Interview with Karsun (WoWS Producer) & MrConway (WG-EU Community Manager) transcribed by MrFingersEU
Karsun: responsible for contact of the Paris office with the St.Petersburg dev team, and responsible for planning high-end events, inter-region coordination, press-release, inform & delegate marketing, CS,…
Conway: “jack of all trades”, direct interface between players & company (forums, social media, reddit,…), organises smaller contests & specials, face-of-company at offline events,… Every week is a different week with different jobs.
How an event on the EU goes from idea to implementation
K: There are many steps to it. When someone (at the office) has an idea, a “user-story” has to be created, a description on why the player would enjoy it, and how he would go through it. Not necesarrily has to be written down, but it should be presentable. Once it’s presented, it’s shown to the Global-Team (so Community Team shows it to Product Specialist, who shows it to the Producer (Karsun)), and if everything checks out, the Producer goes to Development (Russia) and other producers for discussion and possible implementation. Then it’s judged if it’s implementable right now, or not due to technical issues. For small stuff (commemorative flag) there is a schedule & workflow calculator which guesstimates what it would cost and what resources are needed, and then “it just happens”. For more complicated stuff (like Spaceship Yamato, the Destroyer Of Everything), stuff that needs development time, first needs thorough convincing on why it would be good, and then it has to be investigated if the game-engine can cope with it.
Of the ideas that come in, how many are discarded?
K: between 90 & 99% of the ideas are rejected. “The vast majority” gets thrown out somewhere in the process, the best ones are retained, and those are getting full attention.
How does the feedback loop between community & company happen for next iterations of an event?
K: There is a difference between content & specials/missions. With missions, it works like this: when you plan a mission, you plan it for the month ahead. So on the first days of month 1, the final days of month 2 are already being closed. So when you decide something is going to happen, and you put that on paper, it will only happen the earliest the next full month ahead of you. After the first iteration has happened, the community team gathers feedback from the forums, reddit, youtube (reaction of players on content), then it takes roughly yet another week before the report is written and sent to the producers. For continuous events like “Weekly Missions”, that means that when the feedback finally has been processed, several weeks have passed already since the first iteration of the event, very likely even a month, and before any changes can be implemented, it can easily be yet another month. So from first iteration to modified second iteration we’re talking about 3 months in the best of circumstances. For small events, feedback can be delivered fast: when something broke, it can be acted on directly: a phonecall to the right people and the content gets shut down. Pulling content is the first step, like recently with the broken hotfix. When it’s not urgent, the feedback & updates on content is slow, very very slow.
EU Weekly missions are hard (from an NA standpoint), how does it look from a producers perspective.
K: I’ve talked with MrFingers on reddit, and seeing the report of the community reactions on these missions. The missions are designed with consecutive difficultness in mind. The first two missions are designed so that everyone even remotely active can complete them in time, and are very easy. Those are “grindy missions”. The last three are more difficult, and are “skill-based missions”, you have to take into account you won’t complete them. They are fully aware that they are hard, and that’s the point of it. The skill-challenge involved is growing over time, and the few percent that completes the 5 stages is like it should.
Is there a directive from WG-HQ how high the bar should be set? How hard the EU players should work for their mission rewards.
K: there are no central directives. Each regional office can decide autonomously on what is being done and what not. There are some rough guidelines though, but they’re not being forced onto the EU office, there is liberty in what’s being done, and how it’s being done. The weekly missions are a good contribution on top of all the other content players can participate in the period over a week.
Ranked season in EU
K: From all active players, 20% participated in ranked battles this season (at least one battle). That means 50% of the players who could access ranked battles played a battle. They like that number.
Rank 10: 27% (of the players who started in ranked).
Rank 5: 6%.
Rank 1: 3%.
The dropoff comes from the different pools of players that faught eachother depending on the rank they were on (so not rank 2 players fighting against rank 14 players). Towards the end of the season, there is always in increased interest, bigger pressure on players, the higher ranks get way tougher. The most skilled rank out first, then the less skilled players can get to rank 1, etc etc…
Ranked increased popularity?
