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Feb 03 2011 -
Tibia's Statement Report System - Better Than Before?
lmost a year has passed since we presented you our new vision of rule enforcement in Tibia. So in the past year, we have taken concrete steps towards achieving our goal of enabling all players to report rule violations directly to our customer support team.

The community feedback we received concerning these changes was mixed. While many players consider them a step in the right direction, they also emphasise that the new system still needs to be improved. Questions that popped up frequently were: "With the new reporting system and all the changes you made in the Tibia Rules and the rule enforcement, do you yield better results than before? Have you come closer to your vision of rule enforcement?"

We are convinced that we have indeed come closer to our vision of rule enforcement and that we now offer a better system that yields better results than before. However, not everything is peachy yet, and there are still things that need to be improved. So why do we still consider the new reporting system and all the changes a better alternative?

In order to explain our evaluation better, we want to reflect a bit on the changes and respond to the points brought up by players.

Let us start with a short recap of what we have done so far to enhance the abilities of all players to report rule violations. Back in March 2010, we started with enabling all Tibia players to report character names. A month later, the first upgrade of the reporting system brought along a bot report feature and a statement report feature. With the summer update, we added the possibility to report illegal private statements. Shortly afterwards, we enabled players to report character comments. Since the vast majority of rule violations which could only be dealt with by gamemasters in the past were covered by the new reporting system at that point, the time had come to bid farewell to the gamemasters who had supported us diligently in the difficult task of enforcing the rules ingame for years. In September, the reporting system was upgraded once more by allowing players to report illegal guild information. As the year came to a close, we reformed the Tibia Rules. For example, we allowed players to post links to other websites and to speak in their native language in most channels ingame and on the boards. We also removed the game weakness abuse rule and implemented a couple of game design features to tackle game weakness issues such as luring of creatures technically.

These changes are pretty significant and all of them happened within months. So after years of using the old system, it was clear that many players would consider the changes rather radical and consequently, greeted them with mixed feelings of uneasiness and doubts. So we were aware that not all would welcome the changes immediately even though the flaws of the old system had become a major focus of criticism in the community.

It was one of our key goals to tackle the flaws of the old system by redesigning the reporting system and rule enforcement. With our new system we were able to meet important key criteria of our vision and offer a better alternative than before:
  • All rule violation reports are now being dealt with by our in-house customer support team to ensure that decisions about punishments are unbiased and based on the same criteria.

  • If players feel disturbed by the behaviour of someone else because their fun in Tibia is affected negatively, they are now able to report rule violations directly. Players do not need to rely on someone else to make a report for them. Also, reports persist until they get processed so they do not disappear anymore if a player logs out. In addition, the new reporting system covers all game worlds, no matter where a report comes from, each and every one of them will reach Tibia’s customer support.

  • The new system allows us to work more efficiently. Around 100000 rule violation reports get processed by the customer support team per month – a number that would have been impossible to deal with a year ago.
We are convinced that the overall quality of the rule enforcement and reporting options has increased considerably. In August 2010 we conducted a poll about the satisfaction with statement reports which showed that many players also consider the changes a step in the right direction even though improvements were deemed necessary. So let us now address the points of criticism that were identified through this poll and other feedback channels, and which still bother players:

Rejection of valid reports, processing time and report limit

In order to act appropriately on a report our customer support needs to understand it. So if a report is not clear enough or if there was insufficient evidence of a rule violation in it, it is likely to get rejected. In addition, some foreign language reports are also a challenge to deal with. Even though our customer support covers several languages, we cannot cover all of them. Of course, we strive to improve our service here by hiring native speakers, for example.

The processing of statement reports currently takes too long according to players and we agree with them. We will do our best to optimise the response time on reports and work more efficiently in the future. Reducing the time it takes until an open report gets dealt with will also ease the effects of open reports on the report limit.

