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Systematic Conflict of Interest - GMs

maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
Preamble: This issue was briefly touched on in this thread, but resurfaced more deeply in conversation with @JustVine - I think it's worth wider discussion.

GMs are great. I want them.
However, I have seen time and again, that GM's both in large-scale MMOs and in small Private Servers tend to walk a moral dilemma that either sees them develop either an in-crowd who seem to be shown favouritism or they disengage from the community and interact at arm's length.
I'm not convinced a payroll changes this.

Traditionally, GM's are given 2 main responsibilities:
  • Community Interaction - responsibilities tend to include things like Talking/Interacting with players and Having an open ear that is always (*) accessible to the playerbase. To help them do this, GM's need privileges like Teleporting, Spawning Bosses, Ghost mode for hide-and-seek, ... all that fun stuff.
  • Community Moderation - responsibilities tend to include Direct Intervension, Catching botters/hackers/spammers/the like. To help them do this they wield a Ban Hammer, etc.

This puts a GM in a difficult position because if a GM has to reach for their tools it's usually not for happy people, they can't possibly befriend everyone on the server, the power dynamic creates a swathe of sucking up - all of which seriously undermines their percieved ability to be impartial.

It is a conflict of interest for a GM to both befriend the playerbase AND moderate it.
IRL we tell our attorneys and judges to back down if they have personal ties to their cases - but we tell our GMs to do the exact opposite. It spawns a ton of drama that has the GM team walking on egg-shells.

My question is - is this only my experience, or have others seen different?
I wish I were deep and tragic

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    They're an in-game customer support team, dealing with customers rather than friends. That should always be the main focus. As long as there's someone overseeing it all, I don't suppose it'll be an issue.
    This link may help you: https://ashesofcreation.wiki/
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    Personally I think we have to differentiate between two roles that should co-exist - GM's and Community Managers.

    Your community moderators will serve to be the voice of Intrepid, answering questions, engaging in threads/social platforms and just bringing some life.

    A GM is solely the hammer - deal with any requests that come in and be the tribunal. Keep on top of reports and breaches of service, while dealing with any tickets raised by the community in-game.

    If you keep these roles distinct then I feel that's the balance needed. It requires more resources but I think as a community we would agree it's a necessary investment to keep the community healthy.
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    VoidwalkersVoidwalkers Member
    edited February 2022
    I'm also for differentiating between the two roles and giving them to different ppl.

    The moderator role ideally requires a machine-like impartialness, if we want the ban hammer to be swung in a fair manner. (Add in human level intelligence to prevent exploits though)

    Meanwhile the community manager's role emphasizes interaction & engagement with players, which requires the staff member in this role to act as "human" as possible.

    I guess it's rather difficult for a single person to be both at the same time, unless he has a mental switch or something that allows him to flip freely between" human" & "machine" mode.
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    I guess it's rather difficult for a single person to be both at the same time, unless he has a mental switch or something that allows him to flip freely between" human" & "machine" mode.

    It's more common that you think. Just as customers can suddenly flip from being happy supporters to snarling venomous creatures, a support team has to be able to flip from professional to friendly and back again in an instant.
    This link may help you: https://ashesofcreation.wiki/
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    NoaaniNoaani Member, Intrepid Pack
    I'm unsure what the issue here is.

    Most companies have a team that works on in game issues (bots, exploits etc), a team that works on customer issues (account problems, client issues etc), and a team that works on community interaction (social media, occasional in game events etc).

    While some small games may not have each of these, and some private servers may have some major issues with GM's on occasion, actual game developers haven't had these issues for well over a decade (EVE was the last game I heard of that had issues like this), because they have all realized that these three teams all have different skill sets and so need to consist of different people.
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    NerrorNerror Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited February 2022
    Ideally, every single Intrepid employee should be required to play the game at least a little on the live servers. Preferably a lot for some of them, like the designers. Some of them should probably play more on the public test server. I think it's crucial for everyone in the company to keep a finger on the pulse of the game, so they can meet and understand where the players come from, when they come with proposals and changes they want to see.

    They need to be in their own separate guild without any alliances to non-Intrepid guilds. And to keep things impersonal and professional ingame on the server. In Alpha 1 the mods were also instructed to not join other guilds.

    It doesn't really matter what team they are on, be it GMs or community managers or otherwise: If they can't be professionals and impartial because they know the people they have to manage and judge, they don't fulfill the requirements of the job. Until shown otherwise, I trust Intrepid to handle it well :smile:
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    Nerror wrote: »
    Ideally, every single Intrepid employee should be required to play the game

    The problem with that is that you then have to take them out of their work area in order to give them time in-game. Their time is better spent on maintaining and continuing production of the game. Or were you planning on trying to force them to spend time in-game in their own free time outside work?

