server morale - making it through the reboot of the new version

  • I am not sure you can use this for anything, but if constructive feedback can be useful for you all, to bring back the glory that was once CoA, I will be happy to share my thoughts. Three things led to me departing the server.

    The first, was that part of the Player base, supported by the most active DMs on the team, effectively changed CoA from a roleplaying server, to an action server. The mechanical challenge became more important than telling a good story. Values of "playing your stats", "telling a good story" and "rewarding interesting concepts & builds that portray something unique", as well as focus on a major narrative through the setting, were replaced by maximizing the mechanical challenge, and surviving insane encounters. If you survived, you got epic loot, and epic dm attention. If you died, you got told to "get better".

    The second was the death of CoA Europe. I work long hours, so I could only give the game roughly 10 hours a week. And for a mover & shaker, I experienced it as almost impossible to have any impact on the game. This was caused by the Plot DMs being purely American based, so plots and progress occured outside the 17-22ish EU timezone. This made players in the EU timezones leave, and killed off the time zone entirely.

    This leads me to the third "thing." Improper Community Management. With the death of storytelling and focus on mechanical challenges, with the balance between EU and US timezones, buddies of the active DMs were rewarded, and the RP focused individuals slowly drifted away. For years, we had 2 or so active IG DMs if lucky. That is not nearly enough, and it led to frustrations and stress being taken out on the player base. Instead of collaborating, the mindset of the playerbase drifted to competing for sparse DM attention, and the gap between those who had it, and those who did not, became bigger. To put it bluntly, you began nursing the weeds rather than the flowers, because the flowers needed more care, and the weed was resilient, did not have too many demands, because they only played when they needed a break from EFU.
    Instead of maintaining the differences between EFU and CoA, you allowed the worst from EFU to be brought into the CoA community, and laughed at all who argued against it. And now the flowers in the garden are gone, the movers & shakers, and the storytellers have vanished, because you wanted to play "who can spawn most suicide goblins or run epic death traps for your EFU buddies.

    If you want to change it, change the mindset of some of the current DM team, or remove some, who have burned out, and are effectively no longer contributing positively. Reach out to the Netheril community, and find common ground, and a way to combine forces once more.

    I wish you all the best.

  • I've got mixed feelings when I read this. (not about a single person handling HR though)

    I get that Arabel lore can be a burden in some sense for a new player.
    It is a valuable resource though.
    When I tried to invite my frineds (with some success, a guy played and enjoyed a wizard here and we'll probably come back at the appless week - hey! good news!) I made sure to mention that you can actually get into the history books! I still delight in my acheivement (and the DMs' who made it happen) when I once managed to do so.

    Not to mention that getting hooked with the server one of the more important aspects was Darlene's Rav and her book of portraits which I could see on the forums. Something I always wanted to get into!

    TL;DR: history is a resource as well. Granted, we need to offer some simplicity for newcomers.

  • I was driven away because my needs weren't catered to. I've already stated all my "whining" and don't feel like regurgitating them again.

    Also, many times when I brought up concerns I was subjected to snide remarks and accusations of whining, usually by smug, superior people who didn't understand or did not care about my difficulties and saw the need to belittle me.

  • And on this note I think we can all agree it's going to derail from here...

  • Admin [DM]

    This isn’t the “why I left thread.” More, “how do we fix this thread.”

    CoA’s philosophy has changed over time admittedly, as new dms are promoted and players come and go, as a community changes.

    I am readily willing to admit that I brought a very mechanical and action oriented perspective to my dming, but I do not think I ever neglected players who prefer other avenues.

    I can see a pressing need to automate certain systems as savn pointed out in discord. I would also demand from our team that before we move an inch in any direction we fix the following:

    Class kits.


    Hak content, reduce the size of our haks massively or just remove hak content completely as android and tablet is developed for nwn:EE.

    These are mechanical, back end fixes, but absolutely must be done to compete with other servers for players.

  • Admin [DM]

    getting Cleric domains to work right is also one.

  • @SpiffyMeister said in server morale - making it through the reboot of the new version:

    This isn’t the “why I left thread.” More, “how do we fix this thread.”

    CoA’s philosophy has changed over time admittedly, as new dms are promoted and players come and go, as a community changes.

    I am readily willing to admit that I brought a very mechanical and action oriented perspective to my dming, but I do not think I ever neglected players who prefer other avenues.

    I don't think it's wrong to have one or two DMs that are mechanically orientated, but I do think it is an issue if you are the only DM around. I would say that Arabel really needs to focus on its core attraction and that is backstabbing and intrigue plots. Mechanical optimisation and the likes are fine, and those players should be catered for. It's when that becomes the [only] way to do anything, it becomes a grind.

    I would say olouth makes a lot of important points. I really don't know how to advance a plot because everything right now seems off limits because of the setting (no old town, militia are app only, PDs have a massive castle to clamp down on nefarious actions but ant be interacted with, PCs are too insignificant for anyone important to care about, no hedge magic/rituals).

    Expanding th DM team should help a lot, and is why I will use appless week to try something new.

  • I think I have a few suggestions. I'm not a very old player, but also not the newest one. Maybe it can help.

