The Obnoxious Minority.

8 11 2011

TL;DR.

Before I really lay into this long and drawn out thought on the Tribunal, here’s the conclusion: try this game. Please use this link to do it. I would really like to have more Recruiter badges and perks, and –  unabashedly – I want to see Riot succeed as a gaming company. If they do, this Tribunal idea may gain traction. It has the potential to reshape online gaming as – finally – there is a way to hold anonymous jerk-bags accountable for being jerk-bags. (Also, the game is pretty cool; it has a bit of a learning curve and may be an acquired taste…I know I hated it when I started…but it’s worth it. I love it now.)

The community has a voice.

It’s not an unusual assumption to run across in any article regaridng player opinion on MMO game balance: you enjoy Example Game, but some people complain very loudly on forums about Example Class/Ability/Whatever and threaten to pull their subs. Possibly as a result, the devs make a change to Example Class/Ability/Whatever and the game seems fundamentally changed  – perhaps for the worse – and all because of those very, very loud people.

People who get unreasonably vulgar in MMOs – in ways that filters can’t filter so they can still hurt your eyes – also seem the loudest, don’t they? It is perhaps not surprising that people who fit this obnoxious and loud stereotype are currently decrying the Tribunal on the LoL forums (and in other places).

Yes, the League of Legends Tribunal: something I’ve mentioned on this blog before. If a player is unusually vulgar, angry, allows his champion to be killed easily (throwing the balance of the game off), or does anything else that may despoil the game experience for players, you can Report them at the end of the game.

How it works.

These reports are gathered and examined by Riot’s staff; they consider “do we want these people playing our game?” They may decide “No” or “We’re not sure” and either way they stick the case in the Tribunal.

I log into the Tribunal once a day. Each case is presented to me with some number of matches, as follows for a given match:

  • the champion they played;
  • the items they bought throughout the match;
  • their account level, game stat line (kills/deaths/assists);
  • the reports from whatever players reported them for a given game;
  • the game’s chat log.

Sometimes case will have as many as a dozen games attached to it (each with stats and logs as above); other times only a handful (one to three). I’ve played the game enough to know that when a player’s account is at least in the teens, they know enough not to, for instance, buy multiple versions of an item that has no benefit for the champion they’re playing; and that, for instance, a 0/30/0 stat line is blatant evidence that the player purposefully “fed” (ran up and allowed the enemy team to easily kill them).

Feeding is a MOBA concept: every time you kill an enemy champion (player), you get a tiny little windfall of gold that you wouldn’t otherwise have at that point from simply killing minions and dropping towers. Anybody that assisted you with the kill also gets a little gold for their trouble. More gold early means you can buy items faster (and also, level faster, as kills give you a chunk of experience) and this gives your champion (and thus your team) an advantage. Feeding is a process where one player allows the enemy team to kill him freely, giving them massive amounts of gold and a huge advantage. It makes them unbeatable, and is understandably frustrating for everybody involved. (Nobody likes a feeder; they ruin the experience of the game.)

This kind of thing isn’t entirely unique to MOBAs; if you are in a 10v10 match in Halo, for instance, or Blood Gulch, if a significant number of your teammates do nothing useful on purpose it’s massively frustrating. Not to mention if they spend much of their energies harassing you (or your opponents) verbally, with or without vulgarity, it can leave a bad taste in  your mouth. Might frustrate you and make you play a different game.

Well, news flash: this is bad for business, and Riot understands that. So the Tribunal is their way of asking the community “What kind of people do you want to play with” or, put another way, “What kind of crap are you willing to put up with?” When some player thinks it’s amusing to spam racist epithets in chat and basically do nothing else, that’s not enjoyable for me, so I click the PUNISH button (electing that I believe the player deserves a warning, suspension, or a ban).

What happens to the jerks.

You might think “But, Thade, the game is Free-to-Play, so what the real issue with a ban?” Well, as you play, you gain points for your play-time which you use to unlock either champions (so you can play them whether they’re on the free rotation or not) or runes (items that bolster your champion’s ability early in a match…which can help you get or avoid being that early kill). A ban means you lost all of that time; not to mention any real cash you may have put into the game to unlock the latest champion or a cool skin you like.

Bottom-line is that it does have a real impact to be banned, and this is directly evidenced by how loud those banned are on the LoL boards. “The Tribunal is broken” or “is bullshit” or “is bad for business”…etc. etc. The truth of the matter is that it’s obviously good for business, because it’s the community that’s clicking the ban button. Riot’s gone on record saying they believe the player base is actually “too lenient” but it is their decision. Personally, I’m not sure what they’re talking about; I feel that I click the PUNISH button almost every time. It’s not hard; I really really have no patience for racist or homophobic epithets (both of which are popular among those that rage in LoL matches).

If those accused (and banned) were correct – that raging is acceptable and that Riot is hurting themselves – then Riot’s bottom-line would reflect this. They’re keeping it up, however, and these people keep getting banned. That tells me that – in fact – the majority of players don’t want to put up with their crap.

These players will play again, or will start new accounts just so they can rage and not worry about the account being banned. It’s a bit troublesome for business, still, as it means new players have to endure the brunt of the vulgarity, the rage, and the frustrating annoyances of people meta-ing the game because they (for some reason) enjoy ruining the experience for others. But I’ve found that – most games – the players are friendly and enjoy a good jibe, no matter who is winning or losing. This is especially true now that my account is max level (30); it’s  nice. The ragers are very, very rare. Perhaps because they’re getting banned.

One of the staffers put it best:

“[Players] that are toxic to the League of Legends are going to do one of two things… 1. Shape up and learn to play the game without causing others to have a negative experience; 2. find a new game.” (Source.)

Blizzard. Bioware. Take notes.

The best part.

Spend some time on the Tribunal forum. You’ll find among the predictable posts of “The Tribunal is stupid” and “F U Ri0t” that there are occasionally posts where someone suspended or banned will say “I’m sorry; you’re right. I’ve been inappropriate.” And that, to me, is marvelous.

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