The Daily Grind: What obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment?

There’s some interesting stuff to be unpacked in a recent analysis of Conan Exiles that characterizes it as replete with griefing, racism, sexism, and general unmoderated player garbage. Equally interesting is the official response from Funcom, which is essentially “this isn’t an MMO so we’re under no obligations to moderate this stuff.” You can read that as any mixture of “we don’t want to hire moderation staff” and “we want money more than we want players to be happy” as you desire.

It’s true that Conan Exiles isn’t a full MMORPG. It’s also true that there are official servers with Funcom’s name on them, which means that there’s a legitimacy there. And it raises the interesting question of what obligations studios have to the players in this particular environment.

What qualifies as “griefing” can have a wide scope and cover a lot of things, and some of that is part of the game at its core; after all, there’s plenty of griefing behavior beyond PvP that makes a game like EVE Online what it is. And that’s not even counting servers that aren’t officially run by the development team. So what obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment? Does it apply only to official servers? Only to MMORPGs? Only to sufficiently large servers? When is moderation no longer the problem of the game’s owners?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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86 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What obligations do studios have to provide a griefing-free MMO environment?"

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Aaron Biegalski

There is a guaranteed way to avoid griefing in Conan Exiles: Play singleplayer. (Local server.) >_>

I know, I know, not much of an answer. But honestly, I am at a loss as to what they can even do. This whole genre is basically just internet griefer heaven.

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Crowe

Obligation? I wouldn’t call it that. But if they create an environment where players are feeling overly picked on, they’re going to lose a bunch of customers. So it’s usually in a company’s best interests. Unless it’s buy to play and they just want a quick cash grab and don’t care.

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Axetwin .

It depends on the game. Conan Exiles is clearly designed to NOT be a “grief free” game.

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Tom Radcliff

Be real. They have an obligation to make money. If their bean counters judge they can make money without providing any protections for their customers, that is what they will do. If their competitors do it better, they will not make a profit.

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Arsin Halfmoon

Let it happen, its an MMO and the internet. Nobody’s under any obligation to create a safe environment for anon. People should be accepting their risks.

I was playing BDO the other day and people kept saying f****t. Someone said they were tired of seeing that word because reasons, but it just came off as someone forcing and ideology that others dont buy into. So obviously chat pretty much chased him out.

There are so many other places to challenge these notions, MMO chat is not one of them.

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Tom Radcliff

Barbaric. The Dark Ages are calling. They want their champion back.

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Arsin Halfmoon

Lol, yeah it does sound pretty barbaric. But here’s the thing, a developer can’t spend so many resources dealing with rampant toxicity. The issue is much more deep seeded than people being mean on the internet, it’s a social issue. Sure, they can keep doing the banhammer, which should be the extent of their obligations, nothing more than that.

Those sexist/homophobic/racist comments found on MMOs and other online games come from the fact that we’re anonymous, and some of us just take more liberties than others. If we really want a true change in the way people act on the internet, it needs to be a bottom-up change. The answer? Get everyone educated. If you want to see a downtick in these behaviors, people need to become more educated, open their viewpoints to different perspectives and how to behave as an internet citizen.

And really that’s all it really is, get educated. If a company REALLY cares about toxicity, they’re going to take an active approach in educating our kids on how to behave in competition and how to deal with anonymity. (Personally, I don’t think they’ll do that unless there’s a positive PR from it) Otherwise, we’re just getting more dependent on companies to fight our battles for us, and that’s definitely a way to get our butts back into the dark ages!

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Tom Radcliff

I agree with you on many levels. However, are there not companies that do address the toxicity? If there are, they’ll have a decided advantage over those that do not.

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Roger Melly

Racism and any other type of “ism” that involves hate speech should result in an instant account ban .

That aside I think it is in the studios best interests to keep negativity in a game to a minimum and that does mean taking some control over antisocial behavior ( including trolling)

I wouldn’t say ganking on a pvp server is griefing , it is a pain in the backside but usually you get the option as to whether you want to play on a pvp server or a pve one . If I create a character on a pvp server I expect to get ganked its just part of the games mechanics . I always make sure I have second character in case I get camped which I will go and play and let the campers waste their time hanging around a corpse .

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Santiago Draco

They are absolutely NOT require to moderate that kind of thing (other than illegal conduct).

We are absolutely NOT obligated to buy the PoS game either.

Nice not being obligated.

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Kickstarter Donor
Vexia

Wow, that’s a trashy response from Funcom. MMO or not, online games should not be a morality desert. In some ways this applies more to social media than games, but as online life integrates more and more with the rest of life, online harassment has consequences. Going out of your way to announce that you do nothing to stop that kind of behavior definitely invites it.

Since it’s impossible for a studio to personally moderate everything, I think it’s up to them to empower players with the tools to combat griefing (blocking, reporting, what-have-you). Repeatedly losing in PvP isn’t enough to constitute being griefed, but nobody should have to put up with vitriolic chat abuse, misuse of building tools and emotes, and the like. If there are official servers, someone absolutely should be hired to monitor them whereas private servers would have to rely on private moderation and reporting.

I honestly believe that studios who don’t provide at least that as a foundation for combatting griefing are some mix of short-sighted (e.g.: players will be fine without it) and money-hungry (as explained by Eliot above).

Loyheta
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Kickstarter Donor
Loyheta

Depends on the game I’d say. A sandbox should have as little restrictions as possible. A game aimed at kids should have a bunch.

With that said… this is why I like PvE servers. Don’t have to worry about d-bags tearing down everything you’ve built overnight, in a few hours, unless you are into that.

kjempff
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kjempff

As for foul language, trolling, and other shit talkin, I don’t consider that griefing. It is negative surely, but it is not griefing.
Of course you don’t want to have it in a game, because a hostile environment is just bad for business.

The obvious is to design the game with social consequences. Having players needing to co-operate, and having to interact with other players to progress – This is a natural barrier that will weed out the worst, and moderate others..simply because if you can’t progress because you are a dick, then either you learn or leave. There are many ways in design, systems and technicalities to do this.

Another way to deal with foul language, is a combination of automatic and player enforced “timeouts”. A timeout is essentially a mute warning making them unable to talk publicly for awhile depending on severity and frequency.
The automatic part is the game itself looking for typical racist and other sentences, the player policing part is based on players clicking the name of the trolls whenever they step over the line, and based on the amount of reporting, can trigger a timeout period. This can all be automated and optimized so the developer doesn’t need an expensive staff sitting judging silly disputes.
The timeout points a player gains also function as a severity multiplier, that slowly ticks down to zero over a week, which means those who just cannot contain themselves will be perma muted… Or learn.

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Kevin McCaughey

What about a /report tool that automatically threw players in jail when they got reported over 100 times in 10 minutes? You could even have a variant for it whereby it would check the /report text for keywords. I know all these systems have drawbacks but, to me, it is better than no moderation of behaviour, which totally spoils the game.

kjempff
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kjempff

Something like that.. depending on what your idea of “going to jail” contains.
As long as it prevents further trolling (spamming chat) temporarily, and the system “remembers” (like a week, not permanently) so repeat offenders get hit harder.
Although I believe there should be a correlation between action and consequence, so going to jail (as in preventing their ability to play), would that send the right message ?

Well anyways, the beauty of a player reporting mechanic is that it is democratic in nature, so it is the players who decide where the limit goes.