Managing Player Participation

Some users play all the time. Some play once a day. Some play once a week. Some come and go…. the possibilities for player frequency are endless. The same is also true for participation in different ways. Some are great with trades, but dislike tournaments. Some pick up trades, but don’t post them.

I could go on, but I suspect you get the idea – participation comes in a lot of different forms and with greatly varying frequency. You need to take stock of what sorts of participation you have in your fellowship, how often it is, and how many players participate. You also need to determine what your fellowship *can* do as far as participation and what you as archmage would *like to see* for participation.

Any participation expectations that exist should be documented in the fellowship guidelines – it is only fair to let people know what those expectations are if you’re planning to hold anyone to them. When you advertise for new players and/or welcome them in, again, let people know your participation for expectations. Occasionally send out reminders to the whole group if you see slippage in participation in tourneys, visits, etc.

Sometimes players just stop playing, or they just don’t want to contribute in the way that is expected. In those cases, I generally recommend trying to talk to the player two or three times and if they don’t respond or aren’t willing to comply, then let them go. In those cases it is usually pretty easy to tell and to handle.

The harder cases are when you set or increase participation expectations. For example, you have a pretty good player who trades often but only makes visits twice a week. Your fellowship guidelines say four times a week for visits – do you boot that player? I don’t really have an answer for that because there is a lot of context I’d need to make that decision. You should, however, think about it. Is that player an anomaly or are there lots of others doing the same thing? Does that player know the guidelines? Have you reminded him/her of the expectations for participation?

If you have a lot of players who are not participating as expected, I’d suggest you have a hard look at your participation guidelines and/or your recruiting practices, because at least one of them is leading you awry. If you start booting people right and left your fellowship will lose heart; in this case, you may have to clean up your own archmagely act and then slowly lead the fellowship in the direction you want to go.

The most important parts of player participation, in some ways, reside with you as archmage. You need to be 1) make sure people know what the fellowship expects; 2) make sure participation guidelines are consistent with the practices and flavor of the fellowship; and 3) make sure you’re consistent and fair in your application of said guidelines. If you do that, people will usually comply and understand if you need to remove a player.

Communicating with Your Fellowship

This one is kind of a no brainer in one sense – if you’re archmage, you need to communicate  and foster communication – in your fellowship. I’d like to talk about it and focus on different aspects of it for the moment.

Communication for Function

Basic functional communication is critical stuff – I’m away from the fellowship for a few days for vacation; here’s what I know about the upcoming event; let’s collaborate on a Fellowship Adventure; next tourney is X and you need to do Y to prepare; and so on. This sort of communication ensures that your players know what you know and have everything they need in order to play well. If you don’t have communication for function, in my opinion, you can’t have a truly successful fellowship because of frustration, confusion, and lack of coordination at key times.

If your players support each other rather than simply playing together, you are on your way to a successful fellowship.

Communication for Fellowship

It is possible to be a top fellowship in the rankings with only functional communication. I will be so bold as to say, however, that when you have a truly successful fellowship, you need to have a team; a community rather than a group of independent players operating under the same banner.

The main way we have available to us in Elvenar to create community out of individual players is communication, but of a slightly different type. This is communication that is all about making people interact and see each other as people, not just as usernames and profile pictures. This is chat; newsletters; congratulatory messages when someone reaches a new milestone; and so on. This is key for a couple of reasons. It takes effective function in the game and adds a human component, so you get loyalty (lower attrition); more frequent play (better visits), and happier players (longevity in play, plus the above). When people are happy and part of a community, they thrive – and it’s your responsibility as archmage to bring that about.

Communication for Leadership

This one doesn’t apply to everyone, but I want to talk about it because of the difference it makes in the case of multiple, associated fellowships. In the case of the Starfleet, we have archmages of different fellowships and even on different servers. We created channels of communication between those archmages. This helps enormously with confidence of new archmages, coordinating, moving players around, recruiting, sharing news across fellowships, and bouncing ideas around.

The need to communicate is a no-brainer, for sure; however, if you think a little about how and why you communicate, you can make your fellowship a better and more successful place.

The Role of the Mage

What, exactly, is a mage in Elvenar? At it’s simplest, mage is a role assignment along with archmage, fellow, and ambassador. The mage role has enhanced permissions and can do pretty much anything an archmage can do, save change the role of the archmage (only the AM can do that)  and dissolve the fellowship.

