Team Comment - Community Updates from Cynthe - October 26, 2001
Hi there!

I've been a little quieter on the boards lately, but I've still been busy behind the scenes, trying to come up with ways to make information more clear and readily available to the players. We've just recently updated the entire Playguide on the site (that’s over 300 pages of updated game material, thanks to Kerowyn!), and the downloadable manual will be upgraded as well. The community and web groups are also working on some major long-term projects that will improve the UO site in dramatic ways - more on that once we're farther along!

For now, I wanted to tackle a couple short-term things that could help players get the most out of the information we’re providing. The first area is the patch message, which has typically only been updated when there was major information to post, and which has also not typically included additions and bug fixes contained in the publishes. The main reason this was the case is the fact that it’s a fairly small window, and we were concerned with not requiring the users to scroll down to get all the information. However, it’s my thought that having the information available to those who wish to scroll down is certainly better than not having the information there at all! Options are always good. :) So now you’ll begin seeing more information on the site’s patch message, including the contents of patches and publishes, and it will be updated much more regularly than it has been in the past.

The second area is the discussion boards. Since our boards don’t mark threads that have had a "red" response, it’s often difficult for our players to know when something’s been answered by a development team member. And of course, when questions are asked more than once, not every iteration of the question will be answered, meaning that some folks will feel ignored. More than once, I’ve seen people post angrily that a certain question has been ignored, when in fact it was answered in another thread earlier that day. The logical option might be to add new functionality to the boards that marks red posts, but unfortunately, just like the development team, our web group has a very tight schedule, and we don’t have time right now to create new board functionality. It’s on my list, though! Something I *can* do, however, is add a board FAQ area. The new read-only forum section on the boards is just that – an area for us to post those questions and answers that we’re seeing often on the boards, as a way to help players find the things that we think are important. So what’s the difference between us posting questions and answers there as opposed to putting them in the game wizard or in FAQs on the website? Well, the questions we can put in the read-only forums can be a bit more current – as in, posting questions about reverts or bugs or impending changes (the kind of thing we wouldn’t typically post permanently on the site, since it would be obsolete within a week or two). Some of the information will probably be repeats of information that’s in our Game Wizard, but if it’s something that we’re seeing asked often on the boards, then we’ll try to put it in the Frequently Asked Questions forum as well.

There are only a couple threads in there so far, but we’ll be adding more as we see things that are more prevalent on the boards. And just as a reassurance, the regular forums are not becoming read-only or fully moderated; the new read only section is in addition to, not instead of, the regular discussion forums. Let us know what you think, and feel free to suggest new questions for us to post there!

So that’s it for now… please feel free to continue posting your ideas to make our methods of communication better!

Amy "Cynthe" Sage
Manager of Community Services
ORIGIN Systems

Team Comment - Cynthe Comments on the Boards - August 20, 2001
About 6 weeks ago I was busier than I think I’d ever been in my life, trying to juggle three positions, and probably accomplishing about 30-40% of each, even working most nights from home after I left the office. But it’s a different story now, as Sannio and Kerowyn are both settling in very well here in the OCR department. Sannio’s demeanor on the boards is good-natured and friendly, and he’s still meeting with the folks here to learn all the facets of UO’s development so he can answer more questions and dig into the concerns of the players. Kerowyn is tackling the necessary updates, has been re-establishing regular contact with our fansites (as a side note, any fansite operators who would like to be on our fansite update list should contact [email protected]), and taken on a multitude of tasks related to the planning of the Online Worlds FanFest.

The department is running more smoothly every day, but one area that has still been a real challenge has been board moderation. When Sannio came into the picture, I felt he should be as positive as possible in his interactions with our community, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to have him come in and immediately take on the role of disciplinarian. (Since I’m already seen as a disciplinarian of sorts, I figured it was all right to have a few people continue to curse my name if necessary *chuckle*). Kerowyn has had way too much on her plate to have time to read all the board posts, so that’s been left up to me and our contractors. Until now, that is… and I am absolutely thrilled to introduce a new position into the OCR fold here at Origin: that of Online Community Moderator! Our contracted board moderators have done an incredible job of helping the boards to run smoothly, and I have asked one of them, Greywolfe, to work here as a full-time board community moderator, starting today.

