Staffing Philosophy: Action vs Procedure



  • I'm faced with two different styles of administration, and both have their merits and their drawbacks. I'd like to pick the brains of anyone here with staffing experience on the matter.

    In dealing with issues that arise with players (everything from violation of theme to clinging and harassment), it seems as if I have two choices:

    1. Give general public warnings against certain behavior (or begin a policy change or addition if needed), a waiting period, and then take action.

    2. Give one warning (or none at all if the player is causing massive headaches for others) and then throw their sorry behinds out the door.

    The first has the benefit of being (or at least appearing) to be above board, but allows problems to fester while the grace period runs out. The second has the benefit of immediately dealing with trouble spots, but with potential to cause cries of "staff abuse" from people who have witnessed Zeus's lightning bolt frying the idiot standing next to them.

    To add contextual flavor, I have up to this point taken a policy of allowing people to save face whenever possible by enacting correction or discipline in private, and only bringing out the hammer in public for situations such as open harassment, hacking or flipping me the bird and telling me "f**k your rules I'll do whatever I want". There are players that have benefited tremendously from this while others are angry that I "never do anything about problems" they don't see corrected. I feel bent over a bar no matter what I do.

    Which philosophy seems to work better, and do any of you know any other methods of handling these sort of things?



  • Disclaimer: I have no experience with being staff, just with interacting with them, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt.

    That said? I don't see why you can't do both. Problems don't just come in one flavor, they come in a variety of flavors, and can be gone through with levels. For example:

    Level 1 - Aggressive or inappropriate language/minor misconduct - a private warning, handled initially in a professional and friendly manner to let them know that Behavior X is not the sort of behavior you wish to foster in your environment. Then see if the behavior improves, perhaps over the course of a short time.

    Level 2 - Aggressive behavior toward staff / players. Moderate misconduct. A private warning, as above, though I would also back this up with a bulletin board post to the appropriate sections detailing the behavior and implementing a clear warning that such action cannot continue and will be met with disciplinary actions. Also applicable for repeated instances of Level 1.

    Level 3 - Abusive behavior toward staff/players, extremely inappropriate public conversation, major misconduct. This is the level that I would make a clear and immediate warning,,probably more publicly as this behavior is something 'clearly unacceptable' as well as an immediate bulletin board post as in Level 2. Failure to comply results in much harsher punishments.

    I would also make it known, via policy page, that there are levels of behavior and levels of punishment for those behaviors, so that you can reference them as a policy and not something done simply off-the-cuff, and make sure to stick to it clearly regardless of who it is that's infringing on it.

    This way, you can get the best of both worlds. It's still not a perfect solution, but it gives you options for differing severities of action in a clearly defined way that you can referene as consistently applied. Perhaps include examples.


  • Politics

    For each situation, different justice.

    It's impossible to proscribe a procedure that will work for every case. There are two good analogies I like to turn to regarding discipline.

    1. A MU is the game developer's bar. We want you to be here and enjoy yourself. We don't mind you being rowdy if everyone's having a good time. If you get too rowdy, we'll ask you to settle down . If you get belligerent, we'll toss you the fuck out. We have no obligation to set rules prior to taking action; we will take action based on what we know and what we believe will happen.

    2. A MU is a corporation where the game developer is the Chair of the Board of Directors. We're all in it together: the more players play, and treat other players with respect, the better the game's reputation and the quicker it will grow and flourish. If you're going to be a problem, we'll pull you aside and try to get you to follow the plan. If you continue to be a problem, we'll buy you out, and show you the door.

    In either case, there are two principles: (1) being reasonably courteous; and (2) acting reasonably professionally. So long as you follow those principles, I think you'll be fine.


  • Admin

    Don't over-regulate. Don't try to predict and write down every conceivable douchy thing someone might do, because you'll keep running into some very inventive assholes - you can't keep up - and they'll absolutely try to use your wording against you ("well, technically I wasn't violating that rule because...").

