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Location: Home  Community Forums  General Discussions  Fostering an active MX Community 
Fostering an active MX Community
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Fostering an active MX Community 16 December 2018 13:32:57  
Hello MX,

Some of you might know me as the Site Leader of the TMNF part over on TMX. That site, in its best moments, experienced levels of activity unmatched by MX. Of course, the player base was higher, but even in 2016 and 2017 the site was still able to engage more users, despite just being focused on one environment and being part of a dying part of the game, with user numbers in TMNF shrinking. Only this year, 2018, the activity on TMNF-X decreased. But even this month, 22 maps received more than 10 awards and many received considerable amounts of replays. In comparison, only 12 MX maps received more than 10 awards and barely any map sees more than 5 replays being submitted. And that while catering towards 4 environments in the newer game, that especially in the last year has been on the rise again and has the great potential to consistently grow in popularity over the next years. Why does this not translate to MX? TM2 is becoming better and better as a game, the potential for mappers to build great maps is insane, but MX does not manage to engage growing amounts of mappers on its page.

My hypothesis for this effect is that since its creation, MX consistently took away the incentives and mechanisms that enable a track-sharing website to actually be a community website. And that cannot be in the interest of the moderation team or its user base. The idea to make the website cleaner and easier to use has taken away a lot of its charme and possibilities. A user-friendly layout got traded in for the active community. I have a few specific points to address where MX clearly went the wrong way:

There are different ways that motivate people to drive maps and upload their own replays.

1) Nadeo WRs
Still to this day a big part of activity on TMNF-X stems from the Nadeo records. It is super easy to follow the progression of records and every time a new world record is uploaded you'll find users congratulating the new record holder. On MX this option does not seem to exist. Combine that with shitty leaderboards and you have no reason to upload your WR replays on this website. As a result, the TM2 Nadeo hunting community is much more focused on the online leaderboard. Nadeo removing the 'official times' helped in this, of course. Nonetheless, MX has the opportunity to provide the platform needed to easily follow WR developments for the regular Nadeo players - an option that does currently exist no where. Additionally, the comment section could get conversation going a bit more when new WRs come in -> Beneficial for the Community.

2) The Cumulative Leaderboard
What motivates a mapper on TMX to upload replays? Partially, the leaderboards that focus on replays uploaded in the last 30 days. MX removed this system completely and now only benefits those players that accumulated thousands of replays over a number of years. To get into that leaderboard? Impossible for most casual players without investing significant amounts of time.
I like the idea of a cumulative leaderboard, but why take away the short-term incentives of a monthly leaderboard? TMX saw its most active hunting times when masses of players joined in a hunt for the top spots in that leaderboard -> Beneficial for the Community.

3) Classic Maps
It is 2018 and there are not even 40 classic maps on MX - seriously? To be expected if you hold the threshold at a replay score of 1000, with barely anyone uploading replays on this website. Again the crux lays in the replay scoring system of the website. On every other TMX version measuring the classic leaderboard in # of WRs led to consistent hunting of these maps and people trying to get these classic WRs on the hundreds of classic maps - that did not get selected by replay score alone, but by whether they are a classic or not. If more users upload replays and classic maps are a point of attention on this website again, you could easily increase the number of top drivers hunting maps for prestige and the leaderboard again. But instead...

4) Hidden Leaderboards had to hide the leaderboards away from the main page. Sure, MX looks cleaner that way, but mostly it transforms the bottom half of the main page into a list of recent tracks sorted by different factors that no one really pays attention to. More replays need leaderboards on the home page - leaderboards that every driver actually can find him- or herself in. One leaderboard for monthly scores, one leaderboard for the classic WRs (once more classic maps exist) and the Nadeo leaderboard with a toggle function for each environment. It gets people to drive again and actually spend time on this website...

The joy of mapping arises partially intrinsically, of course, you cannot force people to enjoy mapping. But there are some extrinsic factors that help people to enjoy mapping more and more.

1) Awards
I assume that the idea of the one-click awards was to facilitate awarding and increase the number of awards given out on this website. I cannot provide clear statistics for this, but my impression is (not a good way to argue, I know, but maybe the wisdom of the crowd can back me up on this), that the number of awards did not increase significantly. What decreased, however, is the number of feedback and friendly comments a mapper gets on his maps. Why bother writing a comment when one click is enough?
However, conversations with many users over the years showed me that one thoughtful award with written feedback is much more valuable than a quick " :award: ". Now you could argue that that is still possible via the comment section, but that seems to be used rarely and definitely less than comments in awards themselves.

