 26:22 of the podcast.

David: This is actually more of a fansite meeting, I want to say, between us and the sites we’re bringing out because we want to kind of take a look at the post-launch landscape for fansites. One of the problems that a lot of communities have, a lot of MMO communities have, is that before launch there’s this huge excitement – I call it the honeymoon phase – it’s like when everyone’s really excited about the game and the game can do no wrong.

More What David Bass Said and Comments after the jump.

And it’s amazing, like “Oh my god, this is going to be the best thing ever,” and so you get all these fan sites that pop up, and every game gets like you know, hundreds and hundreds of sites from random individual people who are just like “I’m going to start a site and I’m going to run it and it’s going to be the best ever.” We have been spending the entire year supporting that, and helping those people out and helping them to create those fan sites and foster those sites and foster new audiences. But one of the problems is once a game launches, that honeymoon phase dies out. People get their hands on the game and just start playing the game. I’m not saying the honeymoon phase dies out because the game is bad necessarily, but it’s more like, you know, it’s no longer that dream in your eyes. You can actually just play the game. “Oh ok, here’s what the game is.”

And so you get all these sites that kind of just disappear and people lose interest in doing their site, either because they’re focusing on playing the game or because they move onto other things.

Zach: Or, I would also say, because there are so many sites out there that are kind of doing the same thing. A lot of people go, “Well, what’s the point of me doing this because if these guys over here at site X are doing what I’m doing, and they’re doing it better, I don’t know what to do.”

David: You’re hitting the core of it, and that is our concern, and that is something we want to avoid as much as possible because the last thing a player wants to see is to come to our site, and you know, say on our website there’s, well there is a fansite directory on our forums. You go to that and you see a list of 200 sites and let’s say 150 of them are just posting guides for the game. How do you know which one to go to? How do you know which one is the best one? And eventually the good ones will rise to the top and everyone will know, this is the site you go to. For WoW, if you want to min/max, you go to Elitist Jerks and you’re looking up all their info, right? That’s going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s fine. But the problem is, all the ones at the bottom, those sites are just going to die and they’re going to disappear because they’re writing guides, and it’s exactly like you said. “We’re never going to be as good as them, we might as well give up.” Or they’ll actually merge with other sites and they’ll be like, “Well, I can’t do this on my own, I’m going to join this site and work with them.” Which is great, but we want to encourage the sites to branch out more. To figure what it is that keeps them unique, and to embrace it.

Zach: Yeah, because some people have really good ideas and when it comes to executing those ideas they can do it very well, but the problem is they might not have the staff or the resources to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, so it’s kind of like you find these guys over here and go, “Hey, maybe you should focus on not so much on creating walk-throughs or things like that, but maybe just like little how-to videos, or maybe this is something you could do that’s really not out there and next thing you know, they’ve kind of carved out their own niche.

David: That’s exactly what it is. We already have that in our pre-launch community. We’ve got sites like SWTOR-RP, who are the role-playing site. We’ve got R2-DB who are, they are an item database site and they’ve got some amazing tech, if you haven’t seen their site – I always love giving them a plug because they’ve got some pretty stuff on there. And you’ve got sites like Darth Hater which do up-to-the-minute news, and sites like you guys which aren’t so much about the up-to-the-minute news, but are about putting out a quality podcast.

The conversation continues with Zach talking about how Mos Eisley Radio evolved and how they became more involved with the SWTOR community. Listen to the full podcast at Mos Eisley Radio.

Thanks to Saravi for providing a transcript to the following section of the same interview:

David: … You found your niche and that’s something we need to make sure everyone else is ready to do and is able to do… One of the first things we told all of the fan sites is this isn’t a competition. This isn’t like, “which site is going to be the best one?” This is, “how can every site provide something unique so that people want to visit every site?”

Zach: Yeah. It’s really hard not to get in that mindset, because I know that was there early on.

David: Yes, of course it is, but our goal is to make sure that people understand that we’re behind them. We don’t care what your traffic numbers are… We don’t care how big you are or how many people listen to your stuff. We care if you’re putting out quality content. That’s all we ask.

