An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

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chickenfarmer
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An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by chickenfarmer » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:07 am

This topic may or may not generate replies, controversy, flames and/or a higher barrel price of crude oil. Still, I must write it.

First: I'm not a 75 year veteran. I've been playing since 2007. I've introduced a handful of adults and children to the game. Most of them have enjoyed it. A few have become regulars. I've enjoyed getting to know a number of players through the years and have learned to put up with the quirks of each -- for the most part. I don't mind it when people hunt me (Joop, you know who you are), taunt me (I think friendly trash-talk can stimulate someone to try harder if it's not intentionally degrading) and I am glad to spend time with new players showing them tips or tricks which I have learned by practice -- or from better players. I alternate generally between times of playing and times of taking a hiatus. Like most of you, I have a life beyond this game. It is, after all, just a game. A place to hang out, relax, compete, chat and -- at times -- just relieve some stress by making tanks explode.

What I liked about BZFlag was the ability to compete with real people in real time without all the blood and gore of most modern gaming systems. I don't need to see someone's head explode to get the satisfaction of having beaten an opponent in an arena at any given time. I also like the fact that pretty much the most popular server of the day (MW 2.3) was run by a responsible and even-keeled admin -- kudos to you, blast.

I could recommend to teens or preteens to visit and play MW/BZF and pretty much expect that the atmosphere would be generally clean and wholesome. People might occasionally spout profanity, but the filter would generally blot it out. Further, if blast -- or the admins who used to frequent the board -- found any violators of the rules, they were warned and/or summarily banned, depending on the level and egregiousness of the offense.

Times have changed. After a hiatus a few weeks back, I joined a server for play, and in the middle of the game came across the foulest language I had seen to date on a BZ server. I either tried to initiate a poll or messaged the admin (can't remember) and was told that, "This is an adult server. He can say what he wants." I was troubled by that and made my choice -- I left.

In the past two weeks, I've been attempting to revive interest in MW 2.3, but in the slow times, I have also playing on some of the newer maps. Wow. The nicks that people log in with would have gotten them a warning and or immediate ban from blast on his server in the old days. The language is atrocious. It's not G-rated. It's not family friendly. And it has the capability of helping to kill off this game.

Thus, my appeal to you admins.

I'm not telling you that you can or cannot have an "adult" server. It is, of course, your server. But how does a parent or a responsible teen or preteen expect to know that? There is no CIPA-plugin which requires proof of adult status. A seven year old can login to your "adult" server and be confronted with words, terms and chat which her innocent mind has never had to deal with. When that happens, and when the parents find out what is going on, there will be no, "Oh, let's look for a good server for you to play on." It's pretty simple: BZFlag loses a player. Maybe a good one. Maybe a bad one. Maybe a future programmer or server admin.

For those who run servers which are not expressly "adult," my question is, "Why are you allowing players to trash the environment to the point that they become offensive to other players -- in a way which has nothing to do with the actual purpose of the server itself?" It is, after all, a tank shoot-em-up game. It's not just IRC. There is software to do just that. If the primary purpose is to have a chat room, download you a good PHP script and start a chat room, put up CIPA warnings and have at. If the primary purpose, however, is to host a tank game, then part of the balance seems to include the same challenge as keeping the hooligans from ruining English football for everyone else.

To the players, I would ask you to reassess your sense of what is best for the community. Last night on MW 2.3, I encountered one of those players who just likes to come in and generate ill will by flaming statements, rude/obnoxious and/or sexually suggestive nicks. There weren't a lot of players online who were registered, but when a poll was started, it failed. I reported it to blast and will let him deal with it as he sees fit.

After the poll failed, the player logged back on with numerous nicks, each attempting to elicit a response, and continually cursed and verbally abused those he/she thought were "better than thou." The end result was that half of the players left. That left MW with pretty much too few to conduct a game.

Who won?

But it left me wondering to what degree this game has just completely degraded to the point that anyone can come in and run YOUR server -- or RUIN your server -- for the rest of us without you caring. I wonder how badly our collective consciousness has become that we can no longer look at someone and say, "Your behavior is wrong." I didn't say, "Not something I like" or "Not something I approve of in my own special way." I said wrong.