Greywolfe has been one of our most active board moderators since the official UO boards opened, and I feel this addition will be an incredible asset to our community. Sannio will still be the main contact point for information and the person who collects the feedback, but Greywolfe will be responsible for enforcing board guidelines, and will also be helping folks find their passwords and solve other board-related problems.

This is a great time to discuss a few other changes to the boards as well… several issues seem to keep popping up on the boards, including things like the endless Trammel vs. Felucca debates, and posters including huge signature files on their posts. The board guidelines that were there before were a basic set of guidelines, but they were too ambiguous in places, not stressing things like exactly how big was too big when it came to signature files, and not discussing why endless Trammel/Felucca debates were not helpful to the board atmosphere. So the board guidelines at the top of each main forum have been expanded to be a lot more specific in what’s cool on the boards and what’s not, and should serve to make our vision for the boards much more clear. You can read them here. They’re pretty long, but I highly recommend that anyone posting on our boards take a couple minutes to read through those and be familiar with them if possible (which will certainly make Greywolfe’s new job easier!).

So welcome Greywolfe into the office and the department, and I look forward to seeing the UO boards develop into a closer and more cohesive community than ever (of course, we don’t expect all the feedback to be praise, but I’d like to see the signal-to-noise ratio improve, and I think we’re on the way to accomplishing that). :-)

Community Manager
Origin Systems

Team Comment - More News from the Community Front - July 10, 2001
It's time for an update on the Community Relations Department hiring process!

To fill anyone in who hasn't been following the Community Department here at Origin, I'll recap a bit. Typically we have a three-person OCR team, consisting of a Community Manager, a Community Coordinator and the Website Content Editor/Writer. All three of these jobs are extremely time-consuming and vital to the service as a whole, since without the community, we have no service.

So on to the point at hand - a couple weeks ago two of our community team moved on to other opportunities, and I took on the role of Community Manager. I have been conducting a search for the right people to hold the positions of Community Coordinator and Website Content Writer, and it has been a really tough search! We have such a passionate community, many of whom would add greatly to the Origin team. How do we pick only two people out of nearly a hundred responses?

Well, after two weeks of reading resumes and conducting interviews, I have chosen my Website Content Editor, and I'm thrilled to say that she accepted the position just yesterday. She will be moving onto my team within the next two weeks, and I'm really looking forward to introducing her to the community! :)

And I am close -- so close -- to finding the right Community Coordinator. However, the choice has not been an easy one, and I can't make anything public just yet.

Until I have these two people on my team, I'm doing my best to maintain the essential duties of each position - i.e making sure the players on the boards are updated and notified of changes, making sure the important news announcements are made on the site, and seeing that the dev team has the information they need and the exposure they need to make the right decisions for the game. However, I have had to choose my priorities carefully, since my time is limited and there is so much to do.

I know many of you are anxiously awaiting the news of who will replace Melantus and who will take over the site, and I must say I'm anxiously awaiting the moment when I can give you that news! Building this team has been my number one priority since I took on the role of Community Manager, and it's a task that is too important to rush. I hope that my next Comments from the Team will be a more thorough introduction of the new community folks, and that in time, you'll get to know them as well as any of us!

Amy "Cynthe" Sage
Community Manager
Ultima Online
ORIGIN Systems

Team Comment - OCR News from Cynthe - June 15, 2001
Most of these Comments from the Team lately have started off with an introduction of sorts. Well, I've introduced myself before, so we'll skip that part. This is an introduction to a new beginning, if you will, of the Ultima Online Community Relations Department.

As you may have seen on the Employment Listings, we're looking to bring on a new Ultima Online Community Coordinator and a new Online Content Editor/Writer. This is pretty big news, so before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I wanted to lay out a few details of what's happening here in OCR, starting with a timeline of the OCR history since I have been here (I'll keep it brief).

When I came into OCR working on Ultima Ascension in November of 1999, LadyMOI was the OCR manager, Calandryll was the UO Community Coordinator, and Leilo was the Content Editor/Writer. I learned a lot from LadyMOI about management, and about community. I also shared an office with Calandryll and Leilo, and learned about the value of close communication, and about caring for the needs of the players. Later, when LadyMOI went on to a new role in Ultima Online development, Calandryll stepped up to Community Manager, and Melantus took over his role of Community Coordinator for UO. Leilo continued on in charge of the website content.

