May 192014

How do we reduce trolling?

Warning: this post includes some topics that cannot be openly discussed on the main forums. Do what you want, but keep it here.

If you ignore this and end up with infractions, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The DDO community, like just about every game ever, has two distinct problems: harassment, and exploits. Both problems have the same solution: moderators and GMs investigate complaints and attempt to control abuse by warning, banning, or perma-banning offenders.

But it hasn’t worked. The game community gets smaller but the problems persist, and even in some ways, worsen.

Researchers hired by Riot Games may have figured out why: we are all trolls. Apparently. According to their tracking, the worst players were responsible for about 13% of negative events, but everyone else contributed the other 87%. “Inoffensive or even positive gamers were lashing out only occasionally, in isolated incidents—but their outbursts often snowballed through the community”. Banning the worst trolls wouldn’t be enough. Nothing less than community-wide reforms were needed.

In a Wired article published last week, some attempted reforms are detailed:

Strangely, something as simple as making PvP chat opt-in, rather than on by default, reduced negative chat by 30% and increased positive comments by 35%.

Another reform was to change the way that rules are enforced. Offending players were found to be very likely to offend again, especially players that were banned. Banning actually worsened the problem. Riot adopted a policy change that included emails specifying exactly why the player was banned; returning players behavior improved “measurably”.

This next paragraph is a direct quote from the article:

In another initiative by Riot’s player- behavior team, League of Legends launched a disciplinary system called the Tribunal, in which a jury of fellow players votes on reported instances of bad behavior. Empowered to issue everything from email warnings to longer-term bans, users have cast tens of millions of votes about the behavior of fellow players. When Riot asked its staff to audit the verdicts, it found that the staff unanimously agreed with users in nearly 80 percent of cases. And this system is not just punishing players; it’s rehabilitating them, elevating more than 280,000 censured gamers to good standing. Riot regularly receives apologies from players who have been through the Tribunal system, saying they hadn’t understood how offensive their behavior was until it was pointed out to them. Others have actually asked to be placed in a Restricted Chat Mode, which limits the number of messages they can send in games—forcing a choice to communicate with their teammates instead of harassing others.

In other words, let the players do the policing. Elsewhere in the article they address a public itemization of who was banned and why. Everyone knows. Nothing is hidden.

It is not about shaming those who are banned. According to the article, it is more about communicating the community morals. Once it became apparent that the community as a whole was in opposition to trolling, it declined.

Would any of this work in DDO?

Some of the ideas in the article seem like they would be directly attributable to DDO, but others not so much. While League of Legends may have “rehabilitated” 280,000 gamers, DDO would kill to have that many players left regardless of their game behavior.

A lot of the worst types of harassment enumerated in the article have never really been issues in DDO:

  • We’ve always had an older player base. Harassment happens, and exploits, but DDO has never been filled with the preteen adolescent angst that roils the and LoL communities
  • Turbine already sends emails to those who have been banned that specify the banning infraction. Not always clearly, but still, emails are sent
  • The article is addressing harassers, while DDO has a major issue with exploiters which are not addressed at all

Troll reductionThe DDO model has one very bad side effect: the people who are most in charge of promoting the game, the public faces of Turbine, are also charged with policing the game and forums. This dichotomy of purpose puts people like Jerry Snook, who loves the game and wants nothing more than to help it succeed (and is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met), in an awkward adversarial role were it is him versus parts of the player base.

That is structurally unsound, and entirely unfair to Jerry. It is also unfair and sometimes seems arbitrary to the players he has to whack-a-mole.

This adversarial relationship leads to weirdness like having an unofficial forum full of people who play the game and even promote it (in a weird and harassy way) but cannot be mentioned in the official forums: any link to the DDOVault in any forum post on will result in infraction points, or worse.

That’s just weird, and unhealthy for the game.

When someone who had no previous infractions* can be permanently banned for placing an image (non-porn, non-hate, non-violent) in their signature, something is wrong. I’m not trying to stick up for the people who had the image; they put it there on purpose, trolling for trouble.

I’m just saying that this really seems like a symptom of an unhealthy relationship.

DDO Vault
* This is one of the images that allegedly got posters perma-banned.
The players claim they had zero or few previous infractions,
but because discipline is secret, no one really knows.

It is important to mention that the DDOVault community promotes exploits and trollery. This is not good either.

There has to be a way to address some of this without placing the developers and the players in conflict against each other.

Would having a public list of bans and banned help? Would it help if we the players did the banning instead of moderators and GMs?

I don’t know, but I’m open to trying.

We have to try something, because if Riot Games is right, we are all the troll.

🙂 😀 🙂

  17 Responses to “We Are All the Troll: A New Model For Moderation”

Comments (17)
  1. I am unsure as to who is at fault, but the ddo forum moderation has in my opinion instead of keeping the forums clean, caused a bad atmosphere and driven many players to seek refuge elsewhere. Isn’t the ddo forums supposed to be a place where players can discuss the game without fear of being banned for saying the wrong thing? I know that there is a lot of arguing going on, but what I would prefer to see, instead of posts being deleted and players given infractions, why can the moderators not give people public warnings? Leave the post/ comment viewable for others, tell that member “this is your first/ second warning, this is not tolerable language/behavior”, and if they continue give them a temp ban, like an hour or so to cool down. Public warnings would allow members to learn from others mistakes, instead of having to wait to be infracted.

    Also, I keep seeing very inconsistent moderation. I do not like it when the moderators have favorites and ppl they consider troublemakers. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and assuming someone is trolling just because they may have said the wrong thing in the past, just causes bad feelings all around.

