Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Category: Customer Service (page 1 of 2)

Multiplayer VR Experiences Need to Worry About Harassment Right Fucking Now

While I was at E3, Polygon published an article about a new, horrifying problem that to be honest, so far I haven’t even considered in my analysis of why VR has a bumpy road ahead, and that is that harassment in VR is likely to be way, way worse than in normal games.  A game dev at GDC demonstrated the problem on an unprepared participant, and made things clear that harassment is a lot more brutal when people are reaching towards your crotch directly.  Said the dev:

“It is intense, it is visceral [and] it triggers your fight or flight response,” he warned, his tone becoming more grave.

This is crucially important, but the only people I’ve seen the article treat this as a serious, grave issue are MMO experts, including Second Life chronicler James Wagner Au and Scott Jennings.  Au is more skeptical, whereas Scott’s point of view mirrors mine – it’s definitely a solvable problem.  The question is whether or not developers will decide to solve this problem before launching their products.

This didn’t stop some incredibly naive and short-sighted commentary.

Nope, not kidding, and it’s not pearl clutching.  It’s time to get to work. This has the problem to be catastrophic for VR – at least for VR that involves connected experiences with strangers.  Here’s the thing – games earn reputations, and so do platforms.  And they earn that reputation right when they launch, usually, when stories of harassment break on the web.  If this isn’t solved before the ‘technology is out’, it could result stunting the growth of VR for years.

To put it in stark terms, if you’re a mom, are you buying yourself or your daughter a VR unit after Time runs a ‘Rape in Cyberspace’ type story and Fox starts villifying it?

I’ve written before about how important that it was that Ultima Online changed the culture of the game by aggressively moving to ban assholes.  This change directly is tied to the doubling of our subscription base.  However, we were never able to change the perception of the market that was formed on day one that the game was a cesspool.  If we didn’t have that baggage, we would have grown much, much faster.  On SWTOR, we built the infrastructure, tools and call centers at launch – it cost us millions of dollars – but as such, our online reputation was never nearly as negative as UO’s (WoW followed a similar path).

All this led to another exchange that was equally face-palming.

This is a lot of ignorance about League of Legend’s challenges with harassment from someone who purports to be a producer for one of the most significant LOL fan sites.  She seemed to think I was implying that League of Legends was not profitable before they started addressing harassment, and her other tweets imply that harassment has not had a significant impact on their bottom line.  The former point is misconstruing my point, and the latter is directly counteracted by evidence from the numerous discussion points from Riot Games themselves.


The simple fact is that Riot Games has invested millions of dollars combating toxicity and harassment in their space.  They have done multiple GDC speeches on their work (seriously, this talk is awesome, watch it), both describing the damage that harassment has done to the game, as well as how they’ve invented new technology, based on machine learning, in order to better police their work.  Jeffrey Lin’s conclusion is very similar to the theory of Broken Windows – i.e. that their inability to address harassment fast enough resulted in the perception that harassment was the norm.  Wired has covered these efforts multiple times.  The investment into fighting harassment is real, its expensive, and in the case of League of Legends, it’s actually working!   

But here’s what’s immediately relevant: despite the fact that League of Legends has clear data that shows that their world is far less toxic than it used to be based on their efforts, they cannot overcome the reputation they’ve already earned from their earliest days.  There’s much less toxicity than their used to be, but you now have an inherent bias as a player – you expect to see toxicity, so when you see it now — even though it’s much rarer than it used to be — it confirms that bias, and developers are given very little appreciation for the massive cost and work that’s gone into fighting the problem.  This leads to, for example, a community that  is 90% male.

THIS is why it’s important that VR starts thinking and worrying about this problem now.  If they wait until after people have a few rape-y encounters before they start taking this issue seriously, the damage will take far longer to undo.

Important Legal Update for MMOs and Online Services

You can still, legally, be banned for being a mouthbreathing asshat.


Original comments thread is here.

Eve’s Unholy Rage

Eve has been waging war on RMTers in their game (in an operation they call Unholy Rage). Here’s a report on their efforts, with cool graphs showing the reduction of CPU process time and affection of resource prices. Check it out, it’s cool.

Playground Monitoring Middleware Solutions

For most game designers, the excitement of making an MMO for the under twelve set is quashed by the idea of having to make game design decisions aimed at reducing the odds your game becomes a pedophile’s wet dream.

One person’s design problem is another person’s business opportunity. From the New York Times: Continue reading

Rethinking service in MMOs

Adam has a good post on the whole ‘it’s not a product, it’s a service’ mentality, and what that actually means for running an online business:

What’s the most important high-level goal of a Product company? “Shift more boxes”
What’s the most important high-level goal of a Service company? “Purchase more customers”

Worth the extended read.

Conan Applies the Brakes

In regards to their twice-a-week patch schedules, the Conan team is already slowing things down. A recent disastrous patch may be the reason.


Great Moments in Community Management

3rd Place: “Shut up and give me my ten bucks per month, little man. My Porsche needs some performance upgrades.”
2nd Place: “It’s not a mirror.”
1st Place: “I disagree with what you said.”

Other nominations?


Original comments thread is here.

Put On Your Tinfoil Hat

This guy claims to be an ex-Arena.net employee, and he’s decided to burn some bridges to the ground. Among his unusual assertions:

1) Some enterprising lower level employees of Arena.net has forged an ‘unofficial’ partnership with gold farming organizations (’GFCs’), who they feel are providing a valuable service to the goldbuying public. This partnership is, shall we say, not a corporate mandate. Continue reading

Sprint Kicks Out Customers For Requiring Too Much Handholding

Sanya has the story. I’m just now getting to it because I’m lame.

Anyone who has ever run one a service with CS costs is nodding their heads in understanding, whereas the customers are outraged. This is because your average customer cannot even IMAGINE the actual problem. It is not people who complain once a month or even once a week, but MULTIPLE TIMES PER DAY. Which is to say that the people who are the actual problem are not normal people. Continue reading

Blizzard Puts Foot Down on Unattended Macroing

According to this random post on Markee Dragon, WoW has filed legal action against WoW Glider, the 3rd party app that allows players to grind unattended.

Blizzard and Vivendi ( www.blizzard.com ) today filed against MDY Industries ( www.wowglider.com ) and Michael Donnelly in the state of Arizona USA. Blizzard is seeking injunctive relief and money damages against MDY. What that means is they want him to stop the production of WoW Glider and they want him to pay them damages. Blizzard believes that Glider infringes on their intellectual property. They believe Glider allows players to cheat, giving them an unfair advantage and that they believe Glider encourages Blizzard customers to breach their contracts for playing the game. Last they claim that Glider is designed to circumvent copyright protections.

Continue reading

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