The Daily Grind: What’s the most creative way MMOs thwart toxicity?


Forget group-kicks: If you’re a tool in Sea of Thieves, your own shipmates might just opt to stuff you in the brig – “a holding cell located on the bottom of the ship that disruptive players can be sent to after a democratic vote is held by their shipmates,” explains Polygon in a piece last week. The idea is to give toxic or obnoxious players a chance to apologize or shape up, even roleplay their way out of the situation they created.

This kind of penalty isn’t entirely new to MMOs, whether we’re talking jail in Ultima Online or Age of Wushu, but it’s certainly creative, right? At least as long as the majority of your ship isn’t toxic and you’re the one being shoved into a cell.

What’s the most creative in-game way you’ve seen an online game studio thwart toxicity?

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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Matt Cramp

Puzzle Pirates’ blackspot feature: officers of any crew with sufficient reputation could silence a player for a couple of minutes, for everyone. If multiple crews did it, the penalties got harsher. There were, apparently, logs taken when the blackspot was used to deter frivolous usage, and crews in Puzzle Pirates tended to be a lot more social than guilds are in most MMOs because you can’t get anywhere in that game without at least a little social ability, but I still find it funny how horrified people are when they hear about this system. I personally think you basically need a system like this to have a decent community; you need to give the community the tools to police itself.


Don’t remember which game it was, maybe Darkfall that turned players into chickens for being bad. I thiught that was very creative.


Brig? Did they not hear of walking the plank?

Randy Savage

Or maroon them on a tiny island with just one bullet to shoot themselves with before they starve to death. That would be the more authentic pirate way


The whole ‘brig’ thing in SoT doesn’t really work well at all in practice. It’s just a waste of a crew slot and the person can just AFK all day in there. Not to mention it can be abused by people who wanted to bring a friend into the game or who don’t like the fact that you’re not using voice chat.

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Briar Grey

Pay GMs to monitor and actively enforce TOS, train them and players on what is considered griefing and crosses a line, and what is considered roleplay and then enforce it. Don’t penalize the good because of what a few bad eggs will do – kick out the bad eggs.


Get cute when combating toxicity and you end up trivializing it. I’ve experienced several types of justices systems in games and they all lead to what Ark says below and worse. Yes, they can end up encouraging toxic behaviour.

Bloody footprints, that is how ArchAge tried to do it. It was kind of neat. Basically, if another player commited theft or vandalism or even ganked another of the same faction, he left bloody footprints on the ground. If you click on the footprints, you get the player name, the crime committed, and the ability to report him or her.

The result? Bloody footprints everywhere in certain areas. You see, reporting a player meant they were forced to respawn in court after a certain number of crimes. And the spectacle was more reward than punishment.


The best defense against MMO toxicity is soloability. I immediately turn off chat and turn off guild and party invites invites (if I can), and then — voila! — the toxicity is (mostly) gone. Turning off social interaction/chat options and eschewing all group content is not terribly “creative” but pretty danged effective when it comes to eradicating toxicity. :)

I enjoy grouping, too, but only occasionally, when I feel like it, and I almost never feel like grouping anymore. Any MMO that makes story progression solely contingent on completing group content, thus loses my interest rather quickly.

That’s why I generally prefer SPRPGs to MMOs, though some MMOs (SWTOR, Neverwinter, and GW2, to name a few) do a much better job of offering solo friendly content and thus are relatively “toxicity-free”, depending on how you choose to play through them.


Anything given to the players to protect them from other players can and will be misused to harm other players.

I know 3 man groups who just queue into SOT, get a 4th, and lock em in the brig over and over until a 4th comes on.


The brig doesn’t really work the way they want it to. Brig me up? Ill just afk, alt tab, and let the rewards roll in.



Toy Clown

Just give me the tools to fully block and kick griefers. MMOs are leaving these tools out of MMOs now, which is really outrageous.