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Jerks: How to deal with them in MMORPGs

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Good forum users, Many game developers are used to developing single or few-player games. They focus on such (admittedly important) topics as engine code, graphics, play balance, level design, interface, story, yadda yadda yadda. One problem which a cursory examination reveals little discussion of is player-player interaction in MMORPGs, and how the game molds the nature of these interactions. People in general are nice. Some people, however, are jerks. Whereas in single player games, this is not a major concern, in MMORPGs the quality of the people you share the game with becomes a crucial factor in the enjoyment of the game. I humbly submit this paper, compiled by my friend based on discussions spanning at least half a year, and reedited by me, on what can be done about jerks in games. In MMORPGs, there exist characters controlled by players that do irrational, and often obnoxious things to other characters for the explicit purpose of bothering others for their own amusement. These players, abbreviated in this paper as DDI, are a serious problem for any game that actually wants to charge others for the right to participate in it. Other MMORPGs have attempted to deal with the problem, but its often not dealt with enough to actually prevent people from being DDIs. Thus, this paper attempts to work out how to discourage DDIs from their behavior, through a system of ratings, bounties, and a change in the level building system. Although simple logistics have prevented these plans from being implemented, they hopefully can begin a basis for a better MMORPG. [begin] Removing Deliberately Disruptive Players from Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games In any MMORPG, there are players who decide to derive their pleasure from making the game less pleasurable for others, generally by having their characters enact violence upon others. These DDIs (Deliberately Disruptive Individuals) make the game less pleasurable for a mass number of people for their own amusement. Given that there are players who use their characters specifically to irritate and frustrate others, how can you limit and discourage this behavior enough to make it stop? We think reducing the influence of level building, creating a bounty system, and also creating a rating sytem could sufficiently discourage this behavior. First, some terms should be defined. The player refers to the human being sitting at the computer, playing the game. Character refers to the being in the game as whom the player plays. Equipment refers to items carried and used by a character. A DDI is a deliberately disruptive individual, a player who is playing their character to make life harder or less enjoyable for others, for their own amusement, even if the action does not make sense for the character. For instance, if Bob’s character is attempting to scrounge for things to sell, and someone else playing has their character standing in front of some valuable items, preventing Bob’s character from getting them, for no other reason than because they are amused by making the game harder to play for Bob, then they are a DDI. Another example of a DDI would be a player who has his character run up to Bob’s character in the middle of town, kill his character and then run away. Real world analogues to DDIs would be homicidal maniacs, bullies, streakers (people who run about in public naked), loudmouths, and the deliberately offensive. One might question why it is necessary to remove DDIs from a MMORPG. After all, they are having fun, in their own way. The problem with this is that it makes it difficult for other players, who are also paying for the game, to have fun. The DDIs are not having fun from their own actions, they enjoy the way their actions adversely affect others. In the end, they take turn MMORPG from being an escape into a more enjoyable world to a chance to be tormented by a faceless person over the Internet. We decided that any game that could charge money while allowing this sort of behavior to go on relatively unpunished was ridiculous. We first looked at other MMORPGs to determine what they’re systems had done to deal with this problem. In Ultima Online, if a player attacks another player in town, computer controlled town guards come out, hunt the player down, and kill them. Unfortunately, these guards do nothing for people killed out of town, thus making leaving any town for another an exercise in risking death. Everquest deals with violence by separating the players. Players who want to have their characters kill other characters have to play on special servers where killing other players is possible, and players who do not want to attack other players play on a separate server. Unfortunately, this restricts the amount of involvement the storyline can have with the player’s characters. If one town in the game should decide to attack another, the player inhabitants cannot join in and battle for their own town by joining the armies and attacking other players, because player killing is impossible. Ragnorak Online (Korean MMORPG with english version in beta) has the same problem, except there is no option for violence against other characters possible at all. All three fail to pay much attention to non-violent abuse, beyond simple word filters that force people to creatively spell “f*ck”. We then looked to real life, to determine how people are discouraged from being deliberately disruptive individuals. In real life, there are very strong reasons for not being a DDI. While in a MMORPG, one can always eventually make a new character and play again if your character is killed for crimes against humanity, in real life, homicidal maniacs, once caught, do not get to start over again. Although pessimistic, this is the view that MMORPGs have demonstrated to be true: many people are not