    This link may help you: https://ashesofcreation.wiki/
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    NerrorNerror Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    edited February 2022
    daveywavey wrote: »
    Nerror wrote: »
    Ideally, every single Intrepid employee should be required to play the game

    The problem with that is that you then have to take them out of their work area in order to give them time in-game. Their time is better spent on maintaining and continuing production of the game. Or were you planning on trying to force them to spend time in-game in their own free time outside work?

    Oh no, definitely on company time. For some of them, a couple of hours a week is fine. For the designers I would prefer they spent a bit more time. I know it's unlikely they will adopt this for all employees.
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    Never come in contact with a GM but yeah, who watches the watchmen? 🤔
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    AzheraeAzherae Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Community Managers, Game Managers, and Experience Managers (Arbitration and data collection) aren't the same teams. They communicate with each other, and you might be able to rotate people around if you feel the need to, but overall, it's prevented from being an issue via this method.

    The best way I've learned from my management positions is to have the rotation go in the direction of:

    1) New Recruits to Game Managers, who are taught to use the tools to resolve problems sent in tickets, this way they get used to all the situations and weird bugs and edge cases and learn not to treat players as if they player did something wrong. They also learn better solutions and have a clearer idea of where the development on any given bug is.
    2) Game Managers to Experience Managers, who must interact with players, gather initial information and actually write the tickets. Now they know the sort of silliness going on in the back. They can be trained not to reveal this to players easily, but they write better tickets, for sure, and might be able to resolve some problems better, but now they're constantly exposed to unhappy people.
    3) Experience Managers to Community Managers, this is similar to a 'promotion' in that it happens if you manage to handle enough irate or unhappy players, but even if you're not great at it, a break from dealing with negativity to at least help do things like build events or arrange cool things for people, is good, and you've just come from dealing with unhappy people and before that, from learning why those people are unhappy, so you have some insights.
    4) Community Managers back to Game Managers (but possibly team lead or senior depending), because now you've learned how to manipulate and work the system more to deal with things people ask for and events. You may never be a programmer, but there's a lot of stuff that helps here, and it's honestly a nice break that allows people to detach from direct playerbase interaction after a few weeks or months of CM work.
    5) Promote or repeat.

    Proper rotations have consistently solved the problems in my teams, even with people that I would not have expected to manage emotionally when their initial reactions were assessed (e.g. people who wanted to be front-facing but had poor emotional control displayed, seemed to improve once they got a better idea of what the customer was experiencing, and whether or not their personal emotional control improved, their understanding and empathy did, making them more capable of doing the job they originally wanted to do)
    Sorry, my native language is Erlang.
    
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    AsgerrAsgerr Member
    edited February 2022
    A possible solution to this would be to force whatever GMs to play on different servers than the ones they work on, and have them rotate their work through different servers on a periodic schedule.

    This way you allow for:
    • A greater enjoyment of the worlds on the GM's part (discovering new worlds structures etc) which makes it easier on their mental health at work, by it not being overly repetitive.
    • Squashing any long term favoritism to specific people in one server
    • Avoiding any possible collusion by said GM with his own world/server
    Sig-ult-2.png
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    maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Asgerr wrote: »
    A possible solution to this would be to force whatever GMs to play on different servers than the ones they work on, and have them rotate their work through different servers on a periodic schedule.

    This way you allow for:
    • A greater enjoyment of the worlds on the GM's part (discovering new worlds structures etc) which makes it easier on their mental health at work, by it not being overly repetitive.
    • Squashing any long term favoritism to specific people in one server
    • Avoiding any possible collusion by said GM with his own world/server

    This solution seems to bundle up what most people have said - helping GM's switch on/off while giving them maximum exposure to the game/community without crossover.

    I'm still curious to hear if this is just a relic from the past though.
    Noaani claims it's not a problem anymore, Nerror would rather see IF it becomes a problem first, Azherae doesn't experience this problem (right?) because their team is already rotating.

    It sounds like a problem that only stood out in my own experiences.
    I wish I were deep and tragic
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    AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    I’ve interacted with GMs many times in different games. It’s like calling customer service at Amazon. They help you and then go on to the next customer. I’m not aware of GMs that hang out and goof around with players; that’s not part of the job and seems unprofessional.

    Now, I’ve been a developer/GM/etc. for a small online game. It’s text-based, like a MUD, but with some graphics. I’d interact with players as an NPC but that’s different. I wasn’t an employee and everything I did was purely for fun, from helping people, to creating game systems, to writing and running storylines in the game.

