Keywords: admin, design
A BYONDscape Classic! No doubt to many of our well-informed, up-to-date readers, the first image that comes to mind upon reading the title "The 'GM' Curse" is some innocent, mild-mannered citizen of the European Union dying in agony because he unwittingly ate some "Genetically Modified" corn. In the BYOND world, however, "GM" has a whole different meaning -- but it may be even more dangerous! -- Gughunter

How can you tell a successful BYOND game from a game that is destined to fail? One might think that determining this quality would involve actually playing the game in question. I've come to rely upon a much faster, easier to use method that doesn't involve actually playing the game at all. In its simplest form, my technique involves a simple count of how many "GM's" a game has. The more the merrier? Not quite.

The term GM stands for Game Master. It is assumed that a Game Master is around to A.) Prevent attacks on the server and moderate player behavior, and sometimes B.) Be the storyteller for some sort of role playing game. However, being a GM in a BYOND game has taken on a different meaning. A BYOND GM is usually a very immature person who loves to abuse their moderation power. In fact, being a GM in a game merely seems to mean that you have way more power than normal players, not to mention a special icon and some nice administrative commands. Traditionally a Game Master should only be there to make the game as enjoyable as possible for the players, yet it seems that GM's are now around solely to make the game more enjoyable for themselves.

"Can I be a GM?" is the most frequently asked question in any BYOND game. The reason this question is asked so often is that the answer is typically yes, or "Yes, if you give me something." It is absolutely ridiculous to be passing out administrative power like it is candy. Things have reached the point where people are now selling the ability to be a GM. On top of that, after playing a game for a long time, some people feel that they should be made a GM out of respect. This type of thing wouldn't be such a major problem if the people becoming GM's weren't absolute losers.

Logging into a game and seeing a GM swear a lot or use insults such as "gay" is usually a clear indication that it's time for me to log out. Usually, when I point out that the GM's language is offensive I'm banned on the spot, so I don't even have to bother with logging out myself. Other GM's are incredibly sensitive to what players are saying. Trying to give constructive criticism or even mentioning the name of another game that the GM feels is in competition with their game usually results in getting the boot. If the game's creator has used vulgar words in the introduction text, you can usually tell that there will be plenty of childish GM's that will mute your character or throw you in the dungeon for looking at them the wrong way.

The number of GM's is also a very clear indicator. Why does a game need more than 2 or 3 people with moderation power? There is no possible way that a game can have that many problematic players. When you see a game with 5 or 6 GM's, you can gather that most, if not all of them have bought or begged their power.

Most of my experience with creator-player interaction comes from Dragon Warrior Online. From the beginning I decided that I would be the sole moderator. After all, I was the main server host and therefore I was on most of the time that the game was being played. The people who played it soon started asking if they could help with the game -- then as a reward for their generous contribution be made a GM. I never accepted these kinds of offers, and instead of yelling at the people who asked me for power, I politely told them that the game was just fine with me as the sole moderator. I didn't want them to view me as rude, otherwise they would stop playing my game. In fact, being kind to even the most ignorant of players has worked out quite well. Instead of developing some sort of resentment for me, most players come to at least respect me. I also make a special effort not to use any language that might offend anyone, especially first time players. Who wants to give someone the satisfaction of playing their game if the person who made the game is a vulgar moron?

It took me a long time to give another person moderation power in DWO. Cable Monkey became the main server host, and after getting to know him I knew he would be very courteous to players and not abuse the power. Right now I can list about ten other well known DWO players who I would trust with moderation power, but the fact is that they aren't needed. If someone is attempting to spam, Cable Monkey or I can be there within a few hours at most and ban them for good. The names of people who violate the rules are posted on the forums, and usually after an investigation they are dealt with appropriately.

I've come to despise the term "GM." To me it has taken on a very foul meaning. As a result I use the word Administrator, which also seems to give players a clearer picture of what the people in power are there to do.

Obviously there is more to making a good game than having respectable Administrators. That said, having poor Administrators can ruin even the best of games. If you follow three basic rules you should do just fine:

1.) Remember that as an Administrator, your main goal is to provide a positive playing environment for all players. You are not there to show off or play with your power.

