Meeting of Product CM ThePit with the guilds of Taborea
As a guild leader of a Riocht guild meisjustme was able to attend the Teamspeak meeting with ThePit. This summary of what ThePit talked about with the community is for everyone who doesn't really like to listen to a 42min+ audio file.
At the beginning the new Product CM ThePit told us how he got to Runes of Magic and introduced himself. ThePit is 44 years young and has two sons of age 10 and almost 2, and a third one is on the way.
Besides Runes of Magic he's also taking care of three communities in AirRivals – in Runes of Magic he's purely a Product Community Manager and will not manage a specific country's community. He's working for Gameforge for around 7 years, 4 of it as a team member and 3 years as (Product) Community Manager and has taken different steps from Trial Game Master to Game Administrator to Team Manager and last but not least (Product) Community Manager.
He's still new to Runes of Magic and has been playing the game in his free time since around 9 months ago. ThePit openly admitted that he surely hasn't the knowledge of someone who's been playing the game for three years but claimed to have knowledge of games in general and that he knows all the pain, regardless if it's coming from communites, players, developers, publishers or Gameforge. As an example he described the different gaming mentality compared to the Asian market (heavy grinds etc.) and the difficulties resulting therein with foreign developers.
About the current situation: first ThePit mentioned the relocation from Berlin to Karlsruhe and the ongoing integration into Karlsruhe – and of course the problems this brings with it. Partly there's -understandably- proper support lacking with the transfer but there are also other notable differences between Berlin and Karlsruhe according to ThePit as in that Berlin excelled in marketing and Karlsruhe would be excelling in tech. He described the current situation of Runes of Magic as a "freaking black hole" where he'd throw things into and they would just vanish. But he has an awesome team around him on different levels. Currently there are around 100 people working on Runes of Magic, that is without Berlin and without counting in anyone on the developer side at Runewaker in Taiwan.
ThePit also told us that Steffen Ramm (Product Director of Runes of Magic) has a vision for the game and that he believes that they could fulfill it. The long-term goal was described by him as: "It's our goal to get RoM back into the position it once was. An awesome game that is reasonably bug free – yeah i know, some of you are laughing right now without that i'd be able to hear you but i am indeed serious – reasonably bug free. And after it's bug free and the biggest problems are solved, bringing awesome content and a decent balancing. That of course is the long-term goal. We're on it already but on the way to reaching that goal there will be many many tiny steps… "
ThePit told us about all the different changes not only in but also around the game, especially when it comes to handling and communication in the forums. He announced they'll dust off and streamline the game and forum rules and slim down the board by merging and archiving age old threads. Also there will be a lot of changes on how QA and Localization work and the handling of bugs
As a short conclusion: ThePit sees a lot of problems which made him comment in a jokingly way that RoM in the current state would be not just a "Black Hole" but even more, like a "Black Universe". Problems including quests that are in a non-working state for over 9 months, support leading into a vacuum and a backlog of around 400-500 tickets were explicitly called out by him as a "a huge pile of shit". With this clear and open assessment he really spoke to the heart of many players.
Just like the recurring question "Can we fix it?" from "Bob the Builder", the show his son loves to watch, and the answer to it, "Yes we can" he asked himself the same regarding RoM – and QA and the rest of the team told him: "Yes, we can". Obviously this will be a very long and hard way to go, but they believe they can do it.
But he's also asking the community for some patience: Even with being a workaholic and having magical powers, miracles take some time.
[Editor's note: think of "impossible things are being done instantly while miracles take a bit longer" -or- "The difficult is done at once; the impossible takes a little longer"]
Regarding the current dupe problems he was very explicit. He mentioned that the methods and program that were used to do it would not be working anymore and announced a rough stance against foul play: "I will hunt them down. I'll be hunting every shitty goldseller, every damn botter and every fucking cheater. If you think to cheat on us and your fellow players – and you can tell this to the community exactly the way I said it – then you're fucking around with the wrong guy here, you're going to hate me. I'll ban them permanently and I'll permanently ban everyone involved too. And if some idiot comes along asking me like: 'but hey I bought this one tier16 item and I didn't know about anything, and I spent 100 million gold on it, can I have my gold back at least?' I'll ban that guy permanently too just for the question. So yes, I will do a cleanup, and a serious one."
[ Editor's note: Yes, the original German audio is as explicit as the translation, albeit the translation not being word by word. He really said it in such an explicit way. ]
Summed up ThePit also said that the bug section is being cleaned up and everything is being handed over to Runewaker and that they will have an eye on the communication with the developer. Hacks, bots and cheaters are being and will be taken care of and the forum will be reworked. All of this means a lot of work for the rest of the year. He also added that he's currently trying to block every content update because he wants to see some important things fixed first that just need to be fixed. This was brought up later again in the Q&A discussion with the guilds and he emphasized that this definitely does not mean that there won't be any content updates for the rest of the year. Events ingame and via the forums should be held more regularly and they want to try some "awesome ideas" for these.
What can Gameforge do for the guilds
About the topic "what can gameforge do for the guilds" ThePit told us that Gameforge would like to support guilds with regard to new users via an ambassador project which means that players who become ambassadors would take care of new players and do word of mouth advertising for RoM.