Zach: Yeah, well, I think, too… One of the things that’s helped over time is… I mean, I’ll admit, before I got to know half the people, I had that “this is a competition” mindset. And then once you get to know people, it’s like, “I don’t want to compete with these guys. You guys are cool,” and that was one of the cool things about the first fan site summit and I’m excited about this one because there are some new faces coming to this one – and there’s a lot of old faces – and it’s gonna be an opportunity to where we just get to hang out and get to know each other, and then once you get to know each other, you don’t feel as threatened. There’s not this whole… “these guys don’t like us because we get more hits than them” or, you know, something weird like that. That all gets thrown out the window and I don’t think most people care, so….

David: And that was… I mean, you keep striking on what our goals were. Like, that was one of our goals for the first fan site summit, like… I’d been working with every site individually and I was just like, “man, these guys are all so cool. Let’s put them in a room together. I mean, like, let’s get them working together and stuff and now there’s so much crossover between the sites that the communities enjoy, because they like all the other sites. And so you get those mega podcasts and everyone’s like, “yeah! It’s like everybody I love in one place!”

  18 Responses to “What David Bass Said”

  1. The content following that brief discussion is also relevant:

    David: … You found your niche and that’s something we need to make sure everyone else is ready to do and is able to do… One of the first things we told all of the fan sites is this isn’t a competition. This isn’t like, “which site is going to be the best one?” This is, “how can every site provide something unique so that people want to visit every site?”

    Zach: Yeah. It’s really hard not to get in that mindset, because I know that was there early on.

    David: Yes, of course it is, but our goal is to make sure that people understand that we’re behind them. We don’t care what your traffic numbers are… We don’t care how big you are or how many people listen to your stuff. We care if you’re putting out quality content. That’s all we ask.

    Zach: Yeah, well, I think, too… One of the things that’s helped over time is… I mean, I’ll admit, before I got to know half the people, I had that “this is a competition” mindset. And then once you get to know people, it’s like, “I don’t want to compete with these guys. You guys are cool,” and that was one of the cool things about the first fan site summit and I’m excited about this one because there are some new faces coming to this one – and there’s a lot of old faces – and it’s gonna be an opportunity to where we just get to hang out and get to know each other, and then once you get to know each other, you don’t feel as threatened. There’s not this whole… “these guys don’t like us because we get more hits than them” or, you know, something weird like that. That all gets thrown out the window and I don’t think most people care, so….

    David: And that was… I mean, you keep striking on what our goals were. Like, that was one of our goals for the first fan site summit, like… I’d been working with every site individually and I was just like, “man, these guys are all so cool. Let’s put them in a room together. I mean, like, let’s get them working together and stuff and now there’s so much crossover between the sites that the communities enjoy, because they like all the other sites. And so you get those mega podcasts and everyone’s like, “yeah! It’s like everybody I love in one place!”
    _________________________________________

    The disappointing part of all of this (from my perspective) is that the re-invites, intentionally or otherwise, suggest that the 2nd fan site summit is “everybody they love in one place!” I love a lot of those fan sites, too, but I’m a fan. BioWare is BioWare and they are not surveying the post-launch landscape; they’re taking an active role in shaping it. They’re giving VIP treatment to a select few here, which isn’t a terrible thing, but they’re leaving the rest of the fan site community to figure it out on their own.

    If it is true that BioWare does not intend to completely overlook the value of the small/new/low traffic fan sites, perhaps the organizers and staff attendees of the in-person summit could look at hosting a virtual summit where representatives of the many fan sites out there could get in on the discussion regarding the future of the SWTOR fan community.

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! It clears up a TON! You rock!

  3. Saravi hits on some very key points which are being overlooked. I have to state just one more time: If this was taken and that is all there was, generally (and only generally) it is completely benign. Add to it misunderstandings of the announcement, comments made on twitter and other such piece that made up this pie and the concern remains “How this was delivered left things to be desired”

    Now before people start getting all fired up again, I did what any responsible fan site would do and I spoke directly with David Bass about that exact concern. We had a great 1 on 1 conversation that was clear and concise. We were able to pinpoint issues and get them worked out. But you know that is what we as a community should do. Discuss, argue debate because we have the same goal: The best community we can have. That can ONLY happen when we work at it diligently and passionately. That doesn’t mean we agree, doesn’t mean we see the same things. Most importantly it doesn’t mean we belittle each other. Each side has their offenses.

