Gaming Product Review: Enjin Guild Websites

You know those days where you get up and think it’s going to be a boring, grey day, and then three dead bodies land on your desk? Okay, maybe that’s inappropriate use of an overstated police metaphor, but you get the screenshot. A couple of weeks ago I had a day like that: several new opportunities for the Pot just popped up. One of them was the chance to review Enjin’s guild website hosting package and given I’ve been thinking “really must get round to making a guild website at some point” for a while now, it was perfect timing.

Given that a lot of you folks are in guilds in WoW, LotrO, Rift, and so on, you might be looking at your website (or lack of one) and thinking about a change. Hopefully this will give you some ideas.

I’ve spent a few hours today buzzing around backstage in my guild’s flashy new website like a humming bird on sugar. I started out trying to be calm and following some kind of methodical plan so I could report back in detail, but these things just don’t work like that.

Y’see, building a guild website with Enjin doesn’t require you to be methodical and collected. Or, put another way, boring. It’s fun. For the most part it’s also simple, which goes some way to helping with the ‘fun’ part if you’re a guild leader who wants some time off leadering.  Especially one who’s not very tech-minded, like me.

I started off with the boring but safe settings tab. The settings are all there from the mundane time and logo settings to the juicy ban and smiley manager settings (a fun touch that people like me could get lost in customising for hours). The options are in sensible sub menus, and there’s nothing there that’s confusing to technical idiots non-techie people like me.

What about the fun stuff? Your website comes with a range of themes to choose from, and you get an increasing amount depending on which package you’ve gone with. A lot of the themes riff on the same idea but with different colours, or labelled for different games, but even then there’s still a lot to choose from. Even the free package has a fair few, though the best are available with the packages that cost. Themes are easy to apply and there’s an option to create your own, though I’ve not tried that just yet.

Next: the header. Here’s where I hit my first snag. It’s an example of one of the few but noticeable things where Enjin’s intuitive interface falls. When you choose your theme you can also choose your header, and like the themes, you get a choice of preset headers. But what if you want to use a custom header? Good question. There’s no option to set a custom header in the theme/header options, which is where you might think it would be. Instead it was tucked away as part of the ‘header’ module options.

Argh confused

And this is where we get on to the gooey, chocolatey centre. Modules are the content bits n’ bobs you choose for your website’s pages, like calendars, member lists and if you’re brave, chat boxes. There are a lot of modules and some of them do similar things to others. The module interface was like some kind of code at first – a list of words, no descriptions of what anything did, and no inkling as to why some of them had pre-created modules and others didn’t. Argh, confusion. I moved on to page layout instead.

Happily the page layout editor tutorial video saved me. An excellent video and by the end of it I knew how to play around with page layouts and that, from the page layout editor, I could control modules – I didn’t need to use the module editor, though that now made sense too. The page editor is a thing of beauty, it’s so intuitive. It allows you to drag and drop modules to different columns on any page, customise columns however you want, auto-saves when you make changes… and there’s more than the video shows you. I found myself working on auto-pilot, assuming I’d be able to do things like set internal columns or rows in columns and edit modules straight from that page once I’d placed them in a column. And turns out I could.

By and by I ended up with a website that looks roughly like this at present. It’s quite shiny. It was fun to make. But there are downsides.

Little snags, like no clues on how to change custom banners, where to add albums if for the love of Om all you want is a slideshow of your piccies, or how to change the order on the navigation bar. In retrospect with the knowledge I gained just playing with the website, over time these things became either obvious or achieveable. But they reveal one of Enjin’s problems: there’s no FAQ and few helpfiles, though those that are available are in video and absolutely rock. Although to give credit where it’s due, while I was running around like said besugared humming bird, I ended up poking their support forums and harrassing my aforementioned Enjin contact. In both cases the support they gave me – and others – was fast and spot on correct. I’m impressed.

One other thing slowed me down. I ended up choosing modules by going through all of them and testing them out for looks and usefulness by adding and removing to the homepage, then refreshing said homepage, then playing with the module options. Kind of fun, but a time consuming activity that could’ve been averted with previews akin to those available when you’re oogling themes.

But the biggest downside? I’m not sure whether my website stands out or whether it’s generic. Sure, I’ve not finished playing with it by a long shot and my guild need to descend on it and give me their design orders too. But I’m a little worried that it was too easy and too quick to set up, and whether the semi “out the box” feel I had with it means it’s the same as the next wild west playset on the shelf, give or take a few colours and trims. It’s possible it is generic, but that it’s the fault of the newbie interior decorator at work.

So the gold-cap question: is an Enjin website worth the money? Let’s take a closer look at what you get with their various plans (click the details tab on the right of their plans page to see everything). First up – you could go for their free website plan. And actually, when I say you could, I mean it – it wouldn’t be a killer.

You get the basics you’d need for a guild website – progression support, social features, rosters, applications, even a chat function. But there are some potential let-downs with the free plan, the big ones being adverts on your site (to be fair, I don’t know how much control you have over where/what the adverts are), no event planner (I can see this being a pain in the proverbial for most guilds), no file storeage or extra security, and a limit of 15 modules. You’d need to be going for the minimal look for your site. It’s not a bad package but I don’t know how it compares to other free plans on the market*.

The next one up is the premium package for $7.16 a month. This is a good, middle ground package, covering all the things the free package lacks. It also gives you limited access to a mumble voice server (yep, mumble included in the price) and more themes – you get almost everything they offer with this package. The ultimate package gives you the finest shinies, like being able to use different themes for each page, live support (soon, anyway) and increases on themes, mumble connections and file storeage. But for that extra loot you pay about three times that of the premium package, which seems a steep increase. Which is ingenious of Enjin really, given that the premium package is perfect even for bigger guilds but for its low limits on file storeage and mumble voice connections.

At day’s end and said dead bodies thoroughly dressed up to look pretty, though, I’m happy with what I’ve got. I think if I hadn’t lucked out and been given the ultimate package to try, I’d have gone for their premium package, as it looks like value for money. That’s the one I recommend although it does depend on the size of your guild. They do a good job of catering for guilds in most games on the market and the only thing I found myself thinking “why don’t they include X” about was an armory search box. If that’s all I can say is missing, it’s a pretty comphrensive package. And given both the fact that extra content has popped up since I first got hold of this two weeks ago and their customer support is efficient, it feels like Enjin’s got more tricks up their sleeves. Looking forward to seeing how they progess.

All that said, we’re happy to advertise them and run an affiliate link. By nitwibble, I’ve even asked them if I can run a competition with one of their packages as a prize. So watch this space for that. Meanwhile, if you can’t wait and want to get your hands on it nownownow…