2) Engagement
Where are my competitions and where is the support on MX? 90MC is a cool competition and the CCP turns out to be a nice project - these things get people actively involved. Why not increase the number of mapping competition, create a system to help newer mappers in their endeavors (BB Project on TMX, dedicated Beta Area for maps). Dare to give awards! Dare to submit replays! Dare to help! Give your community a reason to be on this website!

To summarize: There are a lot of cool features of MX - the user interface looks waaaay better than for TMX, the game behind it is by now clearly better than its old version with TMNF and TMUF (even though that might be debatable for some players), but the reason that most people from TMNF-X and TMUF-X did never make the transition to MX and why only a tiny fraction of players actively playing TM2 are active on MX is because of the absolute lack of community engagement and incentives to engage with the website by uploading replays, downloading maps and hunting for the best times.

This website has all the capabilities it needs to be a community hub for an active, larger mapping community in TM2, but it refuses to be that in favor of a streamlined, user-friendly design. I would have become truly active on this website a long time ago already, if it wasn't for the designers and crew here taking away all the features that brought me to the side in the first place. I understand that you want to distinguish yourself from the TMX pages, but you went into too many wrong directions.

Please consider my feedback, I look forward to your responses.
Old Age Caravanner
Location: DE
23 December 2018 00:48:03  
Hey Sky,

thanks for your feedback. We all at the MX team have read through your post and discussed it briefly. I want to address some of your points personally and I will refer to some of the points made among our crew. I will also refer to our crew when I say "we".

Before I argue with your opinions on the other subjects, I want to say that I agree on most of yours regarding the Leaderboards and Classic Maps. Both of these are subject to big changes that are coming with the big MX update. If you want to involve yourself in those, I suggest you to join the MX Discord (see homepage).

... says:
[...] even in 2016 and 2017 the site [TMNF-X] was still able to engage more users [...]

I'll address all of your points that go into the same direction of this statement as follows:

1. TMNF vs. TM²

It's a popular comparison that is made, since TMNF is by far the most downloaded and (ever) played Trackmania game. Obviously because it is free, but also because it's very accessible (due to the low complexity) and only having one environment.
Can TM² compete with that? Absolutely. It is the better game, feature-wise, but currently it simply lacks the stability TMNF has.
In other words: TM² has a huge set of features that improve the mapping / content-creation massively, but in reality, many features tend to be:
- less used than you would expect
- simply bugged from version to version (due to updates)
- lacking functionality, while others (mesh modeler) are steadily improved.
That in my personal view makes the mapping process alone a little more difficult than on TMNF, while it gives you a lot more freedom and is way more ergonomic.

Yes, I'm putting part of the blame on the game itself. We devs are also fighting with those updates all the time, so the game's instability is definetly a factor everyone feels - playing the game or not.

2. TMNF-X as a community

TMNF-X has the benefit of being at the same time community hub and track sharing site. I believe this is - not insignificantly - due to its age; TMX has a rich culture of its users populating the forums and monitoring track pages for hours to see how discussions pan out. I think a good way to describe it is to say that the userbase grew into using TMX the way they do. We could dig deep into that subject for hours and try to find the reasons for that.

My point is: The communities are different. The fact that MX- and TMX-communities do not have complete overlap makes me believe that we're talking about two different kinds of groups. I surely can say that we did try our best to revive forums and increase activity, but we can only do so much.

3. The Fallacy

Let's take a look into the past. United TMX has always stood in the shadows of TMNF-X regarding user activity numbers. Look at today, and I see United is not that far away from TMNF-X regarding awards for example (since you took these alone as determinant for site activity).

Now let's regard all the issues with Maniaplanet, the fact that it's not a free game and the age of the game (Canyon is already 7 years old, Valley 4 years) I'm surprised TMNF-X can't accumulate higher numbers. With the data you've provided (and the data I've seen) I'd be a little more cautious of saying the one is doing better than the other. Fact is: MX should do better, but even though it isn't, I don't see how we have major control of the circumstance of low user activity anyway.

... says:
[...]if it wasn't for the designers and crew here taking away all the features that brought me to the side site in the first place.

I know this is more of a feelings thing, but here's the stuff that we've taken away:
- Leaderboards on the front page (useless, since our algorithm is weird)
- Monthly leaderboards (I guess I list it, even though it was never implemented on mx)
- Award Comments (=> replaced by normal comments)
- Playpal (not used => retired)

That's it I think. Atleast that's the stuff I remember. Feel free to add something if you feel that the MX crew kept removing more features.

... says:
MX consistently took away the incentives and mechanisms that enable a track-sharing website to actually be a community website.

