The community management team tends to work pretty closely with the design team and the gameplay programmers over most others on the dev team. There’s a major reason for this – the job of community managers is to act as the bridge between the dev team and the player community. The majority of that communication is going to be about upcoming features and bug fixes for the live game because it’s what players are most interested in. Art can’t really show their stuff until there’s actually gameplay ready to show the art off, and players tend to be uninterested in the lower level or non gameplay-related engineering work like optimizations for certain hardware profiles, server improvements, or rare crash fixes.
One thing I think that’s important to recognize is that community management isn’t part of the dev team – they’re usually part of the marketing team. As such, community management collects player requests and feedback and passes that info to the dev team leads. It is up to the team leadership to decide which specific pieces of feedback get acted on and how. As such, community management doesn’t really wield much (if any) power – they can present to the leads what the community cares about, but have no power to compel the leads to do anything about it.
I don’t think that the relationship has changed a lot over the past 5-10 years – it really just varies with the game and the team leadership how important community management is to the bosses. The closeness of community really does depend on the individuals as well. I’ve seen several cases in the past where community managers have jumped the fence from community to the design team. This would not have been possible without mentorship and guidance from the design teams that the community managers worked with, as well as the internalization of design principles from looking at the gathered player feedback and the kind of solutions that the dev team built to address those issues. It certainly isn’t the case for every community manager, but given how often it’s happened it should be a testament to how closely the two fields often work together.
The FANTa Project is being rebooted. [What is the FANTa project?]
Got a burning question you want answered?