TibiaFanart.com had the pleasure of interviewing Rejana, Community Manager of CipSoft GmbH, who also plays the role of coordinator of the fansite programme. Among other things, we’ll talk about what the fansite programme looks like from behind the scenes, the many controversial issues, and the criticism that falls on this project and the admins who create content for the community. Have you ever been afraid to enter a contest because “the same person is going to win anyway”? Did you think that items representing fansites were being given in huge amounts allowing the fansite team to make a skyrocketing profit? Perhaps this interview will make you change your mind! We invite you to read it.
Makadamia: Thank you very much for your willingness to participate in this interview. We feel honored! There has been a lot going on lately around Tibia fansites and the programme that brings them together. There are some negative opinions on the Internet. Although a handful of players create the drama, perhaps some of this controversy stems from general unawareness, accompanying doubts about the activities of fansites, and rumors that have been spreading for years. Together, we hope to clarify what many controversial issues look like “behind the scenes” and show that they are not as scary and worrying as they seem.
Could you tell us something about yourself? How do you like to spend your free time?
Rejana: Surely. Well, I’m 47 years old, and have been working for CipSoft for almost 20 years now. At my age, former studies become rather irrelevant, but I have a master’s degree in information science.
My spare time is mostly occupied by my dog, so I enjoy nature on the many walks, but I also enjoy meeting up with friends, music, suspenseful thriller movies, games, etc. Then I’m volunteering as lead of the crisis intervention team in Regensburg and that often requires organisational work and also occasionally practical help in case of a crisis. We get called when the EMTs feel that somebody should not be alone, for example, after a tragic and sudden death of a relative. We then help organising a social net and stay with the person till the next steps are clear.
Many players certainly associate you with the Tibia.com forum, but your responsibilities go much further than the activity there and are related to the fansite programme, among other things. Tell us what role you play in CipSoft.
Rejana: My main tasks are indeed the fansite programme and everything that comes with it, the polls and feedback forms, and together with Mirade, I’m also responsible for ingame surveys we conduct and analyse. I often read feedback not only on the forum, but also on social media, be it on Instagram, Facebook or Reddit. Apart from that, there are occasional research tasks. Also, professional development is a big thing for CipSoft, so all employees are supported when they want to get some further training, and I regularly make use of that as well.
And what was the idea and purpose of creating a fansite programme?
Rejana: Oh, the fansite programme was created a very long time ago, long before I became fansite coordinator. Back then, there wasn’t even a community management department. Tibia has always had fansites that supported the game. Basically, the purpose of creating a fansite programme was to show appreciation and to give a bit of the support back that Tibia has received from the community.
What aspects of the fansite programme do you like best? Do you see any flaws or weaknesses in this project that you would change as soon as possible?
Rejana: I like the idea of supporting players who are willing to spend free time around their favorite game and who create something for others. For example, we ourselves do not offer any detailed tutorials or guides for Tibia. Fansites shine in this field, there is hardly any player who doesn’t use the wikis, for example.
Fansites also offer cool statistical compilations. And while we offer the occasional contest or event, fansites organise contests way more often. These are basically the things I like best, even though there are weaknesses, too.
The most severe problem that I see really is the huge amount of value that comes with fansite items. The purpose of fansite items is a representation of the fansite ingame. Advertisement, a token of gratitude and appreciation that should be valuable enough to attract contest participants, for example. The immense value of these items, however, is the reason for much controversy around them, as well as for conspiracy theories, for envy and I’d even go as far as to say, for hate. They also pose a temptation for abuse, for gaining personal wealth, and they produce great pressure on fansite admins, too.
We have often discussed already in the past how to address this problem in a reasonable way. Making them soulbound was one of the suggestions, but there are quite a few problems connected to that, too. So far we have not found the perfect solution to tackle the problem, a solution that has a good cost-benefit ratio, as well. Just a few years ago we came up with the annual fansite item lottery that we see as a step to alleviate the problem and to give everybody a chance to win a fansite item. This lottery has been well-received in the community, I’d say.
