by Kurt "Thunderheart" Stangl and Matt Bogue
Community is all about people actively and positively participating in each others lives. As it turns out, the Community Window Friday Feature is a great example of how things happen in the SWG offices.
About three weeks ago, I'm standing in the office talking to one of the developers about the upcoming Image Designer changes. We finished our discussion and then one of the programmers that works in the same office turns to me and says, "I've been playing a lot lately and using the match history. I've met some really cool people in game and I was wondering what players thought of it." The programmer is a man named Matt Bogue. Matt is a really great guy and he programmed the community window. He looked at me and asked, "Do the players talk about it at all?"
I hedged a bit, not knowing how to answer. There was a heavy pause that hung in the air, and then I replied, "Players don't use it so much." Matt look at me and said, "No? Don't they know how to use it?" Again I paused with the image of "Blood Type" on the personal page.
"Oh, I'm pretty sure they know how to use it, they just don't have much interest in it." Matt is a man of dry humor and concise logic, "Not much interest? I don't understand. People play MMO's to meet people and no game has a tool like this. Why wouldn't they use it?" Playing off a little humor, I replied, "Well, I've never needed to search for other player's by their blood type." We both laughed and then I learned something interesting. Having been on the project since the beginning, Matt casually shared some history with me. "Oh that. Raph wanted that in because (much to my surprise) apparently "blood type" is a big Japanese matchmaking feature, like astrology signs here." Who knew?
Looking to understand the benefits, I asked, "So what did you do with the matchmaking window? How did you use it?" Matt smiled a dry smile at me and said, "I met people with it." We laughed and then he went on to explain the basics and said, "I set up a search for Computers and Programming and met a bunch of guys who are pretty sharp coders. Of course, you can do it with music or anything else on the list."
We talked about the details and I learned more about the community window than I knew, so I said, "Maybe we should do a Friday Feature on it?" Matt looked at me and said, "I could write something up for you." I said, "Sure," and then a few days later, Matt hands me a 2 page write up on the two matchmaking portions of the community window. I thought, "This is great, but I wonder if anyone is using it?" I walked back to my office and called Q-3PO and pitched the idea to him, "Hey I spoke with Matt Bogue and he has a great idea for the Friday Feature and I was wondering what you thought." I went over the history and the details of it and Kevin says to me, "It's a great idea, but is anyone using it?" I didn't know the answer so I hung up the phone, walked to Matt's office and asked him, "Matt, if I do a Friday Feature on the Community Window, is it going to work?" He laughed at me and says, "what do you mean is it going to work? I told you I was in the game using it just fine." We both laughed and then he said, "Here, let's go try it out." I loaded up the game and logged in. I set my Community Window Preferences for the first time, chose "computers" and "programming" and sure enough, within a couple of minutes I had 4 matches!
I told Matt, "Alright where's that Friday Feature you said you wanted to right up?" Matt smiled and replied, "Funny you should ask. I have it right here..."
The Community window allows you to find friends using matchmaking, personalize your avatar, find other players near you, and manage your friends list and ignore list. We will discuss each topic in detail to ensure that you understand how to fully utilize the Community window.
Community Window: Personal Page
The personal page defines your matchmaking profile. You can meet people in the game by matching your preferences to their profile. This feature has nothing to do with in-game characters and is meant for meeting people out-of-character. This is a matchmaking service similar to online matching services where you meet people in real life with similar interests. You are only notified of high percentage matches with other players. Matchmaking checks are only made with players near you.
The My Profile section of the personal page defines your personal real world interests. You might enjoy collecting stamps or watching drama movies. Adding those items using the Category and I am sections defines your complete profile. You can add as many items as you want in the Profile list. The more items you add, the more likely you are to find someone with similar interests. You can remove items at any time from your profile using the Remove Item button. Removing multiple items at once can be accomplished by highlighting multiple items in the list by CTRL or SHIFT-clicking in the list. If you get tired of chatting with people while playing, you can uncheck the Make my profile searchable box and your matchmaking profile will not be visible to other players. When I say visible, I don't mean that any player can actually see your profile; I mean that the game won't check other player's preferences against your profile and notify other players of matches. Players can't see each others profiles, only a percentage match is displayed when another player's preferences match up to some of the items in your profile. The Reset button at the bottom of the profile section will remove all the items from your profile.