deliberately disruptive to those around them only because they do not think they could get away with it. The actions that the game may take against a DDI’s character do not actually affect the player in any way except in his capacity to play the game, and thus there are many fewer detriments to the player to act non-disruptively in a game than there is for the player to act non-disruptively in real-life. Because of this, it is difficult to find a way to discourage players from acting in ways that are not blatantly rude to the other players around them. Originally, we concentrated on all DDIs as a single problem. So we defined the problem as this: How do you make a MMORPG that discourages and reduces DDIs while still making it fun to play? We wanted to make the solution generic enough that it would not be relative to the world in which the game takes place, so that it could be applied in as many situations as possible. First, it was suggested that we simply drop the ability to attack other characters. However, this has several problems. First, it does not deal with non-violent DDIs. Someone can still parade about, performing offensive actions or making offensive statements, without the need to attack another. Furthermore, these people, under this plan, could only be dealt with by being ignored by other players, since players would no longer have the ability to chase these players off. Second, there are times when violence between characters makes sense, in character. For an example, envision the world of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. If a group of players play characters that are Orcs and decide to hang out in the middle of an Elven forest, the Elves are going to respond with violence. In a more generic example, if two players were playing characters from the opposite sides of warring nations, then they’d probably attack each other if they meet on the battlefield. So, instead of banning all character versus character violence, we looked at the Everquest solution. In Everquest, there are two types of servers, ones where players can attack other players, and others where players cannot. However, in a world where a war is going on, this solution does not really make much sense. Furthermore, all this does is move the DDIs to a different server instead of discouraging them. Finally, this still doesn’t deal with non-violent DDIs. Dropping the idea of moving or removing violence, as it seemed to only generate more problems, we switched to the idea of solving the problem from the viewpoint of the victims, and looked at how DDIs are dealt with in real life. If a person runs by streaking in real life, the police cart them off to prison, and they get locked away from society for a while. Someone tells the police that an activity disruptive to society is occurring, and the police take action. So we came up with a ranking and banning system. We first considered giving any player who has had an interaction with another player to rate this interaction favorably or unfavorably. An interaction was defined as appearing on the other player’s screen, or talking so that another player can hear the player. If enough players rank another player as being a DDI, then he would be banned from playing for a period of time, such as a week. The first problem we found with this was that several DDIs could get together and have legitimate players punished. It even opened up a new avenue for being a DDI, simply going about, banning people. So we then discussed whether everyone should have rating powers. The next solution was to set it up so that only players who hadn’t been given bad ratings before could rate others. The problem again was that this allowed for DDIs where the player would play normally, but rate everyone he came across poorly. A group of said players could remove a good player from play. Furthermore, good players that had been rated badly by DDIs wouldn’t be able to rate DDIs badly. So, we finally decided that the best way to deal with this would be to set up a system where when players connect to a server, some of them are randomly given points to use to increase or decrease the ratings of other players. These points would be limited in quantity, only one good or bad point could be given to any player in any one session, and points would expire on disconnect. In this way, it would be very difficult (although not impossible) for DDIs to organize a group to go and ban other players. Also, because the ability to rate comes randomly, DDIs that try to just go around and rate everyone badly will get rated badly themselves by others, such as their own victims. While not a perfect solution, because it would be possible for some disruptive acts to go unpunished, it was good enough that we left it in place. We then turned and took a specific look at violent acts of disruption, because we felt being violently disruptive should never go unpunished. So first we suggested setting up a bounty system, where in every town there would be a bounty hunter station. Every time a player attacks another player, the server would automatically place a bounty on them. Then, other players would be encouraged by in game money to go out and kill players with bounties on their heads. However, this would punish players who were actually role playing soldiers and the like, so we then changed it from automatically to being that when player A attacks player B, B would then be given the power to go and register a bounty against that player at the bounty hunting station. Whether or not he registers a bounty would be his choice. We also at this point realized that those who were killed as bounties were killed, they’d be able to take out a bounty, so we added in the extra statement that they had to have not been killed for a bounty themselves. Upon further discussion, we also agreed that killing in self defense should not warrant a bounty, and included that a character only gained the ability to take out bounties on characters