    1. Arabel lore is huge.
    For a newcomer, this can be really tough to get through and it mostly blows the motivation away. I think we should set up a more static information page for newcomers other than forum threads (that you can get lost in.)
    Something like a wiki. It is not too hard to host and it could be on our main domain:

    We should have separate articles:

    • Newcomers' quick guide:
      Quick information about the server, who we are, in what style we play, what is most important to know
    • Arabel's detailed guide
      This is the longer version of the previous for those who are really interested
    • Arabel's history
      This is the big, big Arabel lore we kept growing for these 10ish years.

    We should collect all our important rules here and as well ask players to stick to them.
    This wiki should be a static source of information while forums are about the dynamic parts: events, announcements, etc.

    2. Decide on what kind of server we want
    I always see many debates that our server is too mechanics-oriented, or too slow & rp-ish, and etc. Sure there is room for both, but we need to decide which one we prefer.

    If we want a roleplaying server we should prioritize character development over mechanics development. Quests should give some more RP experience. Not just fighting, but some really interesting riddles to solve. I'm pretty sure not I'm the only one who'd need this. This is where a wizard / sorcerer / cleric could be the most useful. They can buff you and do badass spells, yeah, but also we shouldn't forget that they are kinda smart. This side could get more attention here 🙂

    If we want a mechanics-oriented action server, then yeah, these riddles have no use, but I actually suck at mechanics so I'll be just quiet for this option.

    3. Roles & Trust
    For the roles, we need to separate them. There is a god-like word: DM. It shouldn't be like this. This online playing with servers and forums and community has more roles than a DM. I would name a few:

    • Server admin
      Who manages the technical aspects of the forum, wiki, NWN server, discord. Somebody who works or at least is experienced in the IT industry. He/She can solve the technical problems quickly; organize resets, maintenances, whatever.

    • Moderator
      Whose job is filtering out inappropriate messages from the forums, discord, whatever else we have. Should have the permission to notify and ban those who constantly fail to comply with our rules. Although this means that their forum posting permissions are lost or cannot send messages on discord, etc. This should not affect the gameplay (yet.)

    • Community Manager
      Mostly promoting the game, actually organize the events, share them on every platform, find the best date/time with appropriate tools (like doodle). Has the rights to actually ban someone from the entire game & community based on player/moderator/DM reports.

    • Dungeon Master
      Now, this is where it gets tricky. I think DMs should stick to the DM we mean in roleplaying. So they should care with plots, characters, IG activities. Not less and not more. Their concentration should be on how IG time for players can be more and more interesting, exciting, etc. If their attention isn't distracted by other things they should do great. I think now this is the Storyteller role or something like that. Although I'd name this as the DM.

    • Builder / Developer
      Those who are occupied with scripting the game, build new areas, textures, whatever. I don't know too much about this but enough to think that this also requires a separate role.

    These roles should fluently communicate with each other but be independent on their scope. I think trust is essential for this.

    I also see the problem that we yet don't have enough people for this, nor motivation, but we'll need that if we want to let arabel grow and not just sustain this 10 player base.

    4. Soloing
    Kind of impossible. You can do a few quests on your own but they give you little to no experience and fun. If you want to explore, it's nearly sure that you'll die. Tried it many times. 😕

    If we have this low player count we need to make the server enjoyable when you're alone on it. Redesign (or create) a few quests that is soloable and is not deadly. Also, we need soloable quests that are more rp-ish in favor of spellcaster PCs. Also DM interaction with these soloing players could help a lot and they won't feel that the server is completely empty.

    5. Scheduling
    We live in different timezones. So we need DMs from zones that somehow cover all timezones we are in. Maybe a public calendar or whatever about when people should be IG (because they won't be completely alone there) could help.
    It's not too big of a contribution from both players and DMs to somehow publish when they'll (probably) be online/ig, etc. So we can plan, and when we log in we won't see always that 0/96 in nwn.

    6. Marketing
    We need scheduled events and we need to promote them widely. This way we can get newcomers or older players to look back to Arabel. And if they find the event good, exciting, etc. then maybe they'll stay here and look back later. Something can start then. They'll start concepting, come out with something, etc.

    It is advisable that DMs should let them go with their plot and intervene only if it really is counterproductive. Anything that helps bring life to the server should be appreciated.

    I hope this helped. These were my thoughts, and I love CoA and I hope that I'll find growing numbers on the server list next to Arabel and not just that usual 0.


  • I have to add something.

    The mini-DMless-events are great.

    We just did it yesterday (I think the one set up by L-Eagle) was really cool, kept 4 players really happy with some original content without the need of a DM watching.

    I think that's really a good step in the right direction. Kudos.

  • Admin [DM]

    Still considering my own view of it all, but I want to thank everyone for throwing their thoughts and feedback in. It is very helpful and allows for a better overall perspective.

  • Had this thread sent my way, so I figure I’d chime in.

    Frankly, I agree with Terris pretty wholeheartedly, though I don’t think there’s much point if it’s not done transparently.

