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Brainstorm how to get more people involved in the community

A topic by leafo created 1 year ago Views: 1,341 Replies: 64
Viewing posts 1 to 14
Admin(+3)

Creating a brand new empty forum and just saying "go use it" probably isn't the best idea. I'm trying to collect ideas for stuff we can do to get more people participating. This could be as simple as creating some interesting topics/boards to get started or even coding features. (I'm down for both)

Here's some stuff floating around in my head:

  • Screenshot thread (obvious)
  • Some kind of weekly "this game is featured, give it feedback." Maybe picking the game could involve some community feedback
  • Creating a bunch of mega-threads with tons of resources for the respective boards (eg. game engine mega thread, art resources megathread, etc.)
  • Game share thread? Maybe you've got unsent gifts on itch.io that you want to hand out
  • Game teardown thread. Someone takes a game and looks at all the various components that make it work and be fun. This could be high level, going over mechanics, or low level, going into art and code

Maybe we could take inspiration from the reddit gamedev community ?

Admin

What types of things do they do that you like?

(+1)

The weekly posts are really nice for setting expectations for users. Although this forum isn't the best for a weekly post format, I think that creating dedicated topics to things like: Marketing | Art | Playtesting | Writing | Technical Accomplishments might encourage more focused spaces for people to congregate around.

People enjoy guidance, and subtopics help in facilitating that organization :)

Admin

Thanks for the ideas, I like those. You think a single topic for those things is preferable over maybe a new sub-board?

They are all rather broad subjects. There's already an Art category with the 2D and 3D sub-boards, which is a good starting point. As for Playtesting, I think it could use its own sub-board within the Game Development category. Other things like Writing or Music could probably fall under Art as well. Marketing is a finicky topic because it's not development related. Maybe a sub-board for business related subjects?

(+6)

How about a game jams section for people to find/advertise game jams and find other people to help organise them?

(+1)

This is a good idea.

Admin

Good idea. Will add!

(+1)

I definitely like the weekly featured game idea. Of course, being a game dev, I'll look for any ways I can to shameless plug a game. :P

But in all honesty, if you give people a means of promoting their games, a lot of people will come in just to promote their games. Whether that's something you want is up to you. I think it's cool, but it can create a lot of noise if you want other kinds of content. That's more of a problem for subreddits than forums, but it's worth considering.

tl;dr idk what I'm talking about

I do agree that self-promotion can pose an issue. Every passionate developer has been at the point where they try to plug their game all over the place - it's natural for something you put so much time into!

If people want to advertise, they can keep a running devblog and update it in another section of the forum. If a game is being featured weekly, it should be moderator chosen with no applicant process. And the focus of discussion should be on its design and how it might be improved. There's no perfect game, and hearing good constructive feedback can have a positive impact on the developer.

Admin

You definitely make a good point, too much self promotion is bad for developing the community. Here are the rules I wrote for the releases board to try to address the issue:

Please keep self promotion to a reasonable level. If we see you posting excessively all of your posts may be removed, and you may no longer be able to post new topics.

Please be courteous of the time of those who will read your post. Release posts that show little to no effort, or are just links, will be locked and removed. Think of this place as a way to build a relationship with a new audience, not just a place to dump links.

If you have any suggestions I'd be glad to hear them

(+3)

Feedback/reactions/playtesting are super helpful and a great way to get actual dialog going as opposed to just having everyone market themselves to each other!

What @John Bujalski said. A sort of review area would be good.

Also places to post and share things besides just screenshots. Such as concept art. I have plenty of that XD

Admin

Right now we've got the 2D Art forum but maybe you had something more specific in mind?

(+1)

I noticed that after. I'll create a concept art thread there. Thanks :D

(+3)

Since itch.io has a huge range of different games, including very weird experiments, I see a great potential for unusual mega-threads that don't exist just yet (eg. autobiographical/twine/altgames resources)!

Admin

I definitely like this idea

(+1)

What about a tutorial post and request section?

