Since reimagining The Northern Lights at the start of the year, we have strived to focus on particular themes or topics, ones that our authors could explore at greater length and could be applied to the game as a whole, not just The North Pacific. Issue XXIX is all about regional outreach and engagement. We brought together authors whose experience in NS has given them insight into the best ways to motivate and interest players and in so doing help change the culture and character of their regions. These perspectives should prove useful not just in the authors' home regions, but to any region willing to apply what they have learned, and were so kind to share with us in these pages. We hope that the wisdom they share lights the way to enhanced activity and a richer gameplay experience.
The views espoused are the authors' own and are not the opinion of The North Pacific unless otherwise stated.
TNP Minister of Communications
A Little Culture and Community
The number one question players in NationStates often ask is some variation of “How do I develop my community?” or its fraternal twin, “How do I engage players in my region?” In this article, I’d like to provide some of my thoughts on the topic of developing player engagement by developing a strong culture and community.
Part 1 - Develop Your World
Provide your players with a singular or unique experience by developing a detailed world for your region. Build a cohesive culture to give players a home to rally around. This is also where you assemble your team of like-minded individuals who work towards this common goal together.
Part 2 - Know Your Players
What does your ideal community look like in terms of people and activity? What kind of players do you want to attract? Are you interested in quality or quantity or a median point between the two? Are your goals realistic based on the amount of time, effort and practical experience you have with community building?
Part 3 - Burn Out and NationStates
How many players do you know who have said something like, “Region or players of region don’t appreciate or recognize my hard work?” I’ve lost count. Building a region isn’t easy, maintaining a region isn’t easy. The Ozymandias effect sometimes obliterates everything a group of dedicated players have done. This part is about how to focus less on what other people think or do and more about what you can do for yourself to avoid or mitigate burn out.
Part 4 - Questions and Answers
I get a lot of "How do I.." kinds of questions from “How do I advertise/hype?” to “How do I make other people play this game that I created?”. This section will be devoted to answering some of the oft-repeated ones in one place. In addition, players in good standing who have questions about any of the above are welcome to DM me or post below and I will add to the list as appropriate.
Develop Your World
What is culture? It’s a set of shared values, ideas, interests, and goals. What does this mean for a region? These are the symbols, theme(s) and customs that unify your region and demarcate it as a unique place, as a space to spend time in. Building a cohesive culture gives your region and players something to rally around.
Many regions attempt to do this in some manner or form (with titles, names, flags, etc). Some regions, like Balder and Osiris, have pre-built mythological imagery to work with. Others, like The North Pacific, have cardinal directions that give them a lot of leeway. Sometimes too much choice can result in a muddled mess. If you can’t describe your region’s identity or culture in a few words, then go back and treat it like a world you are building. Look up and answer a set of world building questions online and, with your team, plan out your community as if it were a world. Of course someone will say, “I’m creating a region not a roleplay community,” but a region is a space where people roleplay and in the case of NationStates, roleplay a political simulation of sorts.
It’s always surprising to me if a member of a region can’t explain their flag or what their region’s color scheme means, or if I ask the creator/leader of a region, “Hey, what is your region about or for?” and their response is unclear. Some people might think such details are frivolous or shallow but if you think of your community as a world, then your world building should be detailed, imaginative and recognizable. Your theme is your brand, and it’s what creates a feeling of being part of something that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
However, themes should also be adaptable and what we often see in NS is stagnant regional themes. Often regions have accumulated the debris of older players' decisions and choices clogging up the arteries of the region. One of the best ways to incorporate new players and give them a sense of being part of the fabric of the region is to run a theme/flag redesign/color scheme competition. You might articulate some things that remain the same (symbol of a lion, or a lotus, or a lyre or the colors red, white, and blue) but allow players to envision new designs and to move forward. If something hasn’t been active in a while and attempts to restart it failed, put it in a fancy mausoleum or museum section of the forums.
A bonus to doing the work of world building is that when you potentially decide to develop your roleplaying community, there will be a whole set of guidelines for roleplayers to already work with and expand upon.
First and foremost, really develop a full and engaging world (themes, symbols, customs, laws, colors, Discord bot names and commands) that players will want to live in. Words AND visuals are important. Your best bet is to co-create this with players who share your interests and imagination. This is your team or the group of people who you have enchanted (or at least inspired) with your vision and who will help you accomplish important tasks. If you can’t assemble a team at this initial stage, you need to rethink something. The reasons might be benign for why players don’t want to support you (too busy in real life, etc) or might highlight that you need more experience or planning. In addition, if you can’t put together a team now, how will you recruit players later on? Assemble a team of wonderful people you actually like to hang out with.
