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Discourse for Game Communities

Erlend Sogge Heggen May 25, 2016

About a week ago we sent out a brief survey to the game-maker segment of our customer base, looking for some insights on how they make the most out of Discourse, and what else they’d like to see added to it. 

Game companies using Discourse

Game companies have been some of the biggest Discourse success stories, which is no surprise considering gamers (ourselves included) formed passionate communities around the games they love before the Internet even existed!

8 Hosted

7 Self-Hosted

Nine communities got back to us and completed our survey. Here’s what they said.

How does your company use Discourse?

Our Discourse forum is the epicenter of our community. We have been active on social media (facebook, twitter, etc) for a few years and as our community grew significantly, we realized we needed a more flexible medium to engage with our users. We tried a few alternatives and nothing came close to Discourse in term of encouraging healthy and constructive discussion despite a very passionate and diverse audience.

— Infinite Flight

Having a forum allows us to do a number of community centric things: run contests, talk strategy, facilitate fan art, report/resolve bugs, talk about player feedback and feature suggestions, and discuss updates. Ultimately, it helps us build a stronger identity as a community-first developer, since we are able to foster stronger connections with individual community members and the community as a whole through our activity there.

— Proletariat

What are your 3 favourite things about Discourse?

God, everything. Almost literally. Sorry I can’t be more helpful! It’s been a while since I used any other forum software “in anger” so I’ve kind of got over all the “ooh, that’s neat!” moments, but I recall there having been quite a few over the however long we’ve used it (18mo or so?).

— Radiant Worlds

The badge and level system are really clever as well, they introduce newbies to the features of Discourse and reward regulars with shiny badges and perks.

— World of Atlas

Here’s a summary ordered by how frequently each was brought up:

  • Trust levels and rate limits allowing for a smooth on-boarding of new users
  • Customizable badge system
  • Powerful & simple-to-use admin tools
  • Pageless topics
  • The ease of integrating content (gifs, images, videos, external links) into messages
  • Open source and easily deployable if we needed to, making it a safe investment for our community needs
  • Responsive support team
  • The default view of all threads with filtering that includes/excludes categories.
  • Quoting/linking to other threads cleanly
  • Ability to change the templates for emails and all text copy
  • Forward thinking philosophy
  • The ability to use HTML for formatting is great
  • We enjoy how messages and notifications work
  • The weekly digest
  • We’ve switched to some newer hardware twice now and being able to completely move your entire forum with just a few clicks, using the backup and restore function, is such an easy process too
  • Excellent API support, extendable through plugins

What are 3 things you dislike about Discourse?

One complaint from users is that the forums are “complicated”. We feel it’s probably a bit different than most are used to, but it’s great once they get used to it.

— Shinybox Games

We’ve heard this story before. A user lands on Discourse; feels a bit confused at first; ends up loving it. Discourse challenges some legacy conventions, and to long time forum users this can be a bit jarring at first.

The recurring feedback was for additional customisation. Other than that, complaints tended to be unique to each community. This correlates well with more customisation, since that would empower community moderators to further tweak their platform to taste.

  • Slightly limited ability for customisation.
  • “Suggested Threads” seem to often get pulled from very old threads, so we get thread necro’ing happening quite often. A warning on those would be awesome.
    We do at least sent a JIT warning in-editor when posting in a long dormant topic.
  • Search could be better.
  • User onboarding could be better, explaining some slightly more obscure UX elements & features (e.g. green dot = personal message, “unpinning”, reply-as-new-topic, what exactly are trust levels?)
  • Moderation actions can be a bit confusing, and more insight into certain “automagic” actions by the system would be nice.
    While our moderator tools generally receive praise, especially for their power, there’s certainly room for improvement in the UX department.
  • Polls are lacking features, such as not being able to hide results.
  • Would love to see another plan in between Business and Enterprise.
    This is in the pipeline!

What are 3 things you really want to see in Discourse?

  • Would LOVE to have a DEV TRACKER plug-in, with features such as coloured text/backgrounds for dev posts & an easy-to-access list of all dev posts. Thread icons for “a member of a specific group has posted in here” — primarily for “staff have posted in this thread”.
    The #1 request by far! Most of this is doable in CSS and existing features. We’ll do a followup post to cover the how-tos shortly.
  • Category-specific mods.
    Currently planned for v1.6!
  • Category Voting feature. We currently use another service for our feedback/voting system and an option to enable users to vote on a feature (with a limited amount of votes per users) would be great.
    We are working together with the author of the Feature Voting plugin on this. We’re exploring the possibility of bundling the plugin for Business customers.
  • Paid plugins. A way to have plugins installed and maintained on an hosted instance with a per-plugin pricing (or maybe bundle).
    It’s being considered, but not currently on our roadmap.
  • We have a “Publish to Discourse” option in our wordpress blog. It’s great, but we can’t set a Category for the post, so we have to manually change it.
    This has been implemented in the latest version of the wp-discourse plugin!
  • The ability to change an email address associated with an account. Players get them wrong sometimes, and ask for us to change them.
  • It would be great to be able to let users make new topics that only they (and admins) can see and reply to (useful for reporting other users without being attacked).
    Track this topic. In the meantime, we recommend setting up incoming mail and moving from pm to topic or vice versa as needed.
  • We use Discourse as a knowledge base as well, so having the ability to show a staff’s reply to a question at the top of the topic would be great.
    For that we recommend the Solved plugin!
  • The ability to block other users (from a user standpoint) would be a great feature to keep people who just don’t like each other from constantly attacking each other.
    We do support “muting” a user, which will prevent all notifications from that user, and any PMs from them.
  • Special threads for Q&A.
    This has come up a few times now. We’ll draft a spec for it and see if there’s any interest for it.
  • Importing from other forum types a bit easier would be nice, but that’s a one time issue.
    We are working on it!
  • It would be great if the actual forum name could be updated without the downside of broken @name mentions and such.
    Unfortunately, very tricky to do right, but we continue to look into it.
  • Making it simpler for self-hosting. Notifications on upcoming changes and deployments.
    We’re working on improving this with more guides and a fool-proof setup process.
  • Better support for multi-lingual forums
    We’d love to see a more in-depth topic on this!

