Recently the Wizards of Ravenwood Academy brewed up a batch of exciting questions for our amazing, Senior Community Manager Mathew “Sparck” Anderson. Our goal was to get answers to some questions the community has been asking, and Mathew did not disappoint. So, let’s get to it, we are excited to share this exclusive interview with you!
What do you like best so far about your position at KingsIsle?
The team and players, all-in-one! Everyone: all Wizards, Pirates, baby animal fans, etc. I haven’t been a part of such a great team and community as what I’ve experienced here at KingsIsle. Everyone on the team participates in some form in developing and promoting our community programs, which makes it faster to get fun things out to you. The best part though is working with the community on their own events and projects, so please do keep creating those!
What can you tell us about your responsibilities at KingsIsle?
Oh my, well, where do I begin? A nice summary is that I ‘take care of the community’. This of course means several things, but first and foremost it starts with listening to your ideas and concerns about our games, then relaying that feedback to the development team. I also help to ensure the community is a safe place to be, working with our development and customer support teams.
Other responsibilities include taking development updates from our team and putting them into easily digestible forms on public sites like producer’s letters in the forums, as well as social media posts and patch notes on the main website. I also oversee all public areas, so that means monitoring (and moderating) the forums and social media sites.
One of the more fun things I do is create events and contests, though we much prefer to support community-driven ones. They tend to end up being better and more fun anyway.
What has been your biggest challenge as a Community manager at Kingsisle?
The KingsIsle community is now over 10 years old! That’s a lot of history built up that I have to understand in order to be an effective leader. This has been my biggest challenge: understanding your needs, the games themselves, and developing and supporting programs that fit those needs. I hope I’m on target so far.
What interests you the most about your position as KI staff?
I love working with such a fun and high-spirited community! I wouldn’t have it any other way, which is why I consider myself extremely lucky to be working at KingsIsle. I also get to see the day-to-day development of the games, and I work with an extremely talented marketing team that helps to get the many promotions we have out the door.
What has been your best experience as a community manager at KingsIsle?
Seeing the community help each other out, especially for new players. This includes the flood of new players we got for Wizard101’s 10th Anniversary events, Pirate101’s recent 6th birthday, and even for Animal Cove upon its global launch! Anytime I see a tweet on Twitter or a post in the forums about someone helping a new player out, it truly makes my day. Please do more of that everyone; it’s noticed!
What is your goal as the community manager at KingsIsle and what are some things you yourself would like to change?
My primary goal is to ensure that your feedback and interests are being communicated to the development team. The team reads that feedback and let me know what they are currently working on, what they will potentially work on in the near future, and what they will not be able to work on for some time. There’s a bunch more things that are in my bucket of goals as well, but communicating feedback is definitely the most prominent.
I really want to see more livestreamers, both on YouTube and Twitch. If players are uncomfortable about streaming, I want to encourage them to seek out currently active livestreamers and get tips and suggestions on how to get started. It’s a really fun way to participate in the community. If you are a new streamer, let us know and we’ll stop by your channel to say hi!
What gaming company did you come from before and how does that experience compare to KingsIsle?
Portalarium, which also resides here in Austin, TX. It’s actually quite a parallel experience on the more basic levels of community service. Portalarium’s MMORPG, Shroud of the Avatar, has some similar concepts that Wizard101 and Pirate101 have such as housing, crafting, pets, guilds, and so on. While the game is a touch more ‘hardcore’ than Wizard101 in some aspects, these are still general concepts of all MMORPGs that I enjoy getting involved in. That’s one of the reasons why I came to KingsIsle.
What has been one of your biggest surprises working for KingsIsle?
We have regular monthly food days! From Cheese Day to Cake Day, it’s really exciting to anticipate a Friday afternoon snack of some kind after working hard during that morning. I’m the kind of person to nibble on sweets all day long. And I’m of course still hoping for an ice cream day.
2018 was arguably one of the best years for Wizard101, with all the member benefits, updates and additional content like bundles. Going into 2019, how does KingsIsle plan to maintain the momentum?
We’ll be keeping up the member benefit momentum, introducing tons of additional content, and developing more opportunities to play the game with each other! I’m most excited to also be focusing on several new community initiatives yet to be announced, including several contests and events. Keep watch for those in the months ahead. And please do send us your own contests and events so we can share them on the game’s social channels.
Will Wizard101 be receiving quality of life updates outside of the usual quarterly updates this year?
While this question is a bit outside of my purview, I can say that we plan to stick to a stable schedule of updates. Above all else, we want to ensure we are adhering to a process and schedule that produces quality content. Changing it too much too quickly and releasing more frequent updates just to announce ‘something,’ even quality of life updates, can result in delays and unhappy community reception of the content.
How does Kingsisle plan to further connect to and implement the players’ thoughts and wants for Wizard101?
For 2019, Instagram is a new social media channel that we’ve quickly ramped up. This isn’t exactly a discussion platform though or one that is good for receiving gameplay feedback. For all of those needs, we’ll continue to monitor the community’s feedback in the usual channels and more actively respond to those posts.
We are also taking a look at using new tools like Trello, which may prove useful in organizing and presenting community concerns to our team. Trello is a posterboard of sorts that can show items of interest with ease, instead of those items being buried in a calendar or a response somewhere deep in the forums. Let us know if you have ever used Trello, we’d like to know what you think of the program.
With the game reaching 11 years old this year, a lot of drive has been put forth to expand the current free to play areas to allow new players to “get into” the game more. Is this a possibility or just fantasy?
This is certainly a possibility, one we’ll be continuing to evaluate in 2019 and beyond. We’ve seen the regular community feedback on this point. We promise, it hasn’t been lost on us!
What led to the sudden drastic increase in member benefits throughout 2018 and can we expect it to continue?
We wanted to test out some new processes. We quickly found that the increase of benefit offers was well received by the community, so why not continue that success?
Can you give us any details or hints as to what’s to come in 2019 in Wizard101?
We’re working on some dev diaries on just this point, keep watch for those on www.youtube.com/kingsisle :).
You’ve mentioned to the community many times that if they have any events, or livestreams going on that, and they want KI to know about it, what would the best way for them to reach you?
If the event has a definitive date and is coming up in the proceeding days or weeks, we would appreciate a direct email to firstname.lastname@example.org with all of the details. As the event approaches or if it’s something happening ‘now’, then a tweet and even a post on Facebook to get our attention works well. The community is also free to search for me on Discord and other channels (Sparck/Bat Masterson) to send a quick update of events and activities.