Player Behavior Design Values: Punishment

By Lyte

TLDR: We believe punishment is most effective when structured towards reform, because other designs often address symptoms, not root causes. Walling off the overflowing garbage room might hide it for awhile, but the smell sticks around and you aren’t any closer to having a clean house.

Hey everyone!

We’re here to wrap up our Player Behavior dev blog series. We’ve already discussed reform and reward, and now it’s time for punishment. It’s important to note that while punishment remains the most obvious way to deal with negative player behavior, we only utilize it in very specific circumstances. We only outright punish players when we’re really, really sure (false positive rates below one percent) a punishable offense occurred.

In every other case, we believe punishment should be structured to encourage reform. Drevarius explores an example of that in action with chat restrictions, but first Lyte tackles the core problem with Prisoner’s Islands (where negative players are matched with other negative players in a separate queue) and why ranked restrictions don’t create one.

Before we dive in, it’s that part of the blog where we reiterate our overriding philosophy on player behavior in online gaming: there’s no silver bullet. We strive to find a mix including punishment, reform, and positive reinforcement.

Why “Prisoner’s Island” is almost always bad for everyone

Prisoner’s Island, matchmaking negative players together, is a tempting, obvious solution to combating poor player behavior, but it’s ultimately just lazy design that only encourages further negativity. As players are exposed to more negative behavior, they just become more likely to quit playing any particular game--up to 320% more likely, in fact. That old saying about everything looking like a nail when all you have is a hammer applies here; low priority queues can work well in one very specific situation, but that doesn’t mean you can extend it to every player behavior problem.

When players know and understand exactly what lands them in the low-priority queue, they also know exactly how to return to unrestricted matchmaking.

We do use low-priority queues in League of Legends with LeaverBuster, a system that recognizes AFKs, leaves, and rage-quits. But even in that situation, as clear-cut as it gets (a player knows when he or she ditched his or her teammates,) we still steer towards reform first.

But if the behavior becomes a pattern, the player is punished with low-priority queues, forced to wait before entering matchmaking.

But what about ranked restrictions? We’ve seen some players concerned that by removing negatively-behaved players from the ranked queue into normal draft, we’re creating a Prisoner’s Island and just calling it something else. The key that makes ranked restriction different is that the overwhelming majority of players in normal draft are still neutral to positive. By slowly and intentionally introducing a very small minority of negatively behaved players and keeping them chat restricted during their path back to ranked play, we don’t disrupt the queue and players can compete in a more relaxed atmosphere as they work to reform.

With both LeaverBuster and ranked restrictions, social pressure acts as a lever, encouraging reform. We’ve found the approach of surrounding bad behavior with good influences tends to lead to the best results for improving the experience and helping the community actively reject negative behavior. Next, Drevarius finishes up the series by addressing how chat restrictions fit into our punishment philosophy.


How turning chat into a resource management game encourages reform

Hey everyone! I’m Drevarius, a designer on the team behind chat restrictions.

We wanted to design a system to discourage bad language and outright abusive communications. Again, punishment should encourage reform, so simply muting foul-mouthed players treated the symptom, but failed to create a solution where the player could learn and improve their communication skills. After a number of tests, we landed on chat restrictions, a punishment that hard limits the amount of team-wide chat messages a player can send per game.

Limiting the number of messages a player can send turns chat into a limited resource. This messaging “ammunition” can either go toward useful comms that help coordinate a successful gank or toward flaming an underperforming teammate. Chat restrictions challenge players with a resource dilemma and a moral decision.

Since most players want to win, the clear choice between helpful comms and negativity leads to a substantial reduction in most chat restricted players’ negativity. Many chat-restricted players realize using chat positively has an impact on their win rate. Because of this, some chat restricted players even asked to make their restriction permanent! When we compare the old ban-first, ban-later strategy regarding negative language to the new combo of chat restrictions and bans, we’ve seen 40% more players reform in the new system.


Why we believe League is only going to keep getting better

League’s currently at an all-time low when it comes to AFKs and leavers, and the community’s taken a hard stance against racism, homophobia and sexism. Cumulatively, only 2% of games globally include excessive harassment, racist, homophobic,or sexist language.

There’s still work ahead, and knowing that you’re experiencing something rare doesn’t help when it’s still horrifying and disappointing to see in game, and we know negative experiences linger in a way positive moments don’t.

Moving forward, we want to make it even easier to be positive. We’re also making it more convenient to find and play with your friends through expanding Suggested Players and new features like Party Rewards. We’re not done yet and we’re looking forward to working with the community to make League even friendlier. Good luck, and we’ll see you on the battlefield!

3 years ago

Tagged with: 
Dev Blog