[MUD-Dev] Griefing

Lachek Butalek lachek at gmail.com
Fri Nov 25 12:23:12 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


On 11/20/05, Brian Ayavaron Ross <ayavaron at gmail.com> wrote:

> The magazine suggested in one article that players who grief could
> be red-flagged, making them targets for vigilantes. However, I
> think we can do better than that. I remember the first time I
> played Elder Scrolls III, I went into a shop and tried stealing
> stuff. I was declared a bad guy and suddenly everyone wanted to
> kill me. This leads me to the idea that a similar system could be
> adopted in MMORPGs where you have a griefer rating and people can
> mark you as a griefer. Once the rating becomes high enough, you
> might be declared WANTED and perhaps even, a bounty could be
> placed on your head. People could gain a lot from hunting you down
> for being a griefer. As your griefer rating increased, your bounty
> could possibly increase too. The justice system wouldn't have to
> break game and could even possibly become a large part of the
> game.

> The most obvious problem I can see with this system though is that
> griefers might exploit this system and start randomly calling
> other people griefers with no real reason. To combat this,
> perhaps, a griefer would have to select from a list which type of
> griefing was done to them. Then the game could check and see if it
> was impossible for that to happen. (i.e. A player says a griefer
> has camped him. The game could check to see if there was ever a
> PVP encounter with them at all and who won to decide if that is
> valid.) Naturally, such a system would not be perfect but it could
> weed out some of the wrongful griefing claims.

> Another problem that might not be such a big deal is that a group
> of players could exploit it for actual benefit. One player in a
> group might start griefing the other players with the intention of
> putting a bounty on his head. Then another player in the group
> could kill him and share the benefits with the other player. I
> don't really think this matters much, but it is something some
> people would want to consider.

You are yourself identifying a few problems with this system before
it is even implemented. Griefing players will find and exploit many,
many more, because that's what griefing players do. The best
solution for handling griefing players I have seen is to make
griefing part of the system - to make it just another action your
character is capable of. Camping someone's corpse, for example, is
the result of having a non-permanent death system involving running
back to your corpse to reincarnate. Kill stealing is the result of
having a system that depends on killing monsters to reach a higher
level of proficiency. Ninja looting is the result of a system which
promotes killing monsters and looting their corpses as an excellent
way to get valuable items. Trash talk on public channels only exist
because there is a method of universal, instant communication with
no real option for retaliation. What these things have in common is
that their physics is artificial - there is often not even an
explanation for why things work work that way in the game world, and
when there is it is usually a bad excuse bolted on after the physics
was already decided upon.

A realistic MMO builds its physics engine around its setting rather
than the other way around. If a griefer is only able to act out his
griefing "in character", the whole concept of griefing disappears -
it morphs into integral part of an inherently hostile game world. To
give examples:

  1) If character death is permanent, there is no such thing as
  corpse camping. If death is not permanent - say, for example, that
  you are able to store clones of yourself in a hidden warehouse to
  be activated upon your death, or a deity brings you back to life
  in its temple - but you would not have to physically get to your
  corpse in order to resurrect or get your items back, then it would
  still not be a problem. If the griefer decides to hunt you down
  whereever you resurrect, then s/he is no longer a *griefer* but
  rather a *headhunter* - eventually you will run out of clones, or
  perhaps the deity will smite the killer for their ignorance.

  2) If experience points are not given out for slaying a beast, but
  for fighting it (which makes a lot more sense if you think about
  it), then "kill stealing" just amounts to getting a tiny bit of XP
  rather than a large chunk of XP for a critter you killed all on
  your own. Even better, if characters didn't become better at, say,
  tailoring because they've been fighting Beholders all day, but
  rather increased in skill for performing that skill, kill stealing
  (and indeed, grinding down monsters) would become a lot less
  interesting overall. As for "bounty quests", it would appear fair
  that if a character received a quest to kill a monster, and can
  produce proof that the monster is dead, it wouldn't matter much to
  the quest giver how it was killed. Any possible exploits in such a
  system would be due to poor realism of the quest system, and not a
  fault of the combat system.

  3) It should be possible, in a game as in real life, to run up and
  grab something under someone's nose and run away with it. You may
  call that person a thief, and hunt him down and bring him to
  justice, but you may not call that person a "griefer" - after all,
  you get your valuable loot by slaying hordes and hordes of
  monsters and NPCs, he gets his by stealing it from under your
  nose. Who got his loot more fairly? "Ninja looting" should be
  defined in the game world as "brazen theft", not by some
  Out-Of-Character reference implying it is "illegal". If "ninja
  looting" were not "illegal" or impossible by game physics,
  characters would just be more wary of long-fingered strangers
  sneaking around their hunting grounds, and the game would be no
  worse.

  4) Unless all characters possess telepathic abilities, no
  character should be allowed to react to anything said on a public
  communication channel. No organizing trades or raids - everything
  discussed on a public channel is said Out-Of-Character. At this
  point, the communication can be said to be truly free of
  "roleplaying" aspects, and everything said is subject to your
  game's and nation's harassment policies and laws. With strict
  enough policies, you can "kickban" an offender for an extended
  amount of time for breach of harassment rules - something which
  would be harder to justify if the player could claim s/he was
  "roleplaying".

If your game world is built for realism and have no funny
inconsistencies implemented for the sake of "playability" without
considering the game world and setting, the griefing is taken away
from the realm of OOC and into the IC realm. What happens IC happens
to the *character* rather than to the *player*, and the griefer is
not a griefer but a not very nice fictional character - ie a
villain. Villains provide game content. Rather than breaking the
game world with all sorts of hardcoded, poorly explained artifacts
(target locking, item soul binding, etc), transform the "griefers"
into villains and let them provide part of the game content for you,
while the rest of the players police your game. Trying to control
griefers by providing yet another exploitable reward mechanism for
punishing them, on the other hand, would likely only lead to more
griefing.

The example game I'm thinking about is Eve Online, by the way.

Lachek
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