Half-Life: NightWatch

Development Diary

17th January 2003 - by Ryan "Professional Victim" Desgroseilliers

I've got to confess that I read the forums every day. I also monitor the IRC channel most of the time I'm at home. It's something of a neurotic habit of mine, although I certainly don't think it's a particularly bad one -- just one that frequently results in doubts about replies. Not many people realize the situation the staff of a mod are in when using and moderating forums and IRC. Almost every day tough decisions have to be made, sometimes having quite wide-ranging repercussions. It's a lot more difficult than it looks.

One of the most hazardous things a staff member has to deal with are suggestions or enquiries about features that are already implemented, but haven't been announced. It's not really possible to reply with a clear affirmative without blurting out the fact that the feature exists, nor a clear negative as doing so would leave a false statement lying in the archives forever, just waiting to be quoted by someone when the feature appears anyway. Leaving the question without a reply looks just as bad, and leads to speculation and rumor, which then trickles down to new users and eventually causes confusion and disappointment. It is not sufficient to simply provide a potentially enjoyable experience to the player in the mod itself; preventing the experience from being ruined by excessive disclosure of information about the gameplay before it is released and confusion due to rumor is an integral part in creating a successful modification.

Then there's the actual moderation component of it all: What exactly constitutes "offensive"? Just how much MP3-script spam should a person get away with before he/she is kicked? Would it look worse to delete this topic or leave it? Would banning this person look too draconian? A very careful balance between maintaining order and oppressing the masses has to be observed, and what will be "read into" any action by the public considered before it is made. A set of general regulations like the ones implemented in the forums help in this case, but certainly can't be used in every eventuality.

Most public actions taken by the team are usually a lot more extensively thought-out (and often complex) then the public ever gets to see, and actually seeing the machinery in motion, figuring out how to respond to a given situation (particularly when it appears completely harmless at face value), is sometimes quite an experience in itself. I hope that people begin to take this into consideration when they fail to receive a straight answer on an apparently simple question, and understand why we weren't able to provide one.

Previous diaries:
30th May 2003 by Carl "melkior" Kidwell
23rd May 2003 by Dan "coil" Johnson
15th May 2003 by Dan "coil" Johnson
2nd May 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
18th April 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
11th April 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
7th April 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
28th March 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
21st March 2003 by Mohammad "BadMofo" Alavi
14th March 2003 by Matt "Chalupamonk" Michelson
7th March 2003 by Ryan "Professional Victim" Desgroseilliers
21st February 2003 by Adam "WhoMe" Foster
14th February 2003 by Dan "coil" Johnson
7th February 2003 by Francis "DeathWish" Woodhouse
31st January 2003 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon
24th January 2003 by Mohammad "BadMofo" Alavi
17th January 2003 by Ryan "Professional Victim" Desgroseilliers
10th January 2003 by Ken "ken20banks" Banks
3rd January 2003 by Dan "coil" Johnson
27th December 2002 by Francis "DeathWish" Woodhouse
20th December 2002 by Andrew "KungFuSquirrel" Weldon