Makadamia: Among the community, you can hear quite worrying opinions that low-quality, generic fansites based on simple schemes to generate money are produced and accepted into the programme. This is a rather unflattering opinion, fortunately, it is spread by the minority.*
Is joining a fansite programme as easy as these rumors suggest? What requirements must such a fansite meet?
Rejana: I can’t confirm whether it’s a minority who holds the opinion, or rather way more people who prefer not to speak up, but I can surely explain the requirements that a fansite must meet in order to be accepted into the fansite programme. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it is connected to quite a few uncertainties, too.
First of all, when a fansite applies to the programme, it is put on a monitored list, if there is already a bit of content visible, and if the admin has a plan for the fansite that is backed up by the structure of the site.
A fansite needs to remain on the monitored list then for at least 6 months. We visit the site from time to time to check on the progress, and also encourage admins to stay connected to us. After these 6 months, if the site has a professional design, and there is content on the site that we feel is interesting for at least a small part of the Tibia community, that fansite is forwarded for further feedback to fansite admins, as well as my colleagues, so that they can take a look, too.
Points that are addressed by the fansite admin crew and my colleagues then are forwarded to the potential new fansite admin candidate to take care of. If the points that had been raised are “fixed”, and if the feedback from my colleagues here at CipSoft comes back positive as well, the fansite is invited to join the programme.
Please note that during all that time, the admin does not have any guarantee that the fansite will actually be able to join the programme after these 6 months. It’s always a case-by-case decision. We do not only look at the fansite itself, but also at the admin and the contact points that we have with the admin. We are really in the good position here to make a choice.
What do you think a fansite should have in it to be valuable? When would you give a fansite the “Rejana’s quality certificate”? 😉
Rejana: As mentioned, I need to be able to picture parts of the Tibia community that would enjoy what the fansite has to offer. And in general, I need to be able to follow and understand the structure of the fansite. If your goal, for example, is to create a fansite that you can use to quickly look up information, but on the site itself there are mainly longer articles and there is no way for me to find something I’m looking for quickly, then I would tell the admin that the goal has not been reached. If I have suggestions on how to improve the site, I’m always glad to share, knowing full well, however, that my opinion is very subjective. The minimum I do is try to give feedback on why I don’t feel comfortable with the fansite at that point. A fansite can remain on the list of monitored fansites for as long as it needs, so for us there is no rush. And – since my opinion is not the measure of all things, I’m glad to get feedback from my colleagues and other fansite admins about a fansite, too, before it can finally join the programme.
What does a fansite receive from CipSoft for its activities?
Rejana: All fansites start out as supported fansites. At this point, they receive an entry in the fansite section on the official website and will sometimes be displayed in the fansite advertisement box. The admin can request newstickers for articles they have published, or cool things they have developed. If we like what we see, we will post a newsticker for it. They are also allowed then to use the official “Supported Fansite” badge on their site, and the contact person (who is in charge of all fansite matters in our eyes) gets access to the internal fansite board.
If that fansite organises a contest from then on, the contact person can discuss the contest with us, and ask us for prizes that we sponsor**. There is an internal contingent that a fansite can access for ingame prizes, to ensure that this doesn’t get out of hand. Further, an admin can name 5 helpers that will help the fansite to gather information from test servers.
That’s about it. If the fansite has been in the fansite programme for a while, they can start thinking about a fansite item, an item that represents the fansite ingame, and can be given out in contests then, or as “thank you” gifts. This is probably the most controversial part. The waiting period for this last step had been three months of being supported in the past, and this has just recently been raised to 6 months so that we are able to make a better call concerning the activity of the fansite. Fansite items are seen as a privilege that we can also deny or postpone for a fansite if we think it’s necessary.
If a fansite becomes promoted after a while, a few benefits are added, for example, the most prominent benefit being premium time (or non-transferable Tibia Coins) for the admin, as well as three fansite helpers. Becoming promoted, however, is not a guarantee for a fansite, either.
Makadamia: Sponsors – this is one of the few options that guarantee Tibia fansites a steady income in the form of Tibia Coins. For displaying a banner, the admin receives a certain payment. It can be modest and symbolic, or quite significant. It is known that the best paid-for advertising are OTS, gambling sites or the most powerful resellers on the market, who ran a parallel business in the bot market, etc.