that had done damage to them before they did damage back before killing them. This would prevent DDIs from attacking much more powerful people with the goal of being killed so they could take out a bounty on that person. At this point, the solution of bounty hunting became so appealing that we decided that for non-violent DDIs, they’d be punished by eventually being rated into banishment, while violent DDIs would be punished by bounties alone. We decided that being a violent DDI should come with the punishment of banning as well, so we decided that upon a bounty being collected upon someone, that person would be banned for a week. We then wondered if the punishment, banning for a week, would work. One feature of MMORPGs is that they almost always charge a fee to play, such as cable service or phone service works. This fee is necessary to pay for the company’s use of electricity, maintenance of servers, maintenance of the game, their staff, and things like this. Thus, if a player were banned for a week, that player would have to pay for a week where they were not able to play. This intrinsic monetary punishment, we felt, would have two results. One, people who were only playing to irritate others would either stop being DDIs or they’d quit paying for the game. If they quit paying for the game, the server would no longer allow them to connect, so there would be fewer DDIs either way. Two, players that wanted to play characters that went out and earned large bounties on themselves would end up having to play very carefully, because they would have to be ready to fight off bounty hunters, and they’d be unable to trust anyone else since all players would know that they were worth cash. By forcing them to be careful, they would have to play characters that pick their targets carefully for being killed comes with a hefty financial punishment (a week of paying for a game that you cannot play), and thus they would be unable to just run around killing people. Recall that in most RPGs, players are rewarded by experience and advancement. Every time the player does something that requires ability, they are awarded experience. When a player gains enough experience, he is given an opportunity to improve his character in some way. Generally, when a character gains a level, he is granted the ability to withstand more damage and deal more damage, and also gets a chance to improve his ability at various skills, independent of how the character earned the experience. Not all RPGs work entirely in this fashion: for instance in Everquest, one can only improve the things that his character has done. For instance, if a player wanted his character to become good at cooking, and his character was good at hitting things with weapons, the player cannot simply have his character kill monsters until he has earned enough experience to gain a level and can increase his cooking skill. Instead, he has to have his character actually cook and cook until he is good at cooking. Even then, every time a character gains a level in Everquest and almost every RPG, they are given the ability to withstand more damage from enemy attacks and deal out more damage to others. Either way, a character who becomes rather good at killing and decides to become a DDI would be a rather large problem even in the bounty hunting system. After all, if bounty hunters attack a bounty that defeats them, the bounty becomes better at killing. Eventually, there would be some players that could be DDIs and kill other characters at will without fear of repercussions, because there would be very few bounty hunters that could kill their characters and collect the bounty. So, with a new problem in hand, we began by talking about whether or not a character should get anything for killing another character. A character that kills another character could get that character’s money, equipment, and experience for killing that character. We decided right away that it would obviously promote DDIs if they could get all three, so we dropped equipment. We felt it would be unfair to give DDIs the items of another character simply because they killed that character. On the other hand, players whose characters are bandits have to be able to steal gold, or else they are not able to do much banditry, so we decided that a character could loot a portion of the dead character’s gold from his body. Then, we looked at experience. At first, we argued about whether or not a character should earn experience for homicide, but then someone suggested that perhaps the problem was instead the leveling system. Instead of having the character level up and become tougher and more powerful, it was suggested that again we should look towards real life for ideas. In real life, no matter how much of an expert one is at doing something, one generally does not take a sizably larger amount of damage to kill. A master chef, despite his obvious cooking prowess, is no more able to survive multiple fatal gun wounds any more than an apprentice. So, instead of raising a characters ability to take more damage before dying, we decided it made more sense if, at leveling up, characters only became better at what they had been doing. In this way, even if someone was very good at killing people, they could only take as much damage as any other person, even the ones that were not very good at killing people. In this way, we would prevent DDIs from becoming overpowered assassins. While a DDI’s character could become very good at killing others, enough attacking less skilled characters could bring one down. By balancing in this way, it would discourage DDIs from trying to fight large groups of bounty hunters. [end] ... Whew! Congratulations on reading this whole post. I don''t mean this to be the last word on the topic, rather the first step... Thanks to the following people, who contributed effort or ideas to this post: Syd, who wrote the original paper Dan Greg Andy Tom Jake C&C strongly encouraged.

