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Feb 13, 2006

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Comments

1.

Interesting also are the questions of gold farming and other ToS abuse. Gold farming for RL cash in WoW (and most other games), for example, is pretty much the most flagrant violation of the Terms of Service. What happens when something like this occurs, and the players are unable to harvest at the same rates? If they were kicked back 10 levels in WoW, and had to grind to get to 60 again for optimum harvesting? Well, first, you'd get a degree of inflation in gold to cash; the online currency would immediately be worth more. Second, you'd get an immediate shutdown of numerous goldfarming businesses, though IGE probably wouldn't be heavily affected.

Even more interesting would be a game where the players could make their *own* laws with these punishments, for example ATITD. If, on ATITD, a player had to pay 20 iron for each time they insulted another player without merit, there might be fewer incidents of griefing (on a game where these are already very few.) Laws are actually being composed somewhere along these lines, though the question of how to do it without GM intervention is a difficult one.

Finally, responsibility would have to be used on the part of the developers. Unattended macroing may be a serious charge, but the GMs would have to be extremely careful about how they went about it, unless they wanted the game to fail miserably. A temporary nerf such as a negative to stats for an hour or two might serve well as a punishment for a first offense, followed by more severe drops until, finally, the character is @frobbed. Or, worse, until the character's slot on the server is completely locked, preventing recreation.

I think it's a great idea overall, for the most part.

2.

Yes, it has been tried, with disasterous results, for the most part. It is a nightmare to police and you only have to make one mistake for it to become a cause celebre. And your GMs will make far more than one mistake, because the system depends on the good judgement of all GMs at ALL times.

Also, if you allow GMs that deep level of player interaction, you invite corruption. Better to keep it simple; ban or not ban, based on a reasonable investogation.

3.

Jessica Mulligan > Better to keep it simple; ban or not ban, based on a reasonable investogation.

On the logistical / CS side – why is banning less of an issue?
And
I assume that people treat a ban as less harsh than a lvl nerf – maybe if the ban was commensurate with the time that it took to reach the last level?

In the end I wonder to what degree VWs can be policed, as the highest level of sanction has got to be just lower than a given players investment in a given space. So there is always a limit. And quite a low one its seems.

4.

My first reaction to the idea of enforcing rules or discouraging certain player behaviors by taking away levels is that it's limiting the scope of the issue to the "small subset" of virtual worlds that have levels or are about gaming, progress, and/or competition. I put that in quotes because, of course, the Everquest/WoW type games seem to be the majority for the moment, this early in the history of virtual worlds. But for me, saying "What if we took away their levels" is kind of like saying "What if a nation enforced its laws by suspending access to golf courses for those who broke them". We could discuss how much or how little impact this would have on the millions of golfers, but to me the fact that it has no significant effect on the non-golfing majority is the elephant in the room here. I think in twenty years, most virtual world experiences for most people won't involve levels, or even dragons. (Much as I might wish it were otherwise, being a long time dragon collector myself.)

Even amongst those who want to play a gaming oriented, Dungeons & Dragons descendent type game, I think it became quite evident, especially in college settings, that the extent to which people buy in to the notion that the game goals are "important" to them varies hugely from one person to the next. Many of the worst trouble makers are those who feel the game's goals have little or no value to them, and listening to the reactions of people they've annoyed has great entertainment value. For many of these people, the game mechanics only have relevance insofar as they relate to what methods of annoying people are available & which are more or less effective against those who DO care a lot about the game.

The one universal tool for controlling behavior is access restriction. For people who care about ANYTHING in the game at all, for any reason, keeping them out of it will have an impact and give them incentive to avoid breaking the same rules in future. For people who don't give a darn about the game at all and just find it to be a place they can engage in "the sport of annoying fellow human beings", restricting their access for good at least keeps them from causing more problems. (Unless they hack back in somehow.)

