[As subscription MMO City Of Heroes launches its Mission Architect expansion, allowing user-generated stories and quests, Paragon Studios' Morrissey discusses the logistics of creating policing for the system.]
Am I allowed to say penis
in this article? If not, how would you
stop me? Maybe I could get past your
profanity filter by spelling it peenis.
Or I could get creative and simply write in euphemisms about my third leg, my love tool, or my joy stick.
Seriously, if I really wanted to say penis,
how would you stop me?
If you're planning on making a game with user-created
content you are going to have this conversation... a lot.
For those of you not keeping track, City of Heroes, the first massively multiplayer game set in the comic
book genre, has just unveiled a new game system: Mission Architect.
In short, the
system lets players create their own stories and then share those stories. These
stories are rated by the players and the best ones garner prestige and in-game
This system is tied directly into the lore of the game
through a company called Architect Entertainment, offering virtual world
This world-within-a-world format allows players to take their in-game
characters and walk them into a virtual environment where they can create and
play their own adventures.
Even though the Mission Architect feature has done many
things right, there is one question that always, and I mean ALWAYS, comes up:
How do you avoid the beef stick?
When this conundrum presents itself, like it did for us, the
quick answer is to simply throw money at it. Have Customer Service vet all
content before it goes live. As exorbitantly pricey and time-consuming as this
process would be, there are actually companies out there that do it.
In these situations,
the games are usually those that deliver content to children, where turnaround
time isn't an issue, and there aren't a lot of people submitting material. However,
in any other situation this isn't a viable option.
At the instant of Mission Architect's launch, the players
will outpace any Customer Service department. Besides, it's not exactly
something you can hand off to an overseas outsourcing company. Much of what
makes content inappropriate is cultural and difficult to teach to non-native
So, if you were to try to do this, where would it leave you?
Well, below are some potential solutions
we came up with in an attempt to avoid the problem of inappropriate player-created
Language Filters: A Good Place
Have them. Have a lot
of them. And have fifty-thousand variations for the same word. If your game has
any kind of chat system in place,
odds are you already have something like this. Even if it comes down to a huge
text file filled with words you hope your grandmother doesn't know and secretly
enjoy adding to the list anyway.
Develop a Player Policing System
Allow your players to flag content as inappropriate. This is
a pretty common system. If someone reads something he doesn't like, he can hit
a big red button that reports the content and potentially removes in from the
system right then and there. That's the high level idea; unfortunately, the
devil is in the details.
You have to decide how draconian you want to be. The more
hardcore you are, the fewer people who will see inappropriate content, but you expose
yourself to potential grief voting. Grief voting is when a player flags
perfectly acceptable content as inappropriate just because it's fun.
If it only
takes a single vote to eliminate content from the game, clicking that button is
going to be the game for a lot of
players. You don't want perfectly good content getting pulled because someone's
a jerk. If your system is so harsh that a single vote pulls content, then you're
making it really easy for griefers to have a lot of fun.