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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!

Notable Replies

  1. Falco says:

    Great post @erlend_sh!

    And love the site list, gotta get some ideas for my own instance of gaming forum.

  2. Shoot! I forgot to nudge one of my favourite new (non-customer) Discourse forums about the surevey, https://boards.faeria.com/. If anyone wants some styling inspiration, that one's a must-see.

  3. I find it a bit curious that one of the features mentioned as awesome by the communities polled is the badge system.... not because it isn't good, I think it is AWESOME and we use it extensively on our own forum http://forum.combustionpunks.co.uk/badges
    but because there doesn't seem to be much custom use on the forums surveyed.

    We are really wanting to push the use of the badges on our forum and are looking at how other forums utilise the system as per my post here https://meta.discourse.org/t/who-is-extensively-using-the-badge-system/46770 and I am looking for inspiration from how other communities use the badges.

    Anyone know of any forums pushing the badge system?

  4. That's a good observation. We can continue this discussion in your dedicated topic.

Continue the discussion meta.discourse.org

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