League of Legends makers Riot Games have launched a new feature to clean up their player community. The instant feedback system will deliver punishment to toxic players just minutes after their offense.

"The system delivers reform cards (notifications that link evidence of negative behavior with the appropriate punishment) that help players address their negative behavior," Riot explained on their website. "Your reports help the instant feedback system understand and punish the kind of verbal harassment the community actively rejects: homophobia, racism, sexism, death threats, and other forms of excessive abuse. These harmful communications will be punished with two-week or permanent bans within fifteen minutes of game’s end."

Let's say a player is spamming racial slurs in team chat. When the match is over, their teammates report them as usual. However, now a system immediately verifies whether these reports are accurate. It then determines a punishment (if any) based on the game's rules. They then email the offending player with the reform card, which will include a chat log of the match along with a punishment when appropriate. The names and chatter from other players is removed from this log, presumably to discourage retaliation.

This kind of automation seemed inevitable. League of Legends has such a huge player base that manually dealing with every case of misbehavior is almost impossible. The situation is made worse by the fact that LoL is a free-to-play game, so someone could simply make a new account if they're banned.

League of Legends currently has a Tribunal system that lets players review cases of toxic behavior and dole out punishments as needed. It's unclear how that feature will change with the launch of instant feedback. Riot says they'll share their future plans for the Tribunal soon, though.

Riot is rolling out the instant feedback system in stages. For now, the test is limited to North America. Furthermore, the player behavior team is reviewing the "first few thousand" cases that the system pores over to ensure that it's working up to snuff. Riot expects to implement the feature in other regions soon. They plan to add the following functions to it in time:
  • In-client reform cards
  • Follow-up notifications for players who reported a player who was punished
  • Upgrades for chat and ranked restrictions
  • Upgrades to recognize negative gameplay behaviors like intentional feeding
  • Recognition of honors and rewards for positive behaviors and communication
Players have been able to report each other for toxic behavior for years now. However, it often felt a bit like praying to the gods. You had no idea whether the report had any effect at all. I'd love to get notifications from Riot telling me that a player who ruined my match is actually getting punished.

The promise of rewards for good behavior is interesting, too. LoL now has an Honor system that lets players essentially "upvote" friendly or helpful teammates along with sportsmanlike opponents. Receiving those kinds of compliments from other players can make a victory sweeter or a defeat much more palatable. I'm curious to see what even more robust rewards would do for player behavior.

Riot loves using carrots and sticks to shape player's actions. Last year, they banned toxic players from in-game chat and ranked play. More recently, they introduced a Champion Mastery system that grades players' performance each match and gives them cosmetic rewards for gaining experience with specific characters.

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