“We want to be more community-focused” is a phrase of a great importance to Jagex. It is even more than that; it practically is the unofficial motto of the Jagex Community Management Team. Well, one might say now, what’s so special about that? Community Management should be community-focused, right? It’s a positive word; therefore some more of it shouldn’t hurt, yes?
Actually, no. What do you do you do when you focus your eye on something? You concentrate to let it appear sharp and clear. But what happens at the same time is that everything else is put into the background and is blurred. You cannot have your focus on something without neglecting anything else. Now, one has to ask himself what’s the most important issue to focus on. Is a focus on community really the way to go? In itself it’s not bad of course – but does something else, maybe more important, get neglected?
To answer this question, I should at first clarify what I understand as a community focus. For me, this is any action directly creating or supporting interaction between players of Runescape. To some extent this is of course important. Clan chats and the Forums are tools without whom the multiplayer aspect of Runescape would be severely handicapped. But while these two examples are definitely needed, they fall under category of supporting player interaction; whereas most community focused actions are of the creating kind.
Yes, I'm talking about community events. Castle Wars with Jagex Moderators. Clan Wars with Jagex Moderators. A scavenger hunt or whatever comes to the mind of someone at Jagex. Sure, all of these may be genuinely fun. But is a minigame really so much more fun because of a golden crown participates or created it? Couldn't a self-organized event be as funny? Is this really how we want employees at Jagex spending their time - creating events we could very well organize on our own? I'm not suggesting to completely abolish community events, they're a good option for players who don't want to join a clan, and they're especially interesting if there's actual in-game content programmed for it.
But I do think maybe the focus should shift a bit. If you consider the bond between Jagex and the players, would you say the weakest spot is the lack of community events? I doubt it. I cannot say how many would agree on my view, but I personally feel it is rather the simple communication that is lacking, be it discussion on the forums, information about upcoming updates or reasons why certain changes were introduced. I cannot count how often I’ve thought that a few simple words could have solved all the trouble.
A prime example of this is the Climbing Boots update. It was one of the, if not the most controversial updates since the introduction of restricted trade. It seems that the value of 75K GP was chosen correctly, maybe even too low as they have hit the price cap. But directly after the update, when there wasn’t even the attempt to clarify why this had been done, nobody could understand it. The price seemed ridiculous at the time, and while people apparently are ready to pay that much, almost nobody had done so before the update, as these were acquirable at lower prices. Almost nobody understood why this had been done, and all we got for information was a short notice in the “in other news…” section.
Jagex simply must have known how players would react. Then how is it possible it takes hundreds of players screaming their fury out until at least most of the questions are answered? Why did it take an FAQ, hours later, when the damage had already been done? Why hadn’t these questions been answered in the news post already, together with a sincere apology for the inconvenience caused? For a whole lot of players, this update made them lose their trust in Jagex, and it’s disastrous for the relation between players and Jagex to let that happen. It was only on this ground that rumour of Jagex Mods abusing the update to make money on their secondary accounts could appear, and it could have been prevented so easily.
Or have a look at the forums. Why does it take so long even for popular threads to get a response from a Jagex Mod? And even then, why is it that it’s most often only a single post? Why is it so rare to have an actual discussion instead of getting standard phrases leaving more questions open than answered? In my opinion, if you are running the world’s most popular free MMORPG, it’s a shame to have the communication with the player base at such a state. True, other companies have shown worse examples but that isn’t an apology. To conclude this article, I want to say that there still is a long way to go, but we have seen some improvements like the return of BTS. Also, Jagex may have made us lose trust in them at times, but at other times they show they can understand what players want and fix mistakes they’ve made. Hopefully Jagex will become aware of this problem soon and improve their communication. For now, that’s more important than community events.