Guilds that have a website and would like to receive artwork, pictures and more stuff should simply drop him an email to receive a fansite kit. He also said that guilds which are interested in a spontaneous visit could write him their Teamspeak server info and he would show up somewhen. He said he'd try to visit everyone who sends him the server infos.
If you're interested in the things mentioned above mail ThePit at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Product CM also made very clear that he wouldn't be making a difference between guilds for this matter, regardless if it's a big top guild or small casual/party guild. The same goes for every individual player regardless if 5000€ were invested or zero, if you're here for a long time already or have just recently started playing, or how many forum posts you may have – everybody is equal. He might be really strict in some things, but we'd get to learn that he's also fair – you can have a lot of fun with him but at the same time he warned that you wouldn't like him when he's angry.
He also told us that as a Product Community Manager he would not be making decisions for only runesofmagic.de only but for the whole of [Gameforge's] Runes of Magic; independent of country, players or team members. The Community Managers for every specific country would be making the country-specific decisions. He added that he'd be probably "abusing" the German community as his TS-Community and extracting the most feedback and game problems from there. Ultimately he would be treating everyone the same, though.
Work in progress, Quality Assurance, working with Runewaker and Development
ThePit pointed again to the Hot Seat (DE Forum) in the forums where all the dreams and wishes were and are still being posted. There's also a thread in there merged from everything in the subforum which is work in progress already.
About the work they had and still have with solving the duping problem ThePit said that they deleted over 1.5 million illegal items just on Wednesday and banned over 400 accounts. This would only be the first generation, the cases which could be found the fastest. Still it had caught people who were very cautious. ThePit told us that working through all that would be very difficult and it took 3 developers 3 weeks just to create the proper database queries.
Also QA would be working itself through a "huge pile of shit" for 12 hours a day. Communication with Runewaker is rather difficult at the moment, because apparently there was little to none communication with them in the last few months or year and now they are getting everything on their table at once. Runewaker would not be used to getting so much stuff on the table at once and that there would be an active communication between QA and development. He added that they reported over 167 critical bugs of the "blocking" category to Runewaker – "blocking" means that the patch which brought them in should never have hit the live servers.
In this context the Product Community Manager also described the operations of the patching process at Gameforge. They would receive the content patch from Runewaker and install it onto a test realm in English. Then localization starts working on it with translating roughly 40.000 items or keys. After this it goes through QA and if they encounter a serious problem, let's say a player using an item and crashing the game client with that, this would be a bug categorized as "blocking" for Karlsruhe, while often enough Berlin didn't make the same assessment. In such a case Runewaker gets a message that Gameforge will not deploy the patch to the live servers while such a bug is not fixed. They won't let such a patch go live because it would be irresponsible of them to the users. He commented very explicitly on two prominent examples: "Take a look at Bedim – best example – haven't seen such a piece of bullshit in a long time. Yes. Goblin mini game [crash issues] – total crap."
Currently they are collecting everything that needs to be fixed, because fixing certain things would be the first step Runewaker now has to do for them before new content arrives. They'll try to fix bugs so that people wouldn't get stuck anymore on a single quest for nine months or getting stuck at the follow-up quest right after a long-time broken quest was fixed. According to the Product Community Manager those things definitely shouldn't be the way they are right now.
Also he promised better patch notes in the future because they would be writing the patch notes themselves. He talked about an AirRivals patch as an example which had 12 pages of keywords as patch notes. Also there would be some pieces of information before the patch notes. He added that it's important for him that he won't communicate things he isn't 100% sure about happening the way they should be.
The main development of Runes of Magic will still stay in the hands of Runewaker though – Gameforge is a license holder for certain countries to publish Runes of Magic in them. They do have influence as a publisher on things Runewaker plans to bring to the players and can argue with Runewaker what they would like to have or not. On some core things like storyline and content although this wouldn't be possible because Runewaker is is trying to keep the game the same across the world.
At the end of the official part ThePit expressed his sorrow that the players are the ones suffering from all this at the moment. We should stand together and probably need to bear with how things are a little longer. But ThePit is confident that they can do it, together with the guilds and players, even if it's a slow and exhausting process, because exactly the guilds and players are making RoM what it is and are bringing the playtime in, the more the better.
He also expressed his view that there need to be all types of players and mentioned paying players, high-end players, lowbies, whales (a term from the gambling industry for high payers, also known as "high rollers") and free2play players because the mixture of all them makes the game what it is. It also needs people like himself who set clear limits and can be mean or in-your-face at times, and the active users who praise or rant in the forums.
He emphasized that Runes of Magic is "your game, your hobby, your fun" and that the players will have a great part in how everything will be going on in the future depending on their behavior in terms of being constructive or outright negative about everything. He really liked the strong feedback he got and said he was really surprised how much of it came out to be positive and constructive.
Gameforge, he himself, the team and the mentors are all highly motivated and are having fun in taking the new path and are happy about it. But they also do know that there's a lot of urgent work to do
Before opening the Q&A part with the guilds he concluded with the words:
"Okay, guys: Yes, we can do this!"