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.

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.

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.

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?

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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

Tool for Growth: The Round Robin

One of the basic tenets of a truly successful fellowship is teamwork. One aspect of teamwork is goods-sharing – trading to balance goods, and trading to support your fellows.

Trading to support your fellows sometimes takes the form of “bad” or unequal trades. For example,  a cross-tier trade from Silk to Planks lets one get plenty more planks than one could get from a Tier 1 Marble for Planks trade.  LINK: Basics of trading

Another way that you can support a fellow is through a ratio trade within a tier. Normally, the Elvenar trader wants to equalize trades: 100 marble for 100 planks. It is possible, however, to post 100 marble for up to 400 (a 1:4 ratio) planks, using a ratio to increase the number of goods you get at someone else’s expense. It’s a great way for a large city to help a smaller city build up goods.

Example Tier 1 Round Robin

Small City: I have 500 planks and nothing else in Tier 1. Help!

Larger City: Okay, I can help. Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • Post 500 planks for 2000 Marble
  • post 500 Marble for 2000 Steel
  • Post 500 Steel for 2000 Planks

End result: 2000 planks, 1500 each of marble and steel in the small player’s inventory.

You can do this Round Robin several times to boost someone’s goods within a tier or across tiers. The more goods the smaller cities have access to, the faster they and thus the fellowship will grow.