Public relations deals, quite simply, with all contact your modification has with the public. It's generally about creating interest in your mod to bring in new fans and maintaining interest for the existing community. This includes -but is not limited to- writing, proof-reading and giving the go-ahead to news reports; keeping abreast of developments in areas of interest to your fanbase; keeping up-to-date on all areas of development for your mod; interacting with the fanbase on a regular basis via forums or chat programs (probably acting as a Head Moderator and Operator respectively); and later on, perhaps liaising with and giving interviews to games media organisations.
This tutorial aims to present effective documentation on Public Relations for anyone wishing to know how it relates to the modding world, although very many aspects found here can be transferred to promotion of other products. It contains a mixture of general trends of good practise and some more personal techniques that I would deem useful.
This tutorial is aimed at anyone wishing to understand what is needed to become a successful public relations officer, and applies equally to both the Project Lead* who takes care of their own PR and the PR officer him/herself, although it has been commented that anyone in a mod team should give this tutorial the once over.
* Even if, as a mod leader, you have someone to take care of your PR for you, you should still find this information useful, because ideally a mod leader should aim towards a complete understanding of the differing roles he is hiring for. This knowledge is indispensable in being able to identify the weaker links in your dev team that should be replaced if they pose a threat to the successful development of your Mod.
About the author:
At the time of writing, the author was Public Relations Manager for Nuclear Dawn
Got what it takes?
If you’re a Mod Leader screening candidates for the position of PR officer or if you think you’d make a good PR officer yourself, you’ll be looking to have a developed set of the following traits:
- Analytical and auto-analytical skills
- Presentation skills
- Communication skills
- Research skills
- A ‘good’ to ‘very good’ grasp of the language(s) used by the team and by the fanbase you are aiming at securing for your Mod
- Strong self-restraint and a patient character
- A track record of dedication
Candidates who usually fulfil most of these requirements probably have 6-12 months' minimum experience working as a moderator for a large forum, as a news poster for a large community (the bigger the better) or, less probably, as a successful clan leader. This formula is by no means set in stone, but anyone claiming 6-12 months experience in one of these areas will have evidence of their work, which can be looked over by the Mod Leader both to validate the claim and to gain more information about the candidate. But perhaps the most valuable record you can have is to already be an active member of the mod's community. Mod leaders often invite an active and trusted member of their community to join the team, as they can be satisfied of a committed and enthusiastic individual who knows the mod and its community inside out.
The mind of a PR officer is a bomb. Nothing can stand in your way. In the modding jungle you are -truly- a tiger, RAWR!
OK -Steve Coogan misquotes aside- you're not a tiger, really. But you do need to remember to R-A-W-R on a daily basis in order to perform your duties to the highest standard. You see, the cycle of everything you do as a PR officer follows four carefully timed steps: Research, Analyse, -wait- and Respond. A keen eye, an inquisitive character and a sharp mind will enable you to review all pieces of information pertinent to your work.
Research is the first and easiest task you will undertake as a PR officer. You basically need to eat, sleep and play games (in whichever order your heart desires). It's a cushy job which only requires vast amounts of time to dedicate to playing games and most importantly interacting with the gaming community as a whole. Once you get assigned to a mod you should be looking to know everything about the mod: the genre it's set in, the technical capabilities and restrictions of the engine it uses, the type of fan it attracts and all of its planned features (and especially what you can and cannot publicise about it according to the Non Disclosure Agreement, or NDA, if you have one). You should also aim to know the FAQ list by heart so that you can respond to public enquiry efficiently and save yourself time.
Analysis is connecting every input to the best possible output. Analysis is what conclusions you draw from your research. Analysis is not only identifying patterns and trends but considering how valuable this information is and how it can be used effectively and productively for the good of the mod. Analysis is not limited to external sources of information, it should also include you and your team's own work. If you're put in charge of overseeing a community you can monitor the activity at the heart of that commmunity -the forums- by checking the forum stats in the admin control panel. If your members aren't posting as much on the forums you can throw them a media bone to inject some life into the community.
