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Avoiding Escalation: How to Not Be Banned from Vendetta Online

Jan 27, 2023 incarnate link
First of all, we want the best experience for everyone playing the game. This causes us to have some "reasonable behaviour" policies and such (at player request: [1], [2]), but really: we just want people to have fun flying around and shooting virtual space-lasers at things.

Whenever a Dev, Admin, Guide, Forum Moderator or other authority-figure has to "talk to someone" about a behavioural problem, all we want is to resolve the issue as quickly and painlessly as possible.

In order to achieve that, we have to explain to the individual what they are doing that is a problem, and how we need that to change. Like, "We need you to stop posting sexually explicit content on 100".

We try to keep things as low-key and non-confrontational as possible, again, we're just trying to solve the issue and move on. Sometimes "systems" are used, like Report, which may show an automated message, but it's still not a "personal attack" from the admins, we're just trying to do some "reasonable moderation".

All we want, is for the individual in question to say "Oh, okay, I understand" and then stop doing "that" (whatever is the problem), so we can all move on with our lives (playing games, game development, whatever else).

All we care about is some sense that:

A) The person realizes the behaviour is not accepted by us.
B) The person will change their behaviour in the future.
C) As a result, we will not have to have this conversation with them again.

If someone refuses to change their behaviour, that presents us with a problem, where we're forced to "escalate" our response with punitive action. WE DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS.

There is no "knee-jerk ban-hammer approach". At the time of this writing, only one veteran player in VO history has been perma-banned. That's in 20 years. We really try to work things out with people.

Again, we just want to move on with our lives and do other things. There's no "administrator power trip" here, no "power-driven ego", this whole situation is stressful and unpleasant; we just want to be able to "know this is handled", and move on.

However, this process can sometimes spiral out into what are often "the world's dumbest reasons to be banned from VO". Which includes various situations like the following example (and this is not an exact example of anyone specific):

- Veteran Player says something overly rude or toxic on 100.
- Veteran Player receives a 10-minute game-mute.
- Veteran Player then ESCALATES by going on the Discord Relay to rant about the reporting-players and administrative staff for giving them a 10-minute mute.
- Veteran Player receives a 2-hour game-mute, and is banned from Discord, for additionally circumventing a mute.
- Veteran Player then ESCALATES by posting on the game forums, toxically ranting about how terrible the administrators are.
- Veteran Player receives a 12-hour game-mute, and is now banned from the forums.
- Veteran Player then ESCALATES by opening a ticket, directing toxically unpleasant, rude and vaguely threatening content at the administrative staff.
- Veteran Player receives a one-week game ban.
- Veteran Player then ESCALATES by circumventing their bans and creating alt accounts, connecting on VPNs and other methods to go in-game and rant at everyone.
- Veteran Player receives a one-month game ban.
- Veteran Player then ESCALATES by posting on the game's FB page, DMing developers and other means, directly threatening DDoS attacks and other assaults on the game infrastructure.
- Veteran Player receives a long-term game ban.

So, basically, you have a situation where someone wrote something kinda rude on 100, and we took a minor action, a trivial 10-minute "chat time-out", and the person continues to go so off-the-rails that they end up being banned, perhaps permanently.
Why? What is the point? All we need is for the person to say "Yeah, okay, fine" and just not-do that anymore.

I post this, because several different people in recent-memory have gone through versions of this experience. I don't get it, it's super pointless.

I don't have flexibility of just "accepting that you're going to behave however you want", that doesn't work for us, we have these behavioural policies for a reason (again, as requested by players: [1], [2]). That means that if we cannot get someone to calm down or communicate rationally, we have to escalate.
We try to talk things out with people, which is also exhausting, but often people seem to be so caught-up in their own self-righteous moment or ego-response or personal illusions, they can't even hear us.

So, I post this as kind of a story of: "Please Don't Do This, It's Stupid And Pointless."

I'm stickying and locking this thread, as I may make other posts on Administrative topics, and use these to link to those cases.
Jan 27, 2023 incarnate link
Why It Is Not Useful To Threaten The Game with DDoS Attacks

DDoS attacks have been part of the reality of the Internet for a long time. Those of us who have been employed in engineering the network of tier-1 ISPs and services (as I was) are more familiar with them than most.

It seems like, for some people, any uncomfortable administrative discussion (of the sort outlined in the First Post above) eventually leads to attack-threats being made against the game.

This has happened more often in recent months; and it's probably worth people pragmatically understanding a few things before leveling those kinds of threats at us, because there's a pretty good chance that there's no actual value to making the threat, even if you can completely deliver on it. Here's why..

1) We Cannot Yield, Ever. Much like how many governments will not negotiate with terrorists, we're in a similar position. Because, once you give in to one person who says "If you don't do X, I'll take your service offline!", that means the implication is then out there that you will accede to demands by anyone else from then on. That's untenable. So, while we acknowledge that any service, ours included, could be taken offline by a sufficiently well-executed attack, we'd specifically prefer to go out-of-business than yield. This kind of policy is a necessity of our functioning on the Internet.

2) We Will Take You Seriously. We view it in the same way as a threat of a physical attack, which we don't take lightly. That may not have the result or outcome you're looking for. If the threat is leveled with some kind of "give me what I want" justification, you'll definitely never get what you want (see #1). So, if it doesn't gain you anything except the wrong kind of attention, then what is the point?

3) Who Are You Trying to Hurt? Because, if fully executed, a DDoS mostly just hurts other players, who just want to play the game. Hey, maybe that's the goal; but usually these threats are raised in an administrative context, and particularly in that light.. there's nothing to be gained? Attacks are not "unfamiliar" to us.

4) It Doesn't Garner Respect. Threatening a small independent MMORPG is not a particularly noteworthy achievement; it's in pretty poor taste.

I'll leave it there, although there are some other topics I could add on, but the real point here is simply that "there's no value in that kind of threat". It won't cause us to do anything that you want, except view you very negatively.

So, how about, instead, you just focus on lightening up?