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Old December 8, 2007, 09:52   #1
andrewdoull
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The power of you

I just put this up on my blog, but it's directly relevant here, so I'm reposting it in full. You are free to distribute this article in full or in part, as long as you include attribution and a link to http://roguelikedeveloper.blogspot.com

The active size of the Angband community, excluding the top 3 variants, is approximately 100 members. I base this number on the number of active members of the angband.oook.cz forums, which is a conservative figure but not unrealistic. Looking at the Angband variants with the most active forums: it appears Furyband is maybe four times larger, Portralis probably a third smaller, and Tales of Middle Earth possibly twice the size. I'm having to guess here based on the number of simultaneous users online for those forum stats - it would be good to know a break down of active users vs. people who haven't logged onto the forums in the last three months.

So perhaps a total community size of 500 users all up, which is undoubtedly an over-estimate. I'd like to know how many people who download Angband who don't 'contribute' further by joining one of these online web forums. Given my experience with Unangband, it's probably a 10:1 to 50:1 ratio. Berlios, who host Unangband, make the download stats available for each Unangband release, which you can have a look at.

You may well have objections to the way I'm restricting 'community' to those people I can count. Well, I could well have been harsher, and just restricted it to the number of people who post to the forums, or Angband ladder, or newsgroups. This would be a more laborious process, but it would give me numbers that would be a lot smaller. And a closer sense of what I'm trying to define community as.

Why am I discussing this? Well, for one, there has been a mini-furor on the Angband Usenet group rec.games.roguelike.angband about the utility of web forums vs. Usenet. I have little time for this sort of discussion. Firstly, Usenet is a great resource, but one that is increasingly become restricted from general access, mostly by ISPs who are not offering nntp as a service anymore. It's also not the first port of call of Internet users anymore, like it was in the days that I attended university (And my dad was running the Commodore 64 BBS for the Auckland C=64 club and excited about getting Fidonet feeds in).

I don't buy most of the arguments for just using the newsgroup because the Internet has always been heterogeneous. I've cut back on a lot of the links I listed on my blog, but if you look to the right and scroll down a little, you'll see the number of Angband related links that I feel confident will allow me to capture any discussion about Unangband. Then I still have to subscribe to Technorati. Then I still have to check which traffic is coming to this blog and the Unangband home page on Google Analytics, and notice that one of my main traffic sources du jour happens to have the blog link in a very light grey against a white background and still manages to redirect more traffic to me than sites that have featured this blog relatively prominently. And then I still search Google for Unangband every month, just to see if anything else has come up.

Secondly, it's because I get frustrated by seeing amateur software developers like myself making despondent posts about whether or not it is worth spending the time trying to develop code, or whether they should continue working on an idea that they had. I'm no stranger to this feeling, and I'm fortunate enough to have been rolled a really good hand in life and have a loving wife who actually understands my need to sit down and write code for six hours at a time.

I'll put this in black and white. If you enjoy playing roguelikes, or any other games that are put together by people who are not employed full time by the game industry, you have the power to transform their lives.

1. Give the author feedback on their blog or on web forums or email or whatever means of communicating with them that you have.
2. Contribute what you can back in the form of being an active community member. Help out others, write reviews of the game, set up your own blog and link to the game.
3. Become an advocate for the game. Pester game reviewers that you know or like, link to the game on related forums, submit articles about the game to Slashdot, Digg it, Reddit.
4. Be a hedgehog about it. Don't just promote the game once, but keep doing it.

This site was recently Slashdotted, on the basis of a story that I submitted to Slashdot that as far as I can tell was made red hot by 11 people and paid off with 16,000 unique visitors to this blog and a three-fold increase in traffic. It's possible to get onto the gaming front page of Digg with as little as 40 diggs. If you thought the size of the Angband community was small, these numbers are tiny.

So why do this? It's simple really. The more feedback an amateur software developer gets, the better they feel about the game, and the more they'll code. Positive feedback helps, but even constructive criticism is good.

