Can Sony and Microsoft Make Multiplayer More Tolerable?

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:NSFT) announced in March that it had some simple — though major — changes planned for the online multiplayer experience on Xbox Live. For some players, it may make life a bit better, while for others, it could be thoroughly troublesome. Now, Sony (NYSE:SNE) appears to have a similar concept in mind for its PlayStation Network.

According to GameSpot, Sony sent a survey to a selection of players on PSN, asking for their opinion on a set of new features that could be included in an upcoming update. The survey asked if players would find certain features appealing. All of the features had to do with the online experience through PSN and were related to things like player reputations, matchmaking, chat, online status, usernames, and notifications.

One of the more notable features is the player reputation system, which would have a heavy effect on online gamers. This is where the similarity would come to what Microsoft has proposed for Xbox Live.


Michael Dunn, program manager of Xbox Live, explained that the reputation system would eventually start to reward players who have a good reputation because they haven’t been reported by many players as being a bad sport. Players that receive more reports will fall into the “Needs Work” category and receive notifications suggesting they return to the path of “Good Players.”

Players who don’t heed the warnings and continue to have bad behavior and receive reports will fall into the “Avoid Me” class and even face penalties. Dunn said that those players would have reduced matchmaking pairings — a reduced multiplayer experience — and also wouldn’t be able to use Twitch to stream their gameplay.

There is the fear for many players that the reputation system will unjustly afflict them, because as many of us know, not everyone in the online community likes to play nice. In some games, false reporting is a frequent way to kick out players that are doing really well. AcePlayer33′s 10-person kill streak might upset a player enough to request a vote on booting Ace, and if the rest of the opposing team is frustrated (and at least 10 of them will be), there could be enough people for an unfair kick. Normally, the kicked player just has to find a new game and shrug it off, but if there is a constantly tracked reputation to worry about, things could be a bit worse.

Dunn explained that there would be a system in place to ensure players aren’t penalized for false reporting by embittered players, so there may be at least some safety for the folks on Xbox Live. The question is whether Sony will follow suit.

Sony’s survey simply asked if players would be interested in a “Player reputation system based on a use rating system.” Since it was only a survey, there was no explanation of how exactly that system would be implemented, nor of how grief reports would be filtered out. There’s also no word on any penalty or bonus system.

One thing is for sure: Both Sony and Microsoft are interested in doing something to root out the rats — or at least reform them — and gamers on both sides of the divide could reap the benefits of a less obnoxious playing environment.

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