Am I "better than thou" for thinking that blast is a great admin for running a family-friendly server for so many years? No. Is anyone "better than thou" for being willing to speak up at a ball game to the person yelling profanities at the umpire and ask, "Would you please stop? There are women and children around"? No. It simply means they still have a conscience. It means they are willing to do the HARD thing and go against the grain and try to remind their fellow man that we were made for better things than this. Those people in our society used to be called men or women of character, and they were respected for it instead of ridiculed.

I doubt the user from last night will even respond to this message. First, he/she would have to use a registered nick and own up to his/her behavior. Second, I imagine the board's profanity filter would stop a good part of the words, rendering the sentence structure pointless. But I would welcome some thoughtful replies.

C

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by Grans Remedy » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:29 am

I understand your concern, and you can be sure that many server owners prohibit profanity on their servers. Likewise in the leagues, admins are vigorous in banning players (from the league) for profanity, but even then there are a number of "repeat offenders" who earn increasingly longer bans. Personally I don't understand why people feel the need to type out profanity; it seems pretty silly to me :roll:

However, some server owners allow it - but usually only so long as it is not directed at players.

Unfortunately there are not good tools to enforce a servers particular language policy. On my public servers I tend to rely on the filters, which read a list of "bad words" from a text file. But if you think about it, that is very easy to circumvent - and some people seem to consider it a challenge to let other players know when they swear, by spacing out words, deliberate misspelling etc. So most server owners rely on their admins & cops to keep the peace, and any particular server getting a bit wild probably just needs some additional cops from different time zones.

When I visit other servers and someone is being a jerk, I start a poll to kick or ban them, but that depends on how the server owner has set up their server (granting permission to start polls). Even then, many players don't vote in polls for some reason. So if a poll doesn't work, I hunt the obnoxious/foul mouthed player, I *only* shoot at them, and I move as quickly as possible to hit them. The idea is to force them to keep on spawning till they get tired of it an move on. But then that's just me :)

Remember you can always PM the server owner, and tell them the day and time, and if they are logging activity on their server they will be able to find the perpetrator and ban them (should they choose to) from their server.

Don't let a few idiots ruin the game for you, but also try to stick to servers where your view of profanity is shared (ie not tolerated).

Grans
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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by L4m3r » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:00 am

The key to rule enforcement on a BZFlag server, as with a lot of other Internet-based activity, is always going to be the presence of actual people keeping any eye on things. Unfortunately, most servers do not have continuous admin presence, especially with BZFlag's shrinking player base. Actually, the shrinkage problem might explain your main issue as well, because it reduces the selection of populated servers to choose from. If I remember right, there has been at least one "adult" server or another on the list maintaining activity going back for years. Perhaps you didn't notice them back then, because there were so many family-friendly games on the list also.

For kids, first and foremost I am a huge fan of client-side filtering. IMO it's a far better solution than server filtering, because it allows parents to restrict content precisely as they see fit. In the absence of server filtering, it also won't tempt the person using offensive language to dodge the filter, because they won't see @#$% in their own console.

Some adult-oriented servers also take measures to keep children out of their games. For instance, I believe that the Planet MoFo blocks registered COPPA players from joining their servers. It's not perfect, but it's something. IMO it is ultimately the parents' responsibility to monitor their kids' online activity. (this is another reason why I support the use of client-side filtering.)

There is a significant minority of BZFlag players who dislike any censorship and/or the strict language enforcement practices in some of the "family friendly" games. I'm guessing that there's also a large chunk of the player base that just doesn't care one way or the other. Somehow I doubt that the individuals in charge of the more liberal servers are going to change their policies just because the bad language makes you or anyone else uncomfortable. They have their preferences, and you have yours. No one is "wrong" to allow player vulgarity on their server.

As for "killing off the game"... I'd say the die is cast at this point, and I wouldn't attribute the current state of affairs to anything as silly as servers' language policies.

...I'm not sure how CIPA plays into any of this, by the way, unless you're referring to something other than the Children's Internet Protection Act.
Optimism is just a milder alternative to denial.

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by JeffM » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:29 pm

If there are any servers that have
"Any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that – (i) taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex..." as defined in that law we would remove it from the list server.