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quote:
How do you make a MMORPG that discourages and reduces DDIs while still making it fun to play? We wanted to make the solution generic enough that it would not be relative to the world in which the game takes place, so that it could be applied in as many situations as possible.


That''s really where I disagree. Instead of creating a generic solution (which would pretty much lead to a generic type of game) each individual game should find its own solution to the problem (grief players).

Other than that, the system does seem to touch on a lot of aspects. Still, I think violence is not the worst ''grief'' factor. Violence can be dealt with (because the fact that someone can use violence against me, means I can use violence myself against my attacker). I think a much bigger source of frustration is the non-violence factor. Foul language, bugs in coding that are abused by grief players, harassment etc.

My personal opinion on jerks and how to get rid of them?

A system should not be designed to deal with jerks. If you decide to not let players loot bodies, not gain experience etc, for the simple fact that you don''t want jerks to gain anything from killing, you''ve let the jerks dominate the entire game design.

I think the system you SHOULD work with is something along the lines of your bounty system:

the players themselves should be the ones that take care of jerks.

And believe it or not, but I think that a game can flourish with a limited amount of jerks. After all, they can represent the criminal element in your virtual world. They can rob innocent bystanders for a while, but eventually the law will somehow catch up with them (in the form of players hunting him down).

The bounty combined with a possible conviction (and jail time) might be enough to keep the number of grief players under control.

The difficulty lays in defining what actions warrant a bounty and how the system should be set up.

Another problem with this system is that some players might feel neglected. A casual player will be drastically affected when he loses all the items he''s gained in the past weeks. Even though he knows the culprit will probably be hunted down and brought to justice, he might still be upset with the game design.

In my opinion, you as a designer should just make it clear from the get go what the rules of engagement are. Yes, you can gain items. And yes, you can lose them to other players. Yes, those players will most likely suffer for their ''crimes'', but nothing is certain.

Heck, experienced ''criminals'' might thrive for months before being caught. Or they might never be caught at all. Entire cities of lawlessness might come into existence. Criminals might band together. They might form Thieving Guilds...

Which will only add flavor to your game.

But again, the solutions to the ''grief player syndrome'' should be dealt with on an individual basis.

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I agree that jerks need dealing with, I just disagree that the rating system is sufficient. These guys often work together, or have friends, and would be able to rate each other well enough. And the bounty system is too weak, for the reason you touch upon: killers tend to be good at what they do. And what about whe accidents happen: ie. you throw a fireball at a Guilty person, and an Innocent person happens to get in the way? Suddenly, you''re bountied, and you have trouble. (Even if you only allocate bounties for kills rather than attacks, you still have problems: just a different kind of problem.) The only thing I really think is a step forward (and is something I adopted for my own game a while back) is ending the idea that stronger characters should be able to take 50x the damage of the weaker characters. This helps to balance things out a little and enables a group of like-minded law-abiding people to take out individual troublecausers. But it also means that a group of like-minded troublecausers can take out the law-abiding people too, so it creates almost as many issues as it solves.

