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Given a basic set of rules for a MMO Text-based browser(& Android) game (attacks can be made every so many seconds and players can also buy auto attacks using both in-game currency or donate to the game for more as well).

What is enough to show the players that there are rules but not so much as to send a player running from the game because of the harsh actions of moderators/admins?

We all know that situations and circumstances would deem whether something is over the top or too relaxed.

Let's say we have a general structure of

  1. Warning
  2. Mute (in chat)
  3. Ban

What is a good starting point for number of warnings and length of mute/ban?

The main goal of a game is player retention and player base growth, so I want to know what is enough, to keep players from cheating or trolling to the point of making people quit, but not so overbearing that players quit.

  • 2
    I wouldn't consider punishment in game currency, but I believe permanently stepping the player character a couple levels down (reducing in-game experience) would be perceived by most players as more severe than a temporary ban, and definitely make them rethink their actions. – SF. Aug 1 '14 at 8:15
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Basically I think, a three-strike-model is fine for a temporal muting. A combination of warning/muting with increasing times should be fair enough if communicated clearly.

Enforcing a permanent ban on a user I would consider as ultima-ratio because you tell the person "you are not welcome here (anymore)". I'm not a fan of permanent banning, before doing so I would remove the account permanently (and maybe blocking a re-registration)

If a person violates some "hard" rules like ("no hacking") a temporary ban might be a good warning to show them that this is not the way you like it. If the person continues in this case, I would suggest to delete the account, because it violates the game balance and thus there is no reason to keep the user.

So, how do you show if there is a "working" moderation: please don't use a blamelist / list of banned/muted/whatever accounts. Putting someone in the pillory might show others that you have caught a user in this case but maybe the other abusers are better ;). If someone reports an incident and you resolve it, say that you have resolved it.

Finding the right amount of warnings/bans/rule violations to take actions depends on the community. if you have a community which demands a very fair game, you have to be stricter than on a "normal" game where there is always a bit of "abusing".

You have to take a good approximation and a good monitoring of the "climate" within the community - it's better to follow a good intuition than to follow too strict guidelines.

After/before each action you should ask yourself the questions "if I'm the viction of this measure, would it be fair for me?" and "is this a fair reaction for the community?". Fair doesn't imply popular. If you have to take action against a popular user, it's not nice to have to do, but you have to. You should take the same measure if the user isn't popular.

Speaking for myself: if the user is a regular I would not take the same actions against the account if it's trolling as I would take against a known troll.

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I don't remember who posted this, but I saw a wonderful post about disemvoweling as a punishment on forums. This means that all vowels are removed from a post. The content remains intact, but people will not understand it unless they actively try to; this makes it easy to ignore the post. Additionally, it makes fun of the offender in an innocent way, which is something most people don't want done to them.

In chat, you could implement automatic disemvoweling: for x days, all the user's chat posts will have all vowels removed. This seriously impairs their ability to communicate (and again makes fun of them) so it should serve as a motivation to stick to the rules. If this does not help, muting/banning can be your last resort.

  • that is interesting I had never thought of something like that. – Malachi Aug 19 '14 at 21:08
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    Mentioned by Gilles, on this answer – Andy Aug 19 '14 at 23:40

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