Sean Bulger's ColumnCommunity Column: The Site Beyond the GameSean Bulger's Column - RSS 2.0
What is so great about this? Well, in games that are largely achievement based, what is greater than being able to show off all your great stuff to your friends? It is the beginning of a social networking site design based around the actual game itself - except it doesn't quite go as far as it could. Many of these features are not quite enough to really draw players to them. Sites such as Dark Age of Camelot's Camelot Herald, however, have been doing this for quite a while with some other added features, such as who controls what areas of the frontier which players battle over. It is content like that which can draw players back.
Yet, more can be done beyond useful information as well. This type of content are good for bringing people back to your site, which is handy as it can lead to extra ad revenue and such, but it won't necessarily hook a lot of players to stick with your game. This is largely what Vogel talked about. A lot of lessons can be learned by community sites that allow people to network together, creating a large, strong community, which can hold players in.
Message boards are but one possible tool that can be used to draw players into a community site. It is largely about bringing players together, giving something to share, something to talk about, some way to transmit ideas, and doing this in a focused location. It is really about sharing information, sharing content, rating and commenting on that content, and allowing players to communicate with each other. If you provide these tools, you will begin to see more attention around your website. Sites like YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace took off for a reason, after all. They appeal to certain basic Human needs: social interaction, community, the sharing of ideas, and trying to make yourself stand out as an individual.
Breaking Away from Simple Sites
It is recommendable for game development companies to start looking toward web trends to see what clicks with people these days. In fact, game websites are largely behind the curve pretty far already, offering the same kind of content, the same kind of website, we could have seen years ago, save a few breaking the mold. What really needs to be done in the industry with websites, is to start being forward thinking, looking at trends in web design, and not just keeping up, but actually doing a bit of innovation there.
It is a totally different design team than your game designers (or should be anyhow!) so you shouldn't be wasting developer time to come up with a 'fancy website'. Yet, at the same time, it can be a mistake to not think of your website as part of your game as well. The two can be tied quite a bit together, and if nothing else, that site can add an extra layer.
So, all that is left is some specific ideas and to figure out how to implement them... And, no, I don't give those away for free, of course.