Toxic players are necessary, says Orcs Must Die dev

"You need those people there. They're driving the game. They're giving it longevity," explains Jerome K. Jones

Online gaming and bad behavior, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand. While a number of companies try their hardest to police their game or network communities, enforcement and discipline only go so far. While Riot believes in trying to "reform" players in a game like League of Legends, Robot Entertainment designer Jerome K. Jones is taking a very different approach in Orcs Must Die! Unchained. Not only does Jones see toxic players as something to live with, but he feels that their passion for a game is an asset to be leveraged.

"There's probably something good about the toxic players showing up and sticking with your game," Jones told Polygon. "The good thing is probably that it's a good game. It's holding their interest, it's keeping them around. It's making them passionate enough to give a damn."

"They're not going to go away. And honestly, I don't think you want them to. You need those people there," he continued. "They're driving the game. They're giving it longevity. They're giving it passion. And when they find something about your game that they love, they defend it to the death. Those are the same people that can go to bat for you."

As for players who are concerned with encountering some form of toxicity or a high level of aggression, Jones advises playing more defensively or acting as a support character in the game, rather than challenging aggression with aggression. "I don't think those are bad people," he said. "You just gotta do your best to deal with them in whatever manner seems to work the best."

Orcs Must Die! Unchained is currently in a closed beta. It'll be interesting to watch Robot Entertainment and how it manages any toxic player behavior.

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Latest comments (12)

Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 5 years ago
Not always.

To elaborate: matter "who you are rooting for or which side you are defending/giving a reason for" there will always be two major sides that must and will co-exist. You can't have positivity without negativity, that is a fact and something I agree with BUT what I don't agree with is how the majority of toxic/negative people go about it.

You can be toxic and negative without being a douche or a troll and negative feedback is ALWAYS needed. In fact, if you're not listening to BOTH positive and negative feedback, then quite frankly, you're doing it wrong

It is true in what is said, although he is generalising since some of those that are "negative" (I prefer this term when it comes to describing those that love a game but disagree with something as I prefer to use the term "Toxic" to describe those that attack others for the fun of it) are driven because they love the game and feel that the game might be going in the wrong direction or something added doesn't fit etc.

Naturally there will be people out there that will lash out, rage, curse until they go blue in the face and so on but as someone whom has dealt with large communities for over 10 years, with some of that being for EA (I hope that gives you the picture of what I have endured ;) ) I can certainly say that there are just some toxic players out there that need more than just a global account ban, such as having their Internet cut off for eternity.

Overall, negativity is needed just as much as positivity but it's all about the execution of the negativity. Constructive and civil is what people need to learn and most importantly, developers need to begin to embrace it. Without negativity, how do we improve? How do we learn of our mistakes? How do we make sure to not repeat said mistakes?

In other words:

Good Toxicity/Negativity: I don't like the way you changed the game because of "X reason". Could you change the game back, it was much better back then.

Bad Toxicity/Negaivity: F**k you, you s**t eating f**ks! I'm not giving you any more of my money until you change the game back the way it was!!

This is why I applaud Riot for at least trying to combat toxicity because sadly it spreads, morale goes down and the energy to keep playing a game is lost. Such as with LoL...I love playing Co-op vs AI with friends but randoms not taking the game mode seriously or insulting us or generally being dicks because it's a "bot game" can really kill a mood.

Hell I would rather play ARAMs and ranked now just to avoid the AI toxicity. Those are the types I would prefer to not have in a community or at least try to contain because they are infectious .
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Ron Dippold Software/Firmware Engineer 5 years ago
Uh, well, I guess if you need all the players you can get... but those people drive me away fast. Which is why LoL is the only MOBA I'll play.

Also as Adam said I think super skilled players need to be considered separately from actual toxic verbally abusive griefers and a-holes. You can learn a lot losing to an aggressive skilled player, even if you wouldn't want to happen constantly. There's just no upsides to playing with the other kind.
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David Serrano Freelancer 5 years ago
But the most passionate or engaged players in an audience are not by default, toxic. And if asked, I suspect most actuaries would tell game developers that the financial impact of toxic players on their bottom line is not subjective. The ratio of total revenue earned from toxic players vs. the total revenue lost as a direct result of toxic players can be clearly defined.