2.) Be kind to everyone you meet. Even if a person has logged into your game for the sole purpose of telling you how bad it is, treat them with respect. If a banning is in order, make sure that plenty of warning is given and don't insult the person. Your goal should be to make people who play your game respect you.

3.) When appointing additional Administrators, remember that "less is more." Make sure that you know them well enough to judge whether or not they will do their job well. Don't give someone power as a payment or reward.

It's a shame "GM" has come to be associated with the things it has. For those of us that come from a tabletop gaming background, it has an entirely different (and at times just as cursed) meaning.
Yeah, its hard to find people that will actually be GMs not "zomg he beat me in a fight... BAN!" That's why I try to get people I know mostly about. But even then they sometimes turn out to be immature when the right incident happens.
Indeed, however, the limit isn't the same for every game. I tend to keep a team of people to do things.

Usually, I build an entire structure of rank, depending upon my investment in the project, and the rowdiness of my playerbase.

Owner (me)
Head Admin
2 Admins
3 Chat Moderators

Generally, I keep seven people on the list. I'm usually not around, so my Head Admin does most of the important work, so they are generally very trustworthy. My regular admins just manage the bans and regular "player issues", and investigate bug reports, and abuse reports.

As for my Chat mods, I tend to let them mute the rifraff that the admins couldn't be bothered to. Generally, crack a few skulls, and break out the banstick every now and again, and nobody has to do anything.

I try to seperate admin characters from player characters, though, so as to keep my playerbase in fear of an admin being online, just on a player account. I also keep keys seperate from player names, except in associative cases, that way players can ignore based on key, playername, etc.

Personally, I prefer the 4-7 people route, because there's always someone online, and it keeps the mods from getting too harried.
This sounds like a typical WOTS rip
Final Fantasy 5: Another World has a larger list of moderators, but you mostly only see 2 on at once if that.

Since they are hobby projects, the people appointed to the position don't really spend all of their time babysitting, and are really there as chat moderation to deal with squabbles.

We have 6 developers(yet we still take so long to work), 3 administrators that watch over the moderators, making sure they deal with things fairly, and removing them if they start to act threatening towards players, and finally 5 moderators. The most I ever see online is 2 moderators on at once, but if I pop in at different times, I will see all of the moderators at some point.

It's not true that more moderators will destine a game to fail. It all just depends on who you pick.

All in all it's a good system. Moderators take care of the squabbles, Administrators watch over the moderators, and we developers don't have to worry about it.
*cough* My game has about 14 moderators, of whom usually only 2 or 3 are on at a time. But in peak times, we get more than 60 players in world at once, and there are a LOT of trouble makers so it's seriously a full time job. But I agree, GM is not a toy and should not be given out like candy
100% agreed. this is why GOA doesnt have GMs, only a few people with chat moderation powers.
Evre wrote:
It's a shame "GM" has come to be associated with the things it has. For those of us that come from a tabletop gaming background, it has an entirely different (and at times just as cursed) meaning.

I feel that an ORPG with a small player base (as in, less than 60) that is hosted 24/7 should have around 7 GM, spaced out over three ranks.
My reason for this is because GM should be there mainly to advance the storyline, and having larger amounts of people helps ensure different perspectives and different creative ideas, as well as to ensure someone will be there "just in case."

But meh, even if the titles change and everything else, we will still have noobs who will instantly ask "Can I be GM" and then precede to tell you why you have to make them one. Im still deciding if this type of user needs to be immediately banned or not.
Mutes will suffice.

Also, Dan, even though your game doesn't have GM's doesn't mean it can't have punishment.

Personally the only time I ever use more then 2 Administrators or Mods if they have a purpose to the game, like in my upcomming Harry Potter game. The Mods are teachers, and I usually keep 1-2 more Admin's for the game itself. Other then that I just try and build a nice secure system that I can leave for a few months and not have it crash down.
Technically in some games, GM and Admin are two entirely different things, and in most cases admins have more power than GMs and as such low level GMs aren't a problem as long as they A. Don't abuse what little power they may have B. Respect players C. Do what they're told. aside from that I've seen games with tons of GMs that are successful and games with very few that aren't so Staff ,or lack there of doesn't mean anything sometimes.
Way to reply almost 14 months later. I really hope that you're not that slow of a typist.