It does not seem that the law is tied to text or "language", only pictures or other visual depictions.

By default BZflag will not download any images from untrusted sources, and our Image Submission System has a use policy that would prevent offensive images. This system is in place for exactly this reason.

We do make the assumption that the parent will take the measures required to ensure that children to not circumvent this system.

The project itself complies with COPPA by requiring parents to give us permission to store data for the children. Game servers are run independently, but our list server does have a List Server Public Use Policy (http://forums.bzflag.org/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=11788). This is all the project can really do, we can't make someone not run our software the way they want, all we can do is decide what data we wish to host.

The situation is similar to how the Apache or Firefox projects do not have any control over what type of content is hosted on various web pages.

You are correct, BZFlag does not have good tools to help parents, but remember that it is a game from 1994 and was not designed for the internet.

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by Tornada » Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:10 am

Here is what I have to add to this.

What I have observed time and again is that the people who are running their mouths and cussing a lot and saying aggressive comments to other players are the same players who are usually trying to run everyone off of a server. So... why make a safe ground for people like that. The kind of people who want a more peaceful (language) atmosphere are usually the people who play a lot and invite others to the board. Therefore, this issue will have a direct impact on the future of BZ flags. I understand the idea of free choice and servers of all kinds, but I am a guy who has no time to develop a server. I am dependent on someone out there to create, support and promote a server that is fun playable, challenging and safe.

It is in the best interest of BZ flag to attract and keep players who will appreciate and invest in the future of what this game could be. Those kind of people also happen to be the people who value others in the words and actions.

Thanks,

P.S. I agree 100% with Chicken Farmers statements on morality

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by I_Died_Once » Mon Feb 27, 2012 4:37 am

I wasn't going to respong to this post, originally. After some thought, this thread will likely be archived and I want to speak my two cents for fairness sake. It's not hard to figure out chickenfarmer's true gripe is with Planet MoFo, being the only real server around that could or would be classified as adult...

I'm not going to post a big rant and get on my soapbox, but I will say this much:

I thought we went over this a few years ago and multiple times since and everyone had gotten over it by now. But do not let the "four letter word" policy fool anyone. Yeah, we believe in free speech, not filtering what you say, and not standing over your shoulder ready to drop the ban hammer at any moment. This is a game and we intend to have fun with it. We do this because we enjoy doing it, and we go to great lengths to coordinate our efforts, not to mention our storied history of working close with the devolpers of this game to provide any and all kinds of data to further the game in general, as well as our cooperation with the FBI, CIA, INTERPOL, and the KGB.

We are forever up to one thing or another at Planet MoFo, even after all these years... Testing plugins, compiling the latest and great versions of bzfs, discussing the game & bans & talking about the various "hats" we have that grace our server in our dedicated IRC chat, which is shamelessly located at ##planetmofo on irc.freenode.net - right down the street from the #bzflag chat, any and everyone is welcome to come discuss bzflag, Planet MoFo, or just choot the chit in general, you'll be surprised at how open minded we are. (no you won't!) Do note that we log EVERYTHING - from the chat, to the activity on the host itself, and %100 of anything and everything to do with bzflag. We have custom, exclusive flags on both The Passion of the Free For All, as well as Apocalypse In Action... we have more access and time to scour this stuff than I will admit to having here in the public forum. You can act like we are the bad guys of BZFlag if you like, but I'll go so far as to say we are one of, if not THE best administered servers on the game list. This game's true trouble makers - the cheaters and "jews in the oven" type players - they steer clear of our games. Sure, you can say the four letter words, but our stance and policies on cheating, spamming, and scrolling is ironclad and our admins WILL break out the ban hammer, and it will not only hit you on our games, but on every other game hosted on our server, other server owner's servers we are affiliated with, and God only knows who else that just happens to use our banlist. You can go ahead and think you can get away with anything you want on Planet MoFo if you want. I went to great lengths to secure our host and I take it personal when someone comes and cheats or violates the Planet MoFo rules and policies. I've been known to review the banlist and make short bans into permanent onces, as well we deleting existing bans on executive decision, becuase I am just a bad man like that.

