Since I’m using vBulletin for both this game production site, but also for one of my game sites, I have some experience to comment this.
vBulletin has worked well for me, and while there are some free options (like PHPBB or SMF or Drupal‘s forum system), I think putting a few bucks for a software isn’t that big deal. I used PHPBB2 in the past, and the spam load was horrible (PHPBB3 + modifications, from what I’ve heard, are supposed to do good).
The vBulletin software does what I need and it does it well, so I think it is a good option if you want to set up forums.
In my opinion, the most important questions aren’t about the software. They are about having time and energy for the forums and figuring out if it’s beneficial at all to set them in the first place.
Pros and Cons of setting up a forum for a game site
Dead Wake game forums are powered by vBulletin and I must admit that I considered using only a blog platform instead of a vbulletin. That way the site could be more developer journal oriented where users could comment.
After adding the forums, it seems that players have participated and there’s people who enjoy being on the zombie game forums.
The forums require some maintenance, so I really recommend getting a group of moderators on the board. With a game site that shouldn’t be a big problem, since you probably see interested people who are keen to discuss about your game.
I wouldn’t do quick “moderator hires”, since I’ve noticed that those guys who get excited really quick might tend to also lose their interest very quickly. I haven’t got any moderators on the Dead Wake forums yey, and that’s something I will do when the forums start to grow (and the moment I start seeing spam registrations on the forums). Right now the forums provide a 2-way street for me to get player feedback about the game.
I’d say that if your game is community oriented (and the discussion is interactive), a forum can be good option. If on the other hand it’s more like “you do the talk”, and “others listen” (like, if you announce new patches, or share some ideas which people can comment) then I’d suggest getting a blog in the game website.
Pros and Cons for a game development site forums
Having a combination of blog and a forum can be tricky. I’ve done some work to make replying to blog posts so that the discussion takes place at the forums, but the comments can also be seen on the blog. It’s about 30% smooth as I want it to be right now, but I’m improving the system in the future so that the blog and the forums work smoothly together.
The blog has the problem that old discussions tend to forget, and only the newest blog posts are discussed. Without forums, there’s no possibility to start new discussions on something else.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since forums carry a certain overhead and setting up a forum requires work. This means you gotta get yourself a team of moderators to help you out.
Here’s some things to consider before setting up the forums
Perhaps answering to these questions can help you decide:
- Why are you setting up the forums? What’s the benefit of having a forums? (For this site, the public forums are a natural extension of the Insiders forums and provides a place for game production oriented discussion and not only discussion about the blog posts)
- Is your game about having a community? (If your game relies heavily on modding and player support, then establishing a forum can be a good idea)
- Do you intend to get a publisher for your game? (If you intend to get a publisher, then you might want to consider what benefit the forums will bring – if any, or do you wish to leave the community building in the hands of a publisher)
- Do you want to use forums for player feedback? (If the forums help getting player feedback, then by all means consider setting up forums for your testers)
- How much time can you put on establishing a community? (Running a commmunity requires time, and you need to get a group of moderators to help you out.)
Forums require time and I wouldn’t set up forums if I wasn’t 100% sure I could get reliable people to help me out with the forums. I would also carefully ponder the benefits the forums offer for you and your audience, and if it’s in line with your strategy for your game.