Gamekult, a popular video game forum, migrated from vBulletin to Discourse. A failure?

:warning: Links inside this topic are in French :fr:


I created in 2018 a discussion on another popular video game forum (Canard PC), where I suggested a migration from their vBulletin to a modern platform. I talked about Discourse since I already had prior experience. Users didn’t seem to be favorable.

I restarted the discussion recently 3 years after and talked a bit with other users.
Interestingly, a lot of people seem to dislike Discourse very much compared to vBulletin or similar forums. They especially don’t like the infinite scrolling/timeline.

Some users mentioned that Gamekult, another large French video game forum, migrated to Discourse (from an unknown engine) in 2017 and that it was a disaster.

I was intrigued, so I took a look at the topic about the forum migration to Discourse: Le nouveau forum - Forum Jeux vidéo - Gamekult
The first feedbacks from the community were pretty harsh.

I noted several things that users disliked - some were fixed, some weren’t.

  • The flat, white, and kinda “empty” design. It first used the default Discourse style, but you’ll see from the link that it now has its own design.

  • The pages’ width. Users complained that the forum doesn’t take advantage of wide screens, and that reading in a thin column layout feels like reading on mobile.

  • Lots of small things regarding the navigation, because people weren’t used to Discourse yet, and had to re-learn how to navigate and learn to use new features

  • That’s kinda the same thing, but people disliked the fact that they’d have to spend hours and hours on the new forum to be used to it, and felt that they couldn’t use the forum as efficiently as before without learning how all of this work.

  • Some usernames were changed because Discourse doesn’t allow spaces or other characters in usernames.

  • A lot of the previous data has been badly imported (encoding issue and stuff like this), but this is not a Discourse issue. The import wasn’t good enough to keep the data clean.

  • Lost features like signatures, custom large smileys

  • A lot of negative feedback regarding the infinite scrolling

It has been 5 five years now, and after reading the first 400 posts from this 2017 topic, I created a new topic to gather feedback from users today.
From long-time and new users.
I asked them how they felt about Discourse after being used to it, and, for those who didn’t know the old forum, if they liked the current forum, what were the bad and good things, etc.

There are only a few replies yet, but already interesting things have been said.

But let’s go back to a user opinion from Canard PC, which currently uses vBulletin. So the opinion is by someone who does not uses Discourse daily, or may not have used Discourse at all.

He said that having a stream of posts may encourage people to skim through the posts instead of reading them with attention. He also seems to think that having the “reply to” system which doesn’t quote the message and where you have to click to see it gives the impression that we actually read most of the posts, where in reality, we missed things. It’s a bit hard for me to explain since English isn’t my native language, and what he tried to explain is a bit subtle.

He thinks that Discourse’s interface and navigation could make users prone to have a more individualistic logic in their behavior instead of a community-based logic.

In the end, he interestingly says that the community’s success and identity may rely on constraints that are absent from Discourse. He doesn’t explain more, but from what he said previously, I suppose he’s talking about stuff like the pagination system, a slower pace needed to use vBulletin since actions are a bit more tedious…

Now, in the Gamekult’s new topic’s first replies, what a very long-time user - from 2004 - says among other things:

  • Discourse made a lot of people definitively leave the forum.

  • Even after 5 years of using Discourse, he still misses the pagination and he finds the infinite scrolling/timeline not very practical

  • When a lot of users left, the remaining users seem to have gathered around the most active topics

  • The notification system orients the user to the topic in which they have been active/mentioned in several ways, and it tends to make users rely mostly on the notifications to participate in the forum and not discover and browse other topics. If I translate in English, he says “I short, notifications make us navigate, not ourselves…”

  • The forum interface and navigation (I believe he’s talking about features like infinite scrolling, few formatting message options, real-time topic updates…) make people write short messages as if it was a chat system.