Admin

This could work, but I'm wondering if there's something better we could do if we wanted to host tutorials. It's kinda tricky, since on a forum you could post anything, so things like blogs, tutorials and articles can work. But maybe it makes more sense to have those as top level features so they don't get lost in the discussion.

(+1)

The most important things which keep me coming back to a forum like this are community, layout and, let's be honest, opportunity to find more players to my games. To my eyes layout, after a couple UI tweaks, will be just perfect here. It's clean, it's tidy, it's content-oriented. The community so far looks great (I have a feeling that itch.io crowd is a bit more mature, but don't prove me wrong here) and after a while it'll come down to mods/reports/rules and having fitting sections. As far as self-promo goes, it's nice to see devlog and release sections already, having weekly threads will help too.

Now a couple of ideas I'd like to reiterate or suggest:

  • weekly feedback/screenshot events (like /r/gamedev does)
  • a section for youtubers (gamedev videos, indie letsplays) to keep their "youtublogs" (let's heat up that gamedev + youtuber relationship we all benefit from)
  • a section for distribution/publishing/promotion related discussions
  • off topic section, maybe forum games too. I'm not a huge fan of those, but many people are
  • tutorial/article/blog section as Median suggested (nicely tagged or grouped by the category)
  • stricter rules for posts in self-promo sections to keep them less spammy (one post per game, must include screenshots)
Wild idea section appears!
I wouldn't dare to suggest cluttering the design, but maybe we could have a nice ajaxy hover popup on our usernames which would display lite weight list of latest/featured games and Twitter/Facebook/Youtube icons?

Also, this might sound crazy and could go wrong in many ways, but what about embedding itch.io games in your posts? I think it would be pretty sweet.

Other madness would be to have an on-demand private forum section for your game, which some of the bigger/complex/multiplayer projects could benefit from, but it would cause an influx of "empty" non-dev accounts, which might not be a good thing depending on direction itch.io is moving.

So here's that for now. Let me know what you think!

(+1)
  • weekly feedback/screenshot events (like /r/gamedev does)
While this is basically the only way in which you can really DO something like this due to the scope involved (individual threads per screenshot == ugh), a point will need to be made to ensure it doesn't end up like the current state of r/gamedev's SSS threads: Devs coming in, dropping their posts and contributing nothing to discussion at all. It ends up being a bunch of random file links and no inherent social cohesion. (It's very much worth noting that this isn't what those threads were like initially, but it's what happens when communities grow - intimacy slowly fades)
(+1)

Agreed. Decline of /r/gamedev weekly threads was a sad thing to watch and I stopped coming back to them months ago. Unfortunately I can't think of a way to increase engagement of such "show your thing" threads without building the platform around them.

That dev + YT/Streamer relationship heat up can't be emphasized enough. We certainly do need that and I'm sure they would like an easier way of bridging that gap without a stuffed mailbox that gets swamped.

Agreed with the off topic of not a fan of but really helps build that community vibe.

Additional idea branching off of your tutorial suggestion is "tutorial/tips from the dev about his/her/their game"

As a YT/Streamer I third this with enthusiasm. The Dev/Influencer communication is currently flawed across the industry and trying to spearhead a change in that would certainly be a good place for Itch. Especially considering the recent introduction of the Press System.

Yes, the current method (investing time and lots of communication/involvement) just currently isn't feasible for developers to connect with a large variety of YT/Streamers. With indies having to do so many roles (and many having to work a "day job" on top of it) and the time investment to really forge that connection, a developer can only make that solid connection with a handful or delay the development length to unimaginable developer time lengths. It still is a great method for building a strong relationship and should still be done but leads to a big dilemma of all eggs in one basket scenario when it is the only method and does not leave enough time for networking/reaching out to more YT/Streamers.

(Edited 1 time)

> Also, this might sound crazy and could go wrong in many ways, but what about embedding itch.io games in your posts? I think it would be pretty sweet.

It sure sounds really cool, but in practice it is not a good idea ;). Malicious users could completely destroy the page, and steal your cookies.