What it means to be a mage is something else entirely. And I tell you, it varies so wildly that I almost didn’t write this post. I have seen the mage role used as

  • an archmage role because the archmage went inactive
  • an indicator of what type of neighborly help was desired when using the mobile app
  • a status to show that a player has enhanced responsibilities and is a good person to go to for answers or help with the game
  • a meaningless tag next to a player’s name.

Essentially what it comes down to is that the fellowship, and particularly the archmage, get to define what the role of a mage is.

In my experience, an archmage who tries to do it all is a tired archmage, a burnt out archmage, a frustrated archmage, or an ex-archmage. Mages, in my fellowships, are people who share the knowledge and responsibilities of leadership so that the game stays fun and feasible for everyone. They also provide continuity, so that if an archmage leaves the fellowship need not fall apart because everyone knows how things work.

Some fellowships even make specific types of mages – a tourney mage, for example, might be responsible for making sure that everyone knows what they need to prepare for a tourney, helping set strategy, motivating people, communicating results, etc. Other types of mages I’ve seen include general-purpose mages, Fellowship Adventure mages, recruiting mages, and communications/research mages.

It’s up to you what it means to have mages in your fellowship. I would suggest finding very regular players, particularly if they have an appropriate interest or skill, and having them help you lead — for the betterment of players and fellowship.

The Role of the Archmage

This is a key topic, and one that isn’t necessarily going to yield to my attempts at an answer. An archmage is and can be many things. These are not (yet) presented in any particular order.

S/he is the organizational principle of the fellowship. Working with the fellowship, s/he determines goals and strategies, practices that are suited to the fellowship’s personality and play style, ground rules, and more. This is a key role, but is often a bit more subtle, as the more obvious communication and support staff functions tend to be the most visible (and easier) tasks.

S/he is the principal communicator. While you should have mages and other fellowship members helping you out, it is your job as archmage to stay in communication with the fellowship. Make sure they know what’s going on; expectations you might have; goals, and progress toward those goals; that you notice when they meet a major milestone; and any one of a number of things. While you communicate these things, large and small, you also communicate your competence and that you care for the fellowship – two key things that the fellows need to know for your fellowship to succeed.

S/he is the cheerleader. Cheer people on, notice when they meet a milestone, walk them through the tough parts, call out how well the fellowship has done in a tourney – all those little successes need to be known, especially if the fellowship is full of small cities and/or new players. Challenge them…. then cheer them on.

S/he is the support staff. It’s your job to see that housekeeping gets done. Is someone making a habit of not visiting? Talk to him. Someone leave the fellowship? Put on your recruiter hat. Is your tournament mage sick? Best see to it that you get the preparation message out for the upcoming tournament. You get the idea – these are the “duties as assigned”.

As an archmage, it’s important to remember that you do not have a captive audience – any player can opt out with a few clicks.  If you become dictatorial, people will leave. If you’re not a master of the art of persuasion and people management, this is a good opportunity to work on your skills.

Ancient Wonder Programs

Nearly every player who is past the earliest stages of the game has one or more Ancient Wonders in his or her city.

When a player is in earlier chapters, the wonder is often left alone as KP go into the Research Tree to move the player’s city forward in the game. In later chapters, players frequently get techlocked and  have KP to donate to their own and others’ wonders.

Some fellowships institute a Wonder program to help build up the Wonders; they can take many forms. I figured I could describe several  common ones I’ve seen here, along with their pros and cons. There are more, but they’ll have to wait for a different post.

KP Chain

This program is usually voluntary contributions when a player has extra KP to use. An email chain is started – say, a 5 KP chain. It starts with a message indicating who the first recipient is and what AW the next person should contribute to. The next person responds with the name of the AW they’d like 5 KP donated to, and then it goes on from there. Any number of KP can be used – the most common KP chains that I see are 5 and 10 KP. I generally start a new KP chain about once a month. It might look something like this:

Original Message Subject: 5KP AW Chain

Original Message Test: : Start with Lani’s GA (Golden Abyss), please.

Message 2: Mountain Halls (MH), please

Message 3: Prosperity Towers (PT)

Pros:

  • Requires virtually no maintenance or oversight. Hurray for easy!
  • Entirely voluntary, so no pressure
  • Creates regular interaction between players
  • It creates enough structure and regular reminders of the AWs that folks generally do use the KP chain to grow their AWs
  • It mostly keeps extra KP in the fellowship

Cons

  • Ironically, the voluntary nature is also a con, because people are free to neglect their own AWs if they wish, or not to share their KP within the fellowship
  • It’s not at all systematic
  • It’s not terribly beneficial in absolute terms because there’s a net zero KP benefit – you give five, you get five. There are the rewards that go with KP donations when an AW is completed, though, that generate some benefit

Regular KP Donations

Another model is a simple KP donation requirement. Each day, a different person receives a set number of KP from the other players. An email chain is frequently used for the AM to confirm that the KP were actually given by the various players.  This model generally requires a spreadsheet to track the cycle of wonders and those who make or don’t make their contributions. Often a mage has the AW program  as a dedicated duty.