Can an official fansite be sponsored by anyone? If not, why?
Rejana: We do not oppose sponsoring. For example, if a fansite teams up with a reseller, we do not object, as long as the reseller has a good reputation and is not involved in matters that we do not wish to support. That implies that we can indeed withdraw our fansite support if a fansite teams up with OT servers or bot producers/sellers, for example. Of course, if we become aware that a fansite has teamed up with somebody we do not wish to support, we talk to the admin beforehand and explain our standpoint. If the admin then terminates that cooperation, it is ok for us to continue our support then.
Makadamia: The fansite environment can be perceived by many as quite hermetic. The same nicknames scroll across many fansites.
What do you think about situations where one person is an admin or team member of multiple fansites?
Rejana: We do not keep track of fansite team members, these are really the responsibility of the fansite admins. For some fansites they change quickly, and we actually are not involved with them. We have one contact person per fansite, and that contact person has full power over the site in our eyes.
When it comes to one admin being in charge of more than one fansite, we actually advise against this, and we do not want to encourage that. In case of promoted fansites, admins who are in charge of two fansites will not receive the premium time twice, for example.
We feel that there is enough that one can do to keep one fansite active to fill the spare time that a person usually has. And usually the love for a project is greater if there is only one project. However, we do not object. If we feel that the admin overdoes the re-using of content for both fansite, for example, we will seek a conversation about it with the admin, though.
When it comes to the activities on a fansite, however, we cannot really be too strict. We regard fansites as voluntary projects and not businesses. They are created out of fun, mainly. We do not pay admins for their work, neither do we pay any staff members, nor do we help with server costs, or anything in that regard. Admins spend their free time and their own money to provide fun, information and entertainment to Tibians. It’s only natural that there are times at which you can be more active, and times at which your activity for a fan project is at pause. This is very true when it comes to fansite admins, too. So we always have an open ear and encourage fansite admins to talk to us when there are difficutlies.
Makadamia: Fansite items are also a controversial issue. In 2021, I raised the issue of the prices of fansite items with you and suggested that they should become character-assigned items, like Tibia Store items. On the other hand, in an interview with TibaGoals.com in February 2022, you answered that their prices are indeed far too high. You also mentioned stories reaching you that the sale of such an item gave the seller the ability to support and feed his entire family for a month. An annual lottery of fansite items was introduced, thanks to which, after only 2 years, the prices of fansite items dropped drastically (10x). Currently, in order to make money from the sale of such an item, it would be necessary to get many copies.
What is the process of distributing fansite items?
Rejana: Here, I’d like to mention first that we have been discussing the high price of fansite items for much longer already than since 2021. The topic has come up already many times, and has been discussed many times with fansite admins and internally in the past, too. I tried to look back a bit and found traces of discussions of soulbound fansite items from the year 2016 already, and the selling of fansite items in general has been a topic with fansite admins since 2011. It might even date back longer than that. The topic is practically as old as fansite items themselves.
There is no set limit to fansite items on how many can be given out in a year. We actually encourage fansite admins to use them for their contests as often as possible. A greater distribution has proven to be the best way to tackle the high value they reach.
Apart from contests, fansite items can be given out to sponsor events created by other players (under a few given circumstances), and also as “thank you” gifts, if somebody has done something for the fansite and the admin wants to show appreciation for that. In such a “thank you” case, the admin needs to contact us, and explain the situation, and show some evidence of what the “thank you” is for. If we have questions about that, we ask them. If we agree, we will deliver the item.
We keep track of who receives fansite items. We have a list here of all fansite items that have been given out since 2011, be it in the lotteries of the fansite appreciation days, in contests, as sponsoring, or as thank you’s.
Why did it prove impossible to assign an item to a character?
Rejana: Several options have been discussed in order to reduce the value of fansite items. I myself had been a huge fan of making fansite items soulbound, and there were really several fansite admins who would have embraced that conclusion immediately, too. With the implementation of the Store, this matter was discussed more seriously internally as well.