Admin (Edited 1 time)
steal your cookies.

Not if it's in iframes \o/ which everybody hates but is still the 'webview' of the web.

Didn't know about that. So with iframes you can safely embed foreign code ?

Admin(+1)

Yup, see the MDN page about it β€” HTML5 added more nice things like the sandbox attribute.

Admin(+1)

Thanks, a lot of good ideas.

Also, this might sound crazy and could go wrong in many ways, but what about embedding itch.io games in your posts? I think it would be pretty sweet.

Definitely want this. This is an idea I've had for a while now. How the embeds will look I have not decided yet

Other madness would be to have an on-demand private forum section for your game

I definitely also have plans for this. It will work kinda similar to how jams can have communities, but with much greater access controls.

The popup on username hover is a good idea too. There are a few other user interaction things I want to tackle first before we start doings something like that but I'll definitely keep it in mind. Right now user profiles are not very good, and really only work for developers, so a popup could be an intermediate solution.

(+3)

One thing I'd like to see is something I've found in Reddit's Roguelike Development Community (/r/roguelikedev), every other Friday is FAQ Friday, where a thread has a specific topic on games development (such as animation, map design, mechanics ect) and game developers comment on how they approach the said topic, providing screenshots demonstrating parts of their game and how they implemented some of the aspects. Having something like that encourages a development focused discussion, have developers share their ideas and non-game developers look at insight for how certain games achieve this stuff.

Also it's best if we include non-gamedevs into this discussion, since they use the site too and we don't want to completely alienate them with game development stuff and provide some general gaming content too.

(+3)

> Also it's best if we include non-gamedevs into this discussion, since they use the site too and we don't want to completely alienate them with game development stuff and provide some general gaming content too.

Absolutely. Though it's nice having gamedev communities, it's worth noting that Itch's forums should actually predominately be for the folks who PLAY the games on the site rather than just the devs talking to other devs.

(+1)

> One thing I'd like to see is something I've found in Reddit's Roguelike Development Community (/r/roguelikedev), every other Friday is FAQ Friday

I follow that too, and it is really great to see how other developers solve their problems. I would definitely love to see this.

Admin(+1)

This is a good idea. I wonder how we can find people to participate in these things though? It kinda seems like someone who has expertise in the field should be hosting.

One thing I've found useful to start off a forum community is keeping the number of different discussion areas in it small. 1 or 2 sub forums max - small. It makes it more likely that people will find and talk to each other that way, which is pretty much the main thing people use a community hub for.

Correct. Fifty different subforums mean fifty people all talking in different places rather than one place with fifty people.

(+1)

yup and then it's easy to expand to meet the community's requirements later with more forums or features or whatever!

On second thought, given the number of people here right now it might not be necessary. but I guess longer term it might matter.

(+2)

Let's talk retention.

What I mean by this, is that Itch as a site has several things that need to be improved (and they have been, which is great), and they all flow into this discussion for the forum as the following points:

  1. How do you get people here? (Forum)
  2. How do you encourage someone to come back tomorrow? (Forum)

First point is mostly about advertising the forum (big link front page when you're ready, etc). Second point is about psychology - and let's take some big pointers from forums we've all used before.

The first things that come to mind, are: Post counts (or some form of point reward system). Yes, they do encourage low value posts, but they are also a psychological reinforcement to come back (and remind users they've spent time here before). They also help to show how involved someone is within the community so a response can be properly rationalised (ie: talking to someone who's posted 10 times vs someone who's posted 10,000 times uses different phrasing, assumptions, etc). I think this is one of the first things that should be considered. Straight up

Secondly: Keeping a conversation going. Encouragement to continue a conversation is typically done via a trigger - mostly a notification that you HAVE a reply to respond to. Not sure that I've noticed this in place yet. In short, if there's no notification of responses, expect people to never return to conversations and for things to be very hit & run.