    I’m gonna borrow one of Terris’ metaphors, here: a server is like a garden. You need to weed your garden. Anyone who’s done any gardening knows you can’t just prune the weeds, you need to haul them out at the roots. If you don’t.. Well, folks aren’t gonna visit your weed-choked patch, they’ll visit some other, nicer garden. For further reading, look up the Paradox of Tolerance.

    Something I’ve realized is that one of the reasons the “good old days” were good for me is down to player count. It could support, forgive the term, “bully” style play in a way low numbers can’t, because there were more targets to spread it around. Meaning you weren’t necessarily going to bump into whoever whenever you logged in, which I found much less tiresome - and, frankly, more memorable. That’s probably a part of why someone like me, who doesn’t really enjoy a PVP-focus, played here for so long. Had I come into the server for the first time in the past few years, I might not have.

    So... I don’t know how you fix that one in the short term. Marketing, shiny changes, a reboot... That could all help, alongside “weeding”.

  • I think that people who look at our playerbase and see it rampant with homphobes, sexists, bigots, transphobes and racists should take a long hard look in the mirror and see if the problem may lie somewhere closer to home.

  • Admin [DM]

    Gonna go with CB on this one, seeing that one of our DM team is a transgender individual and that we've had homosexuals in our community and we've remained welcoming and fun-loving. Jokes sometimes get out of hand, but I have never, ever seen anyone express anything resembling hate speech.

    If you really think this community is filled with such people (it is not), then I really don't know what to say.

    That said, the DM team is working -really- hard to create a setting that everyone can find fun and enjoyment inside.

  • @CitizenBane

    Not rampant. Only a few loud ones that only ever seem to get a slap on the wrist. Same kind of jokers that scream and cry about 'dirty SJW's ruining video games'. It is the allowance of even a small number of players, who do this kind of pathetic stuff - even if trolling, to keep playing that prevents the server being able to be proud of its level of community management.

    I was asked why I didn't promote CoA on my streams anymore, it is because I wouldn't want to endorse a place, to my community, that has no sense of proper community management. No matter how fond my memories of CoA are, there is a lot of work to be done. Sadly, that means being heavy, taking out the ban hammer, and going back and removing toxic elements from the server.

    To clarify, I do think the toxic elements are a minority - but as a DM, seeing behind the curtain, the team has always put the number of players over the quality of the community. A literal explanation of this to me was that if you have the numbers, you'll attract enough good players that you won't even notice the bad ones. it was a BS line then, it is a BS line now.

    Again, proper community management is what is needed. Dedicated community management. A clear code of conduct that isn't just for the in-game, but for the OOC forums and chats. Someone drops a racist comment on IRC, boom full-on ban from the server. Permanently. Feel free to appeal in a year and show proof that you've actually changed.

    I say this with respect and love. I really do. I want this server to be something I could dive back on, tell my friends and community to dig in and play, but there needs to be firm handed community management. That is enforced.

  • As Spiffy said, the problem you're referring to is non existent and if you're as eager to swing the banhammer as you say you are, i'd say it's pretty clear you're not the man for the job anyway.

  • @Terris "A literal explanation of this to me was that if you have the numbers, you'll attract enough good players that you won't even notice the bad ones."

    Lol, really? This is a pretty drastic misunderstanding of the chilling effect a few bad apples can have on a group.

  • I have yet to see a racist comment from anybody in my several years of on and off playing. Even when heated discussions happened I have NEVER seen racist commentary. I personally think you are blowing things out of proportions as I cannot help but look at places both of us have played like SIGIL and be thankful for how the DMs handle things here.

    All the respect and love in the world does not change that one fuck up equalling a perma ban is the best way to scare off players without question. I would per example be in constant fear of fucking up unntil my nerves are so shot I quit out of necessity.

  • Admin [DM]

    I am just going to shut down this line of conversation as it won't go anywhere productive. Maikeru earnestly wanted to open a dialogue- and if we're going to discuss players who have been on the short-end of the DM and player stick because of things they possess in RL that effect their ability to communicate, it is him, and yet he remains a loyal member of this community and I frankly admire this love for our server very much. He works steadfastly toward a solution and asks for solutions- and many of you point out why you're never coming back. What will bring you back? Call out me if you want, I am an adult.

    Several new DMs have come up and been promoted. If you have old grievances you wish resolved, you may message @Skulduggery.

  • Admin [DM]

    Spiffy does not infact have the authority to send you my way.

    I however have the authority to promote him to the head of our complaints department. Congratulations @SpiffyMeister

    But in all seriousness, several points have been raised here and debated here that do bare thinking about. But debating was not the purpose of this so I support the rest of his decision.

  • Admin [DM]

    Hate speech is not permitted on CoA.
    We are constantly working to provide an open, tolerant and friendly community.
    We attempt to deal with specific issues as they arise.
    We are all flawed and have opinions, however common courtesy and basic respect needs to flow all directions.

    Anyone is encouraged to bring up concerns or issues directly to the Server Admin Team and we will go from there.

    Remember this is a game and not a platform for personal agendas.

    Two Basic Rules

    • Don't be a dick
    • Be excellent to each other

    This is a game and please let's get back to playing it.

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