For example, a 5 KP donation rotation:

Day 1: Lani’s Golden Abyss (GA) receives donations.

Doc contributes 5 KP, posts in the email chain that she has done so.

Other players contribute and post.

Pros

  • Systematic wonder improvement for everyone
  • Equal participation and benefit
  • Entire fellowship is improved

Cons

  • Takes a fair bit of work to keep track of things
  • Some players try to skip
  • Some players don’t like to give KP when they’re hard at work on the research tree, and prefer to give KP only when they are techlocked.

Chosen One

One player is designated the “Chosen One.” All free KP go to that player’s wonder until it is full and ready to upgrade. I’ve also heard of this as “swarming” an AW. Generally some tracking is needed to keep the order of the Chosen Ones straight. A spreadsheet is common, with message posts making sure people know who the current Chosen One is and who the next one will be.

Example:

Lani is the Chosen One, and her AW of choice is her Golden Abyss (GA).

Doc contributes 5 KP.

Esper contributes 10 KP.

Ral Dorn contributes 7 kp.

Eventually, Col contributes 25 KP and finishes off the wonder. Lani upgrades and the next Chosen One starts to receive KP.

Pros

  • Pretty systematic wonder improvement for everyone
  • Equal participation and benefit
  • Entire fellowship is improved
  • Fairly easy for players to keep track of

Cons

  • Takes a fair bit of work to keep track of things
  • Some players try to skip or don’t contribute, but do expect to receive KP when they’re the chosen one
  • It can be slow, particularly if someone has a wonder with LOTS of KP needed in order to reach the next level.
  • Reward can be pretty uneven, as one person’s wonder might be a lot lower level than another and thus require fewer KP to complete. I view it more as a leveling benefit than a KP benefit, and everyone increases the same number of levels (one) at a time.

So, hopefully you have a little to think about. If you have other KP models you’d like me to feature in a post, drop me a line or leave a comment.

The Gift of Celebration

People who are cities are still people. They come to Elvenar usually as an entertaining escape from their real life for a while – time away from children, enduring or recovering from illness, de-stressing from a busy life, you name the reason but the end goal is often the same.

As such, players want to feel good. They want to be happy – and deserve to be, as they’re willingly sharing their time with you and your fellowship. And if players are happy, they are more likely to come back and spend more time with your fellowship – growing, chattering, and participating in a multitude of ways.

One of the simplest, easiest, and most effective things that you can do to help with the happiness quotient in your fellowship is to recognize achievements, large and small. Someone just pass 50k? Give a shout out. One of the big players just get a new profile picture from opening a new chapter? Say something. Did you have top 100 players earn rank points in the last tourney? Awesome! Say something. Did someone provide leadership for the last Fellowship Adventure, all unasked? Thank them publicly.

All of it matters. It becomes positive energy in your fellowship, which means lower attrition and better performance. And, of course, your fellowship is an awesome place to be.

Vetting Possible Players

One of the common tasks in any fellowship is finding new players. I’ll talk about recruiting in another posts – that could be a whole topic series by itself. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about vetting players before bringing them into your fellowship.

I’m making an assumption that you as archmage care what kind of player you get, and that not just any random player will do. In some “school” fellowships that have a goal of helping small cities grow, for example, they will in fact accept just about any city. But the fellowship I have in mind is a more standard fellowship.

