As an avid Xbox 360 gamer, one issue has proven increasingly frustrating to me over the past few years: Immature miscreants are allowed to ruin the multiplayer experience, spewing expletives and other nonsense into their headsets and, in games like “Black Ops 2,” creating incredibly offensive in-game content. With Xbox One, Microsoft may just be set to finally do something about this stupidity. The key is an enhancement to the Reputation feature that, today, simply doesn’t do a thing.
I’m crossing my fingers that they get this one right. In its current state, Xbox Live multiplayer is borderline unacceptable.
According to Micheal Dunn a program Manager on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Services, the enhanced Reputation service in Xbox Live for Xbox One does appear to address my concerns.
“Sometimes you meet someone online that decides it’s cool to hum Top 40 songs as they go through a match or sometimes meet someone that can’t seem to avoid swearing at everything that #$%^ happens to them,” he says. “There are some bad apples you run into that just seem to like to cause trouble. With Xbox One we’ve built a new social reputation model to help expose people that aren’t fun to be around, and also create real consequences for those few bad apples that continue to harass our good players.”
Here’s how it works today. You get into a game, whatever game, and notice someone incessantly humming into their headset, or perhaps, in Black Ops 2, an intricately drawn pornographic image. So you tap the Xbox Guide button and—slowly, ever slowly—access your Friends list from the Guide. Then, you tab over to the Players tab (you did remember his Gamertag, right?), select it, choose File Complaint, and then fill out an all-too-inadequate report about the problem. You can also review the player (and avoid them in the future) and mute them.
I have filled out several hundred complaints about players on Xbox Live in the past few years, largely because of Black Ops and Black Ops 2, which inexplicably let gamers create graphic (literally) images that you see each time you run into them in a game. These images are so horrible and so common I was surprised to see them reappear with BO2 this past year. But for all those complaints, I’ve only heard back from Xbox once, and I got a very vague thank you for pointing out a real loser to them.
According to Dunn, this is going to change.
“Player feedback options in Xbox One allows you to help educate those who don’t seem to follow good social gaming norms,” he says. “We simplified the feedback mechanism also to be less of a ‘survey’ and more direct feedback options, even linking things in like block or mute player actions into the feedback model.”
Good. But here’s the important bit.
“All of the feedback from players online flows into the reputation service to evaluate a players online social reputation,” he continues. “The more hours you play online without causing others to have a horrible time the better your reputation will be, similar to the more hours your drive without an accident the better your driving record and insurance rates will be. Most players will have good reputations and be seen as ‘green’ (good) players you’d enjoy playing with. Even those good players might receive a few player feedback reports each month and that is OK. Xbox Live is looking to identify players that are repeatedly disruptive on Xbox Live. We’ll identify those players with a lower reputation score and in the worse cases they will earn the ‘avoid me’ reputation. Looking at someone’s gamer card you’ll be able to quickly see their reputation.”
Smart Match—which I discussed previously—will use this reputation as part of its decision-making process, and I admit I sort of delight at the notion of a bunch of miscreants being forced to play only with people just like them. I assume there will be a way to automatically avoid the “avoid me” jerks otherwise.
“This reputation system will evolve as we track the feedback we get from actual players and titles, plus add more consequences for bad apples that we want to stop #$%^ crunching on corn chips in your ear,” he concludes. “All you need to do is block or report players that are abusive, cheat, or causing various amounts of non-fun mayhem and their social reputation will reflect that. We’ll keep the good friendly players together with other good friendly people, and keep a seat for the bad apples in their own special place. Our team and I built this for all of you and we hope you like it!”
So this is great news, yes. It should have happened years ago. Today, this is a serious black mark on the quality of Xbox Live.