When Calandryll was presented with the opportunity to dip his hand into development and begin creating new global events in UO, he jumped at the chance, and Leilo ascended from her position into the role of Community Manager. I was brought into the UO OCR Department at that time, filling her role as Website Content Editor/Writer, and working closely with Melantus. But as Melantus mentioned in a recent post on our boards, this industry is growing rapidly, and people tend to move quickly when new opportunties arise. So as Leilo and Melantus move on to pursue those other opportunities, I've been given the opportunity to lead the department as Community Manager.

Losing friends is always difficult, and Leilo and Melantus are both extremely close friends of mine. Being talented people, they will no doubt be an asset wherever they go. But looking forward is important, and there is a LOT to look forward to! Stellerex's last Comments from the Team talked a lot about UO's future, and the exciting things planned... so I won't go into that again. But let's look at the OCR department. I've learned from the best, and I have a lot of my own ideas for things I would like to see happen. I want the discussion boards to become a more useful place. I want the players to feel we're listening on the edge of our seats. I want the community to have a voice in the game's design, and make sure the players' desires are heard and considered. I want the Update Center to show a steady stream of development and progress. I want a lot of things.

And what do I have? What I have now is a new position from which to work, and a completely open department. I have the opportunity to choose the people that will make this happen, and the people who will bring the most excitement and the most passion into the Origin Community Services department. And I'm going to do it soon... time is of the essence with a game as rapidly evolving as Ultima Online. It's not often that someone hands you the power and says, "Here - build the team that can do this."

It's a fresh start, and we're going to make the most of it. :)

Team Comment - Comments from Cynthe - May 16, 2001
Hey there,

Many of you have seen my name since I pounced onto the boards in March, but some of you may not have any idea who I am. :) I’m Cynthe, otherwise known as Amy Sage in that other thing we call real life.

Like many of the recent Comments from the Team, I’ll start off this one with a bit of an introduction. I’m a native Texan, and attended the University of Texas, studying Music, English, and German. In 1998 I was hired on at Origin to help out the Ultima Ascension team with some database work (okay, so it’s a glorified way of saying data entry, but hey, you have to get your foot in the door somehow). After six months of doing some behind-the-scenes design work, I was hired on as a full designer, and stayed on until the game shipped. After that, I accepted the position of Community Coordinator for Ultima Ascension. The position was a good fit for me, because I knew the game well, and… well… I tend to talk a lot. :) In February of 2000 I moved on to the role of Community Coordinator for Ultima Online 2, later to be called Ultima Worlds Online: ORIGIN. This role included weekly website updates, as well as lots of posting on message boards and answering questions in the community when possible.

So now on to the present… after the decision in March of 2001 to concentrate on Ultima Online, I moved over to UO, filling the position of Content Editor/Writer. To say the pace has picked up would be an understatement. I used to think that weekly updates kept me pretty busy. The UO site is another beast altogether… the updates are daily, and at any given point in time there are twenty people waiting for information, updates, and changes done to different sections of the site. Talk about a lesson in scheduling!

I’ve had people ask exactly what the Content Editor/Writer does. Well, it's important to note the term "content" in there, since that's my domain. The actual design and appearance of the website, and the coding of the sections is not done by me - we have an extremely talented web team with an incredible knowledge of web design and code. And as for editing and writing, I actually seem to do a lot more of the former than the latter, but that’s mainly because the community’s more interested in hearing the developers talk than the editor. And that’s certainly fine with me! My tasks include things like soliciting/selecting/editing weekly spotlights, Comments from the Team, and the daily alerts (which involves deciphering the emails between the billing department, the network operations group, the development team, and the support group to figure out exactly what these things mean for the players and make sure that there’s something on the site to let people know what’s going on). I’m also now in charge of keeping the site updated, which is a gargantuan task, and one I have only begun.
    *side note - I’m well aware that there are many pages that could use an update. I’m always cool with getting emails about those pages… I file them into my “list of things to fix” folder.
And since I, for some reason, always find it difficult to pull myself away from the community “front line”, I also try to help Melantus on the boards when I can… which in and of itself could be a full-time job. Since I’m much less experienced with UO than Melantus, I tend to focus more on board moderation and trying to keep things reasonable and civil, leaving him free to address more game-related issues.

So I’m always open to discussion, and I welcome thoughts on the website (keep in mind there’s no way I can actually take all the suggestions I receive, but there’s always the chance it’ll grab my attention and end up in that “list of things to fix” folder).

Till later,

Website Project Supervisor
Origin Systems