Whether you like them or not, it’s hard to argue that Microsoft’s next-gen offering is coming packed to the brim with a number of brand new features. One of the few things we’ve yet to hear much about is how Xbox Live is being redesigned. Last month, Microsoft specified the overhaul they were instituting for the popular current-gen defining Achievement System; beyond that, Microsoft senior product manager Mike Lavin spoke with OXM about a new Reputation system being put into place that will theoretically improve online interactions and experiences.
The overall gist of the new system takes things far further than the simple five-star ratings folks are currently accustomed to. In fact, the idea is to identify and isolate the less-than-desirable players and group them together during online matchmaking using a system that ensures the folks who just want to have a good time or play competitively never have to deal with would-be miscreants. Their hope is that the end result is a much more family-friendly, enjoyable online atmosphere that fosters good behavior and community-driven teamwork.
In Lavin’s own words, “What we’re looking at doing is creating a very robust system around reputation and match-making. If people are in your friends list, we’re not touching that, we’re just making it easier for you to come together,” he said. “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.”
Now before everybody throws their hands in the air and starts coming up with potential doomsday scenarios and ways for this system to be exploited, Lavin followed up with a response that there are two aspects to this equation: Good behavior and bad behavior. For those who behave courteously and decently (the word humanely comes to mind,) Lavin explains that, “there are industry best practices we’ve looked at, about giving kudos and props to people who behave well. We’ve learned from everything we’ve seen, and we’re trying to take it to the next level. So there’ll be very good things that happen to people that just play their games and are good participants.”
As for those who end up receiving a steady stream of negative feedback, however, he mentioned that, “you’ll start to see some effects if you continue to play bad or, or harass other people en masse. You’ll probably end up starting to play more with other people that are more similar to you.” Anyone else getting a No Exit sort of vibe here? To those, like me, who are worried the true result will be a cesspool of miserable degenerates all huddled into the one corner of Xbox Live other players live in fear of, Lavin responded saying, “some people might like to play with people that are similar to them. I would not necessarily want to play with those folks.”
Of course, the biggest potential pitfall of a system like this is accidentally winding up on the “naughty list” (my words, not Microsoft’s) because a few spiteful jerks on Xbox Live want to make you miserable for no good reason. “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. The way that it’s built fundamentally stops that,” Lavin candidly revealed. “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.”
Of course, I think the real takeaway to that last quote is that if people do want naked pictures of you, Kinect and Xbox One are there to facilitate the process. Anyone else read it that way? No, just me then? Alright, moving on. It’s good to see that Microsoft is trying to perfect the matchmaking experience, but I’m still incredibly wary of how a system like this will actually play out when released into the wild jungles of Xbox Live. I also appreciate Lavin’s sentiment that “really fostering a sense of community and providing an infrastructure for that is a huge deal,” given the inexcusable amount of age, race, and gender harassment still prevalent every day in the online community.
There’s more where this came from, including a bit about the role anonymity plays in all of this, and how Reputation will be displayed in relation to a player’s Gamertag and Gamerscore, so be sure to check out the full interview. As we approach the November launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft will be detailing more of the next-gen console’s features and functions, so be sure to stay tuned right here for more information as it becomes available.
What do you guys and gals think about this new and “improved” Reputation system? If it were up to you, how would you implement a system that fosters community and good will? How would you penalize those who treat others poorly? Let us know in the usual place, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. And if you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.