I challenge you to pick a game, any game that you like that you feel is unappreciated, go out and become an advocate for it for a week. If you can't do that, at least post five times to the forums of five separate games within a week. Be more than a passive reader. Get a Digg account, search for roguelikes and digg every article you find. File some bug reports, using whatever bug reporting tool the game has. I love to get bug reports, even though I reserve the right to ignore fixing them (I'll write more on this another time).

If you do that, I guarantee that you'll get more game written in return for a fraction of your total time invested. Not only that, but you create a small chance that something magical will happen. If enough people start to love the game that you love, there is the distinct possibility that the software developer will be able to make the biggest transition of all, to working on their game full-time. I think most dream of being able to do so.

Think about it. Through spending a little of your time, you could end up with a professionally written version of the game that you love. But you've got to make it worth the investment. And becoming part of the community, or better yet, an advocate for the community, is the best way to start making this happen.
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Old December 8, 2007, 20:25   #2
Malak Darkhunter
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Actually I kind of had an idea. It seems to me what angband is lacking is no one is advertising it. The only way I knew about it was because I used to play moria a long time ago, and when I got a new computer I typed in an active search for it. I was looking for moria....angband popped up by chance, so I investigated that and well..here I am today! So my idea is this, why not advertise the game in a place where you know that millions of people are going to be looking. Say...Myspace for example? It's free to use, people from all over the world use it. You can create a myspace group dedicated to angband. Thousands of people are members of these groups. People here from the communtiy can join in and talk about it, sort of like here. The difference between here and there are there are more "new people" you can attract on a myspace group for angband. You can send out invitations to users on myspace to check out the group, which in turn lends interest to the game. I am an active user on myspace, and stuff like groups, musical bands, all have myspace websites, and are always advertising themselves to people to just check them out. Angband could do the same. I might not be telling you the best way to do it, but it is a way, and I feel this kind of advertising is what angband needs to attract attention it deserves. Who knows, with enough attention it might attract members of someone connected to the gaming industry?
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Old December 9, 2007, 03:00   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malak Darkhunter View Post
Actually I kind of had an idea. It seems to me what angband is lacking is no one is advertising it. The only way I knew about it was because I used to play moria a long time ago, and when I got a new computer I typed in an active search for it. I was looking for moria....angband popped up by chance, so I investigated that and well..here I am today! So my idea is this, why not advertise the game in a place where you know that millions of people are going to be looking. Say...Myspace for example? It's free to use, people from all over the world use it. You can create a myspace group dedicated to angband.
I think that's a great idea. Why don't you go ahead and do it?

Andrew
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Old December 9, 2007, 04:16   #4
Malak Darkhunter
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Indeed, I just might do that.
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Old December 9, 2007, 05:02   #5
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FuryBand has maybe 10 or so active forum members. I'm not sure how that compares to the other variants. As for downloads, I've had roughly 11,000 downloads on download.com (note that the one up there is 4...not 5,waiting for them to update it), 1413 downloads on fileplanet (again version 4), and something like 700 downloads of Furyband 5/gold off my site.

For advertising, what I've done is submitted it to download.com and fileplanet, both of which is free. In the process, it got reviewed by Gamespy's DownloadThis newsletter, which helps a bit.

I think you made quite a few valid points, it'd be great to see a closer community.
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Old December 13, 2007, 00:55   #6
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Been playing since 1990 or so, and have been the 'Band Evangelist, at whichever forums I post at, since then. I think more people are playing than you probably think. I won't hazard a guess, though. A lot of players (I'm guessing here) probably don't post to forums, or join them even, as most players are (assuming again) probably bright enough to find the answers to any questions they might have in the ingame help files, and by searching the various forums.