    This is a game, people go there to have fun. If someone's not behaving correctly talk to them and if they aren't correcting that behavior show them the door. And remember that ultimately it's what you do that shapes your MU*'s culture and adjusts attitudes to your liking, not what you post or put on a wiki.



  • Thank you all for the advice, I greatly appreciate it. I'll add some further context to my situation.

    The game I'm working on as an admin isn't entirely finished. The developer (me) invited 4 people on to help develop the game and become staff. During the initial building phase, one of the four people rushed ahead of everyone else, placing advertisements and inviting people on and giving out characters. This was before we had even settled on the theme! I literally woke up, logged in one day and found the game had gone from 4 to 12 players overnight and people were eager to get started. It was akin to building the car while it's going 65mph down the road.

    I was faced with the choice of telling what was instantly an active, eager player base "gtfo we aren't done" and potentially killing the game in the cradle, or trying to work with what was there and bootstrap things into place. Fearing game crib death, I opted for the latter. It's been a headache of missing pieces ever since.

    I'm often left without being able to tell people 'no you can't do X' because that policy file may not even exist. I'm also looking at the frankly baffling phenomenon of players who neither read boards nor check mails, but complain about never knowing what's going on.

    I've probably made a huge mistake (cue image macro) but the game's alive, running and active. I'm just not sure if I should put it down before I develop an ulcer, or continue putting pieces into place and getting it fully fleshed out.



  • @JaySherman said:

    The game I'm working on as an admin isn't entirely finished. The developer (me) invited 4 people on to help develop the game and become staff. During the initial building phase, one of the four people rushed ahead of everyone else, placing advertisements and inviting people on and giving out characters. This was before we had even settled on the theme! I literally woke up, logged in one day and found the game had gone from 4 to 12 players overnight and people were eager to get started. It was akin to building the car while it's going 65mph down the road.

    The person who did this is a huge dick and that sucks. That was some bullshit.


  • Pitcrew

    @JaySherman said:

    Thank you all for the advice, I greatly appreciate it. I'll add some further context to my situation.

    The game I'm working on as an admin isn't entirely finished. The developer (me) invited 4 people on to help develop the game and become staff. During the initial building phase, one of the four people rushed ahead of everyone else, placing advertisements and inviting people on and giving out characters. This was before we had even settled on the theme! I literally woke up, logged in one day and found the game had gone from 4 to 12 players overnight and people were eager to get started. It was akin to building the car while it's going 65mph down the road.

    I was faced with the choice of telling what was instantly an active, eager player base "gtfo we aren't done" and potentially killing the game in the cradle, or trying to work with what was there and bootstrap things into place. Fearing game crib death, I opted for the latter. It's been a headache of missing pieces ever since.

    I'm often left without being able to tell people 'no you can't do X' because that policy file may not even exist. I'm also looking at the frankly baffling phenomenon of players who neither read boards nor check mails, but complain about never knowing what's going on.

    I've probably made a huge mistake (cue image macro) but the game's alive, running and active. I'm just not sure if I should put it down before I develop an ulcer, or continue putting pieces into place and getting it fully fleshed out.

    My suggestion is to pause the game, whether the players like it or not, and get the essentials finished before letting them continue. Also, regarding people not reading anything: remind them it's a text-based game and don't be shy about linking them or giving them reference to the files, board posts, whatever. If they complain about not being ifnormed, show them how to set a reminder in bright red on their @aconnect that tells them to check @mail, bboard, etc.



  • @Three-Eyed-Crow

    The game has been suffering because of this ever since. I'm just afraid that if I call things to a halt and the players lose RP momentum, they wont' come back.



  • @JaySherman If they truly like the theme and want to be on it, they will. I do have a question, though. Was the person who did the inviting aware it wasn't open for public, yet? And incomplete? I don't want to say the person was being pretty jerky if they weren't fully aware.



  • @JaySherman said:

    @Three-Eyed-Crow

    The game has been suffering because of this ever since. I'm just afraid that if I call things to a halt and the players lose RP momentum, they wont' come back.

