Back in 1969 in Helsinki, Finland, a round of talks between the United States and Soviet Union commenced. Dubbed the “Strategic Arms Limitation Talks,” or SALT, the overall objective from both sides were to implement some controls in the nuclear arms race that dominated relationships between the two nations at the time- and for years to come. History has judged SALT a relative success, with both participants finding common ground on limiting some aspects of their mutual ability to wage nuclear war.
Highfalutin’ stuff! To be sure, I felt no such grandiose sense of purpose when I attended the Pixonic “Community Roundtable” yesterday, but nevertheless it was hard not to feel a certain sense of importance. I mean, this wasn’t just some casual backchannel chat-app conversation or email chain, but a genuine conference call. And despite the fact that I’d picked up strep throat, I was determined not to miss my chance to be heard.
The format was arranged ahead of time by Pixonic. Each of the community representatives would be allowed to essentially monologue for up to five minutes, expressing their concerns and points free from interruption. Then Pixonic would do likewise, and we’d break into a full on discussion. The speaking order they left up to us, so in Discord chat just before the start of the event I laid out a list #1-16 and let folks put themselves where they wanted to be.
The event kicked off right on time, with only a couple of technical issues from folks dialing in. Pixonic spoke for a couple of minutes, then turned it over to us. DRAGONAUT, clan leader of the infamous WARWOLVES of “ethical tanking” fame, went first. Next was NORSE PATRIARCH, of the War Robots Visionaries fame, followed YouTube luminaries ADRIANNNNNN, Blitheran, and a statement by Stew Pendous (read by Blitheran).
And following all that, was yer man here.
Pixonic had reached out to us Wiki Forum Insiders a couple of weeks ago, proposing the idea and looking for assistance with implementation. After some spitballing, we came up with four routes to participation.
First, Pixonic would award a small number of “Golden Tickets” to the cream of the crop. The ones they really wanted to ensure would be there, guys like ADRIANNNNNN and Stew Pendous.
Second, the Insiders would have some leeway in determining candidates from Facebook and LINE.
Third, a form would be set up on Gepard Diary to allow people to apply directly to Pixonic.
And finally, we’d have an election on the Wiki Forum, with two seats at the table up for grabs. Anybody could run, even if they weren’t an active member of the Forum. And anyone could register on the Forum and vote, even if they weren’t a part of the community. There was some thought here to seeing some new faces get introduced to the Forum through the mechanism of the election.
I had the possibility of getting a seat through the Facebook/LINE approach, but felt I might be doing so at the expense of someone else worthy to attend. In the end, I decided to instead put it in the hands of the Forum and stand in the election. That was my community, and it would be most meaningful to represent them and their concerns if they put the faith in me to do so.
In the end, they did. Shaolin Rogue, my collaborator on the Rogue Builds series, and I both secured our seats handily. We were in!
A few days later, I got an email from Pixonic with all of the particulars, including what they wanted to focus the discussion around:
Topic of the first meeting: all things matchmaking
For your convenience, here are few specifics questions you might use to prepare:
How do you and your peers feel about League system? What’s right and what’s wrong? What would you change?
Incorporating beacons into league point distribution. How big of an impact should beacons bring?
Feeling good playing solo vs. promoting teamwork. What’s more important?
Rewards for ladder climbing. What would you expect to see in the future?
Seasons. Should we increase their impact on the Leagues’ flow?
Separate non-competitive modes: are these required?
Activity points vs. League rating — what is more important to clans?
I put out a couple of posts on the Wiki Forum to pick the brain of the community, then a conference call with Shaolin Rogue the night before to make sure we had everything covered.
And we did. So did everyone else. By the time my turn to speak arrived, we’d already hit some of the major points that didn’t need to be reiterated wholesale. That did, however, give me the opportunity to offer some feedback from the clan leader perspective, based on my experiences in Aurora Nova and what others had expressed on the Forum.
So when the talking stick was handed to me, well… here, listen for yourself (video queued to my presentation).
And if you’d like to see a good summary of the talking points, this one from NORSE PATRIARCH is very good.
In the time subsequent to the Community Roundtable, I’ve had loads of folks- all with genuine concern for the game- ask me what my conclusions are.
I wish I had an answer.
I think this was a great groundbreaking, but if that is all that ever comes out of this, I’d have to rate it a failure. For one thing, Pixonic was a bit lax on time management. With 14 people all getting a 5-minute window to speak, that should have left close to 40 minutes for a real and engaging discussion. Instead, many of us (in fairness, myself included) ran over, so the call was effectively a group of people talking at one another. We talked at Pixonic, Pixonic talked at us- and then the call reached its duration and Pixonic departed. Indeed, much of the best conversation on the day takes place in the audio above after Pixonic was gone- even if Shaolin Rogue did edit out the segment on Canadian Maritime drinking games.
I don’t put a lot of blame on Pixonic for this. In the end, they gave more than a dozen community voices the ability to be heard, and that has to count for something. This was a first session, done in good faith. Going forward, I’d recommend splitting the community list into two sessions, which would ensure plenty of time for more back-and-forth engagement.
The real marker of whether or not this was a success is what Pixonic ultimately does with the information. If it gets buried in the file of good intentions, then it was a waste of our time. If they take it on board and it helps inform some of their decisions, then it was invaluable.
If you want my guess, I’d say the latter. This was a great start, and I’d like to see more of these. From a cost perspective, this was a relative pittance. Two hours of time for 2-3 full-time employees. Add in another hour for scheduling and logistics. Possibly the best thing Pixonic can do going forward to help win back the confidence of the community is to let us know what they learned from the experience, and what decisions they’ll be making on its account.
Do that, and have regular Roundtables, and the ship can absolutely be righted.
Over to you, Pixonic.