I want to give you a reminder that MX, at its debut, was basically a restyled carbon copy of United TMX. The basic forum topics were copied over, the site structure was the same and the backend was also very similar and still is.

Now where did the community go then? Here's a few points I don't want to elaborate on too much, but I think are self-explanatory:
- Due to the Maniaplanet Forum becoming a popular hub for posting non-track-related forum threads, players rather used this one (like sharing blocks, videos, pictures...)
- With the introduction of Discord, the whole active MX community has found a shared home, where we all talk to each other. I think we're more active than the TMX Discord (last time I've been there was 1y ago). Why not join us?
- Traditional forum posting has become more rare on the internet in general due to the introduction of either next-gen discussion systems (that give you notifications for replies) and instant messaging through chat groups/servers like Discord.
- In general, I think the whole Trackmania² community is very decentralized and it has become increasingly difficult to determine a global hub for all players, especially those who use MX.
- Same root causes lead to a general decline in site activity.

Another reason: I believe most players do now indeed understand MX as a tool to download and share maps. We're trying to bring more people to interact on our page all the time. Track Showcase (-videos), mapping competitions, discord posting and being shared by Nadeolive on Maniaplanet are a few examples of the efforts we're undertaking to get more activity on our page.

Then also, you need to account for all the things that are not related to track uploading / awarding / commenting itself: Managing our KOs and mappools, contests and so on. Our limiting factor is the time we can invest into MX, while also atleast playing the game a little bit next to it. So yeah, we're trying.

Transition to my next thing:

... says:
Engagement [......]

As previously said, most of our activities have moved on to Discord. We have enough mapping competitions for our player base (OneBlockStory, 90MC, CCP, MTC, ...) and I think I'm safe to say that since the map submissions for some of them were really limited in the recent editions (90MC is an exception). We're even setting up servers right after the submissions close so we can play those maps together. We do also employ multiple permanent online servers.

Therefore I disagree that increasing competitions will increase activity on our page. It's the other way around.

... says:

I'm going to write a lot about this, so here we go:

I'm the one who brought the One Click Award forward from idea to implementation (with a lot of support by crew). The OCA update came in when there were no UI updates on MX for a very long time (I believe since more than 1 year) and activity was I'd say a little less than what it is now. Here is a brief list of reasons we collected in favor of the awards:
- Most awards that were written at the time were simply made out of one word and/or emojis.
- The old award system is simply outdated and does not make sense (basically two comment sections per track).
- Merging comments and awards (+ their text contents) would be feasible if you would be able to have discussions nested. That's what we did - nested comments.
- A One Click Award is way easier to give than being forced to write a comment. So for all those that want to give silent kudos, we gave them a voice.
- We want to leave us the door open for API implementations so you could e.g. award a track from a server.

Now let's have a look at the 2018 statistics. You can see that the amount of awards given has definetly changed. The peaks (=most likely outstanding tracks / cup map awarding) are of much higher amplitude, which for me signifies that people, that don't usually go on MX, did to give an award. On average it did raise the bar, too, but of course, I still wish the number to be way higher.

... says:
however, is the number of feedback and friendly comments a mapper gets on his maps. Why bother writing a comment when one click is enough?

My point is: If you really like a track and really feel like writing a few words about it, you can still write a comment next to your award, while your comment gets an award symbol next to your name. As previously stated, at the time of releasing the OCA, many many awards were simply emojis. The argument of value goes both ways; the people that would've written an award previously will still do it in my opinion.

In conclusion, I still stand behind our choice and I'm happy we undertook the change to One Click Awards before we move further. That opened us some more doors for the big MX update that's yet to come.

Now I want to use the last section to question your base of arguments as a whole. You do consistently refer to TMX's concurrent and past features & successes. Here are some subjects where the comparison fails:

1. MX removing features for Simplicity
I'd argue that our own page is even more complex than TMX in its current state. We do track more info on the track page and show more track related tables on the home pages. We have a notification bar on top. And so on. We will aim to make it a lot simpler though.

2. Absolute Lack of Community engagement
There's more community engagement between admins/moderators and players on MX than there is on TMX by far. We do our best to help users creating and sharing their maps on and around our page. The community also helps itself a lot, especially on Discord. There's not much more that is in our control.

3. Forum
On MX the forum currently serves as a place to store information that you need more than once (MTC rules for example), to ask questions that require a little more explanation and to find those. It's not that well used, but it is used, especially after eyebo simplified the categories, which I think helped a lot. I don't see much room for change.