    Players will go where the fun is. If it's a half-baked idea that's having trouble getting speed because you can't get a foothold, they won't stay there long anyway. But if you pause it, and come up with something awesome, you can be sure they're gonna come back. That's the nature of the beast.



  • @icanbeyourmuse

    To be honest I'm not sure if they were aware they weren't supposed to invite people on; they knew it was incomplete because they were logging into room zero that had no building. They just wanted to continue a forum RP with their friends and drug them all on without a second thought. This same person also tried to play 'go between' for myself and a coder, telling us both entirely different stories of what code was wanted. I went out to dinner and came back to find code being installed without my knowledge or consent and my game being crashed by said code. When I removed the code, this player told me I should be begging said coder for forgiveness (but not to worry because this player will talk to the coder FOR me). Talking directly to the coder solved a lot of problems, but that's the kind of person I was dealing with. I had no idea I'd opened such a big box of crazy.


  • Pitcrew

    Use the summer as a downtime / open beta in order to set up what you want your game to be like and how it will run in the future. That way when the upswing comes back in the fall as @Derp said, they're going to come back. And you'll have things in place you want to go with and culled out the problems and gotten in place what you want done.



  • @JaySherman said:

    @icanbeyourmuse

    To be honest I'm not sure if they were aware they weren't supposed to invite people on; they knew it was incomplete because they were logging into room zero that had no building. They just wanted to continue a forum RP with their friends and drug them all on without a second thought. This same person also tried to play 'go between' for myself and a coder, telling us both entirely different stories of what code was wanted.

    If you have this person in any position of authority fire them now.



  • @Three-Eyed-Crow

    Hilariously they fired themselves when I told them bluntly, "Stop doing this, period, and no, you cannot continue to indulge in your unthemely mind control fetish either." They just up and dropped everything but one alt. Problem solved.


  • Pitcrew

    So me and a buddy made up The Problem Player Field Guide and I train staff with it.

    Personally,

    I don't do a long list of "this is what asshole behavior is not allowed here" rules because everybody already knows what good and bad behavior is, it's not ignorance that causes bad behavior, it's disrespect. I also am very anti house-rules set up for 'mechanical fairness' for the exact same reason. People put "mechanical fairness" house rules because "what if it's abused?" Well, if it's abused, you tell that asshole in particular to stop abusing it or else you'll take the ability away from them.

    The corrective action that needs to occur should be contained to the people the problematic behavior is affecting and only those people; nobody needs to know that Bob is putting on a show in the OOC lobby unless they're suffering through it. When you 'fix' a problem and then you post this big ass announcement to uninvolved people I suppose you could say "this shows players we're proactive", but you're supposed to do that shit anyway, and to me that's like posting an announcement that I processed someone's +job.

    Players requiring corrective action need to be told

    1. The problem
    2. Why it's a problem (not why it's wrong, they know better)
    3. The proposed solution
    4. Consequences for not cooperating
    5. Do you understand?

    And always, always back up your shit on the consequences you intend to give them.


  • Politics

    @Derp said:

    Players will go where the fun is. If it's a half-baked idea that's having trouble getting speed because you can't get a foothold, they won't stay there long anyway. But if you pause it, and come up with something awesome, you can be sure they're gonna come back. That's the nature of the beast.

    This.

    If players leave and never come back because of an attempt to fix a huge problem, they are not the sort of players you want to keep around.



  • Also, you don't want to end up running a game you don't like very much, so don't just feel obligated to continue on because some randos have shown up and demanded entertainment through no fault of your own.

    Staff actually need to get some fun out of their games. It's very different than player-fun. It often comes with bullshit and work that offsets the fun. But some fun still has to be there, and you have to believe in what you're doing enough to want to log on. Do what needs to be done and make the game you want to make. Players will like or they won't, but at least it will succeed or fail as something you actively want to be a part of.


  • Admin

    @Three-Eyed-Crow said:

    Staff actually need to get some fun out of their games. It's very different than player-fun. It often comes with bullshit and work that offsets the fun.