-wait- This is just here to remind you to time your response carefully. During the time you're formulating your response you should also be making yourself aware of events happening around you so you can maybe tie it in with your response. This can make it look like you have carefully timed your media release to coincide with an event that has significance for the fans or the design of the mod. For example, if you're developing a mod set during the Second World War (heaven forbid) and your media release is ready on the 5th of May, you can probably afford to keep the fans waiting three more days until you reach VE day. This links the media release to a memorable (in this case historical) event which, in turn, consolidates the mod's position in the fan's mind. The mod can then be seen by its fans as more authentic, and the dev team are shown as true fans of the genre (even if this is only true for the mod leader or writers). Another example would be Zombie mods tying in media release dates with the first public showing of classic films of the genre.
Waiting will also allow you to truly consider your response, without entertaining rash actions or airing thoughts that are bound up in your (or other team members') personal impulses, such as rude comments, overreaction, overstatement based on hopeful sentiment, etc.). It is better to put off your response until it is perfected than to give in to external pressure.
Response is the only part of your job the public will ever get to see. The work you do behind the scenes in every other phase invariably has an effect on what you show the public, but it is the response you will be judged on, so you need to make it count. Preparing draft versions beforehand is extremely advisable, especially for big announcements. This way you can discuss the content and style of your work with fellow members of the team in private to make any last minute adjustments (a second opinion has saved my bacon on many an occasion ;)). You will never get things right at every step, though, so be sure to take note of any ways you could have improved upon your work and apply this knowledge to your future endeavours. If you found that a lot of people were asking questions about a particular part of your response, it probably wasn't clear enough. Creating clear and coherent statements is essential in this job, confusing your audience won't get you anywhere fast (in fact it will just create more work for yourself). Bear in mind that there will never be a shortage of newbs or people who don't speak English as a first on the internet, so you need to think about accessibility when you write your newsposts.
Doing your homework I - The Mod
Before you even think about applying for the position of PR officer of a Mod you should know everything there is to know about it. You should be familiar with who has which position in the dev team, the mod's state of progress in its various areas of development and, most importantly, have a good idea of what's on the design document, even if you haven't seen it. By this I don't mean you should try and hack your way into the design doc, simply that you should have a very good feel for the direction the Mod is going in. You should essentially be a walking encyclopaedia of the Mod. You need to have done your homework, and in this case doing your homework isn't a chore, it's second nature.
When a Mod starts out it really has no need for one member to be specifically assigned to Public Relations, this can usually be handled by the most capable member of the team. However, as a Mod progresses it will need all of its members to concentrate on their area of specialisation, and a new member will need to be drafted in to fill the position of PR officer.
If you’ve been following this Mod for a while now and already play an active role in the community, you could be in with a chance!
Your most valuable resource
Let us now imagine that you have just secured the position of PR officer. From here on in, you are responsible for writing the text for media releases, Mod announcements and possibly the FAQs and forum news.
In Public Relations the -public- is your most valuable resource. Members of your fanbase have a knock-on effect on the positive impact the following have on the development of your Mod:
- Recruitment opportunities
- Ideas and suggestions
- Feedback and beta testers
- Interest from the gaming press
- Eventual playerbase
The more gamers following your Mod the greater its presence in the gaming world. The scary thing about Public Relations is the snowball effect you have in terms of your effectiveness and your responsibility: the more people you get following your Mod, the greater your importance to the team and the more fatal your mistakes! Not to worry, though. If you get that far the only thing you need to worry about is getting complacent.
Doing your homework II - Target Audience
So now that we've established how important the public is to you and your Mod we will now look at how to keep your fans interested. For this you need to have both a full understanding of the Mod and its audience. The fanbase drawn to one Mod may not necessarily coincide with the same fanbase of a slightly different Mod. For example, you need to ask yourself whether the Mod you're working for is a fairly commercial Mod or one for more of a niche market.
If it's a fairly commercial Mod then it will be attracting all sorts of gamers -newbies and veterans- from all ages. In this case you may want to keep the language basic. Try to use fuller terms instead of abbreviations, and to put an explanation of any otherwise obscure terminology in parentheses. This is more important for text found on your homepage (in the second phase of information retrieval) because, whilst it's true you don't want to confuse your readers in public announcements, you also want to keep it short and sweet.
