Every month developers from Jagex's Cambridge-based studio provide an insight into their work on key title Runescape and much more. This month, Kelvin Plomer and Steve Wilson discuss how the studio makes the voice of the player heard.
Kelvin Plomer, director of player experience:
Connecting, engaging, inspiring and empowering players is a Jagex mantra. This year, as RuneScape marks its 18th year in operation, we find ourselves in a remarkable position for such a venerable title: the franchise’s playerbase is at an all-time high.
The team here at Jagex has more than doubled the monthly active users of RuneScape and Old School RuneScape in the past 12 months and reported big gains in Q4 2018. The franchise achieved its highest ever paid membership total over the Christmas period, surpassing a previous record set in 2008, and Old School RuneScape’s debut on mobile has driven an additional five million installs.
Commenting on RuneScape’s peak player performance, our CEO Phil Mansell recently stated: “We find that the more we listen to, engage with, and empower the community, the more if fosters a true connection with each other and with the games.”
So as the franchise’s now multi-platform player base grows, how should we listen at scale to inform future updates and the direction of its RuneScape titles?
Beyond Jagex’s well-documented approach to player empowerment – through surveys, player voting and its collaborative live streams – our always-on player support team provides a further invaluable feedback loop for the studio: the ‘voice of the player’.
Informed by our in-person and online player support systems, the voice of the player collates, cements and informs the studio of key player feedback, enabling studio leads to prioritise specific areas of development.
While a necessary service area for any studio, the player support function can often be an under-empowered and under-resourced one. However, our player support mirrors the titles it serves: it is live, always on and reporting in real-time. In addition, with the RuneScape titles seeing their biggest year ever, it’s no surprise that the player support team reported 2018 as its busiest year ever.
With a team of 35 people operating in the heart of the RuneScape studio, we are accountable to our community and remain live and online 24/7, 365 days a year. Through the course of 2018, over six million players sought support from us.
For a number of years now, we’ve engaged with our community, giving insights into the service we provide, and ensuring we listen to ideas and respond to important player feedback. We recently published an infographic, telling the story of player support in 2018, and you’d be surprised at the level of interest from players to hear about things behind
Player support is involved in many areas – from tech support, account help, billing and payment assistance, to anti-cheating, industry leading community safety, and even system monitoring – in order to ensure any potential issues are identified and resolved before they even become a problem for players and the live game stays live.
In addition to the live team, an online support centre for key RuneScape and Old School RuneScape queries has been built up over a period of some ten years. In 2018, of the six million player enquiries, just over five million players found their answer using the self-help centre.
Steve Wilson, Player Support Manager
The effectiveness of any player service is key to a player’s perception and investment in a game and Jagex knows that response time is a key driver for player satisfaction and retention.
Players expect and deserve their queries to be answered quickly and effectively. If a query isn’t responded to successfully in under 24 hours, we know that players can lose interest, or they don’t check back for a response, leading to a reduction in their investment in, and connection to, the game. We see a 60 per cent drop off in retention after 24 hours.
We are also aware that the level of service any player receives, whether positive or negative, can go viral and cause ripples throughout player communities. Consider the viral reach of a single player who happens to be a clan leader, with a clan of 500 listening to them, or a streamer with audience of millions. This is not about prioritising those players but having an attitude of treating every single player with same level of effective and efficient service.
Even with investment in its player support resource, Jagex has sought to be creative in the way it provides support to manage its growing playerbase.
Over the years, we have engineered solutions that enable us to assist players at scale. We use AI, machine learning, heuristics and tools to assist our live team in making make informed decisions quickly and to deal with the scale of enquiries.
This enables us to deal with millions of players and across multiple areas – be that account recovery, chat moderation, cheating or offence appeals. The scalable tools we’ve developed can apply automated, semi-automated actions and guidance to assist our specialists in quicker decision making to speed the live team’s response time while maintaining accuracy and quality. The combination of a live team, supported by machine learning tools, saw a 95 per cent success rate in meeting our target response time of under 24 hours throughout 2018.
We invest three months of skills and knowledge training for everyone who joins our player support team to support players. For every ticket response, there’s a link to satisfaction of service and, in 2018, 83 per cent of players were satisfied with the assistance provided.
Should a player not be satisfied, we then reach out and dig deeper into their query and take any learnings back into our training and processes for future effectiveness.
This deep dive means we know why our players are unhappy, and through our Voice of the Player initiative we retrain, work with devs and tech teams to improve system limitations, revise our policies and processes and share ideas to improve for the future.
For Jagex, the benefit of having player support embedded within the studio is the ability to communicate directly with studio teams across all areas of development.
Everyone in the player support team has links across the studio to flag and resolve player issues. We take the view that one single player query could be regarding an issue that may then affect thousands, or tens of thousands of players. It’s our role to identify this and work with other studio stakeholders to mitigate it before others are impacted.
Everything player support observes and learns from the services we provide to players is wrapped up in our Voice of the Player feedback to the wider studio to aid improvement to the benefit of our community. The key pillars of our living game philosophy are focused on the player experience – both in-game and out of game.
We know that any issue can interfere with a player’s game experience, so we work proactively to avoid these surfacing in the first place and, when there is an issue, we endeavour to resolve it quickly through making sure that the Voice of the Player is heard in all areas across the studio. That’s our role, and one we take extremely seriously.