Legend of the Five Rings Oracle of the Void

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The L5R User Group

By James Donnithorne-Tait | October 09, 2014

Greetings, fellow samurai of Rokugan!

I’m James Donnithorne-Tait—Donny—the inaugural Chair of the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) Collectible Card Game (CCG) User Group.  You may have seen AEG’s recent announcement regarding the User Group and I’m writing this today to explain why I wanted to start it, what I hope to achieve, and how you will be able to engage with the User Group to help improve both the L5R product and the community of those of us who play it.

First, I want to explain what a User Group is.  I borrowed the term from the industry in which I work, but the essential point behind a User Group is to represent the users of a product or service, speaking on their behalf with the producer of that product or service. In this case, it’s an organisation to represent L5R fans to AEG.  The User Group is not a part of AEG and doesn’t exist to represent AEG to its players – it exists to represent the players to AEG.  We are your group, and I hope we will be useful to you regarding your views about and issues with the game.

Why is a User Group needed?  AEG has, in the past, received plenty of feedback from players, but as we’ve moved further into the internet age, direct contact has been proving less and less effective.  It’s a simple problem of maths, really; there are thousands of us players, but only a small handful of AEG employees.  Filtering through this mass of unstructured communication, while working out what feedback corresponded to which real issues—and  which didn’t reflect any real issues at all—is a very time consuming exercise. AEG, like most companies, simply doesn’t have the resources to handle that task effectively.  There have also been a number of decisions made by AEG in recent years that I and others felt were misjudged or inadequately communicated. I felt the company could benefit from a confidential review panel to give early feedback on initiatives and announcements and help improve them before they go public.

So, drawing all this together, I have two main objectives for the User Group:

  • Firstly, it is intended to be the voice of the playerbase.  If we’re seeing a problem with the game, the User Group is ideal for gathering feedback from across the playerbase and presenting that to AEG in a structured, reasoned form, with supporting evidence where appropriate.  That sort of feedback is much more actionable and useful and will help AEG address real problems in a timely way.  AEG has agreed to give a formal response to anything raised by the group, and we’ll have a document archive of our feedback and questions to AEG and their responses that anyone can view; and
  • Secondly, it will be a review panel that AEG can use to test new initiatives or announcements, helping to ensure that as they evolve the product (which includes both the CCG itself, and supporting initiatives like tournaments) they do so in a way that not only makes the product better, but also carries the broadest possible support of the community.

All that said, the User Group will be worthless if it’s just all about me or any other individual.  The User Group must be all about the users of the product. That includes everyone reading this, and probably plenty more who may not get to see it.  I’ve therefore asked a group of players from around the world to join me in forming the initial User Group panel.  I’ve tried to balance the competing priorities of keeping the group small enough to be manageable, but also large enough to be representative . Even drawing only from people I know directly, I could easily have listed 40 or 50 names of people I think have value to add in this sort of context.  I’ve chosen, however, to keep the group to 15, because I think that’s a manageable number to keep focused on the two goals above. Currently, we have 14 of the 15 signed up (you can see their names below); at the time of writing this, I am still trying to get in touch with the fifteenth candidate.

I’ve tried to get a wide range of views represented in this initial User Group.  Geography was one consideration, as was getting a range of roles involved (e.g. player, local tournament organizer, Kotei tournament organizer, playtesters, and even a former Player Design Team member) but I also specifically included some people whom I know to be quite disillusioned with the state of the game right now.  That's a significant part of the player community, too, and the User Group would be failing to represent the game's fans if we didn’t try to capture and represent that view within our feedback as well. 

Very soon, we’ll have a website established for the User Group that lists our formal charter and gives everyone a channel to contact us to raise concerns or ask questions.   This will naturally include ways to give comments on the game, but it will also include ways to give feedback regarding the User Group itself and whether we’re achieving the goals set out above.  I’m very aware that I’ve made several decisions with which you might take issue (for example, regarding the size of the group) so if you think the User Group itself can be improved, let us know how—the Group will have the power to change its own terms of engagement.

Once our site is live, I’ll offer a follow-up article explaining more on how you can engage with us. In the meantime, happy gaming, and I hope to see many of you at Worlds!

Initial User Group members:

James Donnithorne-Tait (Chair)

Eoin Burke (Vice Chair)

United States and North America

Mark Armitage

Aaron Barto

John Seals

Sarah Corn


Heraclio Sanchez

Jim Freeman

Robert Almgren

Faber van Kraanen

Chris Paliogiorgos

Asia-Pacific Region

Wayne Duyvestyn

(One individual Donny is still attempting to reach)

Caribbean and Latin America

Aneley Tasada

Angel David Torres Pagan

About the author: James Donnithorne-Tait
Bio: James (aka Donny, aka Shiba Samoshii) is the Inaugural Chair of the Legend of the Five Rings CCG User Group.