Third: Consider giving visual weight to users according to either their purchase history (little joysticks to indicate amount of games owned, etc), their development history (little space invader icons per games released), jam history, etc. Little things help to give people a feel of how much they belong. I know the crisp, clean interface is a nice thing but maybe you can run two visual styles - one by default that's more traditional forum and then the cleaner one for those who like a more pure look.

Mostly - if you want the community within the forum to grow (and therefore, the site overall), you're going to need to aim more at the players than at the devs, and you're going to need to examine other forums and see how certain things are handled.

Admin (Edited 1 time)

(Hey here's a notification because I replied directly to your post)

(Edited 1 time)

Nope, didn't get one

Edit: Further, there doesn't seem to be a way to see notifications unless you have one

Admin

so you didn't get one of those? I got one of those.

Last night it wasn't working very reliably, unfortunately :(

Admin

Unread notifications will automatically get cleared if view the topic they are part of. Maybe since you were already on the topic that's what happened?

Interesting. Will need to sit down and do a bunch of testing

There are notifications already! At least for reply-replies (you should get one right after I'll click "post"). And I love the ideas about displaying user's purchase/gamedev "values".

(+1)

I think the most important thing here is the players vs devs using the forum. Perhaps giving devs the capacity to use a part of the forum to support their game exclusively but I can't currently think of a way to do this without it getting messy. Then also places that are already there to support a dev community.

Personally I don't like the gamifying parts of forums like post counts etc. partly cause it makes all other forums look really ugly and distracts from conversation somewhat but on the other hand if there's something you can track to give a sense of belonging, that would be cool. The reddit function of being able to customise a little coloured box after your name is really useful.

> Personally I don't like the gamifying parts of forums like post counts etc. partly cause it makes all other forums look really ugly

If it's an aesthetic thing, offer options to minimise those things or hide them (or, make them visible on mouseovers)

Admin(+2)

Thanks for the all the feedback. There are already notifications, and they get emailed to you if you don't log on to the site for a while. If you aren't seeing them it's a bug!

I think flair on posts is fun and can be useful. I'm thinking maybe it can be some kind of opt in system. (reddit is kinda similar where some subreddits let you add an icon.) Whether postcounts should be shown on the post, I could go either way on it. It's definitely useful to gauge someone's seniority from their post, but I think it's more common now to use a registration date. (When we have community profiles there will be things like postcounts there, so it won't be completely lost)

(+1)

Putting this here since it's about keeping convos going: having the ability to subscribe to threads (getting notifications when there's a new post) would be nice (as it is if I understand correctly we only get notifications when we have a direct reply).

Side note: maybe make postcount, etc visible on mouseover or an option to do so. That'll allow a clean aesthetic without (hopefully!) much work.

Also, posts need a link to the post itself so I can share them, etc.

(Edited 1 time) (+5)

The only thing I can say is that I'm a lot more likely to be active in a place where I can talk about my own stuff without fear of alienating people. I don't really know how to create an atmosphere that makes people feel safe to talk about the stuff they're putting so much of themselves into, but I do think being able to mention your work guilt-free is important as I think it'll encourage people to participate in more parts of the forum rather than just having a devlog thread for their games they update without going anywhere else.

Holy run-on sentence, Batman!

(+2)

This is an important point, and to expand on it: Reddit make you feel like shit for mentioning what you're working on.

While I feel the forum should have a player focus as opposed to a dev-only focus, it should be very clear from the outset that talking about your work is encouraged rather than frowned upon.

(+2)

One way to facilitate both players and devs feeling comfortable and connecting is maybe to allow games to have a subforum? If my games had a forum where I could connect with the players of my games, I would certainly be using those and I'd probably stray outside them as well. It also gives both players and devs a reason to be here; meaningful interaction between developer and audience for specific games. Hopefully some of that would spill over into other parts of the forum? It'd also keep most of the shameless plugging isolated.

Individual games can have a subforum of sorts, in that you can enable comments on them (I haven't done this though, as I don't want an additional place to maintain)

(+1)

It'd be cool to split those forums up like Steam does, at least with General Discussion, Bug Reports, and Announcements areas. This way they'd feel less like a generic comments section on a news post and more like a dedicated hub of discussion on your project.

