[MUD-Dev] Player Justice

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Mar 11 10:19:42 CET 2004

Brian Green writes:
> Damion Schubert wrote:

>> I've written about Meridian's Justicar system in the past, but it
>> was a fairly simple and effective way to stop the problem.  In
>> essence, in Meridian you are Guilty until proven Innocent - i.e.
>> we made the system flag you as an 'outlaw' as soon as you did
>> anything to harm a non-outlaw PC.  Being an outlaw changed your
>> name orange, and made you killable without penalty to the killer.

>> One person on the server was elected the Justicar, who had 6
>> pardons per week.  If you felt you were unjustly accused, you
>> could try to convince the Justicar that your flag should be
>> removed.

>> There were no doubt abuses of the system, but they were mitigated
>> by the following factors: 1) Most 'outlaws' who were wrongly
>> pardoned usually went out and got themselves the outlaw flag
>> again.  2) The player base was remarkably canny at determining
>> which Justicars were good at sniffing out BS.  3) The lack of
>> evidence meant that this feature had a strong political element
>> to it - if it's your word vs theirs, then you can expect some
>> interesting courtroom histrionics (at least, that was our spin).

> Speaking as a more recent Meridian 59 developer:

> The biggest problem with the Justicar system is that "Justice Is
> HARD".

> I think this is what Matt was trying to touch upon in his topic
> 3. The offline version is something that simply doesn't impact a
> lot of us, and I think a majority of people don't really
> understand how hard it really is even in the offline world.  Court
> cases take a long time to succeed, and people often get confused
> as to why some accused "get off" due to what appears to be
> inconsequential events in published events.

> In an online game it gets MUCH worse.  There's no "ultimate
> punishment" (as it were) available to players in most cases, and
> the threshold for having a conscience about killing people is
> lower online since you can rationalize that it's just pixels on
> the screen.  So, while most people in the offline world wouldn't
> even think about shooting a police officer that stopped them for a
> traffic violation, an online game player might think nothing of
> trying to kill the equivalent character in an online RPG.

> In the end, being a Justicar (or other equivalent) just isn't very
> fun for most people.  You put in a lot of time and effort into
> trying to maintain the status quo against criminals that simply
> don't care about their continued existance.  It makes for a quick
> case of burnout with the continual threats and murder attempts by
> griefers against you and your friends.

> On the bright side, I think Meridian 59's Justicar system did
> something right: you can only remove a punishment, not inflict
> punishment upon others.  The game deems you as guilty for your
> actions, and the Justicar can remove that guilt.  If you allow the
> Justicar to punish others, then it becomes a another tool for
> griefers to use against others.  "Guilty until decided innocent"
> is a much better tool in online games.

I'm curious now.  I've been postulating a fictional justice system
that covers fictional crimes.  That is, if my character decides to
engage in game activities that are classified as 'criminal', then I
am inviting the machinery of the justice system to act against me.
It's a sanctioned form of PvE or PvP entertainment to be a criminal.

But what I've been reading for a few days now is statements about
in-game "justice" for what amounts to grief play.  I've always
assumed that grief play was defined by actions that players take
that is counter to (damaging to) the intent of the game.  That it is
'outside' the game experience.  If I'm playing chess with somebody
and a griefer comes along and flips over the board, we don't dock
him a queen in his next match.  We eject him from the place that
we're playing.  Perhaps after a warning.

The "ultimate punishment" is to eject a player from the game
(support issues are expensive).  Obviously, this is fraught with the
usual re-emergence problem where a player just starts up another
subscription to your game.  But that is a real world battle with a
person who is acting against the interests of your game company.  It
has nothing to do with putting that player's character in virtual

In-game justice systems deal with the fiction of sanctioned game
actions.  Customer support systems deal with grief play.  In-game
justice systems should be implemented only so far as supporting
evidence can be documented and analyzed by the game software.  It's
a game feature, after all.  Customer support systems would be
well-advised to be implemented such that victims of grief play can
report facts from the gameplay experience.

So am I right in observing that many here are attempting to come up
with in-game justice for griefers?

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