Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tabula Rasa : oh how the trolls congregate.

For those who have read this blog, you'll remember that I love calling out trolls and revealing who they are. For those who read Gamenikki, you'll also remember that I gave Tabula Rasa a glowing preview, and a rather glowing review despite an average scoring. At one point during the beta I stated I liked the game so much that I would buy it even with the current massive number of bugs. At the same time though, I expressed reservations about what passed for a community in the game. At one point I listed the number of people I had in an ignore list for spamming, trolling, and so on.

The retail launch of the game wasn't much better, with many of the trolls who only were there for a free-beta leaving, only to be replaced with new trolls determined to take Tabula Rasa in their own directions.

I hold that PvP in Tabula Rasa is a bad idea. I even went into a multiple part blog post on Gamenikki detailing inherent imbalance and why PvP in such games tended to be a bad idea. I've also gone into the state of PvP in the general chat. This has placed me at odds with a many a troll who want to see Tabula Rasa turned PvP only, and who swear up and down that Tabula Rasa's end game is, and always will be, PvP content.

Now I'm going to take a tangent here. Who all has heard of George Soros? Well, if you want a less than balanced opinion of the guy, check out Wikipedia's entry. Short version is that George Soros is a multi-millionaire responsible for funding a lot of the campaign finances for liberals, not just democrats in particular. He's been one of the primary backers of a multi-year smear campaign against the Bush family, and it is widely considered that there is enough evidence against Mr. Soros to convict him of treason under the legal definitions in the US.

Okay, so that sets the picture for what could possibly pass as a bad person.

Now, what would you say if I told you that somebody in Tabula Rasa took the name Soros. Couldn't be the same person, right? Well, on that basis, you'd probably be right. At 77 I'm pretty sure that the real George Soros isn't interested in video games, much less actively trolling in a video game.

Well, there is somebody in Tabula Rasa that did take the last name Soros, and it seems they have a cabal. After the most recent interaction with this group I decided it's time to ask NCSoft to step in with a couple of permabans on some of the accounts. Ready?

Okay, badly edited image to remove other names, and people in my ignore list who haven't earned the distinction of being called out.

The question is now, what did this group do that was so bad, that I would recommend NCSoft ban their player accounts? Remember Simon Adebisi? Fellow earned himself a mention for griefing during the I7 and I8 CoH Hamidon raids, and for his particular vulgar comment vocalized just before leading a Monster class opponent into a group of hamidon holders. Well, that's the standard set then. Something just that bad.

Well, hows this strike you: when called out for being trolls in Tabula Rasa's general chat, the group pictured above find whoever dared call them out, surround the player, follow the player around, and then proceed to kill anything that the player comes across.

The point of the exercise is simple. The trolls prevent whoever called them out from gaining any exp, thus making the game impossible to play. The trolls also attempt to accomplish field objectives before the player can accomplish the field objectives.

The term used to describe such behavior is known as kill-stealing.

Most MMO's implement some type of damage control or ratio of damage to prevent kill-stealing from occurring. In effect, if you get a hit in, or some type of damage, or assist in a battle in some aspect, you will get experience points for your actions, regardless of whether or not you make an active kill.

Okay, so next question is, why didn't I take a screenshot of these trolls carrying out their actions? I took a screenshot to reveal who they were. Honestly I was laughing too hard to do anything till I took several warp jumps and lost them. You'll also note that I landed in Irendas Colony. What I didn't screenshot is that after my first couple of jumps, the trolls split up, and as I walked into Foreas Base, two of the trolls were waiting at the dropship transport, and as I transferred to the Plains, one of the trolls followed, the other heading off to the second warp point possible from Forease Base Wormhole. Disturbing behavior no?

The thing is, I like Tabula Rasa. I really do. It's a great game, it's got a wonderful story. It's probably the best MMO to come along in a long while.

However, Massive Multiplayer Online games are defined by their community. Freedom server on City of Heroes is often called Freedumb by other servers, due to it's high percentage of less than intelligent players. In my own personal experience I've had to explain to high level -storm defenders (44+) that their O2 boost was used to prevent sleep, disorient, and end-drain effects. I've encountered Fire Armors that skipped the jumping power pool, and therefor had no native knockback protection. Some took fly, but trust me on this, you still can get knockbacked and lose aggro with fly on. Freedom is also where I've encountered the most people who take two travel powers, a power choice I've looked at extensively on this blog before. It's not like these are not players with only a couple months play time either, it's players with 5 or 6 veteran badges, who honestly should know better.

In some aspects Freedom is such a horrible server to play on that I've gone on record stating that if I had started on Freedom, I would likely not still be playing City of Heroes, and I likely would have never picked up City of Villains. In one case after instructing a brand new player with no vet badges on some good power choices, the new player expressed puzzlement that I hadn't ended the conversation with a "good luck" or "have fun" comment. When I replied back I explained that they were on Freedom, and I'd be lying if I told them I thought it was a good server to play on.

Don't get me wrong, Freedom's not all that bad. There are some people who do make Freedom worth playing on, but I only found those people by hanging around the Badge channel, something new players are not going to be aware of.

From a community standpoint though, Freedom is almost vilified by many of the other server populations, and is often referred to as the farming server. Freedom has earned a reputation as a poor community server.

Tabula Rasa stands in almost exactly the same light. It might be a good game. It might be a great game. It might be one of the best games I've ever played. However, it is a Massive Multiplayer Online game, and as such the community interactions are outright obscene. I couldn't recommend Tabula Rasa to anybody in the current community state. I've maxed out my ignore lists on my high level players, and I still can't enter the general chat on a regular basis due to all the trolls.

For me then, NCsoft and Destination Games have a difficult choice ahead of them. They'll either need to step up and actively ban people like Soros, Breacher, Angels, Firehappy, Firewater, and Principality...

or they'll have to deal with new gamers that are not just going to be turned off by the trolls, but are going to take their money elsewhere.

Speaking for myself, I'd rather see the trolls outed and removed permanently, than to watch Tabula Rasa die off.
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