Naturally, there has to be a report restriction to avoid the spamming of rule violation reports. Raising the report limit as some players suggested is not our plan at the moment. Our position is that players need not report every rule violation they witness. In fact, players can also make use of the ignore function, nobody is obliged to report rule violations.
However, some players reach the report limit rather quickly due to the time it currently takes until open reports get processed and due to the rejection of a couple of valid foreign language reports. As we mentioned above, we will do our best to improve the whole processing of reports in order to address these issues.

Influence of private statement reports on chats

Players told us that especially private statement reports have influenced chats in Tibia negatively and increased the fear of getting reported for "nothing". They are concerned that some players are deliberately looking for reportable statements to get ingame enemies punished.

The reporting system is a means for players to inform our customer support if they really feel disturbed by a statement. It is not a means to try to get someone else punished. In addition, a report does not necessarily lead to a punishment. Especially rather minor rule violations can be dealt with by using the ignore function, and there is no need for a player or our customer support team to take any further action. Within the last years, CipSoft has become more lenient concerning minor rule violations.

On the other hand, it might also help to keep in mind that certain types of behaviour or language may not be offensive to you but may have a completely different effect on someone else. If something you say would offend someone else in real life chances are that the same applies to the world of Tibia.

Low transparency

Some players consider the fear of getting punished for a triviality a result of the low transparency when it comes to rule enforcement. They suggest providing clearer and more specific reporting guidelines as well as information about respective punishments in order to know what kind of statements are illegal and should be reported and what not.
The Tibia Rules already form a guide of what is reportable in Tibia. They need to be sufficiently short to be useful. A public set of rules that exhaustively covers every case would be too huge and hardly be read by anyone, especially since Tibia is a game which is mainly played for fun and entertainment. Let us emphasise again that players should report only when they feel so disturbed by a rule violation that ignoring the offence is not an option. We rather encourage players to be lenient with minor rule violations instead of nit-picking and reporting every rule break just for the sake of sticking to the rules.

Generally speaking, rule enforcement decisions are based on the idea of a restrained rule enforcement which allows the customer support to act with more leniency or severity depending on the rule violation and its context. This does not mean that they decide arbitrarily and capriciously when processing reports. In contrast, they do adhere to internal guidelines and criteria. While all submitted reports will be reviewed, not all of them will result in action being taken against the reported player. The decision of whether or not to impose a punishment lies with the customer support team. Also, we plan to modify the processing of reports so that a reporter will only get the information "processed" if a report has been dealt with, no matter if it was accepted or rejected. If a report leads to a punishment, it will only be transparent for the punished player but not for unaffected players, especially not for the reporter. Information about punishments and criminal records are neither up for public discussion nor of public interest.

Disproportional punishments

We have received many comments pointing out that punishments for minor rule violations may still have a significant negative impact on a player’s criminal record whereas severe rule violations such as cheating do not get punished hard enough. So punishments are often considered not proportional to the offence. Therefore, a review of the whole progression of punishments, the nature of punishments, how they add up to each other and so on are on our agenda for this year.

Also, players criticise that there are still too many unjustified banishments or erroneous decisions. Even though a few players insist that robots are dealing with their reports, there are humans at the other end of the line. So, of course, mistakes do happen. Considering the high number of reports we get each month, though, mistakes and unjustified banishments are exceptions. If a player considers a punishment unjustified he or she may contact our customer support team and they will gladly look into the case again and check whether or not the decision was correct.

Our featured article now comes to a close. We hope that we could shed some light on the questions that were raised during the last months and explain our position on the concerns.

So have we accomplished all of our goals yet? Are we there yet? No, but we are getting there, we are on the road and it is not a highway to hell. There are still significant flaws which need to be addressed and further steps towards our vision of rule enforcement still lie ahead of us. Allowing all players to report posts and threads in our forum is just one example. The above mentioned review of the progression is another one. Also, we plan to simplify the complaint system. Finally, we want to emphasise again that the Tibia Rules are not meant to make life in Tibia harder but to help protect our players from disruptive behaviour of others.

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