During the first day of Paris Games Week, we had a chance to speak with Chris Collins, European Community Manager for BioWare on Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Have you thought of extending the guild testing program to Europe?
Chris Collins: Definitely. It is something we're looking at doing. Stay tuned to swtor.com for more.
UPDATE: David Bass clarified the above answer from Chris Collins on the forums.
Quote from David BassAccording to Chris Collins you haven't invited EU guilds yet:
Darth Hater: Have you thought of extending the guild testing program to Europe?
Chris: Definitely. It is something we're looking at doing. Stay tuned to swtor.com for more.
Source: PGW 2011: Chris Collins Interview
So have you or have you not invited EU guilds? Considering we are getting inaccurate information from either David Bass or Chris Collins.
When Chris was asked that question in Paris, he wasn't aware that I had been inviting guilds from all regions in the Guild Headquarters. This was due to a miscommunication on my part, and I apologize for any confusion it's caused.
To be completely clear: There are already a significant number of guilds in the Guild Testing program who have marked themselves as EU guilds on the Guild Headquarters. We no longer restrict our guild testing invites based on the region the guild selects in the Guild HQ.
Hit the jump for the interview in full.
We have Chris Collins and we're at Paris Games Week. We're here in Paris now and it's dominantly French speaking obviously. What are some of the challenges in dealing with a multi-lingual community?
Chris Collins: Synchronization is key. Obviously one of the biggest things that we have to think about when announcing anything is to make sure that all of our service territories are covered. For example, when a message goes out, it isn't as simple as "Let's just craft the message" and "Bang!" out it goes. We have to bear in mind the translation process and things like that involved. But at the same time, we have to also be aware that every single community is different -- because at the end of the day they are separate communities. Players in France or in Germany will react to messages very, very differently and we have to take that into account.
For us, we just have to make sure that we cover all the bases with our players. We have to make sure that everyone is going to get as excited as everyone else at the same time. And just really work hard to make sure we take into account everyone's feedback. We have to listen to all of these territories. We have to listen to the French players and listen to the German players as much as we have to listen to any other player in the world. So it's great to be here in France; it's great to be here showing the game to the French players. And even though we're only in the first day right now, the reaction has been fantastic and it's really good to see. Because obviously we heard from a lot of German players at Gamescon, and we heard from a lot of the people stateside. We spent the last month or so in the UK showing the game to the UK players. Like I said, it's great to be here and it's great to be getting the chance to talk to them.
In that realm, will BioWare tag certain EU servers as language specific, i.e. French speaking servers, German, English, etc.?
Yes. That is currently the plan. And it isn't necessarily that those servers will be language locked, so you don't have to just go and play French on the French servers. If you have French friends, you can head over and play with them. We keep going on about how we're a global service and that is true in every form of the phrase.
The customer service when they call, will they also speak French?
Yeah, we're ramping up the customer support team right now in all our supported languages -- English, French, and German. So if you submit a ticket in French or you have an issue in German, then you'll be responded to in kind.
We had two different release dates before the global and now you consolidated it into one. Will there be a different patch or maintenance schedule for EU servers than the US counterparts?
We talked about this a few times. We use the phrase "global service" because that is what we're running with Star Wars. For us, it's obviously not going to be completely synchronized. We have to take into account a number of different factors including quiet times to bring the services down. So while they might not necessarily be back-to-back, we will do everything we can to make them as close as physically possible.
So there wouldn't be an advantage for a guild in the EU, like in France or Germany, over one in America who's racing for progression in Operations?
No. I mean, there will be a difference, but we'll try and bring them as close as physically possible.
What is the pulse of the European community since the launch date for Star Wars: The Old Republic aligned to match the US release?
Everyone is ecstatic according to the player feedback we received. It is a great thing for European players. Everyone is going to be in at the same time; they don't have to dodge spoilers and things like that. We had a ton of feedback on the release date from the European player base and the US player base. It was a great thing for us to be able to do. We got the announcement out there. And I think a big sigh of relief was breathed by many.
Can Europe expect the same scale of marketing as we will see in the US?
Sure. I can't really speak for the individual territories or different marketing campaigns throughout Europe because that's not really my bag, but we'll do everything. Every territory is as important to us as each other. You'll probably see different things happening in different territories, but who knows what weird and wonderful things these marketers will come up with.
What challenges do you face with time zone differences between EU and Austin when you're communicating back and forth with the team here and the US?
Compared to a lot of the other projects that I've launched in the past, one of the areas we have to bear in mind is that people work in different time zones and Stephen may be asleep at certain times when I need to get a hold of him. We have NOC teams that run 24/7. Our CS team is 24/7. We do a lot to make sure that we are a 24/7 service, so we have to make sure we run that as smoothly as possible. But really these days, we're not afraid to phone each other up. I had Stephen call me up at three o'clock in the morning. It's obviously the first voice that I want to hear first thing in the morning to deliver me some fantastic news and not so fantastic news at the same time. So we're all ready and we're all raring to make this the best service we possibly can.
What are your plans or general philosophy about getting developer involvement in the EU community like with their yellow posts, etc.?