If it's a fairly niche market you can probably get away with using a fuller and more abstract gaming vocabulary in your announcements. If you're happy with keeping your following small for the time being then inclusive gaming vocabulary will keep out the non-initiated. But if your Mod starts to get a lot of attention you should really think about re-doing your style to suit this bigger and less-informed crowd if you intend on taking advantage of this temporary period of public focus (this is especially true following a successful media release).
Secondly you should take some time every week to see what your community is interested in, whether this is a hot topic discussing an element of your mod's development or perhaps other current affairs in the world of gaming. You can use this knowledge to capitalise on current gaming trends when choosing what to include in your media release and when to release it. It also may lead you to new community pages and places on the web that aren't currently being targeted by your media releases, but are obviously populated by gamers who would be interested in your mod.
For an example of how to identify different trends within your playerbase, or to find areas of the game players populous that are, as of yet, untapped - let us take Natural Selection. Imagine you have been assigned to a mod set in a futuristic fantasy setting with a conflict between a humanesque humanoid race and 'the aliens'. Many people who followed Natural Selection will have noticed that when combat was introduced, two things happened. Firstly, NS experienced a huge increase to its playerbase. Secondly, a lot of these new players preferred the 'Combat' game mode over the more tactical and RTS-influenced 'Classic' mode, and were disinterested in the gameplay required from players in the latter mode. As a result of this, many servers (even now) experience a sudden drop in players whenever 'classic' maps come around on the server cycle, which is frequently. On the one hand, Combat had a positive effect in introducing a lot more people to NS. On the other hand, it's task as a 'tutorial' game mode (designed to introduce players to the more complex gameplay of the archetype: 'Classic' mode) failed on some levels, due to the fact that it brought in an audience who, on the most part, were not interested in structured, team-based, cooperative gameplay. Now, a detailed analysis of the product could have helped identify this possible problem.
First, let us look at games similar to Natural Selection. Aliens vs. Predator and its sequel were highly popular games, and although NS is a hybrid genre (Real-Time Strategy meets First-Person Shooter) it still shares a similar trait to AvP in its futuristic, Sci-Fi setting. Natural Selection's creator, Charlie 'Flayra' Cleveland, admits heavy influence from the Alien film franchise and other games, notably Starcraft. So, if the inventor of a mod enjoys and is influenced by a game, it would be a logical progression of thought to imagine that fans of Starcraft are likely to like Natural Selection. The other influence I mentioned is the Alien series of films. Anyone who knows much about this will know that the best film of the series is heavily debated amongst its fans. The film that started it all was a sci-fi horror/thriller, directed by Ridley Scott. It's a slow-paced exercise in fear and suspense with one 'alien' systematically hunting down the crew of the Nostromo. Contrarily, James Cameron's Aliens is a high-octane action movie set in a sci-fi environment, where a military group are sent in to quell the onslaught of alien propagation. With this in mind, it is not difficult to see why a similar division to that seen in the Alien fanbase was recreated in the playerbase of Natural Selection with the introduction of the fast-paced Combat mode to the community. You have the fans who crave suspense and immersion and the fans who crave all out action.
By applying similar, if not as detailed, analysis to your own mod's playerbase, the PR officer can identify the needs of the consumer and report such information to the project lead in the interests of the mod's successful development. At the end of the day, the PR officer's role does not deal with making the sorts of decisions that could dramatically affect the direction of the mod, but the research and analysis they undertake could no doubt influence these decisions.
The Media Release
Everything you present to the public should create, sustain or increase interest in your Mod. The Media Release fulfils all three of these points. It creates interest by bringing in new members of the community, for existing members it sustains interest, and for anyone who’s been watching from afar it may increase their interest for your Mod.
However, it should be noted that, once hooked, fans are hard to shake. They’ll start to complain before they think about leaving, so you should get a head a heads-up if you’re not doing your job properly. It should also be noted that some fans are gluttonous; feed them too much information and they’ll never want to stop eating. Regulating their eating habits (or your feeding routine) is key to sustaining interest in your Mod for the existing fans.
