Birthday Live Chat 2.0 – Transcript

Birthday Special Scenario

Date and time: 16 February, 18:00 CET

Host: Rowena – Lead Community Operations


  • Simon (Salix) – Product Manager;
  • Daniel (Saphirus) – Tech Lead;
  • LaniDoodle – Community Conductor of 2022

Transcript written by: Yaenara – Community Management Team Lead

Live listeners: ~140

Rowena: Welcome everybody! Nice to see so many people, and nice to be here again. I hope you are all excited! I have some lovely guests today: Simon and Saphirus. Both have agreed to answer some of the questions that you guys sent in.

I hope you’ve all started playing on the Birthday Special scenario servers because that is what the questions are going to be about. So, thank you to everybody who sent in some questions.

We have done our best to come up with some good answers and you will be able to ask a few questions in the chat. We cannot promise we will be able to answer all of them. We will see how much time we have because after the questions we will also *drumrolls* going to be announcing the Community Conductor from 2022! Very excited about that as well!

[Rowena sharing the first bonus code with the community and explaining their validity]

Rowena: Also, the person who can guess which theme I used to name these vouchers, is going to get a cookie. Hooray!

I’m going to start with the first question, which is not specifically Birthday game world related, but it is kind of related to one of our servers, because of the name: the Battenburg cake! The question was: “What’s the fanciest version of the Battenberg cake? Marzipan or chocolate on the outside or bake a cover from cookie dough? And about the inside: cocoa for the dark parts or pink colouring?”

Click to open Answer

Rowena: Now, since I never had that cake, therefore also never made it, I went and asked all the Travian employees to find some answers about it because. Cake is always very important! ^^

I asked a few employees and I found one that has made this type of cake before. And he said that he despises marzipan, lol. I do too, FYI.

So, he would prefer cookie dough, even if it is harder to achieve a decent cake with cookie dough instead of marzipan. He would use cookie dough and cocoa. Because chocolate outside and inside would overpower the cake in the end. But he thinks the buttery cookie dough would enhance the flavours inside – we have a real chef here, so you know. He also came up with the idea of maybe an Oreo cover but that is already beyond me. Then, another employee, said that he thinks the fanciest way of making this cake would be rose with gold icing – though he fears it would probably taste horrible. ^^

Then a fun fact that was also told, which I did not know even though I like to bake a lot, was:

Did you know that it is possible to achieve the pink colour in the cake with just cocoa if you bake the cake at a very specific temperature? Apparently, most people and bakeries prefer to use food colouring to make it pink because it’s safer and they will actually achieve pink, but apparently, you can also make red velvet, just with cocoa and no food colouring, so… the more you know…

Rowena: And now, after this very long monologue, we are going to start introducing our two guests, who are going to answer questions. And we’re going to start with questions that most of you will probably be more interested in than cakes; even though cakes are very important!

I would like to introduce Simon and Saphirus. Maybe Simon wants to do the honours and introduce himself first. I know many will probably already know who he is, but for all those who might be new here, how about you just tell us who you are, what you do and what you love about Rail Nation?

Click to open Answer

Simon: Sure! Some of you might already know me as Salix. Back in the day, I was the community guy, and nowadays I do Product Management. I do all the boring stuff – numbers and business planning. For example, I look at our numbers, I analyse them and I am also the contact for all the departments. I do a lot of internal communication in the company and I am part of the organiser team in the Rail Nation team.

What I love about Rail Nation – to be honest, is working here, because it is fun and I think we have an amazing team. I know this sounds very corporate, or like an advertisement, but I truly mean it. I love our team and I’m very happy to be there and that’s really what I enjoy most!

Rowena: Thank you! Let’s move to Saphirus and let him introduce himself.

Click to open Answer

Saphirus: Hello everyone! I guess most of you know me as Saphirus. My name is Daniel, I’ve been working for Rail Nation for almost 10 years. I started as Tech Support and I am currently leading our Tech Support department. I see myself as a bridge between community problems and the game development centre.

Apart from dealing with tickets, which is a big task, I also do a bit of planning – like server planning. We try to reproduce bugs and live issues that are happening on the servers and try to help several departments. Like trying to give the developers the most information to solve issues.