I’m also not advocating writing a 300 page guide on the theme (although that can be a future goal). A theme that operates on Norse mythology for example could use the nine worlds as nine houses or representatives or operate as one of the worlds (let’s say Asgard and frame their allies\enemies as the other worlds). Small details like referencing the Bifrost as the Foreign Affairs conduit would help make the theme a cohesive experience. Or political\government groups\ministries could be separated by the god or goddess they choose to revere the most (and therefore embody the values of). Does your region celebrate Loki as their esprit de corpus or does it revere Odin or Freya? Each choice gives a slightly different flavor to the region and helps provide different goals (to cause or engage in chaos\mischief vs. to lead by example through wit and wisdom, etc).
The tie-ins don’t have to simply be classic, they could be to the old deep mythology or a mixture of the classical and the modern (via the MC universe). World building is a form of play and attracts creative people which should always be encouraged. Someone might argue that a theme limits the region but taking the example of Norse mythology, there’s nothing to stop you from visiting or adopting the customs of “another realm” for a week or a month if your region wants to run a particular themed event that is inspired by let’s say Aztec myth, Spongebob or Death Note.
Any time a new region comes into existence and the creator/leader cannot explain why the region exists or what its goal or theme is, the death knell sounds. A game, like most forms of entertainment, offers an experience that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere, so offer an immersive world.
Know Your Players
When I was actively running the event planning server (instead of Gameplay magazine), many players came and continue to come to me with an idea for an event or activity and want to know how to run it or want help with how to run it.
What makes a successful event/activity? This generally depends on the goals of the event. For some, a successful event is 5-10 players active and enjoying the activities while for others it’s a much larger number, post count, time spent, or attracting players to the region to stay. There’s also the aspect of events being about regions mingling and getting to know one another. Think about your (realistic) end goals first and then work towards them. The goal may simply be, “Find you what level of activity and engagement I can get on a weekend over the summer.” Then, you track what worked, what could work better and some things you might want to change next time.
Whether you’re trying to attract new players or engage your current ones, at the end of the day you have to get to know your players to a degree. Community building requires some level of socializing and social skills. It helps to naturally find people interesting and it also means you should talk to players in public and private and get to know their interests. Then you build events or activities or festivals around their interests or the cross point between your interests and theirs.
I received a DM from someone who wanted to know how I ran Gameplay magazine interviews, but they were really asking why I used the questions I did and how they could replicate what I was doing. What I do won’t necessarily work for them because, for example, GP Magazine focuses on the personalities over the politics and they seemed far more keen on the political and historical aspects and couldn’t care less about what someone’s favorite book or music was. Emulating other people is a great way to learn but you also should figure out what speaks to you or what role you enjoy and adapt to that. While people all over the world fake it all the time, something about genuine enthusiasm and interest is infectious (whereas faked feels heavy).
For example, I am terrible at trivia and don’t enjoy partaking in trivia games. However, most NSers enjoy trivia and it can actually be quite fun to organize and host trivia games. My favorite is Harry Potter themed trivia games because it also happens to be a personal fandom (although I’ve run far more on things I don’t know as well). Using any of the planning docs that are shared on the GP magazine server is just a start; you have to adapt things to you community and yourself.
There are a whole host of things that can go wrong with trivia or activities. The questions may be too hard or esoteric, the organizer/host or the players may become fatigued, or the scheduling may not work out for all of the participants to run the event at the same time. However, activities are more likely to be successful if the organizer or host’s level of enthusiasm is high, they utilize hype (pings, all caps, advertising, suspense, competition) appropriately to boost attendance, and they provide adequate and interesting individual and group prizes/awards/recognition.
Does this mean you can never ever run an event where you share that one thing you love but no one else knows about? Nope, but think of it this way: part of running events/activities is building a reputation as someone who can help people enjoy their time in a game over the million other things they might be doing with their time instead. Build that reputation first, and then run a festival or event around 15th century bread making techniques, the secret language of flowers (hai I want in on this) or other esoteric things.
Activities/events/festivals should be:
Clearly branded/have a theme
Give players enough time to enjoy and partake in the event
Be accessible (on one or more platforms that players are already on such as Discord, the RMB, and sometimes forums)
Be advertised in the venues from which you want to attract players
Allow multiple ways to enjoy the event (something to engage the cerebral, artistic, competitive, strategic, etc types of players)
Be enjoyable for you as a host\organizer
Part 3 - Region Building, Burn Out and NS
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
Burn out. It is a very real thing in NationStates. Often, a player will mention how they are ready to give up because all their effort yielded very little or nothing in terms of results, or sadly tell me about how they did so much but no one appreciates it. (*Huggles*). Here are some hard truths about NS and community building:
1. NS very much is a character driven game. When a player leaves or is pushed out or whatever the circumstance, often the things they built vanish or break down. You may call this the Ozymandias effect. Every major region has some sort of “revive x, y, or z” project going on that has varying levels of success or failure.