The most important of these three is creating interest and this all depends on your ability to inspire gamers to do two things: read your Media Release all the way through and visit your site to see more. Your Media Release will appear in a cluttered space on the Internet, full of other announcements that have all been deemed of interest to the gaming community. It will have to fight other informational pieces for attention from the gamer. Essentially you’re like a general fighting for territory. The territory is the gamer’s mind; the battlefield is the Internet; your troops are your Media Releases and their greatest weapon is their presentation.
In the next two sections I'll talk about presentation, but just before that there's one final point to be made about the Media Release. While we're on the war motif we should consider the idea of 'reserves'. It's a very good idea to keep some media held back from every media release to serve as a base for the next media release. This gives you a better selection to choose from when putting the media together suitably. On top of this, you have a few images held back in case the next media release is horribly delayed and the fans get ugly. You may not always be in a position to hold back on media, but as the Dev team gets into a good rhythm of production you should start thinking about this technique.
Style and Content I - Words
The media release has three purposes: it reports an update on recent progress and future aims; it gives a visual representation of recent progress; and it introduces the public to your Mod, both inciting the reader to seek further information and referring the reader to such information.
The last point is of extreme importance. It's essentially about providing links where the reader can find more information on your Mod. If feel that your media release was a little underwhelming (too few pictures, images of unpolished content) you could provide an additional link to your media page to direct non-fans to images that will have a more positive effect.
Never forget that your text doesn't begin with the first line, it begins with the title, and this is usually your first point of contact with the reader. Once your media release gets pushes off of the front page it will be reduced from a full announcement to a single line. You should therefore choose the few words that occupy this limited space wisely. If you do it well you have the power to increase your readership, if you produce something generic that reveals nothing about the content of your Media Release you'll have wasted an opportunity at expanding your community.
The first line of your text should engage the reader and explain what they will discover if they read on: e.g. "This month we have some additional character concepts and some screenshots of one of our levels, Playground of Death."? From here you can continue on to describe the overall progress of the Mod and any recent developments.
Towards the end you'll want to tell the non-fan which mod this cool media belongs to. Give a few introductory words that describe the basics of your mod: e.g. "Dragnet is a police racer which simulates high-speed chases in dragsters"? and then link it: "For more information, head over to the Dragnet Mod website"?. Many public relations officers fail to include links to homepages or, if they do, fail to situate them suitably on the page. While it may seem logical to provide the link at the beginning of the announcement, it's best put at the end to catch any readers who have been convinced by what they've read in a brief moment of impulsiveness. By this time they should be more interested than before they viewed the media release, and are more likely to be tempted to follow your link.
Style and content II - Imagery
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the adage goes. When putting your media release together you need to pick out the best images possible; you need to choose your words wisely.
Like the text, you don't want too much information present. If you put forward too much information it becomes a chore to read and the same is true of images. Three is a target to aim for, as it allows you to put forward your very best work, encompassing one to three areas of development. There are usually not more than three different projects to showcase, and if there are then you can hold some media back for a later announcement. Films are additional to images, as they require considerable interest before a reader will bother to wait for them to download. The impact of the image is instantaneous.
Following on from this is the composition of your image. Try to think about the important elements of the creation you are presenting and highlight them through effective use of positioning and colour. To illustrate this, I have taken an example of a recent Media Release from the promising Iron Grip Mod: Moddb.com
If you read the text you'll see that these in-game screenshots are of the Miloshkev Industries Construction Claw, so theoretically we should be immediately drawn to the claw and arm. I saw this first as a thumbnail and didn't even register that there was even a claw on the vehicle until I examined the full-sized image. This is because the claw itself is often lost against a similarly dark background.
Generally the most interesting feature of your image should be at the centre of the picture. If there are multiple sources of interest, try to link them together by using angled lines to lead your eyes from one object to another. For instance, in Moddb.com we begin in the centre of the picture, are led then along the vertical to the back of the truck and then diagonally up to where we should focus on the claw. Unfortunately the tree then leads our eyes away from the claw, which therefore has less presence in the overall composition. In Moddb.com we are led from the back of the truck straight up the arm to the claw, whose position is on the same level as the top of the lamppost, guiding our eyes to this area of the picture. If the image showed the claw in more detail, perhaps by turning the vehicle to give more of a side-on profile, it would be a good composition.
