Being Mean in Dota 2 Might Cost More

If you’ve ever played a game online either on the PC or a console, you’ve most likely encountered some form rage, whining, or general unpleasantness from other players. It’s been going on so long that encountering these people has simply become a cost of doing business when playing games online. While some see it as an unavoidable consequence of combining anonymity and online gaming, Valve sees it as a problem which can and should be mitigated. During the debut of the Seven Day Cooldown podcast, Gabe Newell co-founder of Valve, discussed the steps they are taking to promote a more productive and tolerant online community.

Their solution is fairly straightforward, according to Newell, “An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with.” That’s right; Valve is experimenting with an “asshole tax” for online games. Like a digital swear jar, those who wish to provide nothing but negativity to the community could see their colorful four letter adjectives come back to haunt them and their wallets.

Valve’s work on Dota 2 most likely lead to this decision. The game itself has a ridiculously high learning curve which is made worse by impatient veterans with hot tempers and short fuses. As Newell puts it, “There are other people where if they’re playing we would [rather] be on the other side of the planet.” Player rage in Dota 2 may have given them the idea, but it seems as if this is a system that will be applied to the entirety of the Steam community and not just to a single game.

Dota 2’s newest item. 

The whole idea is to encourage and reward positive player contributions to the community while discouraging negative player contributions, Newell says, “It’s just a question of coming up with mechanisms so that we recognize and reward people for doing things that are valuable to other groups of people, so, you know, if somebody’s doing a really useful guide, if somebody’s a really good trainer, those are some of the things that we’re trying to accommodate which I can’t really point to an existing free-to-play model and say it’s just like that.”

The key element for success will be for Valve to come up with a system that actually makes these distinctions among players in order for them to grant rewards or exact punishments. Since the system itself is designed to be incorporated within all of Steam, players that contribute in one game may see rewards in another, the other side of the coin, however, will be that players who rage in one game may see punishments in another. In Newell’s words, “So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get Dota 2 for free, because of past behavior in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.”This is what Newell meant when he said that Dota 2 would be free-to-play, “but with some twists.” If you’re a valuable member of the community it might be free-to-play, but if you’re not it won’t.

Pick your hero and murder each other, just be polite about it. 

Is Valve crossing a line here or are they once again attempting to be the innovators of modern gaming? Other companies have come up with systems to deal with rage and unpleasantness; Riot Games have their League of Legends tribunal which has seen some success in dealing with these issues, although their punishments are usually some form of a temporary ban, not a “tax” like Valve is suggesting. Other games usually just leave players with the ability to mute or sometimes even ban other players, but given the competitive nature of Dota 2 and the necessity for teamwork and communication, Valve is attempting to condition players to work together using real life punishments and rewards.

It seems Valve makes improvements to Steam and its community with every major release; Team Fortress 2 applied the free-to-play model to a Valve game for the first time, Portal and Skyrim both now have tools for users to create their own content, and Dota 2 will mark the beginning of a community wide rewards/punishment system. Even their corporate structure is innovative. Last week their employee handbook leaked, showing Valve’s inner workings and their flat organizational structure (Page 5). In their words “nobody ‘reports to’ anybody else,” meaning there are no bosses or managers in the traditional sense.  Valve doesn’t just innovate games, they innovate how they’re made and how players interact with them.

Free-to-play, not free-to-rage.

At first Steam was simply a digital distribution service, but recently it has begun to look more like a social network for games and those who play them. With the introduction of a community wide rewards/punishment system, Steam may not only be a place to purchase games and play them, but to become a better player and teammate overall. Their hope is that this system will address some of the issues that no one else seems to. Sure there will always be angry jerks spewing every four letter word in the book, but at least we can take solace in the fact that in order to rage some players may have to fork over hefty sums for a game that other more constructive players got for free.

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  1. Wow, way to try social engineering Value. Yes, we’ve all played with idiots. It happens. That’s how some people blow off steam.

    Rewarding one player because he’s good in one game vs a player who isn’t or who hasn’t played the other game isn’t really fairness.

    What about me? The type that just wants to play the game. I’m a good teammate (Help out) but I don’t really want to be bothered with the people online. So I get pushed because I haven’t done Value’s “community service?”

    I like how LOL does it. Yes, I get stuck with people I don’t like sometimes. After the game, I click ignore and I’m never matched with them again. Or I click friend and play with people I like.

    As you said “condition players” – there is just…well something wrong right there. I don’t act like a jerk, I’m always the good guy in games, I don’t curse, and I help people – but I find this wrong on a lot of levels. Guess it’s good I won’t play DOTA2 and stick to LOL.

    As for Value “Nobody reports to anyone else”- that might work for a while, or in the rare case overall, but usually that’s a recipe for problems.

    I used to buy a ton of games off of Steam, guess that will be changing now.

  2. Nicholas, your post makes little sense.

    If you’re a “neutral” player, as you describe, then this shouldn’t affect you at all. If you’re not swearing, yelling racist comments, or being an ass, and you’re not going out of your way to assist other players then this doesn’t really hurt you.

