Using Vanilla allows En Masse Entertainment to get new game forums up with lightning speed and iterate on the fly.
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.
En Masse has always known the importance of community, but the journey has certainly been a learning experience.
The first time around, they went with a third party platform. Unfortunately, the forums they had lacked moderation and spam tools.
When their next game came, they knew they’d need a new custom solution. Thinking the answer was in-house development, they launched their second game with a custom community forum. Regrettably, the challenges with this option came fast and furious.
Regrouping as a team, the answer became clear. They needed the best of both worlds – a customizable, off-the shelf community platform.
Recruit fan moderators and reduce spam
En Masse can now identify trusted community members to patrol weekend rogue spam.
Fast Launch & Iteration
En Masse can launch a new game forum quickly, iterate on the fly and inboard players in a matter of days.
Console users can communicate easily on the forums via their phones or tablets.
The Challenge – Speed
So Mark Geller (Technical Producer) and his team began their search for solutions. Their interest piqued when they saw that Penny Arcade, Perfect World and EA were already using Vanilla. Better yet, we had all the features they wanted, including multi-language tools, forum customization to match the look and feel of the game, speedy forum launches and rapid iteration.
The icing on the cake? When they discovered that Vanilla offered backend hooks into their system. Bonus!
The Solution – Vanilla Open Source
Once Geller realized Vanilla was the best solution for the En Masse team, they began considering Vanilla Open Source. This wasn’t an easy choice; they knew to do it right, they’d need the resources to manage it. So they considered the scenario: what would it take to have someone monitor and keep their self-hosted instance up to snuff, handling patches and updates?
After crunching the numbers, it was obvious that the cost of Vanilla’s managed solution was much lower than overseeing it in-house.
Geller noted, “The cost to run 30 game forums through Vanilla Forums was equal to the cost of En Masse supporting one game internally. It just didn’t make sense. Why should we worry about this? It was better to let the forum experts handle it.”
The Benefits – Less spam, faster everything and better communication
Thanks to Vanilla’s moderation and spam tools, they were able to identify trusted members of the community to keep weekend rogue spam and drama at bay. This meant they no longer needed staff overlooking the community 24/7/365.
“Before Vanilla, we needed a staff of two to three people just to moderate our community,” revealed Geller. “But with Vanilla’s features, we now have trusted game fans who keep watch on the forums outside office hours. What an improvement! It allows people who care most about the game to collaborate and solve threads. If they don’t have the answers, they simply escalate and we can jump in.”
Another benefit was speed of launch and iteration. When they built their own in-house forum, it took 6 months. With Vanilla, they had a new forum live in under a week. The team at EnMasse was pleasantly surprised: “We couldn’t believe how fast we went from contract to up and running. Simply amazing!”
Today, En Masse can launch a new game forum quickly and iterate on the fly with Github Theme Pull and Vanilla Hub. They get their beta tester in, communicate with developers and start onboarding players in a matter of days – not months.
And these forums offer an ideal space for player communication. As Geller notes, “our biggest spikes in traffic come when we have content or new gameplay systems. Sometimes we invite our developers to answer questions about how the changes will affect game play. Our fans love it. Plus, the forums are a great space for players to congregate when a game is in maintenance.”
After launching Tera on Xbox and Playstation, the forums have played an integral part in player communication. “On the PC, we can control the way we contact and track players. On consoles, we don’t have customer info, but we have an ID. That means the forum is the primary way we speak to them.”
Having a responsive, mobile-friendly forum was also a very important factor for the En Masse team. “PC players can quickly go to the forum with one click,” Geller explained. “On the console, people communicate from their phones or tablets. We needed a solution that worked well on mobile. Vanilla allows us to offer this experience.”
The En Masse technical team is excited by how flexible the system is, and as Geller noted, “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. The future looks fun.”