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Let’s just take a second to imagine what the Replies field on John Smedley’s Twitter account must look like. That man, the CEO of SOE, is the public face of several MMOs. Do you think he has his TweetDeck notification bleeps turned on, on the nights the servers go down? How about the week aimbots took root in Planetside 2?

The news that Black Ops spokesmouth David Vonderhaar had suffered “threats of violence” after a negligible gun tweak sparked rightful uproar - but you can bet other developers suffer as much in relative silence.

SOE’s solution? Ban the most offensive and anti-social buggers from their games.

“Not only will we ban your forum account, but if it's serious enough we'll call up customer service and have you banned from all of our games,” SOE community relations director Linda Carlson told GamesIndustry. “We do not need those individuals as customers.”

Carlson was very clear - it doesn’t matter how influential a player might be, or what position they hold in what guild: “we’ll still ban them”.

“In our games, if you are an exploiter we don't care who you are, how big your guild is, how many people you threaten to take with you when you go,” she said.

“We can control anybody who's playing our games...[but] if we know who you are and you're abusing somebody on Twitter, we will ban your game account and we will not accept you as a customer ever again. It's not always possible to identify people [in that way], but we take that seriously.”

SOE uphold different standards for each of their games: they wouldn’t expect the same kind of behaviour in a competitive shooter like Planetside 2 as they would in a collaborative MMO like EverQuest. But Carlson said standards do need to exist, in clearly-stated form - and that SOE need to reinforce them with bans for bad behaviour both in and outside their games when necessary.

And while Carlson doesn’t believe that “anybody needs to put up with” the sort of abuse that seemed to have caused Phil Fish to leave games, she noted that developers need to develop a certain amount of tolerance for what she views to be “human nature”.

“They need to understand that this is normal. You may not like it, but knowing that is normal will help you deal with it,” she said. “It's not just you - it's everybody, and, yes, they are jerks, but that's normal.

“I don't necessarily like humanity, or the fact that human nature so often trends towards the negative - just because that's how we're wired - but understanding that makes this whole field of study very fascinating to me, and I do consider community management to be a field of study. It's constantly changing, because our online communities are changing.”

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TenClub's picture

Good for them. This is exactly what should be done. 

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subedii's picture

To be honest, after seeing how EA did the same thing and used it in RIDICULOUSLY bad fashion, to the point of banning forum posters for things they didn't even say...

Let's just say I'm fairly skeptical that this won't end up in a fair amount of abuse of the system. I get concerned when devs say that they'll actively lock you out of games when they "don't like your behaviour".

I don't like trolls, I hate aggro behaviour and similar. Things like death threats over patches are all kinds of outright and sheer insanity. But I also don't like the idea that they can simply lock me out of a purchased game because they feel like it.

Basically I don't expect the people doing the banning to be any less of jerks with their powers than those getting banned.

In order for me to trust such a system, I'd want to be clear, I'm talking seriously crystal-completeley-defined-lawyer-triple-checked-for-possible-alternate-interpretations clear in their definitions of what does and does not constitute a bannable offense. Because what almost always happens with these systems is the wording is loose and effectively comes down to vague terms like "behaviour that causes offense". Which whilst understandable, could also mean _anything_, and is frequently used to that effect.

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Linda here... believe me, we RARELY even ban people from our forums. To be banned from our games takes an extremely offensive or sustained series of actions, and we document them very, very carefully, because we are fully accountable for these deicisons.  It's not anybody's idea of fun here, and we strongly prefer to use reason and discussion before having to take those steps.

;-)#

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Tim Edwards's picture

Thanks for commenting Linda. I don't envy you and what you have to deal with. Stay strong!  

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Like I said in the article, some 99.5% of the people are really quite great to deal with. Game communities have come SUCH a long way, because most of us want to cultivate a decent reputation of mutual respect.

As ever, the teeny and incredibly loud minority gets all the headlines, hehe. They do NOT represent the playerbase as a whole, not by a long shot. ;-)#

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subedii's picture

I'm surprised, and generally appreciate your taking the time to respond to my comment.

But to be honest, my comment stems from things like this:

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/12/05/ea-origin-bans-update-edition/

I appreciate you say that you document and assess everything very, very carefully. But so does EA. And when I see events like this, it fills me with plenty of consternation. I don't intend to be cynical, but saying "we're fully accountable for these decisions" doesn't mean much if you can just do what they did and ignore the whole thing when someone gets banned from a game without good (I mean REALLY good) cause.

You say you document everything. It would be helpful if you could go more in-depth into the mechanisms involved. Who gets the authority, how it's all tracked and authorised, what the appeals process is.

Otherwise well, there's an example up there of someone that got banned because someone ELSE swore in a post whilst quoting his. As far as EA was concerned, this was a perfectly acceptable response, well within their remit according to their T&C's, and they have said 0 about it since. Why exactly should I trust that won't happen here?

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subedii's picture

Reply Fail.

 

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Wow, this is a great idea, I wish more companies would do exactly that.

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