PAX East 2010: The Secrets of Xbox Live Enforcement

PAX East 2010: The Secrets of Xbox Live Enforcement

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Have you ever wanted to step inside the doors of those that wield the Xbox Live banhammer? PAX East allowed us to see some of what goes on behind the enforcement veil.

Stephen Toulouse ran a very entertaining panel at PAX East 2010 where he detailed the ins and outs of his job as the director of Xbox Live policy and enforcement at Microsoft. After whipping out his official rulebook, which was actually studded and looked like it could have done some enforcement of its own, he shared the secrets behind the reasons for certain types of enforcement, how complaints get reviewed, and the terrible things he has to reveal to parents.

Did you think that Xbox Live enforcement was largely automated? Well, it's not. Every complaint gets reviewed by a living, breathing human being. Offensive complaints go right to the top, but filing 100 of them against that jerk that happened to beat you at a game of Worms consolidates them all into one folder to be reviewed, so he's not going to get kicked off Xbox Live automatically no matter how many are filed. Revenge can only be gotten by getting better at Worms.

Toulouse's team also consists of many specifically trained members that play games online to find cheaters and those exhibiting improper behaviors, as seen recently with "The Pro" situation, where an enforcement member banned a player during a game of Modern Warfare 2 (he deserved it). Enforcement is a job that is very human oriented because context is so important. Toulouse used the example of somebody that might have a gamertag such as Guy420. This could be Guy Johnson from Houston who was born on April 20, but it could also be a drug reference.

Enforcement all comes down to protecting the customer and the Xbox Live service itself. Toulouse doesn't want to break skulls with the banhammer, but he does want people that work hours and hours for achievements to be able to be proud of them, and for people of all ages to be able to have the kind of experience they're looking for from Xbox Live. He pointed out the repercussions for cheating or hassling people in the days of the physical arcade, which usually involved a punch in the gut or a roller skate to the teeth (something I've witnessed personally). Toulouse is the representation of those physical repercussions on Xbox Live, and the lack of that representation would undermine the service.

It might seem like a barrel of fun painted with all the colors of the rainbow to have so much power over millions of people, but Toulouse wishes he didn't have to do his job at all. Still, it's necessary, and will be until humanity is eventually enslaved by robots. Foul-mouthed teenagers might be annoying when trying to play against them in Halo, but I find it pretty funny that those same teenagers have given many people jobs and put dinner on their tables. Toulouse told us that the 12-year-old is really the peg point of the Xbox Live problem, but by the age of 15 it seems to cool off.

So, what kinds of things does the enforcement team have to deal with on a daily basis? A segment involves the Xbox Live Vision Camera, through which Toulouse says he has seen "so many... things." One of those things involves something called the "helicopter," which I have no desire to know of, but feel free to use Google if you do. Have a little empathy for the Xbox Live enforcers, as the "job will damage you," Toulouse also said. His work doesn't just involve sending emails to notify those that get banned, but also explaining to the mothers of 12-year-olds that those ASCII pictures they typed out represent a man's reproductive organs.

"Think... sideways."

"Ohhhhhhh..."

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Truly, I do not envy the man who has to "evaluate" the vision cam complaints.

*shudders*

Still, interesting look into how complaints get reviewed, now I don't have to keep asking myself if that asshole on the other end will get what he deserves...

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.

"Think... sideways."

"Ohhhhhhh..."

*End scene

That job must suck. Why would one take it? It's like taking a job where you have to shovel crap. It sucks.

I'd take a job like that. Though I would be tempted to just ban people who only play recon in Bad Company 2.

Sounds like John Gabriel's "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory" at work. :P This is why I only play online with people I actually have some kind of relationship with.

Pretty intresting actually...so they are actually a fully manned force.

Its nice to know, meaning they must see so much S*** come through the door...I can understand how having to deal with that kind of stuff day in and out can damage a person...certainly not a pleasant job.

I love that people helicopter on the vision camera. Personally I think there needs to be more moderators.

How do you apply?

i had a friend who used a mod to get every achievement in grand theft auto four lets just say i don't think he's on live anymore because when you waste a spring break hunting down those pigeons and someone just glitches to get it...i hope i made my point

Cryo84R:
I'd take a job like that. Though I would be tempted to just ban people who only play recon in Bad Company 2.

The same has been said about pretty much every similar class in a multi-player FPS is you pay attention.

Honestly I'd think game developers would stop creating classes like this.

I have same basic opinion of Warlocks/Nercromancer types in MMORPGs too.

Tom Goldman:
One of those things involves something called the "helicopter," which I have no desire to know of, but feel free to use Google if you do.

Now that song is stuck in my head.

You spin me right round, baby, right round...

Didn't know they had a whole cohort of people enforcing Live. Do they have that on the PSN? Or is that one of the reasons why people pay for Live?

I was lucky enough to go to this panel and it was excellent. Also the first person to ask the question was some kid that wanted his gamertag back. Stepto asked why he was banned and the kid replied that he broke the street date on a game. Stepto informed him that it wasn't happening. Later it turned out to be the same person that tried to steal the Breach code.

Mr. Mike:
Didn't know they had a whole cohort of people enforcing Live. Do they have that on the PSN? Or is that one of the reasons why people pay for Live?

back with the Ps2's PSN game moderation was dependent strictly on the game developer, Im unsure if Sony had decided to actually care about hackers/glitchers using PSN now, but it usually boils down to this:

PSN might be free, but there are good chances of finding hackers in it [SOCOM: C.A. for example was horrible with that.

XBL has a monthly [or yearly if you're smart] price, but with it comes excellent support and features [Last.fm for example is free to all gold members, you can get it without commercial breaks though by subscribing to it, but the only commercial I have seen is the Forza III one.]

its really dependent on what you are looking for.

Therumancer:

Cryo84R:
I'd take a job like that. Though I would be tempted to just ban people who only play recon in Bad Company 2.

The same has been said about pretty much every similar class in a multi-player FPS is you pay attention.

Honestly I'd think game developers would stop creating classes like this.

I have same basic opinion of Warlocks/Nercromancer types in MMORPGs too.

Recon classes, when done right, can be game changers. sadly in most FPS'es, Recon means Sniper, which annoys me to no end.

I suggest trying out some Operation Flashpoint games and seeing their recon classes, most have sniper rifles, true, but they also have tools to actually pin-point targets for ATG missiles and such.

however, I agree with you about the Warlock/Necromancer thing, its kinda sad when you see twenty of the same type wanting to join a raid even though you actually need a tank/healer/boomkin.

I am furious that I missed this panel. Did the gay gamertag controversy come up at all?

cobra_ky:
I am furious that I missed this panel. Did the gay gamertag controversy come up at all?

No, actually.

 

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