The orginal post makes it out to sound as if we are peddling smut. We take pride in what we do, and you will never find any nudity or graphic violence in any image hosted at images.planet-mofo.com nor will you ever. A lot of time and effort has went into the various images we have in use as billbaords and map textures, and I beg everyone to edit their "DownloadAccess.txt" file to allow for all of our images to load in your client so that you can truly get the full experience, including being able to view our stats billboard, which lists the top ten players as ranked by their score medians. More info can be found at http://wiki.bzflag.org/Content_Restrictions - "allow images.planet-mofo.com" and see your name on our billboard!

Message me privately if you would like info on how to have a billboard image made in your honor!

The real truth about the language policy, after a few years of doing this - you have a couple of different type of players. There are a small handful of players that actually care to use said language to begin with, and even then, the novelty wears off after a while and they continue to play without talking much. The vast majority of bzflag player do not talk at all. Maybe they don't read the chat messages, maybe they don't care to, maybe they don't do English, who knows. There are players of this game all over the world and I have the logs to prove it, and not everyone knows English well enough to have a conversation. Then, and this is the one that offends ME... because we have the free speech thing going on, we've been known to have housed more talks about the president, the GOP, democrats, Mitt Romney, and all sorts of political garbage of that nature... and this crap happens more often than I am going to admit to. No one cares if you want to say the "F U", but we will scour every byte of data on the machine to make sure you aren't breaking any REAL rules.

And for the record, I do have a child, she is 11 years old now, and she does play BZFlag, and she even plays on Planet MoFo. The one person I'll blatantly /flag give any flag she wants, as is the Queen. But here is the clencher: she knows to disreguard the bad words & not to repeat them, she knows not to tell anyone on the computer where she lives or anything about her, and that she is not allowed to register a name... meaning I have taught her proper internet habits. As a parent, I encourage everyone to practice proper internet supervision for all the youngsters. I will say that if there is a kid out there somewhere installing, playing, and chatting on video games who is not supposed to be on the internet in the first place for whatever reason, that has nothing to do with me as a server owner. We're not hosting or providing any illegal services or content, and if you feel that your kid is getting corrupted at Planet MoFo, then your problem with your child goes deeper than which game server he chose to play at.

...and you can bet your bottom dollar that we will sell all of you out to the authorities if ever pressed to do so.

On behalf of all of Planet MoFo, we would like to thank everyone for playing on our servers for all of these years and the years to come, as well as encourage everyone to join us:

passion.planet-mofo.com:4200 - The Passion of the Free For All
apocalypse.planet-mofo.com:4202 - Apocalypse In Action

We now return to your regular scheduled programming.
Last edited by I_Died_Once on Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:32 am, edited 3 times in total.
...This has been a recording.

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by Bullet Catcher » Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:19 am

I_Died_Once wrote:I'll go so far as to say we are one of, if not THE best administered servers on the game list.
I'll second that. You'll see four-letter words at Planet MoFo, but that is the only reason to keep the kids away from it. They put the "sorta" in BZFlag's "good clean fun" motto, in the best possible way.

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by Dr. Tyrell » Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:25 am

What are you regular players (those who are registered) doing about promoting BZFlag?
I mention it to everyone, and will soon be putting many links on a couple of social sites.
It's time we all pitched in to recruit new repeat players.

Also, what are we going to do about runaway bastard maps? (Such as the ones with insane settings, "forever genocide" for moronic campers, etc.)
Those sorts of maps cause players to not return, and give BZF a bad name.

The Doctor

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by SkillDude » Tue Mar 06, 2012 7:18 pm

Dr. Tyrell wrote:what are we going to do about runaway bastard maps?
What ARE we going to do? You and I have no control over who hosts what maps and what each map provides. The community and reputation of BZFlag is solely based on the servers and players that are provided, so therefore, there is no real control over this matter.

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Re: An Appeal to Server Admins -- and the Players

Post by Yrogirg » Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:01 pm

I think what this post really means is that at last after years planet mofo has started to host a decent (ctf) map. Because I don't see another reason why chickenfarmer didn't post his objections earlier.

UPD I was playing that new mofo map today --- how could anyone look for chat there? It was insane, you kill a lot or you die a lot, or both, there is just no room for chatting!

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