Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MMO: Why should trolls be permanently banned anyways?

In Tabula Rasa: Oh how the trolls congregate, as well as the Simon Adebisi call out, I recommended that the developers of each game permanently ban the account holders. In the Tabula Rasa screenshot it was shown that I was talking to one of my friends about having to deal with some trolls. This friend has asked me before why do I support the permanent, and public, banning of trolls in Massive Multiplayer Online games. Specifically I have advocated that MMO games follow the pattern of IRC. An admin kicks the offending player with text of *Admin has kicked (name) for (time): Reason (reason)*, and bans a player with the text of *Admin has banned (name): Reason (Reason)*.

The first reason I support this method is that everybody on the server notices. Everybody knows exactly who the troll is, and anybody associated with the troll is given time to rethink their actions and words.

The second reason is that such methods are proven to work. Many IRC channels have been cleaned up by an Admin stepping in and drawing a line on what's appropriate or not. More often than not, troublemakers eventually learn to go elsewhere.

The third reason is precedent. I'm going to pick on World of Warcraft here for a moment. World of Warcraft is well known for the various gold farmers, people who sell in game gold for real world money, or sell leveling services in exchange for real world money. Despite these actions being against World of Warcraft terms of service, Blizzard's failure to quickly, and in a public manner, eliminate the farmers means the infestation has grown. World of Warcraft is a massive target for gold-farmers because they know the chances of Blizzard actually doing anything to the offending accounts is extremely unlikely. Blizzard could have stopped the farmers early on by being aggressive about kicking and banning accounts.

NCSoft has typically been better about getting a handle on in-game spammers and farmers, with City of Heroes developers taking relatively quick action to put in place systems to deal with spammers. While spammers aren't exactly gone from CoH, they still pop up, the frequency of spammers has greatly deceased as a precedent has been set on what is, and is not, accepted behavior in CoH.

Tabula Rasa is currently in a delicate stage of growth. With a bare 3 months behind itself, the initial shake-out has not yet completed. It won't be until 4 months or so after the launch that the trolling players who initially signed up will be gone off to whatever new title is on the way.

As such, Tabula Rasa is still setting precedents about what is, and what is not, acceptable behavior. So far the developers and GM's have been very good about cracking down on spammers. Problem is spammers are not the end of the problem. Destination Games, the developers of Tabula Rasa, will need to start setting precendents over what is acceptable chat behavior and what is acceptable game behavior. The names I listed before;
Soros, Breacher, Angels, Firehappy, Firewater, and Principality; actively worked in a manner contrary to the game itself.

There is a difference between simply saying something in a chat channel, and getting called on it, and saying something in a chat channel, getting mad about getting called on it, then acting out in-game harassment of the player who has the guts to call a troll for what a troll is.

The developers need to take actions now to get across the point that trollish in-game actions are not tolerated. If that means losing 6 accounts due to permanent ban with no chance of the credit card numbers being accepted for any other NCSoft games, that's a far less price to pay than having the reputation of being a haven for trolls. As I see it, and I think previous games such as Everquest, DoAC, Planetside, WoW, and Anarchy Online have proved, the community standard that is set early carries through the rest of the life of the game.

City of Heroes also stands in evidence of this behavior with it's multiple Generic-Heroings. City of Heroes has a reputation for not allowing copyrighted names and avaters. For example, if you show up in Atlas park as the X-men's Wolverine, complete with the scrapper claw set with a blue and yellow outfit, don't be surprised if you get a message stating you have been forcibly disconnected from the server, or you suddenly find your self with GenericHero(number) above your head and a bright orange jumpsuit costume. Even if you do get away with running a character like SDVegeta, or River Tamm, older veteran players will warn you that if the devs or GM's see you, you might be out a chunk of money on an account suspension.

By setting a precedent now and actively removing the trollish elements, Tabula Rasa can set a reputation that such behavior is not tolerated throughout the rest of the life of the game. Even if Destination Games didn't ban any more accounts in the future, the fact that they have banned accounts in the past will ensure that the chance is still there.

Ergo, troublesome elements will find themselves thinking twice before causing problems. That in turn will improve the community aspect of Tabula Rasa, which will attract more players who are in the game to play the game.

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