2. If you’re playing the game for accolades or recognition or appreciation (whether in your region or with commends/condemns or otherwise) it will never be enough (if you even get any in the first place). Just look at the list of condemns/commends before you started playing. How many of those players do you know? How many are still active? How many new players will know the current “heavy-hitters” in five years? Think about the region you’re in and how many players are still remembered from 5-10 years ago. For me personally, at least, building culture or community is about people, creativity, and getting energy (positive) from things like doing interviews. I’m fascinated by the players I interview for example, and I also enjoy festivals and parties. If you don’t like people (or struggle socially) then think of other ways you can build community (world building, creating lore, creating laws, teaching players how to do your particular skills such as legal writing or etc).
3. Those six hours you spent making badges for a contest no one entered? It’s okay. You learned how to make badges (maybe?) and also engaged in the creative process. If you don’t feel good/happy/productive doing something, don’t keep doing it. Did the $200 you spent on stamps that yielded 0 recruits bring you joy? Did it teach you a valuable life lesson? A lot of us spend money on games or other forms of entertainment, or something like Starbucks that has a temporary value. If you’re naturally a pessimist then this is an optimist telling you, hope is the answer. Put another way, think less, worry less, do more (at least for yourself). This game (NS) is a somewhat masochistic game. Perhaps you enjoy it a little? Again, if not, then don’t repeat the same thing over and over again. That way leads to insanity.
4. You can think of region and community building in multiple ways. Sometimes you might want to choose quality over quantity. Having 10 active engaged players is better than 25 inactive or barely there players. Spend more time on developing the close relationships you already have in the game. This is probably the biggest thing that irks me. A community can sometimes become so focused on new players that they forget to engage the players who are already active and start losing them.
5. Share what you learn with others. One thing I appreciate about players like Yuno is how willing they are to share their skills or things they learned with others. That’s a form of community building in itself. Even with all the dark sides of this game, there are so many things I have learned and continue to learn from just being a semi-active player. Fedele, for a recent example, helped me work on being more concise. It’s a work in progress (as you can see here), but still valuable.
Note: This article was originally commissioned for Issue XXIX of The North Pacific’s regional newspaper, The Northern Lights (TNL). The full article will be posted in TNL and it will be cross-posted in three parts for Gameplay Magazine.
Will There Be An NS Belt and Road Project?
Regions including many of the game-created regions and prominent user-created regions such as Europeia and 10000 Islands that have been around for a long time have established a robust infrastructure that underpins almost everything that the region does. This infrastructure survives the test of time. It adapts to the shifting sands of the politics of the game, changes to NS rules, and even severe regional calamities and political crises can be overcome with relative ease.
Naturally, this is not the case for younger regions. For those emerging regions, there exists no one-stop database of scripts, supporting infrastructure, or ‘free’ consultants to provide them with the support that they need to ensure the sustainability and longevity of their region. One severe political catastrophe can be enough for the region to come to an end. A sudden resignation of a trusted leader or the departure of a region mate can spell the end of a region's recruitment, cultural activities, or other key aspects of regional life, where they remain dependent upon one person who is often, but not always, the regional founder.
In The North Pacific, Europeia, 10000 Islands, and many game created regions - our infrastructure stands the test of time. Despite this success at home, there has been limited success in attempts to facilitate regional development. The sharing of technology, ideas, and expertise more broadly has occurred on many occasions on an informal level. So far, this has proven to be the most successful example of regional development occurring through that exchange of knowledge. Nevertheless, there is no formal belt and road project on the part of the major regions to proactively expand our infrastructure and knowledge beyond our shores.
However, the concept of taking the development of regional infrastructure as a foreign policy concept is certainly not a new one. In this article, we will examine a number of examples of this type of initiative - the formal and the informal, in an attempt to answer the question of what a NationStates equivalent of a belt and road project, one that extended beyond the borders of our home regions, would look like.
The NS Republic
The Nationstates Republic (NSR) , and the later revived form in the Nationstates Republic Alliance (NRA) was an alliance of nations led by The West Pacific. Active between 2011 and 2013, the NSR was established with the desire to build a republic of regions, to work with TWP to harness the power of all involved to create an unrivaled power bloc. By choosing to assist each other, the regions involved believed that this mutual cooperation would allow the progress of smaller regions, whose survival would be unlikely without the support of established regions. NSR was a large alliance, containing 19 member regions, who moved away from exclusively a defence alliance and more towards a diplomatic alliance by helping members build strong relationships.
However, whilst there were some strengths to the NSR, it was limited by some fundamental flaws. The main two of these flaws was its size and TWP’s dominance. Being such a large alliance meant that for decisions to be made, there would undoubtedly be a wide range of views and so a consensus between members would have been hard to achieve. In addition, its large size meant that some regions wanted to feel included but were instead isolated or left out. To avoid this situation, some of the smaller regions would have to ‘piggyback’ on larger regions to gain their favour for later assistance. This ultimately weakens the alliance because it results in the larger regions being dominant over the smaller regions who will just go along with whatever is proposed.