For fansite items, this was not a good approach, though, and after the discussion, I agreed. Their main purpose for players is to commemorate the situation in which they received them. The good time they had in a contest, for example. Players should be able to do with these items what they would like to do with them, and Tibia is known to have an open trade system. Tibians should be able to send these to another character. We would not want these items to be restricted. And now especially with the option to trade characters, fansite items would then change hands, just because a character is auctioned.
Then, we must consider what should happen to fansite items that are already in game. Who should they be “assigned” to? And – if no further tradable fansite items would ever become available ingame, can you imagine the value that the already existing old fansite items would gain if they remained tradable? All these points did actually convince me that making fansite items soulbound would bring other problems that have the potential to make things rather worse than better.
Over the years there have been several approaches of tackling the problem of overvalued fansite items, and that will most likely be a topic for the future, too. For example, adding souvenirs from the museum in Thais was an approach, to try to prevent that prizes shoot through the roof once a fansite has left the programme. The earlier mentioned fansite item lottery was another approach. Who knows what the next approach will be.
Makadamia: TibiaFanart.com is a fansite that is dedicated not only to fanart but also to many creative activities related to Tibia, such as artwork posted in contests organized by fansites. This is a considerable part of the content we publish. Unfortunately, the contests themselves also stir up a lot of controversy.*
In April 2023, you held a poll “Are fansite contests your thing?”, which shows that the majority of players surveyed are not interested in contests organized by fansites (62.96%), and frequent participants are as much as 10x fewer (6.17%)!
Among other things, comments on this poll say that the reluctance to participate is related to the need to have a budget for more or less professional art tools and stationery, and art skills. It is also said that “the same people win all the time”.
Is it true that the same players win all the time?
Rejana: Indeed, when it comes to contests, especially contests that require a certain skill, we do see the same character names appear over and over again. However, every so often, a new name emerges in the spotlight, and subsequently, that name then tends to appear more often in contests as well.
Most fansite contests do not attract a whole lot of players, that is true. Still, if you look at the poll you mentioend, a relevant part of the community likes them.
I understand every player who feels frustrated if he feels that his own talent might not meet the talent of somebody he has seen win contests over and over again. But that’s not really a reason to exclude somebody from a contest, just because he is talented and willing to put in effort and time in a contest submission.
There are many different types of fansite contests. If you keep your eyes open, you will see different things, and every now and then, you will find something that sounds fun and right to you.
A member of the fansite team wins the competition – “rigged”?
VivaTibia.com – “Fansite Item” contest, 2021
Rejana: Not necessarily, no. While fansite admins often are part of the jury that votes for contest results, they abstain from voting if somebody participates who they know. Then it comes down mainly to Mirade, Liamas and myself to be the contest jury.
Also, many times the admin who forwards us the entries to vote on does not include any character names along with the contest entries. So – we sometimes don’t even know who an entry belongs to when judging.
What is the process of voting for contest entries?
Rejana: When there is no lottery, it typically works like this: If there are more than 10 entries, for example, the fansite team chooses a top 10, or a top 5, depending on the overall amount of contest submissions, and also the amount of time it takes to check out a contest entry. Evidently, a screenshot can be evaluated much quicker than a story of 4000 characters, and we CMs do have limited time on our hands for such tasks. So – after this pre-selection, we CMs receive the votes of the fansite team due to transparency reasons. We usually check more contest entries (if possible, all, already during to the contest) and are able to tell if that’s really a plausible choice.
The admin then posts the top of the fansite team on the fansite board. Fansite admins then are invited to choose their tops, as well as me and my colleagues. Often, there’s really us three CMs voting and maybe up to 5 fansite admins at the max, many times even fewer. Most admins prefer not to submit their votes, because they fear accusations of being biased.
Are there any other types of contests besides art-related ones?
Rejana: Yes, of course! We have had so many wonderful contest topics already. When people dress up as creatures, or prepare Jean Pierre dishes in real life, for example, or if they create stories or quests, or solve puzzles, hunt for lottery tickets in parcels, fulfill a list of tasks, play soccer, and many other creative activities.
