Placing the responsibility for policing a community into the hands of the members of said community is a lovely idea that rarely works as expected. The new Xbox Live reputation system launching with the Xbox One gives players the power to promote the polite over the pestiferous, with (hopefully) enough safeguards in place to prevent gang warfare.
In a post on Major Nelson's blog earlier this week, Xbox Live's Michael Dunn laid out the framework for the new reputation system taking the place of the Xbox 360's ineffectual starring system.
Like the previous system, the new reputation system relies quite a bit on player feedback to determine which category an online gamer falls into — "Good Player", "Needs Improvement" or "Avoid Me". What's different here is the definition of player feedback.
It's not just about simply leaving a rating. Now if you mute another player, it will affect their reputation. If you ban another player from your server for misbehaving, it affects their reputation. And if you decide you don't like another player and urge the entirety of your newly-expanded friends list to complain about them? Well, that's where the safeguards come into play.
Speaking to Major Nelson during Tuesday's Microsoft E3 Day One broadcast, available to stream on Xbox Live Silver and Gold, Xbox Live gaming features principle program manager Chad Gibson and senior global product marketing manager Mike Lavin explained how unfair situations might be handled.
It's not just about collecting data, but how the system uses and weighs the data collected. If a dozen people suddenly report a single user, the system looks at a variety of factors before laying the smack down. Did each of those players actually play in an online game with the person they reported? If not, all of their complaints won't equal that of a single person who spent 15 minutes playing Call of Duty online with the reported party. The system also looks at the reputation of both the person reporting and the alleged offender, the frequency of reports from a single user — it's a system the team plans on tweaking constantly for balance and fairness, but it sounds like they're off to a stellar start.
What really intrigues me about the reputation system, however, is how each Xbox One game with an online component can include the ability to recognise griefing behaviours and react to them accordingly. Even if no one reports you for flagrant team killing or purposefully driving the wrong way in Forza, the games will know you've been naughty, and you could get dinged for it.
There's potential there for hiccups and exploitation, but there's real potential here. It may strip players of their "right" to freely act like an obnoxious arsehole online, but I'm willing to take the hit for the good of Xbox Live society.