Rowena: Very nice to have you here, welcome!

We will move to the very first question, so I hope you are all very excited! We are going to start with a very easy one: “Can the Red Milan skin and new birthday clothing be used on the normal game worlds after the event is over?” (Note: Red Milan = Red Kite cargo bonus engine from era 1) Simon, maybe you want to elaborate?

Click to open Answer

Simon: Sure. The very complicated answer is: Yes! ^^ That was the idea, that you can keep a memory from the server. So, you can use it anywhere!

Rowena: Cool, so to all your buddies that have not started playing with you yet, go tell them! This is the only chance to get it.

Rowena: After a very easy question, let’s move to the next one: “Why can’t we transfer the gold at the end of the event server like we normally do?”

Click to open Answer

Simon: The idea behind that was to avoid having this scenario become gold farming. We wanted this to be a fun experience and that’s why we decided to keep it isolated from all the other servers. This allowed us to be freer with what we give. Whatever you get, you can use it, and if you manage to get many free rewards it’s completely fun and no harm would be done. And this was important to us – to be freer on this server for this special occasion.

Rowena: So basically, this is a present, because we can go crazy on the birthday server and just enjoy free gold which we usually cannot. Am I right in this assumption?

Simon: Correct.

Rowena: Well, then the answer is not as bad as thought. Hope everybody else feels the same way.

[Rowena sharing the second voucher]

Rowena: One question for Saphirus: “What do you think about the new coupons «Full research» and «Full bank»? Do they destroy the balance or not?” Or are there different answers, depending if they are on the Birthday server or normal game worlds?

Click to open Answer

Saphirus: In my opinion, within the construct of the Birthday server it’s fine because they are meant as a present and it’s fun to suddenly have a ton of money or research points to spend, and that’s the goal of the Birthday server – to have fun, of course. But I don’t think it would be good if they would be introduced to the normal game worlds. Especially the way we are introducing them in the Birthday server because it’s kind of random – not everyone gets them at the same time, so it would be kind of unbalanced if we get that on normal servers.

[Host and guests sharing their grief of being unlucky, and not winning these vouchers yet ^^] 

Rowena: Please explain to me how to get one? What do I need to do?

Saphirus: You just need to play the game, and it can be one of those birthday presents. So far, I’ve gotten a Plus account, gold in various variations, and lottery tickets. But I know that some in our association already got those vouchers, so they do exist.

Rowena: I’m excited! I’ve started playing and you should all be proud of me. I’ve also gotten a Plus Account and lottery tickets, but I haven’t got one of those yet.

This kind of links to the answer from Simon earlier which basically says it’s a pure party server. We want people to have so much fun, enjoy all the possibilities, go all out. So, good answer; thank you very much!

A question for Simon: “How about giving out the gold calculated from PP as transferable gold at the end? It’s still 7 weeks’ time to change the end game to make this happen, isn’t it?”

Click to open Answer

Simon: It sounds easy, but changing this on a running game round is a bit risky. Not doing this was intentional, for the same reason I mentioned before – we wanted to keep the server a little bit isolated in most aspects, apart from the few rewards you get there like the achievements and items. So, this is what’s behind this decision.

If I could travel back in time maybe I would reconsider. I do not think it’s a bad idea but doing this now in the running game round would be risky. It’s a cool suggestion, and I will keep it in mind if we’re ever going to do this again.

Rowena: Fair enough explanation. I also agree that working on a living project is always a little bit difficult or dangerous.

Rowena: There’s a chat question: “Where are you bringing out the cake?” – I’m really sorry to say but… I ate it already. It’s gone! [laughing]

Let’s go to the next question: “Why is this Q&A session happening after the start of the Birthday Scenario? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Click to open Answer

Rowena: So, this is a good question. However, the idea that we had when we planned this was that we wanted people to go onto the Birthday servers, have a look around, start playing the things, try the things and then after having this first impression send in their questions.

We do understand that many players always want to know everything in detail before something happens. But we wanted to have a little bit of surprise, so that people do not ask things before, not like the answer, and then not go there at all – without actually experiencing this whole thing just because one thing was maybe not to their liking.