I will say that ultimately, in more socially oriented environments (i.e. more "normal" or at least more like real world societies), reputation and the extent to which you're accepted or rejected by others, the extent to which you receive love, hate, or indifference are the ultimate "carrots and sticks" to influence behavior. But most of our virtual worlds to date are so lacking in social coherence and cohesion that these basic social mechanics function very, very poorly. Imagine a town or a city of tens or hundreds of thousands of people. (Millions if it's Warcraft-ville). Imagine that a LARGE percentage of people leave town for good every month, with no forwarding address, while a lot of new people are pouring into town all the time too. A lot of the "citizens" of the town only live there a few months total, others just a year or two. EVERYBODY in this town has the ability to change their name, their face, and their body at will. Their cellphones don't let you hear anyone's voice, ever, but only send each other text messages. Their mail systems are underdeveloped and people often lose touch with each other forever even though they didn't want to. The city is divided into districts of a few thousand people which are divided by huge, impenetrable walls, and you can't even send messages to someone who's in another district. Everybody has the power to vanish instantly at any time, transporting themselves to a far-away, unreachable reality and staying out of contact for hours, days, months, or forever. Facial expressions rarely change, and members of the same race often look near-identical other than choice of clothing. Nothing anywhere in this city engages the senses of touch, taste or smell in any way, only sight and sound have any meaning. Every object in this city can be created from thin air by the capricious creators for whatever reasons they choose, or because of their mistakes, at any moment. Everything that currently exists can be changed or destroyed just as easily, for the same sort of reasons. And the people who live in this city know that. Even death itself has little or no meaning. Rather than the ultimate consequence, a total cessation of one's existence and conciousness, the residents of this town know that no matter what they do, what risk or "harm" they subject themselves to, they'll continue their existence in much the same manner as they did before. In most of these places their ability to build, create and decorate is very limited. The kinds of things that can be found and owned is limited to what the capricious creators made or might add from time to time. The kinds of activities there are to engage in are similarly limited. There's little or nothing in the way of institutions dedicated to promoting social activity, charity, politics and political discussion, religion, the rearing of children, conservation of natural resources, etc. etc. Food and drink are not necessary, though some people try to pretend they are and go through the motions of eating and drinking them.

Is it any wonder then, when some text MUDs in the 1990s tried to make a "jail" to punish bad behavior, that their expectations that this might have similar effects to real world jails turned out to be totally wrong? The similarities fascinate people - but it's the differences that matter here. Punishments matter because people care. When you take away something they care little about, it's not an effective punishment. (And virtual jails turned out to be "one more place in the game I haven't seen", so players often break rules on purpose so they can go see another new place. For the record. :)

5.

I think the deleveling would never go, but you do have the locked account or second life's corn field as punishment.

However games need to have a method for players to better handle and perform thier own punishment against players that offend them. As it is players just usally just get a standard ignore, nothing else. How about expanding this?
AC1 allowed you to do an ignore on all characters associated with the account. Great for when the players is acting really bad.
Allowing a time period in hours/days when the char/account automaticly becomes unignored.
Allowing for people to nominate ignore to thier guild, so that approved are ignored by all.

As for punishment how about the following:
1) With games going to an off-line market if I have someone ignored they should not beable to purchase from my market.
2) Preventing someone from joining a group where an existing group member has ignored them. For the message to the person not allowed in the group and group members the message should not name the person who is preventing the joining.

6.

I agree with other commentors (first Jessica) that deleveling is not a practical solution to enforceing TOS/player behavior. But to tack off to a slight tangent, I think this represents more of an attempt to address a symptom than the root problem.

If you're trying to control player behavior, the first thing that has to go is anonymity. There needs to be accountability to the greater society (gaming society as a whole) and that cannot occur when a player can just create a new character with a different name (or even start a new account).

Peer pressure is a greater control than many credit. It has to be to overcome the control of law itself (as it sometimes does). Peer pressure is diffused when identity is weakened. If no one knows who you are, you don't really care what they think about you.