I've always wondered how many folks played, too. I'm guessing there are a few in the industry who have (notably, though conspicuously they do not ever give the slightest credit or thanks, at Blizzard. heh.) Whenever folks ask me about it, I tell them, well, have you played D or D2? Well, they basically Ganked every good idea from Angband...town portals, random items, random levels (sorta), etc...then I tell them the Bands are way, way deeper in terms of gameplay for the single player. I wonder if the Readme in Hellgate:London will acknowledge the origins of all that. I won't hold my breath. I should (or someone with more knowledge than I should) write a few essays for the main gaming sites...that would P-O some industry folks. That we play a free game, and always go back to it (since it's superior in many ways) takes money from the pockets of the Industry folks, even the Gamespot folks themselves, I would guess.

Gamespot, gamespy, etc... you don't see much at these places related to free games, that's for sure. I'll always be a 'band Pimp, though. Until Diablo 3. Hehe j/k. Maybe.
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Old December 13, 2007, 01:03   #7
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Addendum:

I believe that the Angband and Variants phenomenon is just that...a phenomenon. A game idea that has been evolving since 1984 or so has something going for it that, IMO, is unparalleled in the history of gaming. Nobody can claim that. How many changes to D2, suggested by a player, are implemented in the next release? How many variants are there to D2? Oh yeah. None and none. The community rocks. A sizable book could be written about the phenomenon, trade paperback, front tables at Barnes&Noble and Borders. There is truly nothing else like it.
-Taq
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Old December 21, 2007, 04:42   #8
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i believe taqq is right about there being more players then you think, i know all sorts of people who play roguelikes including angband all the time, and they tend to be cooler and smarter then those who don't
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Old December 21, 2007, 19:30   #9
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I think it would be a good idea to try and corral the banders currently off the grid to the ladder here at oook. I came across a variant that upon character death it referred to the ladder at oook and that's ultimately how after years of roguelikes I learned that there were others who played, and actually had their own sites. (Tome? Heng? I can't remember)

If V and every variant at opening splash screen and death screen (which new users would see frequently more than likely) mentioned the ladder and forums perhaps more users would trickle in, giving a better benchmark for what the number of users are, and of course the other benefits of having more ookers. Plus, by providing a resource to visit upon death perhaps it would help to retain some users.

As far as trying to increase the number of users, I can only recommend having angband available for download in lots of places where free/shareware games are hosted. I came across Moria while rummaging through my older brother's game disks. It's finding something that you weren't looking for that is often the most rewarding.
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Old December 27, 2007, 21:04   #10
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I think of all the ways to get the current community of Angband and Varient players together that were mentioned here HallucinationMushroom's idea about bringing people back to the oook for the ladders is probably the best so far.

Angband has always been a side stream game, it's always had a rather underground kinda feel to it. The community took a long time to get away from newsgroups and usenet for much of it's hardcore players. It's always been discouraged when someone decides to try to make a graphical user interface beyond the basic tile interface we have. AngbandTK and Utomno are the only two that I've seen that got anywhere with it and both died out a long while ago.

The core users that like the simplicity of the "@" game is that a core, a rather small collective. Many people nowadays do not look at games unless they have graphics the tile sets we have currently help with that, but there is also the GUI that is missing, better more intuitive terminal window options. Skinable GUI's go a long way towards boosting many game and application communities, because skinners like to make skins!! skinning is usually relatively easy and people love the customization to their game that it provides.

As much as many of us hate or prefer not to have the graphical aspects in the game when we play, there are a thousand more for each of us that would give the game a first and a second look if it did have it. It's like compairing the popularity of adventure games before and after Sierra pioneered their Adventure Game Interpreter and the introduction of games like Kings Quest and the many games that followed.

O.

PS: There was a roguelike web comic out a while ago were the artist did all of his work in PovRay I believe, and he did all the visuals up as 3D textured font characters. I'd play a 3D Angband like that! :P Granted this is not the graphical improvments that I'm talking about above. :P would be funny to play though! :P
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