Makadamia: I could also mention here the questions and answers contests on TibiaQA, the mass of in-game decoration competitions… I remember that it was great fun to take part in the TibiaEvents contest to create a castle out of parcels. I learned a lot of interesting things about the lore of the Tibia world by writing an article for the TibiaSecrets contest. In fact, the variety of contests is huge!
What is your favorite type of competition?
Rejana: I’m actually very fond of the cooking and baking stuff. Each Christmas I feel like it’s time for some Christmas-themed Tibia cookies! Best, deliver them to the office, so we can judge according to taste. (Nah, don’t. Just kidding! 😉 They would be rock-hard till they get to Regensburg from Brazil, or the United States.) Back to the question… Cookies seem to distract me…
I also enjoy song contests, when Tibians create Tibia Songs and record themselves singing. That takes lots of guts. I love those. Or crafting stuff. I recall a “craft a mount contest” in which a player created a sparkion mount. The task was to craft the mount in life size and then take a picture of yourself sitting on it. I was so impressed that I showed this to all of my colleagues, even outside of the CM department. I was trying to find the picture just now, so that I could show you, too. I’m afraid, however, I came up empty-handed. I just found traces of an old communication about it, and found out that the contest was around August 2019, on TibiaEvents. Maybe somebody still has that picture somewhere…
Sparkion by Hunter on Nefera, TibiaEvents.com – “Mount Up!” contest, 2019
I also like contests a lot that have a really unexpected drift. For example, TibiaBosses once hosted a “Boss in the Egg” contest. Not sure, if this is a big thing anywhere, but the idea of putting a boss in an egg just came really out of the blue for me and it turned out to be really cool.
In general I like it, when admins and fansite teams try to create something unique. For example, more recently, TibiaDuality placed parcels all over a guildhall, in them were hidden letters of different things. You could find a lottery ticket, or a voucher for a few Tibia Coins. So you had to hunt through all these parcels, and decide what tickets you’d take along with you, since your strength was restricted. If I recall correctly, you had to participate on a lvl 8 character. That was well thought through and pretty unique, I loved the idea.
Makadamia: We have a photo of this mount in our gallery, of course! At times like this, TibiaFanart rushes to help!
What contest entry (art-related) impressed you the most?
Rejana: Oh, I have seen so many fantastic art-related contest entries, that it’s hard to tell. Does music count as art? It does, doesn’t it? I then have to bring up my favorite Tibian music video (once again). Probably the most consistant earworm I have ever had, for over a decade now. That was Felippe Nardi, former admin of PortalTibia.com.br with his song “I love the whole Tibia”. It was hosted in a Movie Competition by TibiaCity, ages ago:
What fanart (unrelated to competitions) impressed you the most?
You know how sometimes you just can’t get a picture out of your head? That, for me, would be the“Guzzlemaw” by Ricardo Antonio Leon Villanueva. I think you had posted it on Instagram some time ago. It has stayed in my mind ever since, and it was also shown to several colleagues here. I have attached the picture here for you, too, though I’m pretty sure that you have that in store on TibiaFanart, as well. I do not think that this has ever been in any competition, has it?
I’m just really amazed how talented and creative Tibians are. But then – who am I talking to, you yourself an amazing artist as well!
“Guzzlemaw” by Ricardo Antonio Leon Villanueva
Makadamia: No, this illustration was indeed never part of the contest. It was based on a 3D model of Guzzlemaw, created earlier in ZBrush by the same artist. It came out great. My favorite part is the master of the second plan visible on the horizon! 😉 As a bonus, I also include the original model. Visit Ricardo on his Instagram, as these are not the only fanarts he has created!
Makadamia: Reading negative opinions about the fansite programme, fansites, or activities they undertake stirs up a lot of emotions among the admins themselves. Everything depends on the point of view. While through the eye of a Tibia player, our activities may be questionable, he only evaluates the results of our work – often selectively and very critically. We, admins, judge ourselves with the knowledge of the time we have spent on the development of our projects, and the money we put into it every month by investing not only in the hosting services but also in graphic software for creating banners, etc.