One possible way to weaken anonymity is to move towards a more true pseudonymity: a system where at least the account is clearly tied to individual avatars so that others can link one player's "identities" together. Even a query that would establish that character A shares the same account as character B, or the same billing data (without, of course, providing that data) would strengthen identity and not allow players to easily shed reputation. Better would be a subidentifier that was provided to all as a name suffix with a toggleable option.

Yeah, a lot of pure role-players will (at first, at least) dislike this idea. But in live role-playing it is very clear what player is tied to what virtual entity. This would simply bring online role-playing in line with table or live-action role playing.

It would be even better if these pseudonyms could move across the community, not just single games. That way a griefer (or really cool player) could be associated with new avatars in new games from her past history, without actually giving away any realworld ID information. Players could know that this new character C is played by the same player as character A in game X was, and character B in game Y was, but would only know the actual identity of that player if that player herself chose to disclose it.

This would also obviate the need to have unique character names since positive ID would be possible at a level beneath the character name. Shared character names (ie: 14000 Marys and Johns) would provide a better emulation of real societies and remove some of the naming issues resulting from player frustration at not being able to name characters as they would prefer. (I suspect at least some of the less savory names result after multiple tries of more acceptable names are rejected as already in use.)

This could be done in similar fashion to gamecards. A gamer's identify could be registered via a third-party and using crypto attached to a pseudonym and verified. An analogous model would be that of the Paypal/eBay system for verified users. A way to move in that direction might be one in which players who chose to do so would gain slight additional privileges over unverified users.

If you know who they are they ARE more trustworthly than anonymous users.

Yeah, currently companies can tie characters/avatars to player billing information. But players can't. And players are always present IN the games and can exert real time influence on problem players that the companies cannot practically (except through code). Give the players tools to apply peer pressure.

7.

Right now the punishments for social/TOS violations are binary as Jessica says, and for excellent reasons. The problem with nerfing someone but leaving their character in play is that if you do htis you've just poisoned your own well.

A significant percentage of those thus nerfed will see their character as useless for regular gaming, and will instead turn that character into a grief-machine with the sole goal of raining down as much grief as possible on other characters and on your game in general. In effect, you've just publicly (and to their eyes vindictively) griefed your own customer, and more of them will turn around to do the same to you than will say "oh, I guess I should straighten up and fly right."

This sort of grief-enabling quickly spirals out of control as people over-react to insults hurled their way (or whatever), and the nerf-punishment spreads. At the very least, you create huge amounts of ill-will in the game, on the message boards, and on the web. Not a recipe for success.

So long as GMs are the law-bringers, the locus of all social sanction, the situation will remain pretty much as it is. When players can actively exclude spoilers from their interactions -- including but far beyond "/ignore" -- then banning will finally be relegated to the ultimate punishment it should be, and communities will be able to self-regulate much more effectively. As it is, we have no sense of social homeostasis in MMOGs. As long as that's the case, you can expect to see wild swings as individuals and groups take umbrage at something that someone else said or did.

8.

Mike> A significant percentage of those thus nerfed will see their character as useless for regular gaming, and will instead turn that chartacter into a grief-machine with the sole goal of raining down as much grief as possible on other characters and on your game in general. In effect, you've just publicly (and to their eyes vindictively) griefed your own customer, and more of them will turn around to do the same to you than will say "oh, I guess I should straighten up and fly right."

I was just reading this, and -- I know this wasn't what Ren asked -- but I wondered whether our penal system IRL is better analogized to a nerfing system or a binary system. If it is a nerfing system, and the state is "publicly griefing its own customer," is Mike's description above an explanation of recidivism?

Not saying there is much to this -- it's just an interesting thought experiment to read all the above posts and replace owner/player with state/criminal.

9.

One potential issue here is that there are times when a player will want to lower there level. If you want to fight against other players in RuneScape, for example, it is to your advantage to seem weaker than you are: other players are encouraged to attack you, which means they (rather than you) get the penalties for being aggressive.