(Edited 1 time)

Yeah personally I was thinking of a Steam like system for forums for games. The comments thread for a game isn't really a good place for engagement (particularly since nobody even seems to use it?).

It'd be nice. The reason I keep being hesitant to activate comments on my games (though I begrudgingly do) is because I know they're just going to turn into flame-wars and I'll have to shut them off again. A little organization should help alleviate that a bit.

Admin(+2)

Definitely going to be adding this. I've already been in talks with a few developers who are going to use it for pre-launch. If you're interested I can add you to the list.

(+2)

Yes please, we're currently looking at community solutions for UHD so that would work out great.

(+1)

I so agree with this. The rules on reddit make it an impossible place to "self-promote" (cough market cough). I like blabbing about what my team and I are working on. Sharing cool things from development should absolutely be encouraged, or we're stuck with 140 characters to do so on Twitter, or posting to a closed-off vacuum on Facebook. Not fun.

At least you had a comma! But I totally agree. We should never feel guilty about bragging about stuff we're doing that we think is cool. That's called marketing, and it's the cheapest form of marketing there is.

This is a very good point. I understand that forums and game database are different things, but as for me, itch.io is an easiest place to upload a game at that moment. I would never doubt if I want to upload game here.

(+2)

While thinking on this topic, I am seeing several of the common suggestions of what has worked for other big communities and how to apply that. Several great ideas as well. For me, personally speaking, I am seeing this as a different light. I am seeing this as a situation indies should know in and out before starting to view their indie career as a career instead of a hobby. We do have the base necessities and they are solid. What we need to start expanding on is that "something unique that hasn't been done before" that get people so attached that when they start using it makes them begin to wonder how it functioned without it before. Basically to "evolve" the forum process in some unique way. Since there is great developer backing, we want to do something unique that really speaks to and calls for the players to come, interact and really want to be here on a regular basis. Game share idea is certainly one idea that certainly does support that but "something more" will be necessary, too.

Some possible suggestions I have are:

  • A banner at the top of the forum home page pointing out a focused discussion for the day/week
  • A weekly "<insert name of someone who can regularly handle this>'s weekly recommendation" that prefers to focus on games that are underhyped to bring them more on to everyone's radar (or possibly 2 games, one for paid and one for free)
  • I think it is great that we can simply click on the developer and be taken to their page and stumped on ideas ATM but that connection is great and if we can possibly connect that to the marketplace page of a chosen featured game would bring in a step closer to connect players into games of developers they are discussing with (possibly a link of "Featured Game" or an icon representing featured game, not the game's icon, so it can let the player have a little sense of mystery if they want while also keeping a solid, consistent feel). For the player users you could have a favorite game instead.
  • As much as I think I probably won't like the idea, a very ease means of sharing posts to not just specific threads but specific replies will help encourage more community engagement and the cons outweigh the pros. May create an occasional "call to arms to bully this idea" problem but gives a sense of sharing specific inside the forum because we do want to share with the players most and get as many brought into the picture.
  • Optional location tag
  • Also did some looking at some non-marketplace sites and some simple ideas that popped up are: site tour (where you can point out the forum), Help wanted section (so developers that are looking to hire can post), Evangelist section (got this idea from Unity of highly active members that go above and beyond to make the community great),
  • Online/offline status (if they are online looking at itch.io ATM)

Some of the more outlandish ideas to think about but probably are not anywhere on the ich.io scope:

  • a mini-game running along the bottom while the user is on the forum
  • A turn-based idle game that plays a turn each time you post
  • "Hot" thread of the moment (needs a large active community for this to be effective though)
  • developer-generated emoticons (strict limits or it can get out of control fast. Maybe 1 or 2 per game)
  • Achievement/trophy/award system for forum activity (post X posts, created a topic with Y views, etc.)
  • Badge system (performed for participation in specific events and only given out by leafo)