There's no two ways about it -- it is something we have to. Again, I worked in a lot of European communities before where players have felt that they're almost a second rate citizenship as it were. So we have to work hard to make sure that people post across the board. We have Georg and Emmanuel who are in threads wherever they can be. At the same time, there is a language barrier because a lot of our developers over in Austin don't necessarily speak those languages. So from a community perspective, we'll do everything we can do make sure any really hot news that comes from those guys is inserted into the language-based communities as quickly as possible.
Does that go both ways where you're pulling out some feedback from the multi-lingual areas of the website and bringing it back to them to answer?
Of course it does. And really, that is one of the mainstays of my position here at BioWare -- to make sure that all that feedback, anything that is a hot topic, is in with the right people over in Austin, and make sure that the information is then fed back to the community in a response as necessary and as quickly as possible.
People should not be afraid to post, and not think that they have to go over to the English forums.
During the testing phase that we are in right now, my team is ramping up. The German players can see we had several come on board. We're bringing more and more faces on week by week. We'll have a few more in the next couple of weeks as well, so stay tuned for those. And as my team comes on board and as the CS team ramps up, you will see a lot more interactivity between the languages. It's just a case of manpower right now.
You were here all day at Paris Games Week. What is the reaction to the game from the French community?
Fantastic so far to see the concentration on players' faces. We had people just spending their entire day looping back and forth between characters. We had a couple of PvP events on the main stage. We have the 501st here. It's just been great. People see the Star Wars brand and they're intrigued if they haven't heard of The Old Republic. But at the same time, you've got those guys who have been in the community for a long time. We had guys from Milennium, Origine, from Fureur... pardon my pronunciation if that was wrong (Editor Note: pardon our spelling too). They're just so excited and it's really great. It's what us community folk feed off a lot of the time. This sort of excitement and anticipation that people bring, and it is tenfold here today.
What would you say to some of the hardcore guilds that are currently involved in probably your biggest competitor right now, how would you have them switch over? How would you say to them, "Hey, come be a part of this community?"
I mean it's not something you would actively go after. I wouldn't want to go out there and start hunting guilds down and trying to persuade them. But at the same time, we're offering something a little bit new. We're offering something a little bit different. It's Star Wars. It's a BioWare title, and you know it's about story. And we do so for a reason. Some of the reactions we've had over the last couple of days from different sites... it's been great to see how much they realize the story element is there. One of the great pieces of feedback I've read over the last few days is how people are excited to be a part of an ongoing story from BioWare. So if people really do enjoy the lore and the world and the universe of Star Wars, and of course The Old Republic setting that we're in, then it's something that people get excited about. And at the same time, if they're looking for the competitive PvP edge, we have something a little new, something that will take the standard gameplay mechanics and tweak them enough to make them feel fresh. There is plenty for everyone.
And from the community aspect, how are you supporting the existing guilds?
We're doing everything we can. Obviously we got the guild program running right now, so pre-launch that will be doing a lot of good stuff. But at the same time, it's working with guilds. We do a lot to try and sort of accommodate guilds. David Bass is talking to every guild that he possibly can. Basically any program we can think of... we listen to the players, we listen to the guilds, hear what they want from us. And not just as a community team or as a development team, but as a product. And we do whatever we can to accommodate that. So if anybody has any fantastic ideas or things people want to see in the game, we just want to hear about it.
Have you thought of extending the guild testing program to Europe?
Definitely. It is something we're looking at doing. Stay tuned to swtor.com for more.
What's been your most memorable experience so far?
That is a good one. I think definitely it was my first week. It was pre-orders. That was my first foray into the Star Wars community, and what a fantastic week it was to get involved.
I worked in a lot of communities in my previous job before joining BioWare. I launched communities for some huge, huge brands around the world, and never before have I seen such a crowd that delivers such excitement through volume. There are some crazy things with the number of posts, and the weight in which people post. The number of posts which can crop up in minutes. People can post faster than I can physically read. I can go, "Whoa -- this is an interesting topic. Oh, this is becoming a hot topic guys. There's 10 pages. Oh, there's 20 pages." And can there just be one click and there's another 10 pages. I've never seen that before in my life!
It isn't a bad thing. It isn't a negative. But it doesn't necessarily mean people are angry at us -- they just want to rant. A lot of the stuff we get isn't necessarily negative. It invigorated me in a lot of ways. To see that there's such a large crowd that can stay so excited and bounce off each other. And pre-order was a week in which that happened a lot. And it was a great thing to be a part of.
Any other parting words or a specific topic you'd like to bring up?
Obviously I'm excited about the launch, the product. We have Dreamhack coming up, and that's going to be our next big event. We've got some real fun things planned for that. Hopefully we'll get to talk about more of those in the coming weeks. So again, stay tuned to the website, keep an eye out on all the different social media channels that we have out there. And if anyone's over in Sweden, try and get to Dreamhack. It should be fun.
And also come down here to Paris.
Of course! We're here for the next four days. And there's a lot going on. We've got plenty of things for people to get involved with here. Meet Tony Moreno if you haven't already. So yeah, everyone have fun.
Thanks so much. We really appreciate it.