NSR gave way to some opportunities, especially for smaller member regions, in the assistance that would have been offered to them from larger regions. By being part of the Alliance, they would have gained knowledge and insight into ways to develop their region and allow them to flourish and grow. This offered opportunities for the smaller regions to grow as well as offering opportunities to the larger regions in that they would have gained the support of smaller regions when it is needed (whether militarily or in the World Assembly). However, these opportunities were weathered by the leadership of TWP over how the alliance was run. This is because the region's dominance meant that the alliance became exposed to the changes in goals of TWP's delegate. When a delegate was elected that did not have plans for NSR, it ultimately ended due to a lack of continuous support. Therefore, for an alliance such as this to be a success it must be underpinned by the longstanding support of the region, and have supporting infrastructure that can survive shifts in political priorities of regional leaders.
The Grand Architecture Program (GAP)
The Grand Architecture Program was an initiative championed by former Europeian President Anumia in his election campaign of October 2013, as a means of utilising Europeian knowledge and infrastructure to facilitate regional development in upcoming regions of a similar interest. The program was underpinned by the Foreign Cultivation Act 2013. While the program was initiated by President Anumia, the loose concept had been proposed much earlier by the founder of Europeia HEM who opened a discussion on a “good neighbour policy”. The GAP emerged as a fusion of HEM’s policy and Anumia’s own ambitions for Europeia and NationStates.
The GAP involved the appointment of an Architect who would oversee the development of the region under the guidance of the Minister for Cultivation. In addition, a Council of Cultivation was formed with the intention of providing reports to the region on progress made - it would include a number of Europeian officials and a representative of each partner region.
By May of 2014, Europeia had enacted two ‘Construction Partnership Agreements’ under the leadership of Minister Lethen. Nevertheless, soon after a handover within the Ministry to Minister Ogastein spelled a stalling of progress for the initiative. Minister Ogastein stated that he believed the program was a failure, saying that “We entered into construction partnership agreements with three separate regions and I can tell you with confidence that none of those regions is in a better place as a result of our work.”
In spite of this, Europeia persisted and the initiative was carried forward by President Kraketopia who appointed Malashaan as the new Minister for Cultivation. For a time, this proved to be a success with architect assignments being distributed on a timely basis, 6 construction agreements signed (Commonwealth of Kings, The Infinite Alliance, Natan Region, The Union Republic, The Bungle Brigade and Aura Hyperia) and several more in negotiation.
However, the size of the project, a lack of communication about its successes, and the perception that the program was a burden upon successive administrations, led to the initiative being dropped. The political will to support such an initiative had come to an end. While some including HEM believed that the program required more time and support to be a success, others believed that for all the good intentions of Europeia, it was not possible to guarantee a core group of dedicated players who would sustain the region for the years ahead.
Despite the initial successes and the support of a significant number of Europeian leaders, the Grand Architecture Program came to an end. It was an incredibly bold initiative - one that required taking risks politically and institutionally - but it was considered a failure by many within Europeia all the same. It’s important to remember that for any major project, there are often unrealistic expectations. We can easily dismiss a failed term as Delegate or Minister as par for the course, but when an ambitious foreign policy agenda is pursued, our expectations are heightened and senses are attuned to even a whiff of failure or stalling. This can be enough to end the plans of the boldest of political leaders before they even begin.
Status of Forces Agreements
A more recent initiative also undertaken by Europeia as a means of building new partnerships, training valuable allies, and establishing military forces took place through the ‘Status of Forces Agreements’. This was certainly not as bold an initiative as the GAP, but nonetheless was an attempt to utilise the knowledge of Europeian military leaders to foster positive relations with emerging regions that were interested in forming their own military but lacked the infrastructure and knowledge to do so on their own. Europeia signed two such agreements - one with Merridel and one with Olympia. There is currently no agreement still on the books.
The difficulties with this kind of agreement are similar to the GAP. Despite the best intentions of political and military leaders, the success is largely dependent on that core group of dedicated players in the partner regions. In Merridel’s case this was certainly an issue, and it seems very likely that Olympia also suffered the same personnel deficiency. Olympia states in their WFE that they ceased operations after 500 days and the region is currently founderless. Merridel is still around with 72 nations - but lacks a regional forum and for all intents and purposes appears to have simply stopped recruiting.
The initiative should still be accepted as a reasonable foreign policy initiative. The intent behind building capacity to run and operate a regional military in order to build meaningful diplomatic relationships is a good one. The difficulty as always lies in the ongoing sustainability of the project - and the dedication of the partner region itself to also work to see the project through to completion.
The World Assembly Development Program
The World Assembly Development Program (WADP), an initiative pioneered by r3naissanc3r, remains a central component of everyday life in The North Pacific. Furthermore, the initiative has been championed by the Security Council, successive Vice Delegates, Ministers of World Assembly Affairs, and of course, WA Delegates. The time invested into this initiative has meant that it has continued uninterrupted by political change, resignations, or even the increasingly time poor nature of the creator.
