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Aichon on why you probably shouldn't/couldn't organise a Big Bash (and how we succeeded with Big Bash 4)

So, Big Bash.

As Bob said, I have been involved in leadership for the last two Big Bashes. The folks who were around for Big Bash 3 can attest to the fact that it suffered from numerous problems. Looking back, I can't help but think that the only reason it was as successful as it ended up being was because of the fortuitous timing of ESCAPE happening the week before. ESCAPE drew back a lot of players, and Big Bash 3 was able to sweep them up afterwards for the horde. Despite its great start, however, Big Bash 3 floundered as it went along and ended on a sour note, with a weird non-ending to the event that left a bad taste in everyone's mouths.

That's not how Big Bashes are supposed to work.

So, when RenegadeRomero/Bosch, Vapor, and myself first started talking about the possibility of organizing a Big Bash event, we knew it would be a disservice to the community if it was a repeat of BB3, and we knew as well that the only way we'd be able to avoid that outcome would be if we put in a lot of work and learned the lessons that BB3 could teach us. We spent a lot of time studying BB3, the path the horde took, the timing for it, communication among leadership, communication with the horde, etc., etc., etc.. We listed out what BB3 did right, what BB3 did wrong, and then asked ourselves how the game itself had changed in the time since then, since we knew that we needed to adapt to the game being smaller. Once we did that, we asked ourselves what needed to be done to prevent those issues, fix the new problems, and improve on things so that it would be the best Big Bash ever, and then we made an honest assessment of our own willingness and capability to do those things. We knew we could do it, but we knew it'd be an absolutely MASSIVE committment.

And it was. I cannot understate that enough.

From the day we officially started our secret planning in late 2012 to the day we wrapped up the event in late 2013, we had spent nearly a year at full speed on this thing. It may not have looked like much was happening on the surface, but that's only because we were intentionally hiding all of the complication out of sight so that other people only had to worry about the parts that they touched. For instance, a lot of people merely checked the wiki and went to whatever suburb it said we were in. But a lesson we learned from BB3 is that you can't count on everyone to come to you, so you need to push the information out to all of the places where the people are. As a result, what a lot of people may not have seen was that we were actually on...

  • IRC
  • UDWiki
  • Barhah
  • The forums for every major group in the game (zombie or not)
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Imgur
  • Etc.

And that's just off the top of my head. And when I say that we were "on" them, I mean we were actively engaging people on them on a near-daily basis. The wiki page was being updated multiple times a day with scouting intel for the blocks of the current suburb. Whenever we officially moved suburbs, the three of us coordinated so that the information got pushed out simultaneously across IRC, the wiki, Barhah, Facebook, and Twitter so that we didn't leave anyone behind. We spent time talking with people each day on all of those platforms. We created videos, posters, gifs, pages and pages of copywriting, and other promotional materials for the express purpose of sharing them and having them shared by others. We personally contacted dozens of groups on their own message boards so we could invite them to join the Bash.

In-game was just as busy. In the months before the event, we burned our AP scouting potential suburbs (so we could find out which places tended to recover faster, seemed to always be ruined, had loads of brains, etc.) and engaging in a guerilla graffiti campaign across the city that hinted that something big was coming soon. In the months of the event itself, we burned our AP leading strike teams, scouting the current suburb, scouting ahead to make sure our planned path was still a good choice (it wasn't always), and bellowing/groaning/gesturing to try and direct the feral cloud of zombies following the horde towards where we were heading next. We also had to be in communication with the RRF and MOB to make sure that the three of us didn't step on each other's toes. It's considered rude behavior to eat brainz right ahead of another horde, just so you know. :P

Another lesson we learned was that marketing was very important if you want to be able to get any sort of crowd together with the game being as small as it is these days. So, we wanted to have extremely tight control over when and how we went public with the news that Big Bash 4 was a thing. We realized we wanted to slowly build up anticipation for it, then suddenly go public in a huge way so that we could make a huge splash. We wanted it to be so loud that even the people who had quit the game would hear about it and come back just for this. So, we intentionally did all of the planning on a secret wiki and secret message board, since we wanted the announcement to have as much impact as possible, which meant keeping things as quiet as possible in the meantime. For the first three months, it was just the three of us and bisfan. About three months before the event, we began posting vague graffiti around the city (e.g. "Malton's boring. Let's shake things up.") and started bringing in a few of the movers-and-shakers in the meta-game (e.g. RRF and MOB leadership) so that we could get their support and/or start to set up lines of communication for later coordination. About a month before the event, our graffiti started becoming a bit more direct (e.g. "It's time for something BIG. #BeReady") and we started bringing in the folks who we wanted to delegate responsibility to (e.g. IRC mods, forum mods, strike team leaders, etc.). About two weeks before the Bash, we posted a countdown page on the wiki to make it official and start getting word of mouth going.

And then, about a week before the event, we went public with the official wiki page, the public forum at barhah, Facebook, Twitter, etc., not to mention posting invitations on dozens of message boards, YouTube videos, images, and the list goes on. We promoted, advertised, and marketed the hell out of BB4 in order to ensure it would be a huge event and a huge success. And it paid off. Even a lot of the old-timers who had quit came back for it.

All of which is to say, here's the TL;DR version:

  • Move these discussions to a private venue and be VERY selective who you allow access to
  • You need someone who is extraordinarily skilled at playing the meta-game to run the event
  • It's a MAJOR time committment
  • You need to learn from the mistakes of past Bashes
  • You need to understand why past Bashes were successful in what they got right
  • You need to figure out what's different this time around and how you'll adapt
  • You need to lay out a timeline

As for me, I'm happy to offer advice and lend my experience to your aid, but when it comes to doing actual work (e.g. making BB5 wiki pages like I did for BB3 and BB4, being responsible for contacting groups or engaging people on social media, etc.), count me out. Bosch, Vapor, and myself are all very proud of the job we did on BB4 and don't regret a moment of it, but it absolutely burnt us out. They both quit the game, and I went from four characters to one. We'll never lead a Bash again, and if you enjoy playing the game, I'd suggest you don't either. Wait for someone else to do it and then join them in theirs. That's definitely my plan. ;)

Also, if I'm being brutally honest, there's maybe only 5-10 people in the game who I think have the ability to manage a successful Bash. Something to consider.

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