Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Privileges or Rules?

Consider the difference between privileges and rules. Ideally, rules are for everyone. Everyone has to obey the same rules. Privileges on the other hand, might be specific to individuals. A privilege usually must be earned in some fashion, and can be revoked if the person proves unworthy.

When it comes to player interactions, privileges might be a better model that one-size-fits-all rules.

Over the course of an MMO's lifespan, we see the same pattern. There are simple rules which govern player interaction. They work well for 95% of the time. Then someone figures out how to exploit those rules. The developers have to modify those rules, making them more complex, more onerous and more inconvenient for the rest of the players.

Instead of rules, perhaps structuring interactions as privileges is a better way to frame the situation. Then you can use a player's past behaviour to control whether a privilege is granted or revoked.

For example, take vote-kicking. The basic vote-kick system worked well for all the people who used it judiciously. Then people started abusing it, and the devs had to include more and more safeguards. You can't vote-kick in combat, or for a bit after combat. All of this makes it harder to vote-kick someone when you need to actually kick.

Maybe the better model is to think of vote-kicking as a privilege, not a rule. If you abuse vote-kicking, or vote-kick too much, your ability to vote-kick is simply taken away. Other people's vote-kick privileges can remain intact and untouched.

Or take the latest rule change, the removal of /follow in battlegrounds. It's a rule change made to target bots. But it does remove an option for players who are not abusing it.

As well, take the old Need/Greed loot system in Raid Finder. Perhaps it would have worked out better if rolling Need was a privilege instead of rule. If you rolled Need too much, you could lose the ability to roll Need, and/or lose the ability to trade gear.

Another example could be talking in general chat. Right now there are restrictions on how fast you can reply, which came in because of spammers. Maybe freely talking on general chat channels is a privilege that should be earned.

A final example might be ganking. The ability to kill players lower level than you should be a privilege and can be revoked if you kill too many, or exhibit a pattern of corpse camping. Revoking a ganker's ability to kill lowbies shouldn't affect people who rarely gank.

Of course, the hard part here is determining patterns of behavior that should lead to a privilege being revoked. However, I think that if you look at play patterns, people who show restraint will have very low incidences of negative behavior, allowing even a moderately low bar to avoid false positives.

To sum up, I think that one-size-fits-all rules that govern player interaction have proven to be overly restrictive and vulnerable to exploitation. I think player interaction in MMOs would be better modeled as a series of privileges that need to be earned and can be revoked for those who abuse them.


  1. The weirdest thing about "abusing" vote-kicking in WoW is that if you are vote-kicked too often you become immune to vote-kicking (see "This player cannot be kicked for another 20 minutes/2 hours/etc."). So sure, it's a privilege, but it's mildly strange someone else can affect your ability to exercise your privilege.


  2. > Right now there are restrictions on how fast you can reply, which came in because of spammers.

    This is a very good example of a problem with your idea. The privilege should be attached to a human, but all they can do is attach it to an account. Now if the account is compromised so are your privileges. And hacked accounts are/were the prime source for gold spam.

    > The ability to kill players lower level than you should be a privilege and can be revoked if you kill too many

    Play on a PvE realm? Why should ganking player be a privilege if that's exactly what everyone signs up when he rolls on a PvP realm?

  3. The problem with changing rules to privileges is that it's a very labour intensive process. While it may be more effective in an overall experience sense, the problem is that all of these are, as you mention, very subjective. This means that you need real people in order to review every possible privilege grant, for every single player.

    Now, sure. In some cases you're not going to have every single player apply for some of these. But the sheer number of players combined with a requirement to verify their worthiness (or continued worthiness) still makes this far more work then is feasible.

    This idea could potentially work in a significantly smaller game, like maybe EVE, but there will be a minimum player count at some point where it's no longer possible, and thus you have to fall back to rules.

  4. @RJ, I don't believe that you need privileges to be overseen by a human. I think you can do programmatically through analysis of past behavior.

    I think that the behavior patterns of someone who is abusing a privilege will be significantly different from the patters of people who are playing normally.

  5. Also, don't think of this too much in terms of changing WoW. Something like this would have be designed into the game from the very start.

  6. I completely agree, but since it would take an incredibly larger amount of effort on the dev's part to generate a) what should be a privilege, b) what the requirements for gaining access to the privilege are c) what should cause the privilege to be revoked, and d) actually monitor those systems, there's no way they'll actually do it.

    Throwing gigantic rules blankets over the whole population is so, so much easier.

    Still, I totally agree with you!

  7. Rohan:

    But you yourself just laid out a number of what you consider the perfect cases for it being a privilege that cannot be strictly programmed in; else you get systems like we already have!

    Example: If you designed a new game that had a vote-kick system, what would your programmatic patterns of abuse be? The guy kicks a lot of people? How does the program know that it's not legit?

    Example: If a person is needing a lot on gear that's actually wearable by them and offered to him by the game, how do you know he's not just making a legitimate use of the game system?

    And even if you did have some manner of automatic review, be it highly accurate or not, the affected players are going to be refuting it with GMs, who will be doing manual reviews in the end anyway.

  8. Privileges require much more work to implement then rules. They will definetely cost more. If the games are run for profit, using rules gives competitive edge over using privileges.