The World Assembly Development Program has been expanded in some form to Balder as the ‘WA Expedition’, and as the ‘World Assembly Advancement Program’ in Europeia. This was made possible by the hard work of r3naissanc3r as the creator of the programs and the close partnerships that continue to this day between The North Pacific, Balder and Europeia.
The initiative has also encouraged innovation in other allied regions, such as in the The South Pacific through their own ‘SWAN’ (the Southern World Assembly Initiative), which operates in a similar fashion to the other programs, but was developed by South Pacifican United States of Vietnam. McMasterdonia (one of the authors of this article) and SillyString (also known as Asta) are both acknowledged for their contributions to getting the SWAN initiative up and running.
These programs do not constitute a typical network of foreign policy alliances. However, it’s clear that the strength of these initiatives and the cooperation involved in operating them, have led to a positive flow of ideas between close partners.
Another matter that is closely linked to regional development is the use of telegrams to maximise efficiency in efforts of internal recruitment and integration. The use of telegram infrastructure that is widely accessible to members of the executive staff as well as the executive council, was first introduced in Europeia before expanding out into other regions including The North Pacific. At various times, this infrastructure has been utilised by Balder, The East Pacific, The Black Hawks, The Land of Kings and Emperors, Albion and The New Inquisition. This kind of infrastructure helps to sustain regions through challenging times, allowing the dedicated public servants to use their time efficiently and maximise the utility of integration efforts within the region. This is another example of a common basis of infrastructure that closely links regions together.
While this article does not examine all possible scenarios where regional infrastructure has been used to assist in regional development or for the purposes of foreign policy, it is clear that there regions continue to work hard in this space.It is the duty of leading regions to assist in the further development of the game. The strength of the community of NationStates as a whole relies upon the strength of the communities that lie within it. A point of friction is the need to both freely share knowledge and ideas for the objective benefit of the game balanced against the political need to ensure such initiatives satisfy the foreign policy of your home region.
It is clear that many of us who play the game would not consider ourselves to be believers of optimistic diplomacy. However, bold successes of diplomacy that benefit all partners require a high degree of optimism and commitment. We must balance the needs of our communities for the constant validation of the success of such bold initiatives against the measurable and communicable long term benefits of quiet, conscientious and tireless work in the field of diplomacy.
Even smaller steps, such as the sharing of knowledge through the WADP can be an important step in assisting developing regions to get through the difficult periods of growth where many falter. Game created regions have the obvious benefit of a steady flow of nations spawning each day - but without our initiatives and proactive engagement with them, this means little.
Regional development as a product of foreign policy would require a boldness on the part of our leaders and the political will to see through the projects through the difficult stages, in the hope of forming a sustainable and meaningful development process that facilitates growth for developing regions in a manner that works with their culture and aspirations. While it is not possible for any leading region to simply guarantee a dedicated group of core players to sustain a region over many years, it is certainly possible for us to assist in giving these newer communities the best possible hope of success.
A Personal Connection
Throughout the game of NationStates, there is a very diverse crowd of talent, characters, backgrounds and people. Recruitment, Outreach and Home Affairs all touch upon this same core concept of drawing in this talent. For those unaware, Outreach is the Office in The Rejected Realms that focuses on this concept, scripted telegrams, and The Rejected Runekeeper’s upkeep; and Home Affairs in The North Pacific is similar with its scripted TGs, recruitment lists, Gameside Advocate program, and other similar campaigns.
My experience in this department has led to a more nuanced approach to outreach than many others in the game, even in the GCRs. As much of an undertaking as this might be, a more effective approach would be a personal way to approach newer folks to the region, gauging their interest, skill and area of expertise through a privatized campaign based on reaching out to specific individuals. TNP has done this in part through its Mentorship program, overseen by myself for around a year as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs. During my time, I trained TNP’s mentors to watch for applications on our forum thread and actively welcome them (there was a pingable role in our government server dedicated to this as well), and continue that connection in private. The one-on-one interaction is where the key work of outreach is done. for example, Robespierre, a new face to TNP but not GP, reached out through the mentorship program, and I picked him up. Through my mentorship and his own ambition, he quickly rose through the ranks to become a Minister in TNP within two months of joining the region. This is an unprecedented rise.
In TRR, the same prioritization is key. The RRA is currently teeming with newer members, eager to join in the proud tradition of defenderism that TRR holds dear. To reach out to these individuals is something I prioritized and was able to do quite well during my term as Outreach Officer, effectively the same as Minister of Home Affairs in TNP, through my means of contacting folks over Discord. Discord is the keystone that unlocks this methodology. It is how people can communicate information the most directly and with the most integration and notification. This is how we activate our recruitment abilities the best: where a casual conversation, not a forced or abbreviated or abrupt conversation, works to help the newcomer personally with the ins and outs of gameplay, the people behind the game rather than simply its mechanics, and a more adaptable way of training.