The My Preferences section of the personal page defines what you like in other people. The items you can select in this section are exactly the items that are in the profile section. If you like people who have pet birds, then adding I prefer people interested in "Pets" and I prefer "Birds" matches you with any player near you who has those items in their profile. You can add as many items as you want in the Preferences list. It is generally better to have fewer items in the preferences list. This is because you have to match a majority of the items in the preferences list with another player's profile. I would start with putting between one and five items in the preferences section. This assumes that other players are putting at least as many items in their profiles. The Sensitivity Meter allows you to adjust the percentage that must match your preferences to another player's profile before being notified. If you set the sensitivity at 100%, another player has to have all of your preferences in their list. If you set this to 80%, then only four out of five of the items you have in your preferences have to match to another person's profile. Other players can have 20 items in their profile and you only have one item in your preferences, but it happens to be one of the 20 items in the other player's preferences. In this case, you have found someone with your interest and will be notified. You can specify how often the searches occur using the Search this often drop down box. This allows you to disable character searches altogether instead of having to clear your preferences list. Maybe you logged to play but you don't feel very chatty. Setting this to "never" ensures you will not be notified of players who meet your preferences. The other options are to set this to check "every two minutes", every "five minutes", or "every ten minutes". The more often you have the checks perform, the more likely that person who just ran by will show up as a match. The Reset button clears your preference list.
When a match occurs, you are notified in your chat window with a message of who matched your preferences and what the percentage match was. At this point you can strike up a conversation about your specific preferences. I personally enjoy programming and have matched against many people in the game who also enjoy programming. It is fun to start conversations with players who have common interests. You can specify which of your chat windows receive the matchmaking notifications by setting the Match Making channel on a particular tab. If you don't know how to do this, it is fine. By default, the game sends matches to all the tabs in the chat window. Matches with players are only listed once while the player is near you. If the player leaves your area and then comes back later, you will be notified again of the match.
When you are sitting in a crowded area, waiting for something, a handy command you can type in the chat window is /match [item]
- . This allows you to do an instant matchmaking search against players profile's in your area for a single matchmaking item, or you can do search for any item in a matchmaking category. To do a category search, you first need to pick a category to search for. If you try category searching using /match sports, you will get results for anyone interested in "Martial Arts", "Other", "Skateboarding/ Skating/ Rollerblading", "Swimming", or "Team Sports". Using a category search, you don't know which of the sports category items you are matching against, but you can always strike up conversation and find out what sports they are interested in. If you want to narrow the search to a single sports item in sports, you could use /match swimming. If you get a match in this case, you know the person specifically specified that they enjoy swimming. Partial matches are also allowed, such as /match swi This would result in finding matches for players who have a profile containing swimming. You must type at least three characters after /match to perform a partial match. When using /match [item]
- , the [item]
- can be any string that is in the profile Category or I am drop down box. Remember that using a category as the [item]
- searches for any of the category items that match, not just a single item. Because of this, doing category searches results in more matches.
Community Window: Match History Page
Anytime you get a matchmaking match, the results are stored in the match history page. This page is cleared each time you exit the game. The name of the person you matched with is listed in the Name column. You should strike up a conversation with them. The percentage match of your preferences to their profile is list in the My pref to their profile column. This means if you had at least 80% of your preferences match to another person's profile, then a match resulted. The next column shows the match percent of your profile to their profile. This means how many of your descriptive items match up to how many items they describe themselves. So if you both describe yourself as only "Swimmers" and into "Movies -> Classics", then the My profile to their profile will be 100%. This means you are similar to this person in some ways. The time of the match is listed in the Time column.
Community Window: Character Page
The character page is where you can define your character for other players. The more information you put here, the better chance other players you meet are able to understand some of the details of your character, which enhances your role playing experience. The information you provide here is accessed by the search function on the next page in the community window. Additionally, this information is accessed by the slash command /who.
Some of the fields in the character window are automatically generated. Your character's name and species for instance. The name and species you chose when you created your character automatically appear here. If you added your biography during the character creation process, it also appears here. Some players don't always have a biography when they make their characters, so if you decide on a biography for your character later or want to change your biography, you can easily made changes in this window. Another automatic window is the badges list. Here you can view all the badges your character has accumulated in the game world.
This is also the window where players can set their character title. A character's title is displayed in their permatag (A permatag is the name and information that is displayed above a character's head in game). Changing your title lets players know how you plan on playing your character at the moment. These titles are generated by completing professions trees and the more profession you complete, the more possible titles you may select from. You can also check "No Title" if you prefer for to hide your title from players.
Another interesting aspect of the character window is the language choice. Non-human species in the game may choose to "speak" in their native language. Everyone except Wookiees begin the game with the ability to speak Basic and their native language. Players can select what language their character is "speaking" in with this down-down box. The slash command for listing all your current speaking and comprehended languages is /language. This also tells you what language you are currently speaking. You can change your language using /language rodese. This of course assumes you know the Rodian language. To change your language back to basic, use /language basic. You can change your language to any of the spoken languages listed when using /language.