    Yeah, that's correct. Basically it's the rough equivalent of running your own table-top game at your house; a player only needs to show up, but you need to have the place relatively clean beforehand, there has to be a table with enough chairs for everyone, you need to make sure the new guy doesn't clog your toilet, and on top of the mundane logistics you need to actually prepare a story for the RPG itself.

    It can be fun, it's a different kind of fun though, and it's not for everyone. Cultivate a thick skin and be patient.


  • Pitcrew

    Another thing,

    I used to and I still hear/see people spending like TWO OR FIVE HOURS fucking negotiating with players. As a staffer, you are not there to be their friend, you are there to be their game leader. You make the decisions. Your job is not to change their mind about your policies, your job is to enforce your policies.

    Enforcing your policies means explaining them, showing the player how to act in accordance to them, and making sure the player understands the consequences for not acting in accordance to them. You can do this in a manner that is completely respectful and professional. NOBODY is entitled to exceptions to rules everyone else follows, so NO, you can not negotiate an exception. NOBODY is entitled to acting like a shithead, especially on an online platform where (a.) you have a backspace button (b.) you can come back when you feel better, no matter how bad your gluten allergies are or how many heart attacks you've had. And NOBODY needs an explanation as to why you have expectations for courtesy among players and staff.

    Yes, you want to be just/fair and respectful to your players, even the asshole ones. You will need to listen to them because their feedback, even when rudely stated, is necessary for you to be a good leader. But in so doing, you need to be on top of your shit. You need to be aware whether the discussion you're having is confronting the bad behavior, or whether it's discussing its cause and context. Because you can discuss its cause and context for a year and not fix the bad behavior.

    ETA

    AND ANOTHER THING

    YOUR STAFF ARE PLAYERS MAN

    I really like By Right Of Blood. With the recent slow but stead influx of new players I am optimistic about it, but I am sad that I have to work uphill since I let it get completely ruined into a Staff And The Superfriends Sandbox during 2013 and 2014.. (I didn't know who Yseulte@HM was and let her essentially be head staff)

    The way I did it was by suffering that stupid-ass "I don't want to hurt my friend's feelings" delusionalness. I did not have the common sense to realize that if you don't want to take corrective action on a staffer because "they're my friend," pick up your nutsack and do it the fuck anyway.

    That 5-part thing I mentioned doing to players, you do to staff too:

    Like,

    (1) I noticed you haven't been logging in to your staff alt.
    (2) I know RL can be really distracting and stressful, but the game needs to move forward. If there is something going on that's keeping you that I can help with then we can talk about it later, but in the meantime your absence from staff means that your jobs and your plot are going stagnant and the slowdown is discouraging players.
    (3) So, I need to know by tomorrow whether you can get these jobs and scenes moving within the next two days. .
    (4) If you can't, I will need to reassign your +jobs and involve an additional storyteller in your plots so they can move forward until you can make time.
    (5) Do you have any questions or concerns about this?

    And then keep and log that conversation so that later on if they fuck up again you can have another chat with them Because you're going to get "you never told me"-ed.

    (1) Hey, I need to talk to you about those +jobs and scenes we talked about last week because I haven't seen your involvement in them.
    (2) I've had to rearrange those +jobs to StaffJimbo and StaffBertha and the workload is unevenly distributed as a result so some +jobs are taking longer to fulfill.
    (3) I need you to make a decision whether or not you have the time to continue staffing here.
    (4.) If you choose to remain on staff but your +jobs continue to need reassignment, then I will need to go ahead and remove you from staff and find someone who has time.
    (5.) Do you have any questions? I know that this may be disappointing. Please don't be mistaken: you are always welcome to play here. But if the game can't move forward, then there's no game to be a player on.

    See, it's beautiful. If they get butt hurt to the point where they stop being your friend, then you did not lose a very valuable friendship, because apparently the only currency in your friendship was an online game with strangers about imaginary people.


  • Coder

    Jay,

    Involve players in game creation. You don't have out up polls or anything, but chat with them as you're working,Mao cool and neat at their ideas,mask for input if you feel it's right. Give excited people a reason to be excited.


 

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