[MUD-Dev] Trouble Makers or Regular Citizens

J C Lawrence claw at cp.net
Mon Mar 27 15:12:24 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

None of the below is written as the list owner:

On Mon, 27 Mar 2000 11:22:55 -0800 
Justin Rogers <justin at mlstoday.com> wrote:

> [Compliments of Matthew Mihally]
>> You were banned for repeatedly and willfully ignoring the
>> warnings you were given. Paraphrasing what Gordon Walton said at
>> a GDC lecture, "Ban them by the hundreds." (referring to
>> troublemakers, particularly 'hardcore gamer troublemakers).

> Ok, What could a single person do that would warrant a ban.  

Simply, and this harks right back to the old FIDO rules:

  Being excessively annoying.

What constitutes an "annoyance" is variant, may or may not be
documented, and may or may not be imposed on whim or foible, may or
may not be justifiable, and may or may not be done with malice
aforethought -- but the basic fact is, it really does come down to
being excessively annoying in some fashion.  Does it really mattered
that you threatened to kill someone's mother, your DESC stated that
you are a negro hating white supremecist with over-sized genitalia,
you swore a blue streak, you attempted to rut everything in sight
with a feminine description, you incessently spammed the public
channels, or were just in the wrong place at the wrong time as a
fresh-logged-in-newbie?  Truth is, you annoyed someone a little too
much and that person was able to do something about their annoyance.

The fact that central server models implicitly support dictatorial
powers on the part of the admins leads to, and even encurage all the
standard abuses (Jon Lambert has a coined a nice phrases for this
area) doesn't help.  You can attempt to apply various counter
balancing agents (as LambdaMOO has for instance), and they can be
quite successful -- but they also rest on the fact that they can
only be instantiated in the first place by an absolute dictator
(which is ironically neat).

Capricious excercise of administrative power doesn't encourage good
games or popular/populous game worlds.  Relying on personal
constancy in your admins (often yourself for smaller/private games)
only scales so far, and there are inevitable problems with
temptation and personal hot items/button pushing (the list archives
show some of mine).  Installing a formalised regulatory system
allows a player to predict administrative rulings with some level of
confidence, and also often adds some level of transparency (a rather
US-centric consideration), accountability, auditing, public
participation, player-based and run political systems etc.

A problem is that such regulatory systems are intensely dependent on
population size.  This can be as simple as 12 member jury trials not
working well when you only have 50 players total with never more
than 4 on at a time, or the more complex fact that the definition of
what is "excessively annoying" changes from when you have 4 players
online at once to when you 4,000 players online at once, or when the
average age of your player base moves from 25 years to 14 years or
40 years.

The questions:

  What sorts of regulatory systems can be applied to game worlds?

And more interestingly:

   How and why do the regulatory systems have to change as the
population size changes?

  What are the inflection points for when various systems become
(in)applicable and why?

Raph has observed in various indirect fashions without concentrating
on this point, some of the problems they've confronted with Legend
and UO as the population grew and old methods become inapplicable
(eg guards, cities, banking, security, reputation counters, name
colours etc) none of which were unique to Legend/UO IIRC.  I also
recall (without checking) some similar commentary from DarkAges(?)
in regard to their polling/legal system and its development over

> I've read the many things this particular person has done via his
> TFC memoirs or whatever you might call them.  It seems this person
> spends a bit too much time online and may take your worlds far to
> seriously.  Since this person lives in your world they try to
> impose changes as they would in the real world.  They want to make
> the world you offer them more realistic and fair.

Which is all fine and dandy, and even applaudable.

> So if this person is doing nothing more than speaking his mind
> then maybe your MUD, your programming, or your mind is not ready
> to accept the idea that many people regard your MUD as their world
> now and not as an escape or past time.  Just as AD&D became
> lifestyle for many people, I've seen chatters engross some college
> students completely.  The banning or kicking of their account
> sends them into utter depression.

There's a balance in there in what responsibilities, and to what
degree, you consider each party bears.  Where you stand on that
point tends to mirror your political leanings.  The standard
argument on one side is that the vendor holds no responsibility for
the player's state of mind, or the resulting impacts, but that they
are responsible as business people to their clientele and future
revenues (the "economic engine").  The equally standard argument on
the other side is that the vendor has (various levels of)
responsibility for the maleffects (esp addictive or psychological)
of his services on his clients and therefore must provide
appropriate counter-services as needed (the standard extension to
which is, "What? The drug dealer also has to pay for drug rehab for
his dope addicts?").  [1]

I'm not prepared to have that argument on this list.  I'm sure with
a little thought we'll all realise that we've heard it before, and
more importantly, that repeating it here is not going to change
anyone's mind _or_ help MUD-Dev in any way.  (Please note that I'm
not writing as the list owner, tho, oddly, he happens to hold rather
similar views (this is called "reserving judgement")).

Ignoring the personality conflict angles:

  At what point does having a particular player in the game, or
ensuring that a particular player remains in your game, or any of
the other related permutations cost more in effort, money,
resources, attention diverted from other tasks etc, than that player
is worth to you _and_ to the game?

And possibly more importantly:

  What effect does making the continued presence of a single player
in your game THAT (un)important have on the rest of the game,
particularly on the social and cultural aspects of that game world?

What if the player in question were your wife/husband?  Your
professor/boss?  Your in-law?  Son/daughter?  Neighbor?  Banker or
Venture Capitalist or other company funder?  One can also reverse
these questions and make it very immediate (and somewhat
uncomfortable) by substituting "friend" for player, and "you and
your family" for "game and game world".

I've had to confront this with MUD-Dev.  There have been a few
members (not many) that I found excessively annoying.  None are
still members of the list (and no, I did not summarily evict any of
them, and no, I won't say who).  There have also been a number of
members who have left the list that I desperately wish would have
remained as they had a great deal to offer (and no, I won't say who,
and no, none have come back).  I've taken the tack that while I
might wish for someone's absence or continued presence, I would NOT
change anything with the list for the sake of any single person on
the list.  For me, there's a certain sense of (regularly questioned
and re-examined) integrity there.

Note: I will not discuss particulars for MUD-Dev as I consider that
data confidential between the relevent list member and myself (this
is another reason I'm not writing as list owner).  I am willing
however to discuss abstract cases that do not derive from MUD-Dev
cases, and in particular cases that apply to other forums/MUDs.

** Not really footnotes:

** [1] FWVLIW one of the more amusing and fascinating current
** implications of this divide is a European motion to require
** automobile manufacturers to buy back any car they made from its
** owner for a minimal (but not negligable) sum, and the furious
** reaction this has received from American manufacturers.  The
** stated purpose of the legislation is to handle the problem of
** abandoned junk vehicles by placing partial responsibility for
** them upon the initial vendor of the vehicle.

When you get right down to it, "Its the people stupid!"

J C Lawrence                              Internet: claw at kanga.nu
----------(*)                            Internet: coder at kanga.nu
...Honorary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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