This happens quite a lot, people think: “Oh I don’t like this colour, so I’m not going to buy the whole rainbow.” But the whole rainbow is rather pretty! So, we wanted you to go there, experience it a bit, look around and then ask questions that really help you to play better or understand better. Or questions you basically could not have before because you have not had the experience of playing it. We hope that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t… Well, we cannot always make everybody happy, unfortunately.

Rowena: Player question: “For future single-registration events, could the languages of players with a specific server in their own community be restricted on INT servers?

Click to open Answer

Rowena: This is a tricky question and I think a lot of people will have different opinions, but let’s hear what Saphirus’ opinion is about this.

Saphirus: In theory we can add or remove languages for specific game worlds. It’s not something that we are considering at the moment, however. The whole purpose of the INT servers is for them to have all our languages present. It also offers our players to play together with their international friends. So unless we plan a specific new region that we want to explore for an event server, I guess we will have the INT servers as they currently are.

Rowena: That sounds very similar to my opinion on this. It’s called “International” for a reason, right? So, I think this is a good answer. Thank you. And I think we should continue this way because we do not want to exclude people.

Rowena: A new question: “What about a server with limited time on it? Like everybody can only play three hours per day.” I think that kind of brings a follow up question already. Which is: “Are they all only allowed to play at the exact same three hours per day? Because I don’t really see that one happening. Or do you mean three hours a day as a cap, regardless of what time of day they are playing?”

This question came from Tom Punk. So maybe you need to clarify a bit what exactly you meant with this? [The player clarified in chat that it’s not 3 hours at the same time]

What do you think, Simon or Daniel? – Whoever wants to answer the question. Do you think this is something that could happen?

Click to open Answer

Simon: I can try to answer, or well, I’m not sure if it’s an answer because it’s just my opinion and also spontaneous. If it’s a fixed time window, I would say, yeah, then definitely there is a problem of finding the optimal window because we know that our players have very, very different preferences about when exactly they want to play or can play. And if it’s just like a time account that you can use up to three hours per day, I imagine this would be very stressful because then if you want to play well then you need to be fast with everything and not waste any time and if you ever forget to close your browser window then you wasted your time and you’re screwed.

Rowena: Maybe this is like a hardcore server in a certain way.

Simon: Maybe… Maybe I’m just not the right target audience for this player.

Rowena: I would probably open it and then be distracted by a fly on the wall and then suddenly, two hours have passed.

Simon: But I also need to say that I see the point behind it, like trying to find a way where you can level the playing field in terms of time investment. So, you’re not forced to invest that much time to keep up with others. I see that. But I’m not sure if that is the solution – the three-hour time.

Rowena:  I think one thing we also need to keep in mind here is that it is a game where we are pitted against each other to a certain extent, right? If you even the playing field so much that everybody has exactly the same means – the same amount of time, the same amount of money or luck or whatever, then nobody’s going to win in the end, right?

So, it’s just the way it is, right? Like people who can invest more time or want to invest more time, or money, or whatever it is, they usually just have an advantage. I think it’s like this in pretty much every game unless you sit down with a board game and even then, you need to have luck most of the time. But nice question in any case, thank you for that.

Rowena: Then I’m going to ask another question that was sent in: “What’s the name of the original creator of Rail Nation and what is their birthday?” –  Simon, do you know?

Click to open Answer

Simon: I tried to find out.  I was not there when it was created. But luckily, our CEO Petr was recently interviewed about this, and this is why I was able to find out.

The answer is sadly very boring because it was not a single person, it was a group of people. Rail Nation was essentially the result of a group effort of ideation process and market research.

Rowena: Thank you, I nearly fell asleep. Beautiful. [laughing]

[Rowena sharing another voucher in the community]

Rowena: Another question from the players: “Is there any chance of having special rounds like the Birthday server but in the Steam over Europe scenario?”

Click to open Answer

Simon: There is a chance. We prefer the Classic scenario simply because it’s the most popular, and we want to provide something for as many people as possible if we would do something for SoE that would not be the case. We know there are players who almost exclusively play this scenario, and I have it on my mind. I’m looking for a solution, but there are no specific plans yet. But I think that this is something we should do if we find a cool way to do it.