Essential to being a good Public Relations officer is the notion of role-reversal. Every time you write something you should be able to look back over it and consider how it will be interpreted and understood by your target audience.
First off, it’s a good idea to follow another Mod’s progress for the duration of your post as PR officer. This will give you an effective perspective on how different types of information are received. Within a very short time you’ll begin to understand what is good practise and, as a fan, what makes you dubious, confused, disinterested, frustrated or downright angry. These are all sentiments you want to steer well clear of inciting in your fanbase, so be sure not to imitate the sort of Public Relations that provoke them. Be also on the look out for techniques that inspire confidence in you, make you anticipant, make you drool, that wow you. If it’s specific ways of presenting media that seems to do this advise your Mod Leader so they can organise for these better techniques to be implemented for those presenting their creations (guidelines for taking screenshots).
Make or break
We read earlier about the importance, nay necessity of being able to see things from another perspective. This really helps when you consider the importance of a promise to your community.
Let us imagine the situation: Your Mod hasn’t released an update in ages; the community’s getting restless and frustrated, and the Mod Leader has turned to you to do something about it. The team’s been working hard and there are a number of projects nearing completion. You think a release should be possible for the beginning of next month, so you make the fatal mistake of announcing a date to the fanbase, which they leap upon like a pack of slavering beasts to the kill.
As the date approaches, you realise that because of problems outside of your control this date can never be kept. You already know that a media release on that day is never going to happen, but you sit quiet, the guilt mounting with every fan proclaiming how much they’re looking forward to this fiction of their imagination that you helped create. If you’ve already had to write an ‘apologies for the delay’ announcement then you’ll know where I’m going with this. If you haven’t, let me tell you it’s a horrible experience, not only because you know how much you’ve disappointed the fans, but because it’s one of the few occasions when you realise how important your work is to the team, and now you feel like a fraud and a charlatan for having concocted such a vicious lie.
This scenario is simply in order to provide a case study to the golden rule of Public Relations:
Only specify if you are 99.9% sure that what you’re saying is the truth!
You either make a promise, or you break a promise. When you’re about to publicise a deadline, or any previously unreleased detail about the Mod, ask yourself about just how likely it is to remain unchanged. If there’s a chance that it could change in the unforeseeable future, you need to write this statement off immediately in your mind as a broken promise –and you would never dare think about publicising an already broken promise, would you? What I’m trying to say is that the only promises you should make are the 99.9% certainties. To go back to what I was previously saying: the fans are a valuable resource, and you want to do everything in your power not to disillusion them.
In reading this you will have discovered some key points in Public Relations. Firstly, your audience is your most important asset because of the positive elements they bring to your Mod. The bigger your community, the faster it will grow, and the faster it grows the more successful your Mod.
Secondly you have learnt about how to present your Mod to the public. You have learnt that in good Public Relations broken promises never get made. You have also learnt that everything you present to the public should either create, sustain or increase their interest in your Mod. You know now that Media Releases do all of these, but that they fight a difficult battle for recognition in the gamer's mind, competing with many other pieces of information from other games and modifications. In order to get the gamer's attention you must use effective methods of presentation in all contact your Mod has with the public.
As gaming reaches an evergrowing audience, so the modding scene is growing both in player numbers and modders. In addition to this, modders now have professional-standard visual creation tools available, and so third-party modifications are able to compete with financially-backed teams for player minutes. Both of these trends mean that good Public Relations is becoming more and more important for mod teams wishing to excel at what they do. So, now that you understand the theory behind what makes a good Public Relations officer, you can put them into practise and play an important role in the development of your modification (or perhaps even other things?).
I hoped you liked my tutorial and found the information helpful. If you have any comment, whether it be gratification or a request for additional information, or even constuctive criticism, I implore you to leave a message.