  4. “How this was delivered left things to be desired”

    That pretty much summarises 90% of their community relations, testament to which is how often they have to go back and clarify what they mean because they don’t command the English language with enough precision

    Whether it was not explaining there wouldn’t be a worldwide launch before starting pre-orders and so everyone in the red zone blew up over it or swimming or tunnel shooters or talking about story for so long they made people sick of hearing about their biggest selling point…

    I will laugh like a drain if one of the shunned leak sites becomes the big name place to go for all things TOR which is, I understand, how mmo-champion started out.

  5. Hmm. I must have missed this issue on the whole.

    I’m a strong believer that almost all fan sites should be associated with the TORSyndicate though.

    It really makes it easier as I, the fan/listener/viewer has a lot easier time finding new sites and content through one known site than searching for them each individually.

    I can say for certain that I started following TORWars, The Cantina Cast, TOROcast, Nothing Gaming, Aartan Away, Mos Eisely Radio, R2-DB, Ask a Jedi, SWTOR Life, and of course, Corellian Run Radio almost solely because of the TORSyndicate link.

    I knew about some of these sites before TORSyndicate, but I didn’t start to follow them in full until I saw them on TORSyndicate, and I’m very happy that I did.

    It’s simply free advertising and all sites have to do is not break the NDA. Good for the fans and the sites.

  6. @Saravi Thanks for posting more of the interview. I’ve added it to the original post.

    I definitely get why people might think BioWare should not have invited the same fansites to a second round from the perspective of “touching” a new group of fansites. That wasn’t the stated goal for this summit, but it is tough for the other sites to see what seems like the favored group going again. It’s a natural reaction, feeling left out of the club. Keeping in mind the two very different themes of the two summits, though, it is also logical to bring back the veteran sites because those are the ones that will probably go head to head and encroach on each other’s space. Getting them together in one space to connect, to negotiate, to foster community not competition, to help new sites form relationships with the veteran sites is a good thing to do.

    If it was all new sites, there would be no mixing with the more established sites, and the chance for that cross promotion is lost.

    Still. The fact remains, we get to go twice and it doesn’t look fair to those on the outside. I understand why people don’t like it.

    Finally, I don’t agree that because a fansite doesn’t go to a summit that they are left on their own. There are other ways to connect to the community team at BioWare. I really like your idea about some kind of virtual summit. Are you part of a fansite or podcast? I would contact David Bass and suggest such a thing. I’ll put it on my list of things to suggest. *ties string around finger*

    @Brehon The tone you strike here is a lot different from what I was hearing on last night’s podcast! Your points expressed here are quite reasonable and sympathetic. Your podcast was pretty much the exact opposite. :-O I never once heard anyone say that what David said was “benign” on its own, rather exactly the opposite view was expressed repeatedly and expressed as if it was a fact, not an interpretation. You make a somewhat fair point that context matters, but it was not at all clear in the podcast that you were making an interpretation based on context, and it’s quite likely that at least some of your listeners will not bother to check for themselves.

    But it’s great that you went ahead and contacted David Bass and smoothed things out, even after you guys told BW to go eff themselves repeatedly haha.

    Now, ahem. Next time we shall have to have a talk about this whole fansites sucking BW’s d**k thing…! *stern look*

  7. It’s obvious to me what DB is saying.

    His point is that they don’t want everyone doing the same exact thing upon launch. They are afraid that, if everyone does the exact same thing, that many sites will die off. They’re having a dialogue with a number of the fansites in order to prevent this.

    I have no idea how they selected the attending sites. Traffic? Community influence? Quality? Some sort of perceived staying power? All may have been a factor – but not every fansite could be invited. It’s just not possible.

