forum-based websites always fascinated me. add pretty graphics, a strong sense of community, and engaging content... then you've got me hooked to say the least.

it's only as i grow older that i realize these sort of projects are constantly being made. sometimes they become internet household names, sometimes they shrivel up after success, and sometimes they go largely unnoticed. how many avatar and/or pet sites can you think of off the top of your head?

gaia online. roliana. goatlings. subeta. neopets. kaylune. flight rising. ernya. solia online. recolor.me. the list goes on and on.

everybody wants to belong. people with common interests gravitate towards each other. whether the focus is anime, roleplaying, or any other hobby, these communities typically have a certain "feel" to them based on the playerbase. imo the players on these avatar sites (aside from staff) is one of the most important factors that'll determine the site's trajectory.
  • moderation too strict ... discourages participation
  • moderation too lax ... rampant inappropriate behavior like harrassment and exploitation
  • too much focus on monetary gains ... users feel like walking wallets instead of valued customers
  • not enough focus on monetization ... site fails to cover operating costs
  • not addressing serious user concerns ... users feel ignored & mayhem ensues 
  • addressing too many user concerns ... site can lose direction
gaia online is a perfect example of how to totally ruin your website's economy while alienating users, thus losing tons of traffic and loyal/potential customers. as ridiculous as it sounds, sometimes these huge corporations don't realize that abusing their visitors is detrimental to their future. when you only care about profits it shows. users won't trust you with their money. older citizens may stick around for a while but many people are going to leave. these greedy tendencies detract new players from enjoying the site. they probably won't stay for more than an hour.

the userbase will grow sick, tired, rebellious. you will have no customers. you will have no money. it seems like gaia's current CEO doesn't care at all, which doesn't surprise me because he's got a history of running companies into the ground. unless the company's put in more capable hands, gaia is probably good as dead imo.

of course not every site failure comes at the hand's of the unscrupulous corporation category. any time you have a small team with limited resources the chance of going under looms overhead constantly. life will get in the way. staff may have to leave. user-engagement will be down. etc etc.

anyway i didn't type this up to complain about how much i dislike gaia, although that did just happen. i want to talk about what makes pet/avatar sites like these good. what frew me in and what kept me there.
  • site-wide user events
  • free stuff
  • games
  • engaging forum acitivies
  • clubs
  • collectibles
time brings new challenges, fallen empires, and the nations that rise from their ashes. basically there'll never be a shortage of these online communities.

one of these sites-in-progress that's caught my eye is dappervolk. i stumbled upon a post from the site's tumblr after searching "gamedev."

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jelonzo

June 2016

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