How Building Community is a Real Time Strategy Game
I’ve been playing Real Time Strategy (RTS) games for about 10 months now. Thanks to a former coworker, I started playing Starcraft 2 (SC2). Thanks to Daniel Lewis, I also recently started playing Lord of Ultima (LoU).
Both of these games have multiple processes going on at once, and good game play requires adequate attention be given where needed; i.e., a good combo of micro-management and macro-management. For example, in StarCraft 2 you have to get your economy up and going at the beginning. Once you get that going well, you begin building the rest of your base and your battle forces. Eventually, you go in for the attack. At every step you have to make sure your economy is still going strong. When you’re sending troops to attack, you have to make sure your troop production is still going.
I’ve only been playing Lord of Ultima for a couple weeks now, and yet again, timing is key. You have to get your resources going, so you build and upgrade Wood Huts, Cottages, Quarries, and Iron Mines, for example. But you only have so many build and upgrade orders you can issue at any one time, and the higher the upgrade, the longer the process will be.
Similarly, you have a recruitment cap. You can only recruit troops based on the levels of your barracks, training grounds, and other related buildings. When you want to issue commands to raid dungeons, you can specify a mix of troops, but it takes time for them to travel to and from.
It’s like building and managing community.
The community has needs. It needs to be fed and nurtured. You want to be building it so that it grows in numbers but also in strength. All members of the community participates at their individual levels of engagement: some are very actively involved while others are only occasionally or remotely involved.
Setting expectations helps considerably, both for community members and for the community manager. For example, instead of figuring out what day or time was best to have an event, I decided that we would hold New Media Cincinnati on the second Saturday of every month, except for December. That makes planning a lot easier! When are we meeting? I might not know the exact date, but we all can look at the calendar and identify the second Saturday.
In StarCraft 2 there are build order constraints. You can only build a Starport, for example, after you’ve built a Factory. Similarly, there’s an order that must be followed in putting together an event like a New Media Cincinnati Second Saturday. Things like making sure we have the venue for the date, setting up the theme and getting the word out. There is an order to this as well. Some of these actions can be done concurrently; some depend on other actions to be done first.
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