Automating this process is difficult and would take a Herculean effort, and it still wouldn't do as good a job as two people connecting and communicating directly with each other. The personal touch has reaped great rewards. It is a smaller scale and takes longer, but is time well spent.
Keys to Success
Attracting members is a region's key to success. After all, a region can’t grow and be successful if it doesn’t have anyone to participate in its community. As one of the feeder regions, The West Pacific (TWP) has an advantage in this regard, yet this does not mean we don’t try to attract players. If players don’t see any growth or activity they’ll move on to other more lively regions. There is a multitude of ways TWP attracts members and maintains its population, most notably our weekly regional message board (RMB) activities, various fairs and festivals (including some involving other regions), and a general atmosphere designed to encourage members to become active in TWP.
The World Factbook Entry (WFE) and RMB are the most important things for a region attempting to attract players, as they act as a window into the region, and a slow, inactive RMB isn’t as attractive as an active one. That being said, TWP has a strict RMB policy. TWP has many weekly RMB activities such as Punday Monday, where nations compete for the best pun; Thank You Haikusday, where members post haikus; and finally Karaoke Friday, when nations post their favorite song lyrics and the weekly playlist is featured. The goal of these RMB exercises is to act as a sort of ice breaker for new nations, a simple way for them to get involved and get integrated with the community, and they’re also fun for players of all ages.
TWP also hosts and joins fairs, the most recent example being the TWP-Osiris prom. This was a way for the two regions to enhance their relationship, but it also provided an opportunity for people to mingle with those outside just our regions. Events such as these also break up the monotony of day to day life in Nation States. They’re a fun event for all to attend and make the region more appealing in general. Other events that celebrate a region’s change or marks an anniversary of some sort are also a good way to set a region apart. A good example of this in TWP was the Three Perfections festival, which was held to showcase the implementation of TWP's regional theme.
Finally, one of the most important ways a region can improve activity is to help others get involved. My job as Recruitment and Citizenship (R&C) Minister is to help guide new players to the appropriate person to get involved, be it the head of the military or diplomatic minister. It’s also my job to organize outreach programs for those just answering issues, or who aren't otherwise involved, and get them involved in other aspects of the region. One of the ways TWP achieves this is by establishing our own Gameside Advocate (GA) program. Much like TNP’s GA program, one of the GAs' jobs is to inform those on the forum and RMB of recent changes and events that are going on. They are also required to be active on the RMB to help new players and answer questions. As a result, they often need a massive amount of patience. Their efforts play a key role in the overall effort to entice players who only answer issues to look beyond their own nation to the community at large. TWP has also been sending out a weekly telegram with two purposes: one, to keep the residents informed on regional happening, and two, to entice them to become more active and to come and enjoy the events.
Playing With A Full Deck:How NS Cards Enhance Regional Activity
TNP utilizes what it calls the World Assembly Development Program (WADP). Every month players receive badges and recognition for the amount of endorsements they give out, and recognize players they call Keepers of the North, players who endorse the Delegate, Vice Delegate, and all members of TNP’s Security Council. NS cards have allowed us to offer something other than badges as rewards, something that entices a greater number of players to increase their endorsement activity. We accomplish this by utilizing the most valuable kind of card, Legendary, and awarding one to each of the top three players in individual reward categories, and by making all Keepers eligible for a daily lottery, one that gives out a random legendary card to a random Keeper every day. Additionally, Keepers have their names added to the lottery additional times for every vote they cast in the WA in the past 30 days.
There is simply no arguing with the results. Since adopting the program, we have estimated an increase of 30,000 endorsements, driven in large part by nations who migrated to TNP to take advantage of the card program. At a time when there has been a precipitous drop in WA endorsements across the game, TNP’s delegate has maintained a high number of endorsements that has somewhat resisted the drop. This was also evident during the last delegate transition, which was extended due to players being less willing to lose Keeper status, and therefore less willing to withdraw endorsements from myself, as I was a member of the SC. Without delving too deeply into the topic, obviously the greater incentive to exchange endorsements and keep them on the SC, Delegate, and Vice Delegate further strengthens the region’s security as well.
Legendary cards a finite resource, so to harness those cards in a sufficient number to be utilized for these specific awards, an extensive network of puppets is necessary. In the process of gathering cards using this network, many of the cards are needed to fund the transfer of the legendary cards to our main regional nation. But these cards can also serve as rewards for any number of regional activities or competitions, and some of the recent contests have utilized them as prizes. Before, we could only offer the badges and inclusion in factbook records, bragging rights, or sometimes cosmetic changes, such as custom flags flown by key players in the region or other customization of national details. Cards offer us a tangible reward, something that a lot of players actually want and can literally show off in a collection. In the case of Legendary card rewards, the prize comes with significant objective (market) value and bragging rights of its own.