You should look into MUD documentation, as they have covered this area extensively before MMORPGs came into existence.

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in the MMORPG I was working on for a while, but eventually died off, what we did to deal with people that wanted to disrupt the game was this, if a player killed another player, the dead player awakes in the hospital with only his equipped items, and loses all his money and items unless his kept them in the bank, but as for the killer, the game releases Police NPCS that go all out on trying to find the killer, they would go to his house and wait there while others would patrol the area.
when the player that killed comes along, the police would brutally beat him to death, and when he dies, he wakes up in the hospital with no items, money or anything, even if it was banked.

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As I am still working on the code I wont give all the details but one of the things I have incorperated was not allowing a single player to repeat kill the same player until a certain amount of time has passed(time is at the power of the administrator to set) I didnt feel getting rid of these players all togther would be productive as in life there are jerks. I just enable the players to exact thier own revenge.



SDB - If you are the only one that can fix it, why are you complaining to me?

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I really like your level-up system.
Its wouln not be as fun is a SP situation, but it sounds very promising for a MP situation.

The bounty-hunter system sounds nice.

What would be cooler would be to have a bounty hunter guild, of both NPCs and PCs, who would go and attempt to collect bounties on characters. Of course, you would probably want to make it so if hat there are very few PC bounties, the server genereates some NPC criminals...

I can see myself going to he local B.H. Guild Office, checking out the list of bounties, and going and hunting them down.
~V''lion

I came, I saw, I got programmers block.
~V''''lion

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First of all, quit posting essays and just get to the point. Your first post probably scared 90% of the readers away! After about the third paragraph, i started skimming and it really lessens the questions or final thesis of the thing!

Secondly, i think player killing is not even an issue, since games that allow it seem to work fine. Paper says UO has a problem because outside town, its basically a PK''ers dream. Well, maybe, but maybe it gives the good players another role, such as the county sherif or something...maybe the wanted it this way?

Third, the bounty system isnt that great. Unless you REALLY work out some rules it can be abused more so then not having it. Also, like kyto, the ratings systems is very bad. I would never let my players gain that kind of power. Imagine CLANS, oh wait, no need to imagine since there are plenty of PK Clans out there, who would this system to keep them going...bad, very bad.

Last, this paper mixes 2 VERY DIFFERENT PLAYERS TOGETHER INTO 1 GROUP: the player killers and the rude, racists, 15 yr old jerks.
Player killers play the game the play because its ROLEPLAYING, which is something you normally cant do in life, and its fun too. Orcs vs Elves, player vs player. The paper is all wacked on this point!! I REALLY REALLY HATE writes/designers who cant understand this.

Solution to Rude, Racists 15yr old punks: tell the moderators and the company letting them play, give them a 1 warning, then cancel the membership next time.

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black_mage: wow, no wonder that MMRPG you worked on died out. That systems is pretty lame. First of all, the game ALLOWS Pkers to PK, but then afterwards it strips them of not only the loot that he won *FAIRLY*, but also the loot that was lost by the original player who was killed in the first place, sounds like a hipocracy. They should have taken PKing out if they didnt like it or, just allow certain levels to fight against each other...some horrible designs your old game designers chose to implement in my opinion. Of course, since the game is dead, whatever it was, it all water under the bridge, until someone else thinks that was a good idea.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
STC,

I liked your post. the details of what you were all thinking was very revealing.

I have an idea that I think would provide an efficient *partial* solution. It would mainly address the issue of PKers, but could conceivably be used against extremely irritating players as well.

In real life, we normally don''t encounter much crime (well, depending on where you live. Assume a decent suburban area.) People know they can be tracked. They can''t morph into a new body, and can''t "leave the game." They know that each time they commit a crime, there''s a fair chance of being caught.