At the end of the day, I think developers and publishers should just accept that toxic players are to PvP games, what loud and abusive alcoholics are to bars and clubs. The behavior is not motivated by "passion" or an above average level of engagement. It's a symptom of a deeply rooted problem which has nothing to do with the game, or the behavior of other players.
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Show all comments (12)
Dean Parker5 years ago
You may find it interesting to read Robot's official position on toxic players -
They said:
Earlier today a headline suggested that Robot Entertainment welcomes toxic players in Orcs Must Die! Unchained. In the full interview, we acknowledged that toxic players are an unfortunate facet of multiplayer gaming. We made clear that we want to hear from all players no matter how passionate they may be. Passionate but not toxic. We have an active community management team in place that will address toxic players quickly and decisively.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dean Parker on 29th June 2014 11:13pm

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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 5 years ago
There's a lot in Jones quotes that initially struck me as totally wrong, but i'm blaming it on Jones's definition of "Toxic Players" being much broader than mine.
I've always called "Toxic" only those individuals who deliberately seek to annoy/grief/harm as many other players as possible, while he seems to include anyone who gives poor, non-constructive negative feedback or present aggressive behavior in general.
In that case, I agree that you're going to lose loads of vital information if you dismiss any feedback that isn't expressed in a civil manner: Someone venting his frustration in a flood of raging insults should be looked at more like symptom than the actual problem (what caused such frustration? a bug that needs fixing? unbalanced feature that needs fixing? The guy might be just a sorry loser, but, if you got time and resources, it's worth investigating).

The true toxic players (those who fall in the category by my definition), however, are just as harmful as cheaters. I honestly can't see their behavior bringing any benefit to the game.
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loyal passionate customers every company needs. Nobody needs toxic customers, nobody.
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Benjamin Crause Supervisor Central Support, Nintendo of Europe5 years ago
For someone like me who's coming from the Customer Support field, enjoys community service and encourages team play (especially in MMOs) claiming toxic players are necessary is a slap in the face. Mr. Jones certainly got a point that toxic players stay in a game only because they are passionate about it. But at the same time they not only drive away other players who did not yet find their passion in the game (but could with more time) but also prevents other players from ever trying out the game because they lost that minimum interest in it over the stories from those who got driven away.

Word of mouth goes a long way. In both directions. Good and bad. Jerome Jones believes they drive the game. Most likely yes, in the wrong direction. Nothing good can come out of toxic behaviour. It sounds like he is mistaking toxic for critic/loud players (white knights). Because toxic players can only create one thing: a toxic community. How such a community can drive and grow a game is beyond me.

One of the key reasons for players to leave a community based game is exactly that: a bad or toxic community. It was the key driver for me to leave World of Warcraft. For many of my friends it was the key reason to leave competitive games like Call of Duty. If you can turn that toxic behaviour into constructive feedback your toxic players can become powerful advocates. But most toxic players are advocates who throw acid.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
There's a VAST difference between a player who's upset and asks about an issue ("I found a problem, can you please fix this?") and a player (who may not be a player at all in some cases) who's irate about the same issue or read about it elsewhere and just wants to be a jerk (YOUR GAME SUCKS! YOU SHOULD DIE! and so forth and so on). As noted above, constructive criticism is the best way to approach a developer or publisher if there's a problem with a game they've created.

That some never learned how to properly complain or see that feedback is more important than emotional outbursts (it's a game, after all... NOT a defective medical product you've got surgically installed to keep you breathing) just boggles my mind sometimes...
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 5 years ago
Yeah, this doesn't seem to match my definition of toxic. Having a complaint about a game is not toxic, attacking other players or being PvP-aggressive isn't toxic. Trying to make other players quit playing is what strikes me as toxic in game, and long energetic angry rants about faults that one never bothered to actually report strike me as toxic out of it.

Some people have apparently forgotten the step between finding a problem and screaming and raving, which is "asking politely".
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Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 5 years ago
Thanks for that Dean, certainly stomps out the concerns I have since reading this article in regards to their stance but Mister Jones should be careful about his wording and using broad definitions or generalising.

As most here have stated, there's a difference between certain aspects of "toxic" and "negative". If a player is throwing insults and death threats around, even if their opinion or thoughts are true and agreed upon by thousands, then they still need to go because of throwing insults and death threats around.

However, if they are just ranting and angry then a simple chat explaining they might get more of a response if they are more civil and explain more about what they want or what their issue is goes a long way.

