Game Development Reference
A large player count is a buffer against divergent goals. One person
goofing off, quitting, or griefing is much more important in a team of two
than a team of 12.
Sometimes specific solutions can solve specific problems. For exam-
ple, Left 4 Dead only allows four players, and its campaigns are 45 minutes
long. The chances of four strangers each playing continuously for that
long are slim; there is a divergent goal when one player wants to leave
while the others want to continue. But the game stays playable because as
soon as a player leaves, his character is taken over by the AI, who controls
it until another player joins. The AI isn't as good as a real person, but it's
a workable stopgap.
Griefing problems need more extreme solutions than other divergent
goals because they do much more damage when they occur.
One obvious option is to make griefing impossible. If shooter players
are blocking doors, allow players to pass through one another. If MMO
players are luring monsters to attack other players in town, place safe
zones where monsters won't go.
These strict solutions are necessary to fix the worst cases, but unfor-
tunately we can't disallow every possible griefing strategy. There is always
some way to annoy other players, even if it amounts to deliberately losing
or refusing to play. A strategy game player can simply hide their units in
corners and not even attempt to win. A team shooter player could fire their
weapon randomly to give away their team's location. The possibilities are
But we don't have to solve every case. Griefing strategies lie along a
spectrum of severity according to their entertainment value for the griefer,
and their destructive effect on other players. The most severe strategies are
very entertaining for the griefer and game-destroying for other players.
Nonproblem strategies are those that either are not entertaining at all for
the griefer, or don't harm other players. For a game to work online, de-
signers must identify the most severe griefing strategies and solve those.
Below a certain cutoff of severity, it isn't worth twisting the core game to
disallow griefing. For example, strategy games remain playable because
simply not fighting is not very fun for the griefer, and not very destructive
for the other player who is given a free (if dull) win. And shooter players
could grief their team by committing suicide, but they don't because dying
isn't fun. These griefing strategies are below the level of severity to be
worth worrying about. As long as we disallow the most severe griefing
strategies, the game works.
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