  8. @ Kathy . . . you have listened to their show before right? It’s the gamer evolution of sensationalist media, and that’s the intent. The shock value. I still listen to the cast just to get a different perspective on the game and the community, but you really shouldn’t take all that they say seriously.

    I mean, you wouldn’t listen to Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh without interjecting a bit of your own intelligence and personal experience. Same should be said for that cast.

    Still a decent show, but take it with a grain of salt, and the LAST thing you should have done was respond to him like this. Just smile, give it a chuckle and go about your business, don’t jump into the muck with them.

  9. Kathy;

    Fair enough. Rant is my style, yet speaks nothing to my actual professional demeanor. Did I hurt my core issue, clearly, but again it was never against the sites. It is wrong on my part I let that get lost in my comments. Without using it as an excuse, I was pretty heated after talking with Rockjaw and what not. My errors in this are not lost on me.

    To be fair, I did tell Mr. Bass I felt the critical sites didn’t have proper representation. He disagreed 🙂

    Once again, fair enough.

  10. I am glad someone took the time to clear this issue up. Some people were blatantly lying about what David Bass said and now we know it.

    This is one of the things I love about CRR. I know I am getting a fair shake on things and not being lied to when I listen to this podcast or read anything that is written here. After listening to the entire podcast that prompted this I can honestly say I am very disappointed by a huge portion of the community who took part in it.

    I also think it is funny that people are basically flip flopping on all the trash talking they did on that podcast because they clearly understand what they did was wrong. I will say this though I have a huge amount of respect for the Pink Side of the Force though now. I didn’t know they really before but now I will be watching them way more closely.

    Again CRR I am glad to see you guys paving the way with the truth.

  11. I’m technically part of a fan site, but its content requires launch and it’s not *my* fan site to be back-and-forthing with Bioware about. I’m not even comfortable speaking for or about it without the go ahead of those responsible for creating and maintaining it. My concern is one that is general at the moment, as a fan of not only SWTOR, but also of its community.

    In an MMO, where we will be interacting with other fans of the game every single time we play, the community is critical. We have such a great community and I don’t want to see it divided. Obviously, BioWare has an interest in maintaining an active, positive and growing community, but I don’t like the direction they’re trying to steer it. I’ve seen this before and it doesn’t end well. I could include here the epic saga of the NWN community of 2002-2006, but suffice to say, BioWare has screwed over its community at large in the interest of raising up a select few (with good if self-serving intentions) before.

    Moves like these drive a wedge into the community. There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing the most popular or promising groups within your community or offering them an exclusive opportunity, but you can’t say “we support you, big or small,” take no active role whatsoever in supporting, encouraging or helping all but the biggest, most successful fan sites, and expect to be taken seriously. BioWare supports everyone who’s not going to the fan summit? HOW? With a downloadable fan site kit? Please…

    If they are going to present themselves as a developer that supports their community, they need to take a wider, more inclusive approach. Thus far, they are not doing so, at all and while I hope like heck that their intention with this fan summit is to listen to the future plans of the attendees and making various resources available to the community at large in support of such plans, I have this sick feeling that their agenda is somewhat more self-serving.

    I have to add here: I’m really blown away that David Bass would state that the bottom 150 sites would have nothing but guides and such, when in a post-launch community, guides to leveling, crafting, gear, group instances and raid instances (also mods and guides on which mods to use) are in the highest demand. While there is still a high demand for news, opinion columns, podcasts and the rest, it’s a complete shift in focus: “Help me to know more about this game” becomes “help me get the most out of this game.” Consider the most popular resource sites for WoW: Curse, MMO Champion, Elitist Jerks, Thottbot, WoWHead, Tank Spot, etc… It’s not for their news, opinions or entertainment value.

  12. Thanks, everyone for keeping things civil.

    @Cornbread Ha, if someone had told me that I was stepping into the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck zone of SWTOR coverage, I might have stayed away, but Brehon came here and acted like an adult, so I thought I’d try responding to him in the same way, and I think it actually went pretty well. It’s nice to know there’s a reasonable human being with a brain behind the rant hehe.

