[MUD-Dev] Trouble Makers or Regular Citizens

&lt &lt
Thu Mar 30 17:25:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

On Mon, 27 Mar 2000, J C Lawrence wrote:
> Justin Rogers <justin at mlstoday.com> wrote:
> > 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.

I would append to that, "...to those that hold the power."

On Arctic, there is a book that loads in a newbie zone that, when read,
causes you to become 'IT'.  Whoever is IT regens hits, moves, and spells
at half speed, which is quite annoying.  While you are IT, you can make
another player IT by typing 'tag <other_player>'.

Needless to say, the entirely playerbase finds this intensely annoying.
Newbies read the book without knowing, and then find themselves trying
to pass off their IT status to other players.  Among some of the older
players, tagging is considered a crime deserving of capital punishment.

The admin finds all of this intensely amusing, and so the feature stays.

This same thing can apply to people.  How many muds have you played with
incompetent (and usually annoying) implementor-level admin that drive the
playerbase bonkers, but stay remain in the game because they are the
current girlfriend or boyfriend of the mud's real implementor?  I know
I've played at least two.  Or, back in the days when a good server was
hard to come by, the person that provided the server got a free immortal,
despite knowing little to nothing about mud administration or even how
to keep a low profile.

> 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.

The rules are not hard and fast because they are an extension of the
personality of the person that provides the forum.  And the smaller the
forum, the stronger that affect is.  This was very visible on personal
BBS's in the 80's; the modern day equivilent of these today are mailing lists,
free software projects, web boards, irc channels, and muds.

If I am the dictator of a forum, then the rule is: don't annoy me, or the
people that I like.  Because I AM dictator, and like Mussolini shooting
the conductors of late trains, I will take action without the slightest
hesitation to remove that annoyance.

> Capricious excercise of administrative power doesn't encourage good
> games or popular/populous game worlds.


> ...and there are inevitable problems with temptation and personal hot
> items/button pushing.

Are these 'problems'?  If I have a short fuse for widget-vs-whoseit
debates, I'd rather it be known, and in a big way.  So when NewbieBob chimes
in with his reasons why widget is obviously superior to whoseit, the other
players shove a sock in his mouth and say, "Quiet, fool!  Are you trying to
get us all killed?"

Which, of course, is not-so-subtle manipulation of the existing players
into getting them to do annoyance-filtering for you.  If they know that
the mere mention of 'widget' or 'whoseit' will result in fire raining from
the sky followed by seven days of floods, they are likely to be vigilant
enforcers, perhaps despite not minding widget/whoseit debates in and of

This only works if players can affect one another.  I always enjoy muds
that offer a reasonably long-lasting 'silence' spell; this is a very nice
way for a spellcaster to deal with an annoying player without admin

> 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.

Automated versus personal regulation.  Hints at one of Raph's favorite
points (deciding on the proper level of abstraction to keep things from
being too personal, or too cold).

The difference between:

login: annoyer
Sorry, administrator Bob hates your guts, and you have been banned.
This ban will be removed whenever he damn well feels like it.


login: annoyer
Sorry, you have been banned due to ten players flagging you as an annoyer.
This ban will be removed whenever at least five of these players remove their
flag on you, or one week passes, whatever comes first.


login: annoyer
Sorry, you have been banned due to the system detecting the use of the word
'widget' or 'whoseit' in 10 or more of your shouts yesterday.
This ban will be removed after one week.

Of course...just because you get one message doesn't necessarily mean
that the other is true.  For example, the player could be getting message
1 despite the fact that the situation was acutally case 2.  (In fact, the
players setting the 'annoyer' flag on this person may not even be aware
that they are participating in invoking a site ban.  They may have just
used a 'gag' or 'ignore' command on this person.)

So far we are discussing banning because that is the only real mechanism
available on a pure-chat forum.  (Pure chat including mailing list, message
boards, IRC, and talker muds.)  There are lesser forms of ban (such as
'ignore' commands), but they all boil down to the same effect.

On a forum which offers goals beyond communication, there are more options.
Naturally I primarily speak of GoP muds, although this can extend to any
sort of multiplayer game with non-communicative goals - everything from card
games to flight simulators.  It is easy to 'tweak' a player's avatar such
that they find themselves constantly failing to reach their goals (eg, losing).
If I ran a hearts game, I could simply tag a certain player (without their
knowledge) as 'annoyance'.  The server would then ensure that he or she was
dealt the queen of spades and at least 50%, but not more than 75%, of the face
cards in the deck.  One does not have to think long to imagine how this
would work on a GoP mud.

This only works if the annoyer cares about the game's non-communication goals
at all.  If not, then we are back to the same single option that we had
in the other forums: ban.

>   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?

As a benevolent dictator, it's simple: the moment they start to annoy
me more than they amuse me.

Once they give me money (thereby becoming a 'customer'), it shifts, but
the principle is the same: the amount they annoy me is irrelevant, but
as soon as they annoy exactly one other player (assuming that the players
are all paying the same price to play), then they have exceeded their

Normally this would be too heavy handed; but as it happens, human admin
and automation cannot possibly hope to take note of every time one player
annoys another to the point that the second player is considering leaving
the game.  Therefore, players get a large amount of leeway.  I suppose
it's like speeding on an american highway: you can do it every day for
years and years and not get caught, but you might also get caught on the
very first day.

>   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?

If your playerbase is large enough, it has little effect in the short
term.  In the long term, constantly culling people that you don't want
while encouraging those you do want should result in exactly the forum
that you want - witness mud-dev.

The one possible effect in the short term depends on the visibility to other
players.  If there is an annoyance that everyone is bothered by, and then
they are nuked by the administration in a dazzling display of fireworks,
cheering and a renewed sense of community result.  (And a heavy warning to
those pondering the same route as the previous annoyance.)  Of course, a
highly visible ban of a semi-popular player, or even an annoyance whose
effect was little-known, may result in a restless playerbase who wonder if
THEY could be next.  Too much of this and they will leave for more hospitable


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