Additionally, TNP runs a cards request program, where participants can name a specific card and if that card is found during the collection of cards, it will be gifted to the requestor. All requests have to be made on the offsite forum, which drives activity there as well. As with the lotteries, Keeper of the North status is a prerequisite for making a request. However, in this case members of the NPA are also eligible. Since NPA members typically cannot maintain Keeper status, this gives them a chance to gather card, but also eliminates a potential choice that players have to make which could lead them to decide against membership in NPA.
Cards activity makes for a frequent topic of conversation, but that conversation is also spurred by these programs. As with other region-wide awards, our regional nation regularly sends out alerts on the RMB whenever a card is awarded in a competition or a lottery. The cards request program also involves a spreadsheet which maintains a list of pending and completed requests, allowing everyone a chance to see the scope of the program and how often and completely it is fulfilled. Time and again the results of these initiatives being posted reminds people of their existence and tends to increase demand. It can also spur competition in itself. In the case of WADP wards, we have already seen the same few people at the top of the charts month after month. Lottery recipients and individual award winners get a card whether they have an interest in cards or not. Nothing is gained if the player does not venture out and makes the effort needed.
TNP managed all of this with a few scripts and a spreadsheet enhancing infrastructure we already had in place, as well as the large puppet network needed to gather the prizes. This project allows us to focus more competitions and activities in the game itself, something that can be hard to do, especially in an age when offsite communications continue to dominate most daily activity. A new type of player, perhaps unreachable previously, can now be encouraged to get more involved and explore other areas of the community they may not have been inclined to otherwise because of having a specific, identifiable incentive. Considering the game provides the means and the material, a region need only tap into this aspect of the game to start producing results and enhancing its own regional activity. The barrier to entry is low and the cost is minimal, so I highly encourage the adoption of some sort of program or effort to utilize NS cards as part of the arsenal of regional activity and engagement.
An Idiot’s Guide to Regionbuilding
1) Ask everyone in the region something to the effect of: "WHO WANTS A JOB?!!!!" Post this question everywhere you can, wherever people might see. Places can include the RMB, the Forums, Discord, Skype, or a mass telegram to the whole region.
2) Wait for the large number of replies you'll be getting, and grab the contact info of everyone who replied. Ask them how active they are, and what days are they available.
With that done, you should have grabbed a massive number of followers! But wait, you don't even have any jobs for them yet. Well, time to fix that!
How to invent jobs
1) Ask people what they're good at.
If they say Roleplay, create a RP department. If one already exists (as the majority of Regions already have a RP branch that exists separately from the regional government), direct them there. Make sure you know what's going on there - then you can suggest changes to whoever runs that department. If RP doesn't exist yet, then you can go ahead and create a new RP department, and hire that Roleplayer to be a staff member.
If people say coding, invent a programming department, and have them code many projects that may be useful for your player base.
If people say writing, create a Newspaper Department and hire him to be a Journalist (or Lead Editor/Chief Publisher.) I recommend you being the Lead Editor Chief/Publisher yourself, at least for the beginning stages of the newspaper, unless that person you hired is a dedicated and expert organizer.
A great example of that in TEP would be Libertanny, who was a random dude I hired from the RMB and plopped into the position of Lead Journalist. He created his own Journalist Department and hired dozens of Graphic Designers and Writers for the newspaper department I just founded. He did 99% of the work, while I did the 1% work of hiring him. That was a first for me, as I was so used to doing all the organization work and telling people what to do, but it was an exciting and welcome change to find a person who knew how to run something. And this kid isn't even a veteran player; before I hired him, all he ever did was RMB RP and he had only played NationStates for one month. Yet when I hired him, he managed to run the Newspaper Department like a professional Delegate, and hire droves of hard workers! I was shocked and pleasantly surprised, and we managed to publish over ten visually appealing and fresh content-filled articles, some of which hit top dispatches and were read by all the RMBers, government officials and regular citizens alike.
If people say "I don't know, whatever you tell me to do" (which makes up the MAJORITY of responses you'll get), give them a boring job that needs to be done. Trust me, there are MANY of them. These "boring jobs" can include telegramming people to join the region's discord/forum, writing and posting "endorse the Delegate" dispatches, approving citizenship applications, doing the region's statistics (like checking every citizen's nation, counting them, making sure they haven't CTEd), or writing telegram drafts for you to mass-telegram to the entire region to encourage members to join the WA/forums/any Department. This could form a Recruitment/Outreach Department.
The so-called "boring jobs" do require creativity. For example, when a worker is drafting a telegram, he/she has to think "what items should I include in the telegram to integrate the reader closer to our platforms and retain him/her? How do I make the draft persuasive?" Nonetheless, they are easy to teach to people who just want to follow instructions without much thinking.
I’ve already gone ahead and explained Creative Jobs, which is the hardest part. You might be low on Creative Departments, or still have zero of them. Don't worry, you can revisit that later. But now...
2) Create the boring jobs/departments. These are PRE-SET departments, for players who want to do the “Boring Jobs.”