So quite a lot of players will game the experience point system, trying to keep there level as low as possible, while building up their characters in other ways (money, equipment, friends, non-combat skills). The result is that they look weak, but can slaughter any player who comes near them.

I'm not saying that having a level-lowering penalty would be a bad thing, but there are pitfalls and you'd need to be very careful about the implementation. You probably couldn't just tack it onto an existing MMORPG without tweaking the system a lot.

10.

I equate participation in an MMO to going to a movie theatre or a bar. If you break the rules or are disruptive to others trying to enjoy themselves, you are asked to leave. Simple, effective, and easy to manage, based on ownership of the premises rather than some elaborate system of crime and punishment. If I am overly disruptive in a movie theatre, I am asked to leave. They own the theatre and have the right to eject me from the premises for breaking their posted rules.

The players that are in-game specifically to annoy others will continue to do so as a level 1 character, or will create an alt if need be. Powerlevelling services will put them right back where they were in a very short period of time for a small amount of cash ... a de-levelling scheme of punishment would probably net them more customers. "Now just $4.95 for our re-levelling special!"

11.

Two problems:

1. You suggest that this would create social pressure for people "not to offend." I disagree. I think it would create social pressure for people "not to report bad behavior."

If a guy in my party or guild is being a jerk, and I know the penalty for reporting him is that he becomes ineffective, my reporting him essentially punishes myself - now I can't complete the instance. So I keep my mouth shut and have to move on. Very bad outcome.

2. All "in-game" discipline basically boils down to a time-based punishment. Whether you suspend me for three days or force me to level for three days, it all boils down to the same thing: You force me to stop playing productively for a pre-set amount of time.

De-levelling would no doubt amuse and gratify the beleagured CS teams. But it sounds more like a vindicitive desire than an effective disciplinary tool. I can see guilds cross-griefing each other with "complaints," people getting blamed for reporting and de-levelling one another, etc. Just would create a horrible feel to the game.

12.

This idea opens up an entire array of penalizations that aren't as extreme as de-leveling. I think to avoid ill-will, it would be important not to remove something the player had accomplished. We've discussed the sense of ownership of toons in depth, and to actually remove levels or XP might be interpreted as an attack on their character more than it would be seen as a penalty.

However, penalties that didn't take away from the player's current achievements might be viewed less personally. A temporary stats nerf that varies according to number of infractions would have simliar results to the Second Life cornfield. An XP debt like that given on death in CoH (and others), or a penalty "fatigue" like the rest system used in WoW might be effective.

Also, as mentioned previously, I think that deleveling in particular would seem to encourage people to have low-level "griefing" alts. Any penalty would have to be applied to the general account rather than just the individual toon.

Unfortunately, any of these penalty mechanisms still ignore the strength of MMOs, the social aspects. A really good penalty would be to somehow exploit social relationships, such as penalizing a guild for the actions of individual members.

A paper I saw recently on bail-bonds described that many bonds work because the collateral for the bond is the residence of the criminal's family. A hardened drug dealer with no respect for the criminal justice system may still fear his mother's wrath if he causes her to lose her house. Given the demographics of MMO players, some way to harness this kind of relationship might prove extremely productive.

13.

Jessica Mulligan wrote:

Yes, it has been tried, with disasterous results, for the most part. It is a nightmare to police and you only have to make one mistake for it to become a cause celebre. And your GMs will make far more than one mistake, because the system depends on the good judgement of all GMs at ALL times.

Also, if you allow GMs that deep level of player interaction, you invite corruption. Better to keep it simple; ban or not ban, based on a reasonable investogation.


I think you need to qualify this with some sort of scale. What you say is not applicable to virtual worlds generally. We, for instance, use in-game punishments with quite a bit of success and have in-game punishments ranging from being turned temporarily into a maggot to de-leveling to having your skill effectiveness temporarily reduced to having your ability to communicate to other players all but removed.

You're also assuming that a ban is actually particularly effective. This is definitely not the case in virtual worlds where some semi-unique piece of information (like a cc#) is not needed to create a new character.