Rowena: Clearly, we will never run out of ideas with this very inventive community here.

Simon: I’ve already copied down the idea that was posted now.

Rowena: Then let’s have a question for Saphirus, a follow up for the first one: “Will the new vouchers be added to the functionalities of other servers?”

Click to open Answer

Saphirus: We technically can already hand them out on all servers. We sometimes do this when we must compensate for outages for example. We could also give them out as gifts for certain events, but I don’t think they will come to the game as a feature. We currently do not have plans, and in my opinion that’s the correct way because they are a bit powerful. But maybe on a future event server, or Platform X they might see a comeback.

Rowena: I could imagine that they could turn into a very special prize for joining events. So, everybody who’s just here to listen and plans to never join Discord again, maybe think again. Because who knows, the next event might have one of those for one lucky winner. We do not know yet, but it sounds like that would be something that if people invest a lot of time and participate in an event might be a nice prize. Who knows, we shall see. But I tend to agree that it’s probably a little bit over-powerful for normal servers, but we never know what the future can bring, right? This is the lovely part about working on a game.

Rowena: Moving back to a question for Simon: “Right now it looks like career points are what we can take out of this event. Yet I have only found the ranges of Prestige points (maybe my mistake), but not the amounts of career points awarded. However, they are important (besides the fun) for a decision to join the event. Would it be possible to announce details like that early in the future?”

Click to open Answer

Simon: Maybe… I would say the problem that the Community Management and communication departments have here is that we somehow need to keep the balance between providing all the details, or all the details that really matter, and still providing a text that is actually readable by the majority of people. Because if we post a wall of text that has tables and diagrams, we know that this will result in people not reading it, understandably.

But of course, we also know that there’s a lot of players who are very interested in the details and in most cases we have no problem providing these details on request, as we already did for this particular example, and that is pretty much always the case.

So, if you have a question, if you want specific numbers that we did not provide for something, just ask. Unless there is a very good reason to not provide it, we can usually deliver it. It will just not always be part of the main communication, in the blog for example, because there we also want to keep it a bit short if possible.

Rowena: All right, fair enough. I think we’re going to move to one of the last questions that we have sent in because we also still need a little bit of time to announce our awesome Community Conductor of 2022! And I have a little interview prepared for them as well.

So last question that we have prepared, and then we will answer one more from the players that are listening today: “Will there be a server without gold in the future based only on pure sports gameplay?”

Click to open Answer

Simon: The hardest is the last one. This is a difficult question because it’s about money and that is always a delicate topic. And yeah, I want to be as transparent as possible. This is unlikely because in the end, we need to finance the things we do for Rail Nation somehow.

I imagine that a server like that would be very cool and fun, but due to financial downsides, it would cause long term harm for the game and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s interest who’s playing Rail Nation.

I know that this is always a bit of a touchy topic, that games need to be monetized somehow, I wouldn’t feel good promising you something that we will likely not do. If we find a way to somehow finance this in some creative way that it wouldn’t affect us badly, then I’m all for it. But right now, I don’t know how we would do that.

Rowena: Okay, I think you answered that quite well so do not worry next time.

[Rowena sharing another voucher in the community]

Rowena: The last question from the community is… well, not really a question; it says: “We need a round of Fast Forward.”

Click to open Answer

Simon: Yes, there will very likely be another round of Fast Forward at some point. No specific date yet to be announced, but in general, if we do event scenarios that are cool and fun for a lot of people – and if it’s not Platform X, which we try to keep unique in most cases – then it’s very likely that we will repeat it at some point. We already did a few times for Fast Forward; I think we are now at number five. So yeah, very likely that this will come back at some point.

Rowena: Cool. Looking at the time, this concludes the Q&A section. I don’t think we missed any questions that were specifically Birthday related.

So, again, thank you very much to everybody sending them in. But, please don’t leave just yet because for one we’re going to be announcing the Community Conductor. For the other, there is a little goodie that comes with this. I’m going to interview this person and of course, I still have a few vouchers to hand out, so you better stay tuned.