I have been asked numerous times by people "Why do you spend and waste your time explaining things to those that are causing trouble?" answer is simple: They are still part of the community and they are being vocal for a reason, if they are ranting and raving but not insulting then they can be prevented from going too far and become part of the community and even be a voice of the community. If they don't listen to me then that's their choice and then they will be dealt with accordingly.

It's like when I moderated five forums a few years ago. I had three regular trolls that would cause trouble for me, spamming, insulting others and so on. Two of them were permanently banned but the third was given a second chance because he hadn't been as severe as the others. The other two were trying to tempt him to join them in the bans, to which I simply explained to him that he had been a decent role model within the community before he met the two trouble makers and he could be again if he dismisses them.

He listened to me and 1 year later, I recommended that he succeeded me in looking after the five forums. That was back in 2008 and AFAIK he is still moderating those forums today. So essentially, simply by talking to him I was able to avoid a third ban and creating a bigger trouble maker, instead I was able to create another moderator and gain a friend from the situation.

My point is, you won't be able to talk to them all but if you at least try and give them that chance to reform, then you will be able to see what kind of person you are dealing with. If they don't want to reform/change then it's a lost cause and a ban is sufficient to deal with them. If they do change and reform then you now have that passionate gamer that will be loyal and stand by you.

That's how a "toxic player" is necessary but they still must go through some kind of essentially if you ignore them like most of the industry does or accept them as Mister Jones would like to do then you are making the problem worse, not solving it.
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Nick Wofford Hobbyist 5 years ago
Adam, that reform is important too. I've personally seen it happen, and it really makes a community better. After Riot added their reputation system, people started behaving like a douche-switch got flipped to 'off' or something. Instant change. I was very happy to see that on the XB1 as well, and I'm hoping a player's rep score will be something very visible in every gaming ecosystem.
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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 5 years ago
Actually, the line between the two can be thinner than you think. In fact, depending on circumstances, the same person can become both the polite guy who provides constructive feedback or the angry dude who hammers "this game sucks" on the keyboard. Which is actually what makes Toxicity truly unavoidable... but certainly not NECESSARY (unless Jones' own definition of "necessary" is also different than the one i know, i'd say this is where he slips).

The first thing to take into account is that most players don't have any idea of what happens behind the game.
The more informed a person is, the more likely he'll give proper feedback. On the other hand, it's often unwise to give the players too much information as some might use it against you or the other players (i.e. bug exploiting). But It's mostly when something in the game goes wrong and they can't point the finger at the cause that generates frustration and a poor reaction.

For the record, I'm not excusing the behavior but i can understand it.
I mean, imagine having a very bad day with a slight headache and two burning disappointments in the morning. Then you spend half of your afternoon writing a big important document. You're almost done, just the last two lines to give it a conclusion and - *BLIP* - power goes off! ...and that's when you realize you haven't saved once since you started. Honestly, who wouldn't dedicate a minute growling all their hatred at their own bad luck and the power socket? The action per se is pointless, but it's actually a natural mechanism to relieve stress (and a primitive switch to regain control of the situation... against a foe or a predator, most likely).
Players, or better, people in general tend to let go to their emotions when they don't find a way out for the problem they meet (either because they fail to see it or because it actually is beyond their control). They feel powerless and that's when they either go sulking in a fetal position under a blanket or explode into super Sayans of raging fire.
You never really see the first ones on the internet as they prefer to avoid interaction, so all we get is the ragers. Add to it that internet anonymity tends to inhibit self-control and the raging gets out of proportions real easy.

With that said, you can see why, even when players say "Sou game sucks! Die!" and act like raving lunatics, it might be worth trying to figure out why they're so upset (although, this doesn't exempt them from disciplinary actions). Probably is not such a big deal as they make it, but chances are that there actually is something that needs fixing.
You can't avoid them so, best to try to dig something useful out of them (this is the bit where i agree with Jones).

There's actually other factors to take into account, but i guess this covers the basics.

Then there's the true Toxic Players (trolls, griefers and bullies), which are actually a different story. They're not upset folks with poor social and communication skills, these are people driven by the will of "making a difference" and get attention and they pursue their goals in the simplest and most effortless way: by stepping on other people's toes.
Unfortunately, unlike the ragers, i see no "positive recycling" that a dev team can do out of this crowd.
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