Further, you're assuming that all rules are of such seriousness as to ban the person from their social network, as opposed to give them a slap on the wrist for a minor rules infraction. For instance, we have virtually no hardcoded PK rules. All PK rules violations are dealt with by hand (after one party complains), in order to allow for a more dynamic PK atmosphere than simply, "He had the PK flag on, so I killed him." As such, there are a number of rules regarding PK behavior, and it is quite possible for players to violate small ones on purpose, rationalizing it with "Well, it was good RP, so I'll just take the punishment." We take the stand that we're not interested/capable of "judging" RP while at the same time recognizing that it is important to players. Banning them for this sort of violation would be crazy, and I believe it's quite draconian to suggest that every rules violation result in banning someone from the game.

Mike Sellers wrote:

A significant percentage of those thus nerfed will see their character as useless for regular gaming, and will instead turn that character into a grief-machine with the sole goal of raining down as much grief as possible on other characters and on your game in general. In effect, you've just publicly (and to their eyes vindictively) griefed your own customer, and more of them will turn around to do the same to you than will say "oh, I guess I should straighten up and fly right."

We don't see this happening on our games. The punishments, of course, piss off the person who has been punished, but only in extremely rare cases do we see other people doing the same just to "get back at us." Usually, they rightfully blame the victim. The only exception is when an EXTREMELY popular character gets punished. Their objectivity goes out the window at that point and a lot of them say, "Well, so what if he did it. He adds a lot to the game." They still don't go out and break the rules in solidarity or whatnot though.

Incidentally, our GMs (we call them Gods as they have roles in-game as well) also have the power to "de-level" (or various other punishments, or rewards) for purely roleplaying based concerns rather than rules violations. It works very well. You just need a good GM staff and good management of it. This becomes progressively difficult as you grow in scale, of course, but this is a discussion about virtual worlds, presumably, not simply WoW-scale virtual worlds.

Jimpy wrote:

All "in-game" discipline basically boils down to a time-based punishment. Whether you suspend me for three days or force me to level for three days, it all boils down to the same thing: You force me to stop playing productively for a pre-set amount of time.

That's not really true actually. Shame can be a powerful force as well.

--mattt

14.

One possible way to weaken anonymity is to move towards a more true pseudonymity: a system where at least the account is clearly tied to individual avatars so that others can link one player's "identities" together.

It would be very interesting to discuss how such a system could be created (technically and logistically) with any degree of practicality or integrity. Secure, reliable identity association even within real-world, non-anonymous applications is hard enough (and oft gamed). I fear that such a pseudonymous would create the illusion of identity, giving even more leverage to those willing to abuse/game the system.

15.

Randolfe_ wrote:

It would be very interesting to discuss how such a system could be created (technically and logistically) with any degree of practicality or integrity. Secure, reliable identity association even within real-world, non-anonymous applications is hard enough (and oft gamed). I fear that such a pseudonymous would create the illusion of identity, giving even more leverage to those willing to abuse/game the system.

I'm not sure what method they're using, but the Chinese government is currently creating just this kind of database, in assistance of their system that requires game operators to cause characters played by those under 18 years of age to experience reduced effectiveness after too much time spent playing within a day. I wish I could find the link on Pacific Epoch I read about it on a few weeks ago, but I can't locate it at present.

I'd tend to agree that it's going to be pretty tough to link online and offline identities reliably.
--matt

16.

Anybody ever try exploiting the fractured nature of virtual worlds to place the offender into a slightly different reality? If people break the ToS, maybe the punishment can be so subtle they don't notice, but simply aren't rewarded for the bad behavior anymore.

17.

Where the world developers take too prominent a role in managing and arbitrating between the players, they endure the necessary consequence of taking on more responsibilities.

Creativity is needed in developing tools for players to arbitrate amongst themselves, or take more martial actions. If you allowed players to form communities, then they could levy social penalties and rewards amongst themselves. Given a wide open world, instead of reforming the unwilling, there would plenty of utility in a forgotten bit of political wisdom in the judicial exercise of Exile.