  • Likes tend to create the following behavior in debates: “I have the most likes so I’m right”

  • He says that the topics list layout is bad and because of this, they feel that creating new topics is useless because it won’t be seen and read by others - but it may be related to how Gamekult shows the topic list (no category displayed for each topic :open_mouth::grey_question:).

Another user agreed explicitly that they themselves rely on the notifications to be active on the forum, and thus they won’t discover new content by themselves.

I find these opinions interesting because I almost never read bad reviews from Discourse users or admins. The only one that comes in my mind is Unfortunately I had to pull the plug)
My three migrations were all absolute successes in terms of community happiness. I had almost never, if not at all, bad feedback from my users.

I have no conclusion… And would be happy to have your opinion on all of this and/or testimonies of other migrations that didn’t go well and, most of all, why they didn’t go well. :slight_smile:


Matter of taste, and old habbits. And old habbits of old users die hard.

Almost every aspect why they liked vBulletin are things why I dislike vBulletin :rofl:


Sure, and path dependence… But I think there’s more than this. I’ve migrated old forums, with long-term users, a lot of them being 40 or 50+ years old, and they seemingly had no trouble adjusting to Discourse.

So, maybe there’s something about specific communities? In my topic, they are similar: two huge (10 to 20M posts) forums about video games.

And I found it very interesting to read some aspects of why users dislike Discourse, for example, the fact that some rely on notifications to browse instead of manually browsing and discovering new content, was something I’ve never heard before.


I know this is an old post and I’m sorry to raise this up but I felt like this reflected a most of the negative feedback we got today (day after the migration), even if not expressed with this civil tone some times ( :roll_eyes: )

Most of the critique are related to the timeline, live update and the quoting design and while I understand that some of it are a matter of habit. We will try and modify the experience as much as possible with a custom theme to try and meet these feedback as much as Discourse allow for the flexibility.

It doesn’t help however, that some features are managed by plugins/components that are not officially supported and thus not really having the best code quality nor the continued support.

No real complain for them anyway, as they are offered open source, one can always take up the mantle and start to maintain / improve them :slight_smile:

I’ll add that also our community was born videogames-centric (thus some issues we had with the username’s requirements) even if, in these late years, the user base is more around the 40-50 rather than 16-20 :slight_smile:

Thanks for this insight @Canapin, as always it’s a pleasure tor read your content :heart:


I’m particularly interested in this one as it seems to point to a cultural difference. It can take work to understand cultural differences, and the design decisions made within Discourse may not be fully informed about different expectations around the world.


I’ll post some more thought later in the coming week(s) probably but overall we are just having a couple of topics in which we are discussing both what is that feels “out of place” after the change and what the community think it makes hard for new users to join in (especially lurkers in our case, over 8k unique visitors per day but only some hundreds writing).

Hopefully there could be some good point of discussions to be have :slight_smile:


Update here: How is our community is faring after migrating from vbulletin3

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It does though, you can highlight any part of a post (or all of it) and press quote. That drastically reduces clutter, which I would assume would be important with a bunch of long posts which sound like is the case if the guy is worried that people aren’t reading everything. Having an ever-increasing chain of multi paragraph quotes quoting the same other multiple paragraph quotes just means you have a massive amount of text that isn’t necessary (and is being redundantly posted over and over again when it moves to a new point)?


i have an older user base that is almost strictly male users between 40 and 80 years old. it is a sports based forum and most are not really tech savvy, say like a gamer forum. my users hate any changes or new features (i don’t even have the sidebar enabled yet) and occasionally i get people comparing it to vBulletin (which i have admin’d before as well) and they seem to like the pointless bells and whistles parts. like one user has complained mulitple times that he can’t see as much user info beside each post when all he has to do is click the avatar to get the user card. or they want big ugly icons and that boxy interface with very little content instead of a nice customizable toolbar and more streamlined look. lol if someone gave me a vBulletin site, i think the first thing i’d try to get done is migrate it to Discourse.


the highlight quote feature is awesome but i suspect quite a lot of regular Discourse users don’t know it exists.

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