    @Brehon I appreciate that you swung by and didn’t turn tables up-side down. 😉

    @Saravi I was with you until the last paragraph. David didn’t say that the bottom 150 sites would have nothing but guides. He was creating a theoretical situation to illustrate the point that it would be bad if 75% of the community were trying to produce the exact same content. If 75% of the fansites decided to all write a guide on leveling your ArmorTech crew skill and Scavenging skill and no one did videos of boss fights, that would be bad.

    He didn’t say “the bottom 150,” he said “150,” by which he meant to differentiate from the fifty other sites (in his scenario) that were NOT doing guides. He was not making a judgment call that the 150 were somehow lower than the other group.

    The points you raise about what BioWare’s role in the community should be are valid. There are potential dangers. We are trying to go in with our eyes open. I have definitely made a couple jokes about BioWare wanting to align us with their Borg Master Plan. I can tell you that based on our past dealings with BW, it seems unlikely that David Bass’s skull will split open to reveal a sinister fansite-controlling entity. But we will certainly keep an eye out! We’re pretty strong-willed and independent here at CRR and would be highly-annoyed with anyone trying to tell us what to do.

    It’s hard for me to judge how responsive or inclusive BioWare has been to the fansite community at large. All I know is that we were nobodies once. We came on the scene last summer when all the “big” podcasts were well-established and we just threw ourselves into the trenches and started making friends with the SWTOR community and started producing our content. We found BioWare to be very responsive to us and always helpful. I can’t think of any time where I thought, “Man, these guys really need to do more for me.”

    Maybe it’s a different story for the other fansites. What specifically would you like to see them do? That’s a great topic of discussion for a virtual fansite summit.

  13. @Jeff Yeah, we’ll never know for sure how they chose which sites, even if we ask because they’ll have to give an answer designed not to piss people off, which as we know, might very well be impossible hehe.

    @Justin. Thanks, we appreciate that. 🙂

  14. @Saravi

    “Moves like these drive a wedge into the community. There is absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing the most popular or promising groups within your community or offering them an exclusive opportunity, but you can’t say “we support you, big or small,” take no active role whatsoever in supporting, encouraging or helping all but the biggest, most successful fan sites, and expect to be taken seriously. BioWare supports everyone who’s not going to the fan summit? HOW? With a downloadable fan site kit? Please…”

    We do it by providing a direct point of contact to someone at BioWare, i.e. Me. Do you know of any other companies that have a specific person whose sole job is “Fan Site Liaison”? It was a role we created when I started here, because it’s something BioWare believes very strongly in. The problem is that new sites don’t necessarily realize that outlet is there… the Fan Site Kit page points out the email address fansites@swtor.com, but if you never visit that page, you’d never know it was there. That’s something we’re working on… more exposure and help for people who want to start a fan site, beyond a kit full of assets.

    And just to address one of the first posts, we ARE planning a virtual meeting for the fan sites, and we told all of the fan sites that over a month ago in our weekly emails.

  15. Oh no. David Bass saw my crack about the Borg Master Plan.

    Plus, he knows I don’t read the weekly emails carefully enough because I clearly don’t remember talk of a virtual summit.

  16. @Kathy – From the statement, …all the ones at the bottom, those sites are just going to die and they’re going to disappear because they’re writing guides…” I gathered that BioWare is much more interested in supporting news, review, opinion and entertainment sites than those that wish to support the community by offering advice and guidance on the more technical aspects of the game. (That is not to say that I feel they have ignored sites with this focus. R2-DB is a very technical aspect-focused site, and of course, you can’t accurately gauge who will pull ahead in the guides, strategy and other player resource department pre-launch.) Fair enough, I may have misinterpreted this, but I’m just explaining myself here.

    In my view and experience, there’s room for a number of redundant sites to coexist in relative harmony. In a community as large as the TOR community is projected to be, even if quality site A covers the exact same aspect of the game as quality site B, you’re sure to find enough people who like A over B, as well as enough who prefer B over A, to support and sustain both sites. You’ll also find those fanatics among the community who like to check out sites, A through F, just to be thorough. You’ll even find those fan sites with various themes that happily go on existing with the smallest of audiences for no other reason than the fact that those behind the site enjoy maintaining it.