K: yes, they’ve been highlighted better in promotion though, the changes from season to season aren’t as big anymore, and increased popularity is expected when some new tools & content will be installed in the next seasons of Ranked.
What are challenges of running a server with so many languages?
C: difficult to communicate in 7 languages, every post has to be made in sevenfold, so a lot of advanced planning is needed, that’s why there are no “last-minute” posts on the forums. The communities are different across the server. One community has an opinion A, another community team can give a total contrary opinion B. The EU community is very diverse.
K: example: Blyskawicka: Polish players were very excited about this ship, and were raving about it, other regions didn’t particulary care for it, except maybe the British. The French, Spanish & German communities were not interested in the ship. So hypetraining doesn’t really work for the EU community.
The EU has had some pretty strong protest against how they’re being managed & catered, in comparison with other servers. What policies have been rolled out to publish content in conjunction with the other servers since the X-mas stuff.
K: we’ve had some problems regarding that before the X-mas problems arose, it’s not the first time players have noted server differences. St.Petersburg hasn’t got much influence over the EU decision making, the servers don’t have a thing where one server can veto something that another server is doing, or “do something because someone else is doing it”. There is some communication between servers, for long-term planning, plans are made well in advance. But there are different strategies, and we are fully aware of that. When you compare goodies (quantity & quality) between servers, or the requirements to get them, there is always be one server who has it easier in a given month than the others. They are aware of the feedback, they are not ignoring it. There were several conversations between regions on how stuff works out. No promises, but one of the solutions is to have a central framework to work with for all servers instead of all working from scratch. Karsun would like to see that, but can’t make any promises about it. But rest assured: the feedback is heard, as is the satisfaction about some of the content.
Does the EU have a say/control in the marketing side? Why ships are available on A but not on B, how does it come? How is decided when what ship is sold, in which shape
K: one category can’t be controlled, and that’s the pulling of ships that are OP (Gremy, Imperator, Kamikazes). Apart from that, every server can decide on their own what they put on sale when. EU issues are a diverse population with poor (East) and rich (West). Karsun would like to offer everything, but that can’t happen. For signal flag bundles, the EU was (is!) behind other servers, because of a different monetization agenda. Same applies to ship bundles. Back in the old WoWS days where ships were always bundled. Things change and evolve, but they have an agenda. Same applies for techtree premium ships, where the EU has the most ships available for purchase.
With some EU navies being featured this year (French, British, Italia), are celebrations for that being organised?
K: no comment on that. The focus on EU ships is not because the EU staff want them to see, but grew historically. Many different ships were built in Europe, where America only built a few types of ships, but built those in huge numbers. So in Europe there will be a huge diversity compared to American ships.
Issues with vertical filling of the techtree for EU ships, which aren’t as difficult for Japan, American,… ships
K: that’s true, the French techtree is pretty historical, and they’re happy with making them as accurate as possible. But there are some paper ships (either plans, or made up by WG, like the Tier X). At St.Petersburg, they have an actual ship designer in their staff to design the fictous ships. He uses the thoughts & processes that were used in the 1930’s & 1940’s to make an educated guesstimation on the natural progress of a line, and to “invent” ships that were totally plausible. So it’s not historically accurate, but it’s as historically accurate as is humanly possible.
C: a big factor on deciding what ships get released or not is the availability of information on those ships. A lot of time is spent on information. For the German techtree, EU staff was sent to the Bundesarchiv and spent a week over there searching for blueprints, some of which weren’t unfolded since the day they were drawn. That’s why there are so many Soviet ships in the game. The information is directly available with the St.Petersburg office is right next to the Naval Museum. The French ships were in 120 boxes (huge crates) filled with plans. The problem is that often plans can’t be relocated, so the plans remain at the museum, and weeks are spent sleeping next to the Xerox machine.
K: For the German navy: the plans are still copyrighted by the Bundesarchiv, so you have to pay them to even look at them. And you’re not allowed to share them. Beautiful blueprints are there, but they can’t share them, because they don’t own the copyright.
C: Every navy has its beautiful & interesting plans, even ships that are not to be found on Wikipedia.