The standard template consists of these listed departments:
Ministry of Home Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Communications
Ministry of Culture
Ministry of World Assembly Affairs
You will have to write the descriptions for each department, detailing exactly what each one does. If someone has to choose which department to join, he/she will want to know what he’s expected to do once he’s hired for that department.
I have to give full credit to the retired NationStates player/former TNP Delegate/Guardian, R3naissanc3r, who is the first person to create these departments and write descriptions for them. He is a real innovator who I emulated to a large extent, without him knowing. Sometimes he helped without knowing, because strategic players look at his old threads; but sometimes he helped by openly providing TEMPLATES to people who asked/telegrammed him for them. But I’ll explain that later. Again, since he’s retired, I don’t think that’s a possible route anymore. Anyway, much of my previous leadership success is due to reading his “Executive Applications” thread here, despite never joining his Executive Staff: https://forum.thenorthpacific.org/topic/7198621/ (I have used this thread as a template and for inspiration, but it is important that you design one suited for your own region when developing your own staff).
Here's what to do:
Have a clear idea what the specific tasks of the ministry will be (e.g. recruitment and mentoring for Home Affairs)
Create positions that fit the tasks you want
Write a description based on the tasks and positions
Repeat for all ministries
After that, you want to create an application form, with basic personal information such as nation name and Discord tag, as well as relevant information such as reasons for joining or previous experience.
ALL DONE! Now, your thread (for Executive job applications) is ready to post! Add a short summary of the purpose of the thread (i.e. “you’re supposed to apply for jobs here if you’re bored on NationStates,”) at the top of the thread.
So you posted it, now what? You link the thread to all the people you hired, and have them fill out the form. This way, they become “official” AND you look active - like you’re an amazing Delegate who simply writes a thread and instantly 20 people apply within minutes. The reality of course is that you “hired” them beforehand, then invented some jobs after the fact, then forced them to apply for real.
3) Make a Discord Server. Hopefully, you already have a normal Discord server, for everyone in the region to hang out. If you don’t, make one.
Now, there should be an additional Discord Server, apart from the main server. That discord server will be your Government server. Invite your newly hired government workers there. Within that server, you should create a separate channel for each government department, and give each government member access to their respective departments. You should also create a Cabinet chat for the top brass to discuss more intricate stuff like department-creation and foreign policy, but have a lower-cabinet chat for people who want to get involved in those discussions too. Finally, add a general Executive staff channel, for all government members to be able to see.
These are just my suggestions for the Government server setup, based on the setup in TNP’s own government server. With a proper government (workers’) discord server, filled up with members you’ve hired, it’s going to become really easy to put everyone to efficient work.
4) Constantly advertise the Regional Server to the Gameside Region. Then, hire people from the Regional server to the Government server (and have them fill out the app you made). Then give them jobs, and set deadlines for results if that’s viable.
Congrats, you’ve created and established the foundation of a region!
A few more things to note:
The Foreign Department is sensitive department that you can’t just hire anybody for. You have to hire diplomatic players who know how to act respectful, and not embarrass you. Those players will be ambassadors representing you to other regions, so you don’t want to hire immature trolls. There are also some optional steps if you want to expand your region further:
5) Establish the Regional Military (considered a Department). You should create a separate Military Application thread. Still describe the military as a department, like Ministry of Defense, (as pre-set/“boring jobs”) in your Executive Application thread, but link to the military application. Anyone who applies and gets accepted to the military automatically becomes a “soldier” of your region, or at least a “recruit.”
You can always use them to "pile," or teach them to “update.” If you don’t know how to "update," or how to lead updates, there are plenty of guides out there. This article is not the place to learn that stuff. You can learn by joining the North Pacific Army, asking NPA officials, or tracking down good people who know how, or asking me.
6) Talk to show presence. Post things in the RMB, Discord, and forums; link your posts if they’re relevant to people. If the leader is active, people will naturally be active too.
7) Set goals/milestones. For example, if you want to attain many endorsements, set an endorsement goal you want to reach. Then devise strategies to reach those goals. This endorsement-related duty belongs to a Department, most likely Home Affairs.
8) Thank your workers, and reward them. Give them medals of appreciation, or honorary mentions, but whatever you do, CREDIT THEM. Always credit people who submit ANYTHING, whether writing or ART, especially art. People hate when they put in the work, but get their credit stolen (or don’t get credited.) It’s also the ethical thing to do.
9) Always be on the lookout for new ideas/activities. You're running a community when you're a delegate, and people (including yourself) get bored fast if you don't try new things. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. But most importantly, have fun! As with all games, you can burn out if you don't take breaks, so be sure to take a break now and then so the game always remains fun.
Speaking of giving credit where credit is due, I want to thank Ghost for coming up with this concept and pushing me to write it. I believe these ideas work (and they must be good because TEP still uses the systems I set up) and can really help regions engage with their players and keep the players invested.
Publisher: El Fiji Grande :: Executive Editor: Pallaith (Ghost) :: Managing Editor: Robespierre
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