Here are some of the things you might want to look for when a player expresses interest in your fellowship:

  • What are the player’s boosts? Make sure they are ones that fit fellowship needs and help to keep boosts balanced.
  • What is the player’s rank/score? Sometimes this matters to a fellowship and sometimes not. In general, it matters because if a player is a lot larger or a lot smaller than most of the other cities in the fellowship, it can make playing challenging for the new player.
  • Why is the player looking for a new fellowship? This is one that you may not always get an answer to, but archmages often ask. Why? If a player is a fellowship climber, they may stay with you only until they find a higher-ranked fellowship to join. There’s nothing really wrong with that except most archmages aren’t really interested in people who intend to play with the fellowship for only a short time. If the player left because of conflict, it may be that the player is hard to get along with, and so it’s worth digging into a bit more. Usually it’s not a big deal, but it is worth asking the question.
  • What is the new player looking for in a fellowship? This one really does matter, because fellowships tend to fall into play styles based on things like the fellowship’s level of ambition, frequency of play required, trading habits, and so on. You need to know what they’re looking for so you can tell if your fellowship is a good fit for the player.
  • What are the player’s habits? This is frequently reflected in what the player is looking for in a fellowship, but not always. Often in emails I get from prospective players, they’ll say something like: “I’m so-and-so, score is 100k, boosts are Marble/ Crystal/ Elixir and boosts are maxed. I visit daily and play in tourneys. I’m looking for a new fellowship because the players in my current fellowship only visit once or twice a week, and I need a more active fellowship than that”.

Personally, I think it is worth exchanging a few messages with a prospective player. It’s not a lot, but you can sometimes get a sense of what players are like – and you can see some things like how long it takes them to reply that can tell you a lot.

At the end of the day, due diligence on your part vetting potential players will reduce turnover of players and increase the satisfaction and investment of the players who are in your fellowship. It’s worth the effort.

Recruiting Basics

Recruiting is one of the more common tasks of an Archmage. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to do a ton of it. If you’re not lucky… well, sometimes it seems like that is all you do. Recruiting can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it – at some point that is not now, I will talk about the etiquette of recruiting also.

First: when recruiting: Decide what you’re looking for. For example, you might be looking for a certain boost or boost. You might be looking for a certain size of city. You might be interested in cities that are super-active.

Second: Whatever it is you’re looking for, decide on and prioritize your criteria.

Third: Decide how flexible you are on those criteria, and indicate that as part of your language.

Fourth: Get the word out. Look around your maps. Get your players to look around their maps. Check on common sites and forums. Talk to other AMs.

Fifth: Be patient. Sometimes it takes a while to find a good fit. An empty slot is not the end of the world, and a player that is a poor fit for your fellowship will be painful for both fellowship and player.

Sample recruiting language for an fs overview page: **RECRUITING!** Looking for friendly, active players with a city of 35K+ in size  for a friendly, supportive, ambitious fellowship. Tourney play a must. Desirable boosts include Dust and Planks. Please apply or contact Archmage Dr Calluna.

Keeping Up on the News

There are official forums, unofficial forums, facebook pages, websites, beta servers, and gossipmongers…. all sources of information out there about all things Elvenar past, present, and future. Most things can be known, from bugs, to release dates of new chapters and when we should anticipate (with pleasure or terror… that, of course is up to you) when the next Fellowship Adventure begins.

If you don’t care about any news that isn’t right here and now, this post is definitely not for you.

Some archmages do this themselves, some rely on mages, and some develop information networks that have several information conduits. Personally…. some of my players read the forums as do I but not as often; I keep a city on Beta; and I am in several Facebook groups for players and archmages both. Whatever your style, as archmage it behooves you to keep up on the news if you want to be able to plan and/or prepare for what is to come.

Does the Front Matter Matter?

[Image of fs description]

If you cruise around and visit different fellowships, you’ll see all sorts of front matters describing various fellowships. Some are very brief – “Recruiting Gems.” Others are very long, explaining attitudes, telling everyone what the player boosts are, offering up the rules of the fellowship, and more.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone when I suggest that the front matter … matters. It’s the first impression people get of your fellowship. Are you friendly? Is it a mature fellowship? Is it well managed? Those are all impressions you give folks when they’re cruising around looking for a the best home (fellowship) to fit their needs.

So, what do I (this is a blog, and my opinion matters) put in the front matter?

  1. First, any recruiting you’re doing: “RECRUITING for planks and silk. Full up on elixir” tells people a lot right off the bat
  2. Tell people about the flavor of your fellowship. Are you competitive? Avoiding competition at all costs? Friendly? For advanced or large players? For beginner players?
  3. Indicate any hard rules you might have. “Visits required 4x per week” is a pretty solid rule, and if someone knows s/he can’t meet that, they’ll save both of you some trouble and look elsewhere. I’d recommend keeping the rules you post few, short, clear, and friendly in tone.
  4. Anything else they need to know about your fellowship.

What are common things we see in front matter?

  • Rules
  • “Flavor” of the fellowship
  • Boosts in the fellowship
  • How to join
  • What the fellowship is recruiting for, if it is recruiting
  • A story to draw you in