How En Masse Created a Gaming Community in One Week with Vanilla Forums
En Masse Entertainment, Inc. (formerly Bluehole Interactive) is an American video game publisher and subsidiary of South Korean video game developer Bluehole. Founded in June 2008, the company is based in Seattle, Washington and is best known for publishing the massively multiplayer online role-playing game TERA.
“We couldn’t believe how fast we went from contract to up and running. Simply amazing!"
En Masse had tried both a third party platform and a custom in-house community, and neither was working for them. They needed an effective long-term solution.
As En Masse examined other gaming communities, the ones that caught their attention turned out to be hosted by Vanilla. Upon further investigation, they found the functionality was also perfect.
Exceeding all expectations, the team at Vanilla had the new En Masse community up and running within a single week.
Spam was an issue of the past. Vanilla was able to provide En Masse with the moderation tools needed to empower their most trusted members and provide additional oversight.
When The Second Time Is No Better
The question for En Masse has never been whether or not an online community forum is important or effective; they knew that having an online community was central to the success of their game as a space for players to congregate, share ideas and discuss gameplay strategy. The question that they had struggled with, however, was the who. In other words, who is best suited to host our community?
When En Masse made the decision to procure their first ever online community, they went with a third party platform—we’ll call them Vendor A. Now, Vendor A initially seemed like a good choice to host their community, however Technical Producer, Mark Geller, quickly found that this arrangement simply wasn’t working out. The lack of moderation and spam tools quickly became an overwhelming issue; the community was being overrun with spam and Mark didn’t have the tools he needed to deal with it effectively.
Ultimately, Mark quickly learned that this community wasn’t adequately equipped for the long-term.
With that bad experience in the back of his mind, Mark decided that they would need a new custom community solution to support their newest game upon release. En Masse decided to go with an in-house development, and so they got to work and launched their second game with a custom community forum.
Regrettably, the challenges with this option came fast and furious.
The ability to customize on the fly, which was one of the things that seemed so appealing about building in-house, was now getting too expensive. The developer team was dedicating too much time and resources towards community maintenance, and it was taking away from other projects. At this point, Mark knew that this wasn’t the right solution either.
Regrouping as a team, the answer became clear. They needed the best of both worlds—a customizable, off-the shelf community platform. Weathered and worn, Mark and his team began yet another search, this time, hoping to find “the one.”
Too Much Spam
Their community was overrun with spam and they didn't have the ability to curve it at the pace in which it would appear. They also lacked the tools to do this for the long-term.
The price tag associated with running their community internally was very steep and took resources away from other projects.
More Than a Pretty Face
Mark and his team, however, didn’t begin this search blind; they had a ton of knowledge under their belt in terms of what they were looking for in the perfect community vendor. With their list of past troubles at the top of their mind, they started their search by looking at other gaming companies and seeing what their communities were like.
Mark quickly noticed that the Penny Arcade, Perfect World and EA communities all looked amazing, and upon further research, learned that they were all hosted by Vanilla Forums. After a conversation with the Vanilla team, Mark learned that a Vanilla Forum was more than just a pretty face. A Vanilla Forum had all the functionality and customizability that En Masse was looking for, including multi-language tools, forum customization to match the look and feel of the game, speedy forum launches, moderation tools and rapid iteration.
The icing on the cake came when Mark discovered that Vanilla offered backend hooks into their system. This was an unexpected bonus, and Mark knew that Vanilla was the vendor they’d been looking for all this time.
Once Mark realized Vanilla was the best solution for the En Masse team, they began considering Vanilla Open Source. This wasn’t an easy choice, but they quickly recalled the amount of resources it required to operate an in-house community and knew that the oversight required would be similar. After crunching the numbers, it was obvious that the cost of Vanilla’s managed solution was much lower than overseeing it in-house.
As Mark explains, “the cost to run 30 game forums through Vanilla Forums was equal to the cost of En Masse supporting one game internally.” He continues, “it just didn’t make sense—why should we worry about this? It was better to let the forum experts handle it.”
The En Masse Checklist
“The cost to run 30 game forums through Vanilla Forums was equal to the cost of En Masse supporting one game internally—we couldn't get over that!”
“[Players on console] communicate from their phones or tablets. We needed a solution that worked well on mobile [and] Vanilla allows us to offer this experience.”
“Before Vanilla, we needed a staff of two to three people just to moderate our community, but [with Vanilla’s moderation tools] we can easily rely on trusted fans.”
Effective Spam Tools
“Thanks to Vanilla’s spam tools, we’re able to identify trusted members of the community to keep weekend rogue spam and drama at bay.”
Faster Than The Best Case Scenario
Mark and the team at En Masse had been through this process before. They were expecting the community launch to take months since this had consistently been their experience; when they built their own in-house forum, for instance, it took 6 months.
After En Masse signed with Vanilla, Mark’s team was astounded to find that it only took a single week to get their new forum up and running. As Mark says, “we couldn’t believe how fast we went from contract to up and running—simply amazing!”
Effectively Empowering Moderators
The range of tools that Vanilla provided Mark’s team led them to see results immediately. Their community no longer had any spam issues since it was easy to identify moderators and grant them unique permissions. As Mark explains, “before Vanilla, we needed a staff of two to three people just to moderate our community.” He continues, “but with Vanilla’s features, we now have trusted game fans who keep watch on the forum...what an improvement!”
Having trusted moderators has also enabled En Masse to provide better game support than ever before. “It allows people who care most about the game to collaborate and solve threads,” says Mark, “if they don’t have the answers, they simply escalate and we can jump in.”
The new community has also led to an increase in traffic and peer-to-peer communication. Mark explains, “our biggest spikes in traffic come when we have content or new gameplay systems [and] sometimes we invite our developers to answer questions about how the changes will affect game play, [which] our fans love.”
Today, En Masse can launch a new game forum quickly and iterate on the fly with Github Theme Pull and Vanilla Hub. They’re able to get their beta testers in, communicate with developers and start onboarding players in a matter of days—not months.
Ultimately, Mark and his team couldn’t be happier with their decision to implement a Vanilla Forum. The flexibility, combined with the range of offerings is something that they’re excited to continue using and exploring. As Mark notes, “we haven’t even taken full advantage of everything our Vanilla forums have to offer yet—we plan on integrating our games with the forum gamification next [and] the future looks fun!”
Reflecting on the En Masse Journey
Before Vanilla, En Masse invested in a community vendor that ultimately failed to deliver their vision, and then invested again for an in-house build. When En Masse signed with Vanilla Forums, they quickly found that not all third party community platforms are created the same, and that pricing isn’t necessarily a good indicator of quality. En Masse got everything they wanted from Vanilla without spending an arm and leg to get it. If you’re interested in exploring your options like En Masse did, connect with us to find out all the features and customizability we can offer you for a great price!
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