Are you also annoyed by such opinions?
Rejana: No, I’m actually not annoyed. I see it from that perspective: If players criticize something because it doesn’t feel right to them, it means they care. They have a right to be critical and to voice their concerns. Also, some negative opinions or problems with or about the fansite programme cannot be disputed. It’s not perfect. What is?
We see ourselves in the role of supporting something we like with the fansite programme. However, we also see fansites as independent third parties, so we do not have much control over things and also do not wish to have much control over things. So – we, too, can only judge and act on what we know and see.
In general, I’m a fan of “speak up” if you think something is wrong, and don’t just leave silently and disappointed. If I could voice a wish, though: please speak up in a reasonable manner and try not to jump to conclusions. Sometimes there are different sides behind a story. It’s always good to discuss and to ask questions. The right questions will help improve a situation.
How do you deal with dramas that revolve around fansites? Do you have any relaxing habits?
Rejana: I’ve been working for CipSoft for about 20 years now, and drama has always been around. I think that if I could not leave “the drama” at work, I would not be suitable for the job. Of course, if there are heated discussions, and you read and hear that players are not satisfied, it puts me a bit on alert. I’d be lying if I said that I would not take any of that home with me. I do check in then on weekends, too, or after the end of a work day, but I’m always aware that I do this voluntarily and that CipSoft does not expect me to do that. So I have a choice. I’m a curious person though, and I always like being informed, also about drama in Tibia – given, my spare time activities allow it. In my spare time, these do come first.
And – relaxing habits: well, I talk to my colleagues, that always helps. Liamas, Mirade and I always support each other, that has been the same way with previous CM colleagues, too. And for an immediate need to release stress, I have a green little alien on my desk that you can squeeze and then its eyes pop out. But – that’s more fun than really useful. 😛
What is the funniest or most ridiculous rumor you’ve heard about the fansite programme, fansite items, or contests from the community?
Rejana: Oh, that was probably triggered by a screenshot I took on the internal test servers for an interview with TibiaGoals, and I had surrounded myself with Lunas, their fansite item. I think somebody must have spread the screenshot out of context, and probably players saw it who weren’t aware that I was a community manager. The TibiaGoals team was then accused of having given away all those Lunas to their friend. That rumor or accusation was just wrong on so many levels, but yeah, there were honest player complaints about that. However, I hope I could clear them all up back then without leaving anyone still worried.
Makadamia: Haha, I knew you would mention that! This is probably the best example of a situation where something so innocuous became the reason for drama. But it also shows how important it is to know the context when judging any such affair. Let’s not forget about it!
What are your plans for the fansite programme and/or contests? Are you planning any changes or improvements in the near future?
Rejana: A plan that we have just set in motion, as I already mentioned, is that we have prolonged the waiting period a fansite must undergo in the fansite programme, in order to be able to start thinking about their fansite item. This step aims to address the accusation a bit that an admin is only in it for the item. The journey is actually quite lengthy: at least 6 months on the monitored list, without guarantees, and then in addition, another 6 months of showing activity, once again without any assurances. We can also deny that privilege.
I think somebody who went through all this and was still willing to spend his free time and money for such a long time, has well deserved it in the end, to get the opportunity to have the fansite represented ingame by a fansite item.
Thanks, Makadamia, for giving me a chance here to talk about such matters. I hope I was able to explain some of the processes in the fansite programme, and to explain how we see our role in it. We love fansites. The connection between CipSoft and fansites has always been a strong one. We appreciate all the time and effort that people spend with Tibia. And obviously, we love fanart, too! We are happy that there is a fansite that collects it! 🙂
Greetings to all Tibians! ❤️️ See you around!
Makadamia: Thank you once again for such an interesting interview!
prepared by: Makadamia
* The source of the rumors and controversy is the unflattering threads created by a handful of players relating to the fansite programme, the fansites, the admins, and the fansites’ teams on the Reddit platform.
** These prizes, of course, are distributed among participating players, so they do not represent a profit for the admin or team of the fansite.