Welcome to another edition of Community Direction, Raptr’s series of interviews with leaders in the gaming community space. San Diego-based indie developers The Behemoth are the makers of Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers, and BattleBlock Theater, and also recently announced that they’re co-sponsoring this year’s BitSummit. Dan Paladin (art director), Emil Ayoubkhan (project manager), and Megan Lam (community captain) spoke with us about how they interact with their fans, support their older titles, and more.
Raptr: How has your approach to community changed in the last few years — what are you doing now that you didn’t do before?
Emil: Nothing has changed for us over the last few years with respect to our approach to our fan base. We still try to engage anyone in our community directly and as openly as possible. Attending multiple conventions throughout the year to demo our games and get to know our fans remains our top priority.
Megan: As far as new things go, we’ve been trying to keep up with social trends since we formed in 2003. We’re now posting our game trailers on YouTube, blogging more, maintaining our forums, doing TwitchTV live streams, etc.
Raptr: Games like BattleBlock Theater have achievements for playing Behemoth employees. How often do Behemoth staffers play with their community?
Megan: For BattleBlock Theater we have an achievement called “Chicken Toucher” which required people to play with someone from The Behemoth — or someone who acquired the achievement from us. It’s quite a viral achievement and more like the chicken pox of achievements.
We still continue to play with the community quite a bit whenever we have time. In May of 2013, we started doing more consistent live streams on TwitchTV that we called “Play with the Devs.” It was a chance for people from our team to play against the community and also go over tips on how to design levels for BattleBlock Theater. It’s something we hope to continue next year as well (twitch.tv/thebehemoth).
Dan: We have a scheduled timeline where we play at least once a month with the community (via TwitchTV), but we also hop on randomly whenever we have a moment. I like to play through campaign with people and ball game for fun, but most of the community has already achieved the Chicken Toucher.
Raptr: Do you have a favorite example of a fan giving back to The Behemoth (fan art, etc.)? What’s the story behind it?
Dan: There’s a lot of really awesome fan art everywhere on the Internet. You can go on DeviantArt and type in the names of our games and sift through ages of awesomeness. There are also Japanese websites, our own forums, and other places for fan art.
Jesse Turner, who goes by the name Jouste on DeviantArt, has done tons of fan art for us and is a great example of good stuff you can find online. For example, he does redesigns of a bunch of Castle Crashers characters for us and has hand delivered the prints to us at shows like PAX.
Another example would be this girl who would bring stuff to us twice a year at the PAX shows. We would always think, “Wow that’s cool,” and then we would think, “Hey, why don’t we have stuff as cool as this?” So then we hired her a couple years ago (but we really should have hired her way before then). Now we see her every day! She goes by Anna the Red.
Ultimately, I just like to see a drawing by a fan even if that’s the only one they’ve done. It’s not about the quantity, but just cool to see anything that the community makes.
Megan: I love when fans dress up and give back by giving to others in the community. What I mean by that is we had a fan dress up at RTX as Hatty and he gave out gems to random people. It was awesome to see people’s faces light up from that and pretty cool to see how recognizable the character has become.
Raptr: You often update older games in your library (eg Hatty in Castle Crashers). How will you continue this practice as we enter a new console generation?
Dan: We always like to leave thank you notes to the people who support us. There were times where we were about to close our doors but the fans saved us by buying our games. As an example of the practice you speak of, we first brought the alien over from Alien Hominid HD to Castle Crashers XBLA when the game first launched, and then we brought Hatty Hattington into Castle Crashers when BattleBlock Theater released. We definitely won’t forget the fans who have supported us in the past, so we’ll always try to give people “cross-over content” wherever technically possible.
Raptr: What kind of you differences have you found between the XBLA, PSN, Steam, and iOS communities?
Dan: We haven’t done studies or anything, but have noted a couple observations we had when we initially released a few of our games. While it’s hard to tell a difference between console communities (partially since people own multiple systems), we do notice that the Steam and iOS communities’ expectations vary. Sales are extremely common on Steam, so the community may expect the game to have a price drop multiple times a year.
Something we found to be really interesting about iOS was when we read reviews of our game Super Soviet Missile Mastar. There were many that posted “Get it while it’s still free!” which surprised us since we didn’t have any intention of charging in the first place — but many iOS games tend to be free at first and then tack on charges later. This seems to create an expectation within the community. Super Soviet Missile Mastar is still out on iOS and still free! Get it before it goes up in price! : )
Raptr: What do you do when things go wrong?
Dan: In regards to things going wrong with the community, if something they order breaks in the mail, if something goes wrong with a purchase, if something is miscommunicated, etc., etc., you basically just have to handle it the same way you’d want it to be handled for yourself wherever possible. It makes all of the many different problems very natural to solve.
Raptr: What’s the one big recommendation you’d make to developers or publishers to help them grow and nurture a community?
Emil: To be accessible — we try to connect with people through our forums, Facebook, Twitter, at shows, etc. We make sure there are real live humans in conversations with the community — we try not to have automated robot responses in correspondence. Luckily there are a lot of ways to meet our fans, hear them out, and lots of tools to connect with people on the interwebs nowadays.
Megan: Do more Raptr community interviews. ; )
Raptr: How do you see community management and gamer communities in general evolving in the near future?
Dan: I don’t like making predictions because then I could be wrong for the very first time in my entire life.