But there''s an element we''re missing. Consider how robberies are typically committed when the owner is not at home (again, unless you live in certain, specific areas.) Why is this? Because the robber doesn''t want to risk getting shot. Some people won''t like hearing this, but if there''s not enough law enforcement available to do the job, the safest thing those in power can do is give people the ability to protect themselves. Hence my idea:

The S&W Series: The Great MMORPG Equalizer

Basically, most things can stay the same, except that the idea of extremely durable characters is done away with (replace outrageous HP with better skills, stronger attacks, whatever.) Leave a few "safe" zones if you like. Now sell, in as many shops as appropriate, S&Ws. They would all pretty much function identically save for a few minor features that could be purchased at higher cost. They could be simply labelled the S&W 100, S&W 200, up to 1000 (for poor beginners, maybe have a dirt-cheap S&W Friday Special.) The point of an S&W? Simple, it allows you to, with ONE shot, kill any player (and ONLY players), regardless of level, armor, strength, enacted spells, etc.

Here''s how it would work: you have an S&W. You''re out minding your own business, when a player tries to kill you. He may be using typical means (sword, spells, etc.), which means death isn''t (or at least SHOULDN''T be) immediate. You can use your S&W to take him out, although for reasons explained further, it''s a choice you''ll have to make with caution.

"But what if he uses his S&W against me?" This is where the design of the device comes into play. An S&W only has a 50% (maybe only 33%) chance of connecting with a shot. This bypasses all other accuracy modifiers. Plus, it takes a few seconds to recharge. So yeah, a PKer might take out one or two people with his toy, but eventually he''ll lose out and one of his targets will take him out.

"So what!" you say? So what, indeed! Consider the case of when he shoots at you and misses (if he hits, yes you''re dead, but hey, if you want to remove ALL PKing, it''s far simpler to just not let characters attack characters.) Since you hadn''t used your S&W recently, upon targeting and shooting at you--whether it was a miss or hit--the player begins to flash and is "redlined." While redlined, a character''s actions are all at half speed, including the S&W recharge. The accuracy of the weapon drops as well, to 1/3 or 1/4. Anyone who fires at HIM while he''s redlined WON''T be redlined. And, there are more severe consequences for death (possibly loss of all current items, or maybe even make the death permanent.)

So, the guy shoots and misses. Now you (and all bystanders) have free reign to fire away at the guy until the redline wears off (it lasts a bit longer than the time it takes for the guy to get off another shot.) Under these circumstances, you''d be much more likely to win the engagement.

But what if he''s killing you WITHOUT the S&W? Then you have a choice to make. If he''s trouncing you and you feel you have no other options, you can take the risk with the S&W, knowing full well that it could escalate the conflict further (but hey, if you''re dying anyway, that shouldn''t be too much of a concern.) You''ll get one good shot, and even if you miss and become redlined, you''ll be able to make more shots, you just won''t be as good with it. Frankly, I would imagine that if killing you takes a while, and you pull out your S&W, even if you miss, if the attacker doesn''t have one he''ll likely run. Even if he does have one, you''re really no worse off since he was killing you anyway.

Should you be killed while not redlined, you should lose something... maybe all your cash, and a random item (or whatever you have equipped). That''s all the attacker will get. But if you kill he attacker, and he''s redlined, you get his cash, most or all of his items and weapons, and leave him with whatever other consequences come about from dying while redlined. (Any other consequences should be chosen so as not to make getting someone to redline themselves too profitable, but still as to be detrimental to a PKer; possibly a temporary inability to use any S&Ws.)

I think this sort of setup, while allowing in-character PKing, would also have the benefit of reducing homicidal maniacs who just plug away at others for their own entertainment. You could, if willing to take the consequences (especially if others are around) even use this technique to take out an annoying loudmouth. I really do think it would add an element of "justice" to online games.

Comments?

RJ

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