About the Author:
I wrote this piece when I first joined the very ambitious Nuclear Dawn mod team to handle its PR. It has been a fascinating experience which has taught me a lot about the really bad ways to handle some situations and also just how powerful working the masses can be when you get it right. It made me learn that PR is a very Dark Art, in that to really work it you have to leave your sense of moral obligation and conscience at the door. I also learnt that a lot of the people on the Internet are even more retarded than I ever gave them credit for.
Since then I've got a job in the industry, starting on the bottom rung as a QA tester. I've also written some articles that I would regard as more useful in terms of actually releasing a mod than this one, so if you happen to be reading this last page before the first, go read my other tutorials first.
How To Use And Abuse The Gaming Press (And How The Gaming Press Wants To Use and Abuse You)
Great article from British games journo Kieron Gillen, aimed at Indie devs but many of the principles can be applied to mod PR. Probably more succinct, anecdotal and more convincing than this article could ever hope to be.
How NOT to deal with naysayers
A real-life example of an Indie dev making a bad situation worse by complaining about a 1/10 review score and then going on to blame his fellow team members. Uncomfortable but compelling reading.
The lesson from the article is actually summed up in this quote:
Kieron wrote: The main rule of net argument as a public figure: you are not arguing with the people who you’re arguing with. You will never change their mind. You are arguing with the silent horde of lurkers who are watching around the edge of this invisible ring, trying to decide what they think.
Supplement I - Silence is not Golden
What do you do if your Dev team, for whatever reasons, have slowed up on progress and you've had nothing to show for way too long?
As I said earlier on, you should avoid giving public deadlines at all costs. If you do, however, find yourself in the unfortunate position of a Mod that hasn't shown any signs of progress for a significant time the one thing you should not do is ignore your fans. Pretending that you don't have anyone to answer to will lose you more 'reputation points' than simply owning up to slow progress. Look at it this way: you generated the advertising that drew the fans to your Mod, so it's your responsibility to give them reports, even if there's nothing to report.
If there are very valid reasons for several members being away or inactive (such as an extended holiday period, heavy workload or personal commitments) then it's best to be honest about it. Most of us are young enough to remember how tough exams periods can be, some may be fortunate enough to take week-long holidays away from home and all of us have will have commitments to our friends and family in one form or another. But it's not all bad, it's important to convey a sense of positivity. In the first case the team members will come back smarter and in the second they'll come back refreshed and ready to dive headlong back into their work. Personal commitments or problems cannot be helped, but this is the point all fans will see eye to eye on. As long as you're explaining the lack of media and not simply making excuses for it the public will tend to understand. As modding gets more and more labour-intensive it also becomes more time-consuming. Anyone who understand that shouldn't have too much of a problem waiting a bit longer for the next media release.
There are also options available that will occupy your fans' attention while also making the community feel more involved in the project. Holding competitions on the forums to include fans' suggestions in the final product is a good example of this. Mods with the 2D artists capable of pulling it off run "Your face in OurMod" (see: Black Mesa Source) and other contests to generate incidental game content or fan art/fiction. The fans love it because they get to claim a little part of the Mod as their own.
The bottom line is: do not sever links with your community. Turning your back on your fans can only lead to animosity and bad press amongst gamers. Unless your team is a bunch of workshy layabouts, honesty is usually the best policy.
Supplement II - Writing an FAQ page
The following is a list of real FAQ questions and answers and how I advised that person to rewrite them, and -more importantly- why.
Q: How should I set out my Q&A?
A: Just like this (see below)
Each question and answer should be grouped together and set apart from other topics. This is usually done by highlighting the question line somehow in order to clearly distinguish the question line from the answer. Highlighting the question line will also make it easier to scan the document to find the question relating to the information you want to find out.
- Put answers on the line immediately below the question.
- Highlight the question line to set it apart from its answer.
A good example of a well set out FAQ can be seen in the relevant section of the Nuclear Dawn website, but there are other variations that manage to pull it off equally well. My advice for giving your FAQ a good layout is to look at as many other mods' FAQs and copy the style that seems clearest to you.
Language and Content
Some FAQs feature questions like those see below. They all relate to information the public will want to have, but there are problems with the wording used. I'll quote each question and make comments underneath.
