As an indie company with virtually no budget, how did we even make this happen? Here at Imperium42 Game Studio, our online game, Throne of Lies, recently entered beta -- and an exclusively-online game needs players:
Without paid marketing, here is what seemed to work for pulling thousands of players by Alpha:
Discord, with their slogan literally saying, "It's time to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak", they mean serious business. They are well-funded and have over 45-million users, growing exponentially. The app itself can be used either in the browser or a standalone app.
In a few words, they obliterate any form of competition. We use it not only for our gaming server, but also a Slack replacement. Features include unlimited server hosting, crystal-clear voice chat, roles and permission options, intuitive embeds (you can paste images directly into chat / links show up with metadata previews), and that's just the beginning.
All of this - for free.
The Community Discord
It's essentially a live, interactive forum! Here is an example what a Discord server could look like with a few thousand people within it: You have your servers on the left (circles), channels next to it, followed by the main chat, and a list of people with their "roles" on the right. On our server, we split up the core channels to general, off-topic, and pics/videos -- then some misc channels, such as other languages. We also have an announcement channel to @ping every person on the server, either currently @here (less annoying) or @everyone, buffering up the ping for the next time they are online.
The Company Discord
I mentioned a Slack replacement earlier -- and you can see how dead serious I am as a complete replacement without a single, missing feature. Roles, sub-roles, permissions, channels, private/public information, and more. Ping the @artists as an entirety or even give them an entire channel to post their work/progress. In the example above, we used native GitHub webhooks to automatically post here when I pushed some work. Below, I posted a bug with a screenshot I pasted directly inside.
BOTs -- Automated Moderation, Greetings, FAQ, and Game Integration
The most important feature we came across is the ability to use BOTs. As a developer, I have several for different uses:
1. Logs and Auto-Moderation (Join/Leave, Swear Filters, Deleted Posts, etc.)
You have more important things to do as developer and community leader than to moderate pettiness -- let a BOT do it for you! With an amazing CTRL+F search system, you will always find exactly what you want at any time, perfectly logged (either publicly or in secrecy).
2. Automated Community Involvement and Interaction
Here, we blur the line between our forum and Discord -- posts from different forum categories are automatically posted to the relevant channel. For example, a patch notes announcement on the forum would post in our Discord #announcements channel.
We also have a greetings system to raise awareness to existing community members that they should greet the new people! This allows for new community members to instantly feel appreciated and "locked in", raising conversation immediately.
Any indie dev can appreciate Wikia for having dedicated members to update things for you. Going slightly off-topic, not only does Wikia band the community together to ensure consistency, it also allows players to better learn the game! We have a WikiaBOT to announce changes with links directly to our Wikia. Technically, it's not a bot: It's a webhook! This is just Wikia -- imagine the possibilities. Well, we did!
Discord Webhooks, Custom BOT, Game Integration
Our game has certain actions that will trigger our Node.js API containing our own DiscordBOT made from open-source Discord.js -- this allows us to boundlessly explore different community options. In the example above, we announce games setting up -- you can click the link to actually launch the game on Steam. At the end, the BOT will post game results to discuss the hilarity of who killed who at the end of the game (we're a social deduction game).
Discord is both a community and company app -- made not only for gamers, but for any community that desires essentially a free "slack-like" atmosphere with roles/permissions, intuitive interaction (such as pasting images directly within or link meta pic/description previews), and voice chat with unlimited servers/channels. We use it for just about everything: even in-game -- and best of all, it's FREE!
Find more articles on my LinkedIn.