    That is not to disagree with the overall point that we’re likely to see more fan sites disappear than we will see stick around. I don’t think that point is being contested by anyone, but my point with that last paragraph was that the landscape of the post-launch community is not going to be represented by the same types of sites it is now in the same proportions it is presently represented in.

    That said…

    @ David – I’m well aware that BioWare stands apart from every other developer out there for the exact reasons you have stated. I’ve been around for a good long while. Even before BioWare made their pro-community ways official with a full-time Community Coordinator (you!), they were involved with their community on a level that put the rest of the industry to shame. For the most part, it was a great thing to be a part of the NWN, KotOR and JE fan community, but that’s not to say that BioWare didn’t make a few mistakes in matters of strengthening relationships. They strengthened their relationships within the community in the exact same way you are doing so now, focusing on a small number of relationships with a “prominent few,” and while those prominent few were in their glory (my husband among them), this effectively weakened the ties those involved had with everyone else in the community as the particulars of the arrangement that ultimately came of their relationship with BioWare denied the community at large the knowledge, advice, ideas, inspiration and tools they had formerly been at liberty to share with all.

    That being the case, you might understand my concern that history will repeat itself here. It’s one thing to invite a small contingent of the community to talk and discuss, but if you take it to the level of exclusive privilege, you’re going to hurt the community… again.

    This is a different situation and a different community, but the fact of the matter is that BioWare possesses a power within its community that no other game developer has – at least, not to the same degree. They possess a fan following that not only respects them for their amazing games, but is loyal beyond all reason for BioWare’s unique and genuine pro-community ways. However, as the Hand of God might shape the Earth, the Hand of BioWare might shape the SWTOR community. If BioWare says, “this is the best site for X. This is your go-to site for Y,” it is so (for many). If BioWare so much as suggests that sites X and Y are in some way superior, it’s taken to heart (by many), so when you cast a small subset of community fan sites as those with and from which you wish to survey the post-launch landscape, you shape that landscape with those sites as its predominant features.

    It is a great and wonderful honor for these select sites to be invited to the summit, and for the quality of their content, I wholeheartedly agree that they are deserving of the honor they’ve received, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of some – particularly some of those who have contacted you and done everything they ought to have done to make their mark on BioWare’s radar. I don’t know what else you do for these sites, to be perfectly honest, but a newsletter is not my idea of active support, hence my suggestion of a virtual summit of sorts.

    The other n-13 fan sites out there deserve to have some say in the post-launch landscape, too, don’t you think? And wouldn’t you like to know more about them? There may be a few real gems out there that you haven’t recognized as anything but a blip on your radar simply because despite their strengths, they have no idea how to sell themselves – a problem that could be remedied if perhaps they were connected with someone who’d jump at the opportunity to get involved and be their PR manager.

    It’s great news to hear that you’ve already begun working on something like that, but it really doesn’t have to be that involved and complicated: Why isn’t there a dedicated forum on swtor.com for fan sites (and those interested in starting one or perhaps contributing to one that already exists)? Community Creations general doesn’t cut it, I’m sorry to say, and while there may be a great deal going on behind the scenes, the lack of dedicated forums for this contingent of the community makes it very difficult for those on the outside looking in (like myself) to see what, if anything you’re doing to support the fan site community.

  17. In general I am afraid of the official forums, but I do like the idea of a section of the forums dedicated to fansites. I wonder if that could work at swtor.com.

  18. Would it help to have a fansite registry on the main website that coincides with the forums? All fansites could register with all the relevant data for easy organizing.

    I was thinking that this would be an excellent way for fans to navigate around to whatever sites they may need. All fansites, big and small, could get thier name out there. Add in the idea of the forums, as mentioned in earlier posts, for fansites to help coordinate and I would think that this idea might go a long way on a “win-win” situation.

    Just a few thoughts. Not sure if they are practical, but just wanted to toss them out there.

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