Q: When will the first beta test be?
In this the question can be changed to influence how the reader feels about your mod. When writing an FAQ like this, first you have to put yourself in the shoes of the reader in order to come up with the questions in the first place, and then put yourself back in the PR-role to decide how to present it. On this page, you decide the questions they ask, and by doing so you can influence their perception of the mod.
"When can we expect the first Beta test?" would be a better way to ask the question. The word 'expect' gives the reader a sense of anticipation, or adds to that feeling if it was already there. What was previously written is essentially asking exactly the same thing, and the answer to the question will include the same information, but this new version does more for both us and the reader.
In addition to adding a sense of desire, the word 'we' involves the reader personally while also making them feel part of a group, in this case that group being your mod's community. Even if they are the first visitor to read the FAQs, the wording in just one line gives the impression that he is not the only one following the mod, which in turn gives the impression that the mod is worthy of his attention (seeing as the wording eludes to the fact that other people are also waiting for that ever-elusive Beta test).
A: Well, first we will be conducting an internal alpha test, and other testing. Then we will be inviting users of the forum who have made a great contribution… then we will likely start taking applications. At this time (February 2005) we do not know when this will be taking place, we estimate about some time in 2006.
Even if it's the truth, you don't want to tell people 'I don't know' unless we have to. It gives a general impression of the Mod being badly handled or unprofessional. One of the Public Relations officer's jobs is to carefully select the information he reveals to the public; paying as much attention to what he says as to -how- he says it.
A better way of putting this would be to say that we have a schedule that we're working to within the team but we don't want to give them a date only to disappoint. This hasn't answered the question, and might leave the reader with a sense of disappointment. It also might prompt them to find another Mod to watch instead, or to come back to your mod later (and then forget). We need to make sure that they will visit again and join the mod community, so you will need to say something else to keep them interested and give them a reason to come back.
Generally making promises that you can't deliver on is a bad move. In this case the best thing to do is to indicate that the site will be regularly updated with development updates and that any major progress will be announced promptly to the community.
Q: How can I join you?
This question almost guarantees that this is possible! We don't want non-stop applications from anyone who wants to make a name for themselves in the community. Yes, we want to give information on how to apply for a position, but we also want to start the filtration process early on (it saves our Project Lead time and effort).
A: If we are looking for additional team members, and you match the required skills (For example, we could be looking for someone who is skilled in photoshop), then send an email to the specified emails on the forums, or apply through the application page.
This answer is mostly fine but it needs to be a bit more to the point. After all, if there is someone who’d make an invaluable addition to the team, we don’t want to confuse them. It’s possible that they didn’t find the relevant information, so the answer to this question should give clear directions to the page they need to go to, and that means a hyperlink. Ideally the FAQ should see as little change as possible to its content. The page should never risk containing out of date information and it should be to the point and simple to understand (this is particularly important if you’re considering recruiting the cream of the crop, as this could mean working with non-native English speakers). In this case, a hyperlink to another page will mean that the FAQ will not need revising every time your team is advertising for new positions and all of the recruitment information is kept in one place, which makes it easier to keep track of (instead of being half way down a page it will be self-contained on its own page.
A rewritten version of the question and its answer could look something like this:
Q: I like the general theme of the mod and I’d like to contribute something to its development, would you have a place on the team for a talented modder?
A: For a list of current openings in the team and a list of the requirements for these positions, please visit this page for details.
This time round, the question enforces certain criteria on the would-be applicant. Do they like the general theme of the mod? Are they a talented modder? If the reader does want to contribute but does not believe themselves to fit these two key elements of the successful applicant's profile, they are much less likely to apply. The way it's put may seem a bit pretentious, but it will cut down on applications from lesser experienced modders to some extent. The answer is simple and direct (you can't get much more direct than a link).
Supplement III - Abuse!
This section, when fully fleshed out, will deal with any issues that may arise during game development, typically involving players who have problems with your game/website/installer/conduct.
In the meantime, here is an article I came across on Gamasutra that's a run-down of the problems that a customer care agent for a casual games portal comes across on a daily basis, and how this person deals with them.