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Jan 14, 2006



Would virtual time-outs be more effective were they applied within a framework that also rewarded good behavior? Or is membership and participation in that world reward enough?

That second question suggests the age-old "Dev is God" foolishness. While it may be true, what the modern era has done with the old religions and a not insignificant portion with the current ones suggests that living up to "Dev is God" connotes to being outstripped and tossed onto the wayside while the gravy train moves on. Especially since the users know quite well that their devs are only gods inside the world.

Most users seem to perceive themselves to be beneficiaries; membership and participation is payment in return for their willingness to be such. As such, unless you change that perception, neither of those will suffice as 'reward'.

As with parenting, the trouble is managing perceptions. Rewards have been more or less overused in traditional MMOGs, so they would have to be novel and well-applied (without favoritism, either, somehow).

If you draw an analogy between parenting and GMing (or any kind of policing), it's a bit of an ironic twist. Child misbehaves intentionally in want of attention, gets smacked, and learns to like it and eventually connotes this as a good thing. While the analogy might be a little extreme, it's not entirely invalid...


OMG! A PRISONER REFERENCE! Awesome... that had me hooked, I read this article from the title, to the end, and then all the middle bits.

Seriously though, some things just plopped onto my lap like seven-toed cats. First, Portmeiron: I'd like to see that in Second Life. I know Michael Linden has a Prisoner badge, so I'd like to see more penny-farthings too. But let's get back to Portmeiron: when I first joiend SL, there was a place in the Fuchsia region aptly named the Classic Games Park. And there was a giant chessboard of sorts. This, naturally, made me think of... THE PRISONER! *theme song plays*

And when I thought about The Corn Field, I began to think of Children of the Corn, which is a Stephen King work, indubitably. What is another--and far more critically-acclaimed work of this "master of the macabre--is The Shawshank Redemption. For awhile, I toyed around with the idea of "The Simshank Redemption", but then I really wouldn't know who'd have the balls to play Morgan Freeman inworld.

All that being said...

If I'm going to have gods in my online world, I want them to be relatable in some way. Like a sense of humor. I've long related to the trickster archetype, and the playfulness that comes with it. One might even say "the ghost in the machine".

Analyzing that further, it becomes quickly apparent that despite some early, pre-microcomputer fears, computers have not rendered ourselves cold and sterile. We continue to exhibit creative chaos through the keyboard and mouse (and occasionally other input devices... ahhh drawing tablets are nice). We make big messes, and sometimes, that mischief is trespass and causes actual emotional anguish.

Then, it's an irony that some of the times in my life--and Second Life--that I felt most free when I constrained myself.


An interesting way to handle bad behavior! Something about it remins me of "Clockwork Orange" (but I don't knoe why).

I've been planning to utilize a jail system for Avatar's (player-characters) awaiting trial in Frontier 1859. So in a hand of characetrs your playing, that means one of them is caught. I worked up a solution that players will need to first "apprehend" a wanted player, and once "apprehended" and delivered to jail, they will have only limited movement ability. However, I always believe in giving one counter-measure for every situation in a game, and therefore anticipate that uber-player societies who are well organized will be able to co-op "jail-break" a friend. It is one final play that can happen before public execution occurs. (which is Permadeath). It may also be possible to bribe law enforcers, but that depends upon the nature of the player. A player with a clear conscience accepting a bribe is no longer clear.


Unless you build a prison into your game as part of the game experience itself (a la Sociolotron), the idea of putting misbehaving players into an in-game jail is self-defeating. For starters, you have to allocate resources such as programmers, artists, designers, etc to implement the system. These are resources that would have been better allocated to the vast majority of players who do not abuse the game or other players. The other problem is that it encourages misbehaving players to find ways to get themselves into the prison "zone." This is a badge of honor, and they will soak up all the attention thrust upon them as they publish screenshots on the boards. And because MMOs are all about time-sinks anyway, sitting in a prison is simply the timesink necessary for the reward of saying you got to experience the cornfield or whatever.

For the most part, there should be 3 levels of punishment:

1) Minor infraction: You get a /tell from a GM saying to stop. Continued minor infractions become...

2) Major infraction: Your account is suspended. How long depends on how serious the infraction was. Anywhere from a couple hours to a week. Keep it up and we go to...

3) Buh-Bye infraction: You are too much of a mouth-breather to play my game anymore.

Once you start making punishment part of the game, you will make violations part of the game.



We had a place in MUD1 called Limbo, where players were put to cool down. They could talk to other people in Limbo (typically the wiz who put them there), but they couldn't do anything else. It had no exits, magic didn't work, shouts didn't work. Pretty well all they could do was stew until a wiz released them. They couldn't even quit, although they could disconnect the phone to get out that way. I'm not sure whether in MUD1 that resulted in the permanent death of the character, though, I'd have to check.



Limbo was in MUD2 as well; I was put in there a couple of times by, ah, overbearing Wizzes.


Adam Hough>I was put in there a couple of times by, ah, overbearing Wizzes.

Well, it's as good a way for us to identify overbearing wizzes as any other!



I wonder if what MUD1's and SL's approaches to reprimanding players have in common is taking away various senses (touch, hearing, etc.).

This suggests that there's room for a range of responses between moxcamel's option one and option two:

1. [speech] Send players partway to Coventry: turn off all outgoing chat.

2. [hearing] Send them the rest of the way: turn off all chat, outgoing and incoming.

3. [touch] Disallow interaction with the world: nothing in the world or inventory can be touched. (Is this like cutting off the hands of a thief?)

