Published on September 6th, 2012 | by Gary Kirwan
Guild Wars 2 Devs Go To War
Have you ever seen a prison movie? The old cliché is that when the protagonist gets put in jail he’s supposed to go up to biggest, meanest, owner of the most home-made tattoos and establish himself as the new alpha-dog by whatever means necessary. Usually violence. So with their baby unleashed on the world ArenaNet have taken to the prison yard, sidled up to the guy everyone hides from, and taken a swing at the titan. In this analogy the prison yard is the internet and the titan is the MMO community. That may not have been clear, I’ll try harder next time (maybe).
That’s right, Guild Wars 2 launched this week and the gaming world erupted into equal parts rage and applause – as is the standard. I know life under your rock is pretty sweet. You’re in the shade, nice bit of damp soil to settle down in, it’s cosy. But if you poked your head out at all, maybe just to check on the weather, you’ve probably seen the internets getting all tangled up in themselves over the new kid on the block. They’ve had so many weekend events and stress tests over the last two months that its possible you thought it had launched already. That’s okay, back under your rock you go. We’re here to let you know what’s happening.
It’s common policy in online games of all genres that people who spout offensive language or have a poorly-chosen username run the risk of being reported by the community, and getting slapped with a ban by the man behind the curtain. With so many people spread across continents and in multiple languages it’s nigh impossible to keep and eye on the entire community, and so this form of self-policing is rampant as the path of least resistance. Success varies wildly depending on the developer and how tough they want to be but it’s widely regarded as a low-impact solution. Abuses of all kinds go unpunished or with light warnings, demands for username changes are often restricted to roleplay servers or token gestures to appease those who care. It’s refreshing therefore to see ArenaNet come out in force on these issues. I’ll refer you to Reddit, as is becoming a habit, for all of the juicy stuff. Some of the comments are NSFW so consider that a warning if your boss is likely to frown on that sort of thing. They’ve even gone so far to publicly shame those who claim innocence with excerpts from their chat log. Naturally, this is hilarious to everyone else.
In a nutshell, the devs have been throwing out three-day bans like it’s going out of fashion. Considering this week may well be the busiest that the customer relations team will ever experience, it’s nice to see the effort being put into ensuring the game world is a hospitable place right from the outset. In fact, this is probably the ideal time to lay down the law and prove that they mean business. A hard-line approach at this stage could discourage future transgressions. A three-day ban is also long enough to feel like a punishment without seeming like an overreaction, unlike the industry standard 24hr ban, particularly during launch week when a vast number of people would want to play every day. They’re clearly making an example of the transgressors. Representatives on Reddit, known by the catchy pseudonym “ArenaNetSupportTeam”, also were careful to point out that longer bans could be dished out if deemed necessary.
The system is incremental. We found that short time-outs were not effective and the 72 hours is long enough to be meaningful without being overly punitive. (Granted I see the other wise of this, too.) If someone continues to breach the rules, s/he can look forward to longer time outs, and even to account termination if the offenses continue at a serious level.
There do seem to be a few flaws in the system however. The majority of the people posting seem unaware of why they have been banned and are looking for clarification more so than anything else. A reply of “Name: OK Chat: Not ok” followed by an example of said chat is a common occurrence throughout the thread, so clearly whatever email they’re receiving as notification is vague at best. The system also runs into a snag when multiple languages are thrown into the mix. One poster who plays the game in Spanish asked about the word ‘Negro’, which has racist connotations in English but just means ‘black’ in its native language. ArenaNet admits that things get tricky around these topics but are refining the localisation to accommodate such occurrences.
It’s a difficult situation, but I was speaking with our Localization Specialist for Spanish about that very word. We’re going to work on the filter and try to make it more specific, so that words can be allowed in the languages in which they are harmless.
There is also the argument this is what the profanity filter is for, but it’s important to distinguish between profanity and offensive language. You can easily offend someone without language that would cause a parent to cover a child’s ears. I’m not going to tell you how, figure it out for yourself. Cheeky monkeys. So on this front at least it seems they’re making strides in the right direction. The top dog in the prison may not have been taken down a peg but the inmates are sitting up and taking notice.
Just in case you needed more evidence that there will be no shenanigans on their watch, ArenaNet handed out permanent bans to 3000 people that exploited a pricing mistake in one of the weapon stores. The items were being sold at a tiny fraction of the intended amount and a number of people jumped at the chance, stockpiling hundreds. They have since decided to play nice and anyone that had taken advantage of the error can have their sentence reduced to a 72-hour ban and a slap on the wrist if they delete the loot and promise to change their ways. When the alternative is paying another €60 and starting from scratch that seems like a deal worth taking. Again though, they’re cementing their no-nonsense policy. I’m picturing the devs strutting around the office chanting “I see a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!”. That’s right, a Cool Runnings quote. That’s just how we roll around here.