    You’re whining that you’ll no longer be buying games off of steam, but I don’t understand why. If you’re in the middle of the road (getting no price increase, or reduction), you’re essentially rallying against having to pay the same price as always.

    I’m all for any system that starts to weed out or hamper socially inept gamers. I don’t want to log in and have the first thing I hear be some kid yelling the Nword, or to try to learn a new game and have the moron on my team shoot me because I don’t have a high enough kill count.

    Maybe this system will work, maybe it won’t, but at least they’re trying someting.

  3. @Nicholas:
    You can’t prevent from being matched with a certain guy by ignoring him in LoL. That would be abusable.

    I either help the friendly guy or press the ignore button if the guy is unpleasant. So I guess I could’ve gained some “good guy points” if LoL was a Steam game.

  4. My only reservation with this is whether or not it’s left to players to determine who gets good or bad ratings. If it is, then the players it seeks to punish will just have a new tool to be assholes.

  5. Asshole tax sounds great in theory but honestly i thin its a horrible idea in practice. Sorry to burst the bubble but there are people like this in world and just like in the real world you can deal with them. I don’t think trash talking or raging should be a punishable offense, rage quitting or just screwing over your own team on prepose is different. I dunno the way valve is talking about doing this it also seems like its really just another way to earn more money. Those kinds of players will always exist no matter what and i think the valve s trying more to cash in on that rather then prevent it.

  6. hate to burst your bubble, but..

    A> that didn’t burst my bubble.

    and B> without new blood your game will die quicker.

    I flat out refuse to play DOTA at all because of the types of people who take it way too seriously.

    This might change my mind.

  7. This is a horrible idea for so many reasons.
    I don’t want a bunch of fake niceties by people just cause they can get a discount for it. Hell, no reasonable country would do this because its immoral to force people to be nice to each other.
    The internet is meant to be a free place, and with freedom comes a price. Those who sacrifice freedom for security or convenience deserve neither and I’m appalled that Valve would attempt to basically dictate how their players have to behave across their entire community.
    Community standards and bans are one thing.
    Attempting to affect my actual ability to purchase games and spend money is a way to quickly lose my support of Steam.

  8. People may even complain now, but if this goes online it will only do good. Some tweaks might be needed, but the fact is: if you are a normal neutral guy, you wont get any disadvantage, but if you are a jerk and get constantly reported, than you can go play in the jerk-only lobby for a while, or even get to pay. That will help to maintain the servers, and to force those people that got nothing to say except curse all around to at least stay silent.

  9. I’m with Nicholas on this. I only want to play the games, and I am rarely rude (you can’t tell me you’re NEVER 😉 ). I play nice and am friendly and respectful almost always, but I do not want to be forced into that cross-game relationship doing guides and whatnot.
    If I can’t be sure I won’t have a disadvantage in a future game because of another one I played, but didn’t become active in the community around it, I will think 3 times of buying on steam or not. Much rather not.

  10. I’ve seen MMOs try to do auto mute or auto ban setups in the past and they often fall flat on their face. People figure out how to game the system and then use the very system meant to reduce griefing as a tool to grief. Large groups all reporting a single person for whatever reason and suddenly they can’t chat, send messages to anyone, or are banned. Then having to appeal to a customer support person would could take a long time.

    The kind of jerks that talk down to noobs are the same kind that would report those noobs at the drop of a hat if they thought there was a chance it would get them banned or forced to pay a fine.

    The “Your a neutral player you have nothing to worry about.” is the same kind of flaw logic used in the real word to justify Dictatorships and invasion of privacy, “Your not a criminal so why does it matter if we tap your phones?”

    Plus the idea of a “reward” system makes this even worst as now there is incentives for these jerks to vote down everyone and ban together to vote up each other to claim the reward. These types of systems can always be abused and always will be.

    I think the best system is also the simplest. Let users hit “IGNORE” on someone who is being a jerk. Then when auto matching for games fires up it does not put people in games with those on their ignore list. This would end up slowly segregating all the jerks into their own little group where they can toss their hate at each other.

  11. To be honest I don’t like this idea. I play a lot of games on Steam, I have over 300, and where I admit i hate rage gamers it is a part of life. To be honest what worries me is what happens to the person on Steam that doesn’t play many multiplayer games. I personally play very few and I would hate to pay more money because I don’t.

    There must be better ways to control this. I don’t think charging money is a good idea.

    To be honest I can’t think of another way. The problems I see with any way is that it can be a popularity contest. You can have your friends vote for you even if your a rage player and get away with it.

    I just hope Valve really thinks this through before they make up there mind. I will wait to see what happens.

  12. I’m glad they’re doing something to deal with this new generation of asshole gamer.
    I think everyone here is freaking out for no reason. If they were to put in a system like this I’m sure they would look into things not just enforce them without checking.
    The Dota community so far is far better than the LoL community so obviously the Tribunal isn’t working.

    So far in Dota I haven’t been raged at even when I’m doing bad. I have had people say “you’re bad” but that’s the extent of it.
    In League, even when I’m doing well, I have people rage at me calling me names and telling the other team to report me while they’re 1/7/3.
    Valve is a great company, I don’t see why everyone is jumping to conclusions already.

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