Listed underneath the language drop-down menu are four permatag enhancements. By checking these boxes, players are able to look at your permatag and be able to visibly see that you are Looking For a Group (LFG), offering to help new players learn more about the game (HELP), a roleplayer tag which tells other players you are in character (ROLEPLAY), and the handy Away From Keyboard flag (AFK). The slash commands for toggling these options are /lfg, /newbiehelper, /roleplay, and /afk.
The last check box on the page is at the bottom. It is the Make my character searchable box. By checking this box, it allows other players to use search the information listed on your character page with the search function on the following page. You can also type /anon to toggle whether your character is searchable.
Community Window: Search Page
The search page allows players in the game to search for character matches. That is to say, a player can search the nearby area for the closest players with matching information on their character page. The system looks for up to 32 matches that meet your search criteria. The amount of possible matches is dependent upon how busy any given area is when you do a search. There is no way to search for a player on a different planet or galaxy.
To do a search, you must choose some specific information to narrow your search. By using the drop down menus, players can search for other characters based on their Faction, Species, and even their Profession and Title. This is very handy if you are looking for people to join your faction battles or if you need a specific type of crafter or group member.
You can also add the permatag listings to your search as well. If you are looking for people who are Looking for group, a Newbie Helper to answers some questions for you or are seeking out a Roleplayer to play with, simply check the appropriate box and press the Search button. The system will do a search and list up to 32 players that match the character search options you selected. The search results are displayed in your chat window and the Search Results list on this page. The results are sorted alphabetically with friends first and AFK characters last in the list. You can customize the colors of the search results in the Chat Color section of the game options. In the chat color section, there is an option for Who (AFK, LFG, etc.) which is the permatags, Who (guild), Who (planet), Who (player name), Who (region), Who (species), and Who (title). You should change these colorizations to suit your needs.
If you want to do all your character searches using slash commands in the chat window, this section is for you. The main character search slash command is /who. The results from this are the same as entering the game, opening the Search UI, and clicking Search without changing any options. This means there is no fine-tuning of the search requirements. To narrow the slash command search, you can use any of the following commands: /who lfg, /who roleplay, /who newbiehelper, /who friend, /who neutral, /who imperial, /who rebel, /who human, /who rodian, /who transdoshan, /who mon calamari, /who shirywook, /who bothan, /who twilek, or /who zabrak. Additionally you can do slash command wildcard searches for character and guild names. If you type /who def, the search returns anyone with "def" in their character name or guild name. This allows you to find all the players nearby in your guild or find where nearby friends are located. This wildcard search is not case-sensitive.
Community Window: Friends List Page
The next page, which is heavily used by most players, is the friends page. This is a great tool to keep track of your online friends. Players can add friends to their list by either entering the friend's name in the Name field and pressing the Add button or by using a slash command. The slash commands to add and remove friends quickly from this list are /addfriend [charactername] and /removefriend [charactername] . If you have a lot of friends and you want to group them into categories, for instance, if you are a mayor with many Player Associations in your city, you might want to separate them on your list. You can do this by selecting or typing in the friend, then type the group text in the Group field, or select the group from the drop-down box which already contains every group your friends are already categorized into. You may want to group all your fellow PA members or quality merchants under similar groups. The reason for this is you can sort this window on the group name, or when you use the slash command /friend, this displays a list of friends sorted by groups. You can also add individual comments to remember why you added someone to your friends list in the first place. The last option when adding or modifying an entry in your friends list is whether or not you want a system message to display when a friend comes online/offline and whether they show when using the slash command /friend. This was added because sometimes you have people in your friends list that you don't always want to know when they come online/offline, and you don't want their name cluttering your chat window when typing /friend. If you want to modify an entry already in your friend's list, just select the friend, change the Name, Group, Comment, and *System message of... entries to what you want, then select Modify.
Some other useful options on the friends page are whether or not you want to hide offline friends, whether you want a confirmation when removing friends (so there is no accidental removals), mailing friends, and selecting everyone in your list. Hiding offline friends helps to un-clutter the list for people who have hundreds of friend entries. This also hides offline friends when using the /friend command. If you want to mail or remove more than one friend at a time, you can CTRL or SHIFT select in the friends list to select more than one entry, then select the [charactername] or [charactername] button.
Other slash commands for managing friends are /friendgroup [charactername] group and /friendcomment [charactername] comment.
Community Window: Ignore List Page
I know I love when people spam 10 chat bubbles in front of the star port. It lets me play the ignore mini-game. The ignore page shows all the players who you have chosen ignore when receiving tells, spatial chat, email, trade requests, duels or group invites. You can add and remove players from your ignore list using this page.
To ignore a person, add them in the Name entry and select Add. To remove an ignored player, select their name in the list and select Remove. The slash commands for this page are /addignore [name] and /removeignore [name] . To list all the players you are currently ignoring, type /ignore.
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