I believe the underlying issue you have with the page is that MX is not TMX. It's fine, we are all biased and we all believe we're right in assuming things that could or could not have happened, but MX will continue to become more and more different, simply because that's the direction in which we've recently decided to go.

MX might not become the community hub TMX was once, since most user interaction happens externally already, but that doesn't mean we're giving up on getting people involved on MX. I'm very optimistic for the future, even though it doesn't look like we're going back to the golden times, but I'd say they will be golden times for some and silver times for others.

We just need to adapt as well as we can to the changes that are out of our control.

Last edited by Ozon, 23 December 2018 00:48:29
site development, media
Lead Developer
Location: DE
07 January 2019 00:20:08  
I hope I'm not too late but I saw this and since I thought about this topic before I wanted to say something too :)
And you maybe want an opinion by a casual player too;)

I don't really know where to start so it's gonna maybe be a little mess:| And I'm somewhat new, so I don't know about the gory days of the exchange sides
First: Why am I active on TMX but not really on MX?
My main point is that I don't recieve any feedback on my tracks here. I think that is due to the amount of tracks uploaded here. There are simply too many. And with the 10 spots on the front page you can be grateful if your track stands there for like 2 hours. However on TMX it can stay there for half an day so that more people can see it. And that translates to the downloads (however I read that they don't really show the real number) while my downloads on TMX go from 30 into the 60s and 70s on MX my tracks get around 20 downloads up to 40. That is just now very satisfying.
(now the next thing is very subjective and maybe untrue, but thats my feeling)
And when I see the quality of most of the maps that push my map off the front page... Meh! On TMX at least every second map, if not more is thought out and the author at least tried their best, but here...

And if you think about a new player: "WOW awesome I just found an exchange side with a forum for Trackmania2!" And every minute are tracks published, but it feels like noone is there... He just would be very confused "Where is everbody?" Cause in the forums most people get ignored. How should you really find out that most is over discord? And there is the problem of a group chat: Your messages get also ignored or overread... (even though for Lagoon it kindof works)

And now about the forums:
(not including help forum)
On both sides if you get ignored if you're less known and somewhat new, at least if you want to start a competition.
But on here are not enough topics. Only 8 and community project is soo little that you can put it in competitions too. If I'm searching in here for something I'm basically searching the whole forum even though I don't want to know anything about problems with the MX replays and trackbuilding but I can't find Mediatracker stuff in there. And the search system, I don't understand it or am I just too stupid?
Super positive is that in the help forum someone of the team is responding rather quick ;)

I like the system on TMX... While the award section is purely on feedback you can connect with people in the comment section :) And if only there is an emoji it gives at least a little bit of feedback for you::);):d:o:|(l):silver::gold::award: it doesn't really matters wich one they use, every gives a little bit of feedback, that is a little bit different.
And awards aren't really the best way to show activity on here... On TMX you have like these beasts like simo_900 who got 45 awards on his last track and others that get awards because their name is on that map so it has to be good (at least it feels like that) and if I would have posted the same map I would be happy to get like 10 to 15 awards... But I guess thats normal. But on MX I never saw just awards due to the name.

The game:
I like TMNF more, I think the editor is better with the folders and the shadows are wierd in TM2 (like in the editor is it fine but after it computes the shadows?! Don't like that) and my PC is shit:(
And in TMNF: limitations make creative :d
Even though people make crazy shit awesome maps in TM2, especially RPG! And the blockmixing is awesome, but people tend to overuse it...

What you can do better?
I don't know how it looks on the site but a "latest tracks" for every environment would be good (like 10 for stadium and 5 for each other?)

Make less on discord! Move the organisation to the forums (eg. one block story or knockout), maybe less would participate but more people would be in the forums. That would encourage people to make own competitions and so on.... (from the knockout I only see the results now and then on here)

Get the bigger names involved! All have somewhat seperated themselves Spam, riolu, Marius, mudda all have an own discord... I don't really know hot to make that happen but like a forum page for them?
Or organize competitions with them, I think there would be more competitions if they wouldnt have to organize it all on their own and with them you wouldn't have to do it either.

I think that riolu would grind some of these classic maps if there would be points for it and somewhat of a competition, maybe to start the hunt. And people would follow the grind cause they dont have to buy Turbo for it.

I don't know if its possible, but maybe contact Nadeo, that you would like to have some help with organizing shit. That they don't be like: "some updates that cause bugs to harm competitions and some goodies once a year and we have done something for the community":$

And to the end I have a question:
Where are all the french players? Like there are a lot of french tournaments and he community is rather big there, but on there I don't spot too many of them...

Good luck, have fun and good race!;)
Old Age Caravanner
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