The Exiles then are free to band together to form their own communities, with their own laws, and possibly to broker war and peace with those who think differently. Of course, much as in our world, I imagine these cultural nations will do everything in their power to press against one another, leaving no neutral space for the emergence of independently minded groups.

It does make one wish that virtual worlds could someday influence our own political gamesmanship.

18.

Once, when I was GMing a live event, a certain player who was new to the genre, the game and the system continued to play his character in a way that was truly opposite to how he had designed him for the adventure. I warned him several times that doing this was going to result in "punishment." He thought it was funny, and kept right on going, to the point where he was annoying the other players; he was, essentially, playing a character that he'd designed to be a "good" guy as a very, very bad guy.

So I took him away.

I gave him a randomly rolled NPC that was more like what he had been playing, and I played his character as an NPC for awhile, but in tune with how he had designed him. It didn't really help this guy (who didn't come back and play with us... and it wasn't much of a loss), but it kept the other players from going bonkers, as the whole party had been designed as "good."

I wonder how much fun it would be for greifers and gankers if a GM were able to "take over" their character in game for a little (or a long) while, why they still stayed logged on and had to (or at least had the option to) watch the "fun?" The GM could give away their stuff, behave in a way opposite to their regular behavior, quit their guild, abandon quests and generally have a wee "amnesia day" experience.

"I don't know what happened, Guild Master," the confused orc whined. "When I woke up, I was in the dwarven hall, covered in foam..."

I can imagine, for example, what I, as a GM, would do to/with a character whose player had exhibited particularly splenetic, homophobic rhetoric...

19.

I'm going to also chime in and say I agree with Jessica. I've been a community admin for a fairly popular MUD (well, for non-commercial MUD standards) for about 9 years in my spare time, and my experience has been that when we've added more ranges of punishments, we create a game in and of itself, in collected minor punishments and "walking the line". A great deal of this stems from players who have soured through previous issues (whether a punishment against themselves or someone they know that they felt was unfair for any reason whatsoever, "nerfing" some particular ability or item they enjoyed, or any other of the dozens of reasons people get sour in a game but don't leave), and want to make a nuisance of themselves to the rest of the game.

Banning them (permanently or temporarily) is only slightly more effective, since it's rather easy to circumvent any method of tracking an individual accross accounts, ISPs, and machines that is currently imployed. That said, it does at least remove griefers from places of prominence (harder to soapbox and grandstand), and serves as enough of an impetus for some of them to actually take the hint and leave.

Honestly, the MOST effective method I've seen for policy management in online communities (this covers virtual worlds and even forums) is by encouraging enforcement through peer groups, with a light layer of oversight from the game staff. If players are not only made aware that they are responsible for maintaining a healthy community, but given the tools and TRUST to do so, things generally work better. A model worth exploring is creating a set of a few peer administered punishments, with permanent account altering affects limited to the GMs (also keep it to a few, such as banning the character, and banning the account).

20.

Ren>it got me to wondering whether character nerfing would work as a penalty system.

Pah! These namby-pamby games of today have brought players up to be soft. In MUD1, removing characters' XP was regarded as generosity itself. If someone shouted out a homophobic insult, they were instantly FODded. If they wanted their character back, they had to plead to whichever wiz (ie. admin) was responsible for their obliteration. And no, we didn't believe that so many cats could jump on the keyboard and type that kind of thing.

You can tell I'm a Yorkshireman, right?

Richard

21.

I wholeheartedly disagree that nerfing is an acceptable form of punishment. Levels are earned by players and there is some mysterious right that they should keep those levels unless they lose them through gameplay or that those levels were gained via cheating. If a player breaks a TOS, (like saying "fag" in a game that punishes that rhetoric) he should be squellched, temp banned, or jailed. The punishment needs to fit the crime. All nerfing does is make a game's dedicated players question the judgements of the staff.

22.

