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New XBL reputation system will keep trolls under the bridge

"You need a community of folks that aren't screaming vulgarities"

Details have emerged of the new Reputation system which will be implemented to Xbox Live with the Xbox One, which Microsoft is hoping will help separate the community's less savoury members from everybody else.

Speaking to Official Xbox Magazine, senior product manager for Xbox Mike Lavin explained how he sees the system working.

"There's a lot of folks, a lot of our core consumers, who just want to basically kick back and stay in touch with some of their old college buddies," says Lavin. "That's cool, and Party Chat today and our Party system is leaps and bounds ahead of competitors, from the standpoint of just being able to isolate yourself and cross-game chat.

"But the problem we see is that this fragments voice communication within games. It's very difficult, because if you're isolated in Party Chat, you're leaving everybody else behind. You need a community of folks that aren't screaming vulgarities every ten seconds, or the griefers or the harassers, those types of folks."

Party chat will remain, and is now powered by Skype, but Lavin hopes that, by effectively ghettoising players who consistently annoy others, the general XBL experience will become more pleasant for those who want to meet new players.

"What we're looking at doing is creating a very robust system around reputation and matchmaking. If people are in your friends list, we're not touching that, we're just making it easier for you to come together. It's really the anonymous side of things where we're making these investments. Ultimately if there's a few per cent of our population that are causing the rest of the population to have a miserable time, we should be able to identify those folks."

That "few per cent" may be more apparent to some than others, depending on what you're playing and who you are, but the lack of moderation applied to the more voluble gamers has been a bone of contention for many players throughout this generation. Any progress which means being subjected to less questions about the nature of your relationship with your mother, the pros and cons of your ethnic background or the suitability of your gender for the act of button pressing will be welcomed by most, but isn't there a danger the system will be abused, give the mendacious nature of those it will try and identify?

"Let's just be clear, there is no way at all that a conglomerate of people can conspire to sink your Reputation on the system," reassures Lavin. "The way that it's built fundamentally stops that. It's very much over a period of time - if we see consistently that people, for instance, don't like playing with you, that you're consistently blocked, that you're the subject of enforcement actions because you're sending naked pictures of yourself to people that don't want naked pictures of you...Blatant things like that have the ability to quickly reduce your Reputation score."

Whatever your opinion on the wisdom or desirability of Microsoft's play for the entertainment middle ground, any serious attempt to punish abuse and reward sporting behaviour is a step in the right direction. The Reputation could well be a symptom of a more inclusive attitude in future - as Lavin goes on to say, successfully building a happy userbase will be key to the One's future.

"We're one of the only platforms that really takes an interest in exploring and investigating major problems, and this extends from sexual harassment, to age harassment, to gender to everything else under the sun. Really fostering a sense of community and providing an infrastructure for that is a huge deal."

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Dan Pearson

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