    I can’t imagine that sort of thing in an MMORPG.
     
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    SongcallerSongcaller Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Seen WoW GMs nuke players during stream snipes. Seen players who have stolen GM items and decimated servers. Attacked a GM in one game and died on impact lol. I do enjoy GMs but sometimes you won't ever see a GM just the GM actions. IS has the mods, community managers, content creators, GMs and Steven. Not to mention all of the devs. If a GM went rogue I doubt the server population would remain quiet. I'd also wager it would be recorded and broadcasted too by some. In the end, the whole purpose is fun and it's good to enjoy your job.
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    I believe a GMs impact in the game world should be as minimal as possible, limited to issues such as bugged quests, lost items, etc. They should not be developing relationships with players or guilds. They have access to tools and information that provide potentially game-breaking advantages if they were to make use of them - on a separate character, for example.

    A GM is a paid employee doing their job, period. If they enjoy it that's great, but they shouldn't be "playing" the game as a GM. This is a pvp oriented game. I think it is safe to say that the potential for drama and toxicity in pvp games is much higher due to their competitive nature. As a pvper I have a long memory, revenge is sweet, and forgiveness comes slowly. I know I'm not alone with my "kill on sight" list...it's an admittedly questionable part of the fun of a pvp game.

    If a GM goes home and plays for fun, they may remember specific players/guilds and they could impact game play for others.

    To be fair I don't recall this ever being an issue in any games I've played, and GM sightings are mostly pretty cool precisely because of their rarity.

    As potential problems go, this is probably low on the list but the post title caught my eye.



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    NerrorNerror Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I want the live GM's be knowledgeable enough about the game that they can show up hidden and spot bots and other exploits easily. I think that requires a decent knowledge of the gameplay in some cases.
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    AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    Asgerr wrote: »
    A possible solution to this would be to force whatever GMs to play on different servers than the ones they work on, and have them rotate their work through different servers on a periodic schedule.

    Waaay back in the day (more than 20 years ago, I can't believe it has been that long!!!) I was "hired" as a Guide for EQ. You actually had a bit of an interview process back then and took a quiz and stuff. But I made it through and got chosen. Part of the deal was that you had to say what server(s) you played on, and then you would be assigned a position on a server you didn't play on. (I only played on E'ci, and was assigned to the Bertoxxulous server.)

    Before you ask me what my experience was like as a Guide, don't bother. After all I went through to get picked, I ended up dropping out before actually doing anything. The main reason was that I broke up with the long-term girlfriend I played the game with (and met in the game) and playing was no longer fun. Other reasons were that I got a full-time job and didn't have time like I used to. And also, my living situation was a bit iffy and I didn't have a chance to set up an internet connection to play even if I had time. (Back in those days, an internet connection meant dial-up, we didn't have easy ways to get online like you do now, it was a big deal to set it up.)

    But anyway, my point is that even decades ago that seemed to be a standard thing for an MMORPG, I expect that it would still be one.
     
    Hhak63P.png
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    Atama wrote: »
    Back in those days, an internet connection meant dial-up

    Ohhh man, it wasn't pretty, was it... :(
    This link may help you: https://ashesofcreation.wiki/
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    SongcallerSongcaller Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Used to have to time rts sessions and save to reconnect dial up. Windows (time period, not the os) were 2 hours at the time.
    2a3b8ichz0pd.gif
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    Neurath wrote: »
    Used to have to time rts sessions and save to reconnect dial up. Windows (time period, not the os) were 2 hours at the time.

    And it sometimes took me 1.5hrs to actually load into the dungeon, by which time my team-mates had got bored of waiting for me and had already completed it.

    I remember one time it took so long to load in that the 2hr limit actually kicked me out in the loading screen.

    Good times, eh?!
    This link may help you: https://ashesofcreation.wiki/
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    maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    when my family had dial up, I was told the internet was "for adults only" and that I wouldn't find it interesting anyways.

    I had to make do with Chip's Challenge
    I wish I were deep and tragic
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    maouw wrote: »
    I had to make do with Chip's Challenge

    Awesome game B)
    This link may help you: https://ashesofcreation.wiki/
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    I think as long as there's an automatic response or like a pre-message that comes up with PM'ing a GM in-game, it should be fine. There was an MMO I played years ago that had in-game GM's, and when you went to message them, it gave kind of an 'are you sure?' message ahead of sending the PM - it let you know that the GM's are NOT in-game to socialize, and it politely asked players to avoid just saying 'hi' to them.

    But aye - it is very annoying when the GM's begin to gather a regular clique, around them. Yours truly would greatly prefer they be non-social.



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