The Mac-only MMO Clan Lord has a civil suit system, where players can sue other players before a jury of their peers. Verdicts are Innocent, Guilty, or Frivolous, the last where the accuser is found guilty of bringing a frivolous case. Punishments include fines, jail-time, and banishment from town (for limited periods of time). Of course, Clan Lord is quite small, but the system seems to work quite well. An old list of court cases and transcripts can be found here, but I don't think there's a recent list.

23.

Silly gamers, remember that most MMOs are actually an entertainment business (because basic economics tells us that we have to pay for these servers and the development costs of the code/assets somehow). If a customer (not a 'player' or a 'character') is ruining the entertainment experience of another customer, you make a business decision to not have that customer anymore. Period. Gordan's Law is pretty simple; "A Griefer is any customer who costs you more money than you make from them"

Also, there is a black and white, binary difference between in-game activities and the customer-care dialogues that from time-to-time must be had. I have never yet let a CSR get involved in game fiction, or an in-game GM/feature-character get involved in a customer revenue decision. When you have to take CSR action, it must be assumed the game fiction is already broken. All fictional talk of nerfing, levels, magic, etc. are set aside and you have a heart-to-heart conversation between CSR and Customer. This minimizes whiney rules-lawyering and quibbling about who-stole-whoms-kill. Besides, chat about game fiction just makes you all sound silly when you are reading the logs/transcripts aloud in court before a confused judge. If a customer is disruptive, they get some number of warnings (no 'punishment') and when they cross the final TOC line, they are gone. Forever. The billing web site will never again accept their name, IP, MAC or CC number again. All access is removed, and a very terse but polite certified letter is sent from the legal people. If you are smart, none of your future products will ever let them in again either. This is not about 'fairness'; it's about finding unruly, disruptive people and choosing to not do business with them again.

Why this level of firmness? Well... One of the core rules of good MMO design is "Never ever waste the customers time or throw away their equity". All punishments that involve time (temp bans, morphing, jails, etc.) or that involve the customer losing their investment (de-levelling, xp loss, vitae, etc.) are just giving the customer an exit-opportunity.

Your audience wants to play an online game, and if you don't let them, someone else will. If you are going to a customer into the arms of another title, don't do it needlessly or halfway. :-)

24.

Michael Steele, well...

Take the "Greatest theft in Eve" - the action by Istvaan and his Guilding Hand Social Club against Ubuita Seraph.

People violated confidences, worked for months to undermine the corperation, stole assets which had built up for over a year and delivered a humiliating blow to the Corp's CEO.

And in Eve, entirely legitmate. And it has brought players to the game. But do you really want to argue that it's NOT Grief?


Now, I don't run a MMO. But I have a fair amount of experience of both moderation and admin on probably the closest thing, a big forum which included premium sections and services.

One thing we found very important was not to chase up every little silly violation as some games do (most notably Eve), but to record them in a log, with points which slowly drained away.

If you breach the boundary at any time, you jumped onto a scale of punishments. And once the punishment was over, your points started draining away again. If you did something else wrong, and your points went over again, then you went up a notch on the punishment scale too (and the punishment scale never "drained" except by admin action when where was wrongful punishment).

We found that this system worked very well for making people stop and consider what they were doing, while not allowing a bad hair day once a year to add up to a permaban AND to weed out the real troublemakers very quickly.

Even if some of the punishments we used are NOT avaliable to MMO's. ("Before you can post again, get a sheet of paper. Write out "I must not flame" 100 times by hand. If you photoshop it, you'll be permabanned. Then scan it and email it to us").

The problem with player justice in most MMO's is you can skip servers and start over, getting powerleveled.

25.

While I do believe there ought to be punishments for some types of player actions in games, letting GM's delevel characters is a very bad way to do it. Some GMs would make honest mistakes and missapply the punishments. Other GMs would misuse the power and punish people they didnt like (because of interactions in-game between that players characters and the GMs own characters, for example). GM justice can not be trusted to be just. Player justice is a better approach IF the Devs give player the tools to admin justice.

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