That’s it folks. We appreciate all your feedback; our very favorite kind of feedback is from active communities, so thanks for helping us make Discourse better for you and your community. Stay tuned for Discourse 1.6 and beyond!

5 Replies

Using Discourse as a community-powered wiki

Erlend Sogge Heggen May 3, 2016

The following is a guest post by Sam Nazarko, CEO and founder of OSMC.tv

Are you using Discourse in a novel way? If you’re interested in writing a guest post like this one, please get in touch.

In 2014, I started working on a new project, OSMC (Open Source Media Center). OSMC is a free and open source media player based on Linux that lets you play back media from your local network, attached storage and the Internet.

osmc-frontpage

 

As the project started to accumulate users, we wanted to help the newcomers as much as possible and ensure that they could get the resources they wanted. The need for a Wiki became abundantly clear but I wasn’t sure that popular Wiki software was the best fit for us. For a while we worked on our own GitHub based Wiki system. GitHub had a markdown editor, but it still left a lot to work out for newcomers and the process wasn’t as smooth as we had expected.

After some thought, we realised that Discourse had everything we wanted. Users familiar with posting and the WYSIWYG editor would be able to edit or add to the Wiki without any additional learning curve, and they wouldn’t need to hold an additional account on an external Wiki site. Mark Theis (OSMC’s web developer) and I got to work. By the end of the day, we had a Wiki category in Discourse and some basic scripts that scraped this forum category every half hour and published the pages on our website as static HTML. We scrape Discourse via the Discourse REST API and build templates for our blog.

omsc-wiki

 

It’s working well. Edits are easily trackable, and Discourse’s permission system ensures we have fine control over edits on the website. The new implementation is also very fast, as we build the Wiki pages as static HTML and cache them. Discourse has already proven its ability to handle large numbers of posts, so unlike other Wiki software, I’m not concerned about performance problems as the Wiki scales.

There is certainly room for improvement with our Wiki. We scrape each post from the Wiki category and get the post content as JSON. This JSON contains pre-formatted HTML. In the future, it would be good to be able to access the post as Markdown and have more control over the styling of the content. Editing posts is simple enough, but adding new categories or new articles is still a little too complex for some users, and this is something we’d like to simplify in the future.

The Wiki needs a lot of work, but we’re glad to have implemented something stable and easy to use that will last for many years to come. We are now looking at using Discourse to power our new Newsletter system for the same ease of editing and great durability.

You can get the source code here: (updated)

  1. https://github.com/osmc/website/tree/master/server/modules/wiki
4 Replies

Beginner’s Guide to Creating Discourse Plugins

Jeff Atwood April 14, 2016

Part of our important work with Rails Girls in 2014 and 2015 was not just to mentor and encourage new developers, but also evolve Discourse into a platform that’s generally friendly and easy for developers to build on.

We’ll be working with the Rails Girls project again in 2016, and this year will be our first with Google Summer of Code. As we work with novice developers and help them get comfortable building on Discourse, we get better at it, and our Discourse extension points and plugin story continues to improve.

start-scrabble

For example, last year Robin put together a great six part series in the #howto category on meta, the Beginner’s Guide to Creating Discourse Plugins:

  1. Introduction
  2. Plugin Outlets
  3. Custom Settings
  4. Git Setup
  5. Admin Interfaces
  6. Acceptance Tests

This year, we’ll work with our GSoC teams and Rails Girls to dogfood these plugin tutorials even more and further refine them. They’ll be building cool new features and plugins with stuff like webhooks, canned responses, feature voting, low-end device pure HTML mode, better chat system hooks, user-centric activity digests, better color theme previewing, and so on.

In the past, we’ve hosted a general discussion topic on meta for these groups — here’s the one we used for Rails Girls in 2015 — and we encourage the whole community to collaborate on what’s being built and provide feedback alongside us. That is, after all, exactly what Discourse is designed for — collaboration through discussion! Keep an eye out for the upcoming 2016 discussions on meta in the next month or two.

This year, we’ll also be setting up Digital Ocean droplets with test Discourse instances for the teams to experiment and install their plugins on. Of course, anyone can install Discourse in the cloud in 30 minutes, but we want to make sure the post-install plugin installation and troubleshooting story is as clear and problem free as it can be, too.

If you too are looking to build on the Discourse platform, I hope these Beginner’s Guides to Creating Discourse Plugins are useful – please let us know how they can be improved!

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