    In fact, I do not consider the ddo forums to be a friendly place at all. I do not enjoy living in fear.

  2. Thanks for writing this up Geoff, and also some good impulses for thinking/debating this issue.

    Personally, I think that a. Rules have to be transparent, b. decisions SHOULD be made public (although it might be needed to anonymize to protect privacy) and an open-ish appeal route should be installed.

    I do think an ombudsman function and/or engaging players in this (although another issue would how to select those players) would help a lot. Maybe even randomly choosing players to give their view on these (per mail) would be a possible mechanism. As is, a lot of potential for interaction is left on the table.

    Off course (for the exploits) having less frequent occurrence of things players point to on the test server persist unchanged to the live updates would tremendously help too, possibly with players involved in rating priority for what bugs to work on in some kind of way.

    Oh, and you are right that its not easy to have one person have to do both the promoting, advertising as well as the policing of forums.

  3. I guess I’m stupid, but why was the image banned?

    • Because it represented the DDO Vault.

    • It’s likely both a passive reference to DDOVault as well as a player’s perceived “take that!” at DDO policies.

      • Yes. Both. One assumes anyway, it is hard to get into someone’s head.

        • I’ve been on “that other site” a very few times. From what admittedly little I’ve seen, it seems to have a few members who are actually intelligent, reasonable people just looking to discuss things that might be frowned upon on the official forums; a fair number just looking for exploits; and a whole horde of juvenile morons who seem to be there only to brag about how great they are, scoff at how lame everyone else is, and resort to lame sexuality insults because that’s the best stuff they can come up with.

          But I digress. *If* – and in my mind this is a pretty big “if” – the wearers of that sig got banned for that image, I don’t think it’s so much the image itself as the fact that they started a thread specifically talking about how they were going to make DDO Vault sigs to “rub it in Turbine’s face,” basically. (I’m paraphrasing a bit.)

          As for Jerry, as far as I’m concerned he’s a class act, and the vitriol I’ve seen directed at him comes pretty much 100% from people who’ve gotten infractions/banned from the DDO forums, so sounds like sour grapes more than anything to me.

          *goes back into hiding*

  4. I don’t think Riot’s situation directly correlates to DDO’s.

    As you pointed out, the D&D brand attracts an older demographic.
    We’re a smaller community, exposed to each other in smaller doses (communication is typically limited to parties or zones, or elected through channels and guilds)
    We’re not regarded as a toxic community. You mentioned exploits being a bigger problem than toxicity.
    DDO is a PvE game, and does not attract the combative PvP adversarial types as readily.

    DDO is a slower paced game for most. Typed communication is less frustrating than in the fast-paced MOBA environment.

    DDO’s party mechanics allow you to screen for composition if you like. DDO’s forums used to complain of the days of waiting for a healer, or taking the first 5 and asking someone to re-log into a cleric. DDO has matured past that to the point of static groups and self-sufficient (BYOH) builds. LoL’s solo queue mechanics and champion select can and often does lead to ‘feel-bad’ situations where people do not get the role or champion they want. 5 random people are thrown together and maybe 2 people want to play jungle, and no one wants to play support. Riot is trying to implement a “Team Builder” queue, that’s closer to DDO’s LFM system, but will have the same issues DDO did 3 years ago.

    And when we feel like being jerks, venting, or just be an argumentative ass… We go to the Vault.

  5. The gaming community is full of the young. You can also use “young” synomymously with “stupid.”

    A game is a simulation of a world, but doesn’t represent life. (Forgive me, Geoff, but I’m about to sound like Morpheus from “The Matrix.” You know I already look like him.) There are specific rules that can be bent or broken in the game. But some players do not learn or will not learn similar rules of life, of social discourse. They will apply the same “screw the limits, let’s push it” mentality that the game encourages (up to exploiting or chat trolling there) into a sphere where the limits are more real but there are far fewer “agents” that govern the rules there. The forums show a grave lack of moderators.

    It’s time, in my opinion, for DDO to make player moderators to help quell trolling, but also to do what Riot did; sanction and ban with a detailed explanation to players of why they are being an ass. A man greater than I asks us to forgive our enemies because they know not what they do. I believe most players will fix their behavior if they’re called out for it–actively, positively and quickly. Otherwise they’ll just do things because they can get away with it.

  6. If we kill the trolls then what the hell am I supposed to do with all this damned popcorn?!

  7. I am Teh_Troll and I have recently been banned from the DDO forums (on this account at least, I can still post as Postumus, Thrudh, and Hendrick). And I approve this message.

  8. The DDO vault-door pic… *facepalm* I remember seeing that, and didn’t even register the reference at the time. Remember just thinking, “What a weird choice for a pic.”

    Player Moderators?? Would never work. The old “Phantom Negger” lays proof to the fact that some forumites will stir whatever poo-bucket they can just because everyone else in the world is an irritant to their existence.

  9. [Edited by geoff to remove a personal attack]

    Angry_Joe’s original comment pointed out that the game’s promotional efforts have been underwhelming.

    [End of edit]

    PS.: Remember, remember the 5th of November

  10. Often DDOVault is the only place to get accurate information about the state of the game (what works and what doesn’t). It isn’t only for trolls and exploiters.

    The build section houses some of the best advice that you could get, generally much better and accurate than on the motherboards.

    It is also worth mentioning that it was was the first DDO related website that published how to hardcode the IP’s of the DDO servers into the hosts file when Turbine forgot to renew their domains.

    • “Often DDOVault is the only place to get accurate information about the state of the game (what works and what doesn’t). It isn’t only for trolls and exploiters.”

      I agree. It can be hard to wade through, but it can serve a valuable purpose.

What do you think?

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