From 3 to 1,000,000 = Community

The introduction to Realm of Empires on the BDA Entertainment website reads: Guide your fledgling dominion from its beginnings as a single, small village to a massive sprawling empire.

This may describe quite accurately what the founders of BDA Entertainment did themselves, starting from something small with limited resources and building it into a million plus community, as they describe it “Since its launch, Realm of Empires has been enjoyed by the three founders as well as over a million of their closest friends.” On the team page, the community manager is described:

Aaron manages the community. The community rejoices. Every day.

And this Greg Balajewicz, CTO of BDA, believes is key to their success, engaging with the players, and building them into a community to build a better game, and of course, a better game experience. It was a slow painful, costly process that took seven years. His presentation title includes the phrase “lesson from the trenches” which summarizes the experience very well, the word “fun” doesn’t jump to mind.

The game itself is a MMORT which Wikipedia defines as:

Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game (MMORTS) mixes the genres of real-time strategy and Massively multiplayer online games, possibly in the form of web browser-based games, in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world.

BDA clearly managed to create a real community through their painstaking creation of a virtual realm. After trying various types of promotion, they realized the best way forward was to invest time and manpower into interacting with the players, and this was even measured, as indeed it should be in a commercial venture.

They also invited players to rate the game:

While this might seem a bit cheeky, Bala (2012) states:

Players want the game to grow, and are happy we appreciate their help and found these reasons compelling enough to give us perfect ratings.

He also informs us that only those who love or hate a game leave reviews and ratings. And many of the haters, hate the game because they keep losing! The strategy resulted in 5 star reviews:

Of course, there is more to the story than this, but the points made are salient and worth considering for those thinking of setting off on the quest for a killer game. While someone on your team will be thinking artwork or code or world creation, it might be wise to have someone thinking “community”. Even so called great leaders can lose their “clan”, as shown in this clever rewrite of an iconic YouTube video to promote Realm of Empires:

References

GDC Vault — 7 Years, 1 Game — Success Through Community — Lessons from the Trenches. (2016). Gdcvault.com. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from http://gdcvault.com/play/1022914/7-Years-1-Game-Success

Main. (2016). BDA Entertainment Inc.. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from http://www.bdaentertainment.com/#bda

Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game. (2016). Wikipedia. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_real-time_strategy_game

Top 10 Real Time Strategy Games. (2016).YouTube. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_9FToybfIY

Realm of Empires. (2009). YouTube. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9SywhyIzqY

Downfall of a clan in Realm of Empires. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKjmmuX8zrA

Gamasutra: Greg Bala’s Blog — How little changes made a big difference : case study in one aspect of game design. (2012). Gamasutra.com. Retrieved 24 March 2016, from http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/GregBala/20120322/167136/How_little_changes_made_a_big_difference__case_study_in_one_aspect_of_game_design.php