4. [sight] Put them in "the box": all visual information replaced by gray walls.

(Do any MMOGs have effective analogs to taste or smell? And why doesn't audio play enough of a role in these worlds to be something worth taking away as a punishment?)

I'd think that losing the ability to talk to friends would be painful enough for a lot of players that they'd decide to play nice. A gradation in penalties before having their accounts suspended might supply enough additional firepower to deal with nearly all other players.

This probably depends on having a small player base, though. In a large, high-population world, where the CS staff are outsourced and measured by their resolutions-per-hour ratio, expecting them to thoughtfully apply a fine range of penalties is probably unreasonable.



I agree with Mox on the 3 levels of "punishment". I like the idea of the prison/cornfield/limbo, however I think it is lost on the majority of people who seem to engage in the type of behavior that would result in such punishment. How is a sentence served? Do you have to be logged into your character while a clock ticks away? No problem, just log in and go afk. Can't be AFK? No problem, log in, put a weight on the run-forward key and go watch TV. Again, I think it's creative, but I prefer the no-nonsense approach of just 86'ing the recidivists.


The whole idea of punishment is a good one. But like somebody mentioned, it can't be a cut and dry black and white process. It would be important to establish a precedent of fines/time periods in response to specific crimes. Thus people would be truly culpable. If you knew that killing newbies would result in X punishment then by doing it you are agreeing to be liable to serve that punishment, with no option of complaint or refusal.

I was thinking with a 'jail' or restriction of freedom punishment you could provide the PC with an amount of real world time which they must spend playing the game whilst being punished. ie. two hours jail time. During this time they would be asked inane questions, basic shape confirmation and word matching to make sure they are genuinely sitting there 'experiencing' the punishment.


I'd predict that the confirmation of the Corn Fields in SL will have a reverse effect from what the zone was intended to do. In the short term misbehavior will actually increase. To some degree, having content that a user can't get to normally will only inspire them to do what it takes to get to see that content and get on the list of people who have seen that content. All explorer types look for places they can stand on top of where normal players A) can't get to or B) wouldn't spend the effort getting to. The content itself is of no concern, only that the user was there and that the person their telling the story to was not. I'd expect an upswing in the very behavior that they are trying to rid the game of through the Corn Field's use. Once the novelty of the Corn Field wears off in the eyes of the public, the surge will die down and return to previous levels of misbehavior. For now there's content in the game that requires a specific behavior to be able to see that the normal population cannot get to.


Derek Licciardi>I'd predict that the confirmation of the Corn Fields in SL will have a reverse effect from what the zone was intended to do.

That is exactly what has happened int he late 80s when the Original Habitat [Club Caribe] implemented this feature as The Void. It was a mistake. increased malcontent behavior. And it sucked down resources we could have put into really modifying user behaviour.



I hate MMORPG wizard and game dev god and grand-master culture. It really sucks. It has no place in RL in free societies, and I don't get why we have to have this in virtual worlds.

All the cornfield thing does is serve as a badge of honor for the juvenile delinquent type, and increase bad behaviour because people want to go experience it and say they've been there.

By adding the cornfield, the Lindens are moving toward a more closed society and bolstering of their police state. The cornfield was a concept of the Linden darling Aimee Weber, who has long called for in-game prisons, including punishment for those found guilty of the "crime" of selling freebies (that are on transfer anyway, so it is not an actual TOS offense).

Now Aimee is calling for a system of colour coding of residents' names in SL which are tags above their head. If your name is red, that means you have multiple disciplinary actions against you, i.e. permabanning from the forums, if you are yellow, that means you have less offenses, e.g. swearing in PG, if you are green, you have a clean rapsheet -- which of course is often obtained by sucking up to the right Lindens, especially the forums mods, to avoid any type of equal enforcement of punishment.

This type of authoritarian and vindictive culture is all too prevalent in SL, and I keep waiting for bunches of more normal and thoughtful people to show up there to start to curb this stuff.


In the Ultima Online shard I used to be GM some time ago, we developed a jail system with some special things:
· We had 4 types of punishments (translated to a multiplicator: 1x 2x 4x 6x) and a jail historial, which was measured in hours, and when a pj had 3 jailings of one time, went to next one (1hour 2h 5h 1day 2d 1week).
· There was the option of paying a fine, calc by multiplying remaining seconds per type of punishment (so first times were cheap to pay the fine and go out, but if you did something really bad, it would hurt a lot to your money).
· The fine was dynamic (if you had only 3 hours remaining to be free, you would pay the proportional amount).
· If the PJ went offline, jail time would stop. So he had to be online staying in jail (we also had a visual anti-macroing script which pop-up at random moments to avoid unnatended jail).
· A GM could punish manually any type and degree of jail (so if you're newbie but you bugged badly, you could be for the first time for 1 week), but automatic jailing (such as just jailing someone for bugging) used the "3 times until punishment goes to next level".
· In the jail you couldn't kill anyone, level anything, and such. They had some games (dice, chess) and a "crowd" area so they could get visits and talk with them.

Also, we had a separate "torture room", where we interrogated buggers caught just bugging. We usually did as in films (good GM/Cop and bad GM/Cop), but usually left them free or jailed not so much as usual if they helped.

I see necesary to have some sort of punishment for pjs, because before that it was a chaos, with everybody insulting, being too rude and of course bugging freely. After it they calm down.

In a perfect world there would be no need for things like this, but people in cyberspace tend to be more agressive when they feel "safe and far" from their victims.

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