We hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year!
2020 was certainly a year many of us may wish to forget. Hopefully 2021 will be better for everyone! Throughout global lockdowns we were reminded of how important connection with friends and family is and without being able to meet in person, online interaction became the new-normal. We hope that FGN has helped everyone keep in contact and feel less isolated.
The past year has made me reflect on my original vision for FGN, back when myself and @Alpha_MarcBerman started the Website and Teamspeak server. Community was a key driving force for us through the creation of a platform that would allow both of us to stay in contact as I moved to the UK. That was almost a full decade ago, at the time VoIP tools were fairly limited, with Skype being ubiquitous (and awful), whilst Teamspeak was starting to edge forward over Ventrilo and Mumble. 10 years has seen some major changes to online communication tools, see the rise of MS Teams, Zoom and Discord.
If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
It may be cliché, but the fact that FGN is still around 10 years latter is a testament to our community’s members and admins.
Addressing some problems
Time-zones and locality
We may have begun as a predominately South African community, with a few members in the UK. However, we now have members whose lives have taken, and may still take them to other ends of the globe. Unfortunately, our existing platform has been insufficient at helping everyone remain in contact, particularly those outside of the GMT 1 - 2 time-zones and has isolated our community from new members in such regions.
Lack of community engagement
We’ve been far too focused over the past decade on ephemeral group voice-chats which are hermetically sealed. We currently have over 50 active daily Teamspeak users, mostly fragmented into small groups who have zero communication between each other. This has partly been a result of too little community engagement on behalf of the admins (something I apologies about) but is also deeply rooted in the limitations of Teamspeak.
As many of our members are now much older than when we started, having a community which is solely centred around gaming also needs to be addressed. Providing ways for users to share their other interests and hobbies will be imperative to maintain and grow our community.
I’ve attempted to solve this in the past, with little success. I had hoped the FGN Forums and Slack Support server would partially help these issues. However, Slack is far too corporate in nature and frankly confusing and our Forums lack real-time community engagement that instant messaging can provide. However, we need to be honest and acknowledge that times have changed. Teamspeak is not immune either and has also been a stagnating platform for a while now (one with amazing audio). These tools are just not fun!
Teamspeak 3 and 5
Honestly, my patience is wearing thin with Teamspeak 5’s development. We’ve been waiting over 2 years and for what exactly?
The FGN admins have been and will remain avid Teamspeak fans and from a community development and authorship view TS has been core to our growth. But, Teamspeak has been in severe need of a paradigm update for years! The glacial development of Teamspeak 5 has only acted as a catalysed to this and personally the direction that the new version is taking no longer provides me with confidence that it will solve the missing features that TS3 suffers from.
At the core of the issue is that Teamspeak is almost too good at voice and almost non existent with chat. This has had the inevitable result of providing little community engagement for members who live in other time zones, enforces our focus on voice chat over all other communication, fragments any text communication to isolated 3rd party platforms (outside of FGN) and ultimately fragments and hampers our community’s growth and health.
With all that said we are not moving away from Teamspeak, not yet at lest. But we are going to make changes that members have been asking about!
Moving forward in 2021
FGN Discord Server
For over 2 years I’ve tried to ignore it. It did not go away. In 2020, I started to use it a lot and I can’t deny it has a lot going for it.
FGN will be going live with an official Tier 2 Boosted Discord server. For now we’re going to operate both our existing TS3 server and this Discord server. Having a Discord server will provide FGN a much needed improvement in community chat and provide the community a place to come together as a whole to find shared interests; whether they be gaming, tech, hobbies, memes, etc. With greater focus on chat, members in a variety of time zones can more easily participate in community discussion.
We are aware that members have been asking for a Discord server and by ignoring it for so long have lost members who migrated away from Teamspeak. While the FGN admins don’t fully agree with Discord’s approach to server “ownership”, we know that to grow FGN we need to adapt.
If you’re not interested in Discord, the good news is that nothing is really changing and you are not being forced to use it. We will continue to host the FGN Teamspeak server indefinitely. I personally will be online on both platforms and everyone is welcome to use either or both platforms!
Admin role transfers?
Please message me @Fugitive on TS or Discord to have your admin powers transferred to Discord. Please note all admins will need to have a brief explanation of how permissions and moderation on Discord works compared to Teamspeak.
As Discord provides a focus on chat we’re going to be quite strict with Channel Topic moderation to maintain the long term quality of our server. We don’t plan to remove memes in general, but off-channel-topics and spam will be removed! So please keep to the topic of the channel you’re in!
Does Teamspeak not have superior audio quality? No, not any more. Both platforms now use the OPUS audio codec.
Our TS server’s audio quality is: 7.71KiB/s = 63.16kbps
Our Discord server’s audio quality is: 128kbps = 15.62KiB/s
The tough fact is that the FGN Teamspeak 3 server is more private. We don’t store chat logs, we don’t record any personal data.
With that said you need to make the decision for yourself. Is Discord perfect, no, is it better than Facebook, IMO fuck yes[¹][²]. To maintain the utmost levels of privacy we are hosting the discord server in Europe, to enforce that our instance is protected by GDPR and all users can therefore request that their data is deleted by emailing Discord: email@example.com when closing their account.
At the end of the day my advice is if it’s highly personal data, keep it offline or at least use a tool such as Telegram or Signal if you need to share it. I guess try to figure out what sort of data you’re parsing (generic or personal) and weigh it against how much you care who has that data. At the end of the day, pretty much everything you do on the internet exists in someone’s database.
FGN Clans / Small Communities
One of FGN’s core values has always been to help provide small clans and communities with a voice chat platform, hosted on our Teamspeak server. We will continue to welcome new communities to our server and existing communities are welcome to also join our Discord server if they desire.
What will change is that we will be moderating community channels a little closer and making some requests that the admins of these clans reach out to the FGN admins a little more, so that we know your community is still active. Our goal here is not to infringe or get in the way, but rather to start improving communication between members and groups on our server.
Unused community channels will be removed more regularly now!
FGN Social Media
We will be setting up a new Twitter account and closing the old legacy Assembled to Play account, to better unify our community brand.
Along with this I will be starting a Forge Gaming Network Instagram account to showcase the merch designs we are working on: https://instagram.com/forgegaming.works
Last, but not least, I will be auditing the FGN admins and head admins. Firstly, don’t freak out! If you’re an active and engaged admin this will mean very little.
However, I’m awfully aware that we have members who’ve been around for a while and are still assigned admins. Possibly due to outside commitments or life in general some of these admins are now inactive or seldom active. If this is the case, please understand that being an admin provides power on our server, but in tern we do ask that our admins are active. This means more than just hanging out with your direct friends occasionally. If one wants to be an admin you need to also be committed to engaging with and growing our entire community.