All too often, the ambiance and mood game designers labour to create is scuppered the second their work falls into player hands. That was certainly the case with Halo, a game of mournful orchestral refrains and gorgeous cosmic vistas, which has become a game where some players celebrate their victories by stuffing virtual genitalia into the mouths of their victims.
Bungie's technical director Chris Butcher suspects this sort of horseplay is inevitable, but aims nonetheless to discourage such behaviour in Destiny, the studio's always-online star-faring epic. Among other fancy networked tricks, Destiny seamlessly match-makes you to players behind the scenes to suit the occasion - you might "run into" another adventurer right before hitting some big enemy encampment, for instance - and Butcher and his fellows accordingly aim to "make sure the social experience is one where if the players aren't co-operating or communicating effectively it doesn't ruin anyone's experience."
"If you look back at online multiplayer gaming for the last ten years I think the dominant thread has been adolescent males shooting each other in the face and squatting on each other's corpses," he told Edge in a new interview. "And that emerges from design decisions which... some of which were intentional, some of which were not, but the community gets attracted towards that, and that is popular to a lot of other people and so it kind of tends to exclude others."
It's not quite clear how Destiny will achieve the opposite - Butcher makes mention in the piece of a "sloping floor" ethic that'll reward constructive behaviour or punish ne'er-do-wells during public events, and touches on a gesture system mapped to the D-pad. Here's a suggestion from my end: let the better-behaved players sign up as inter-planetary peacekeepers, summoned to hunt down troublemakers after the example of the Blades of the Darkmoon in Dark Souls.
"I don't think you can ever design toxic behaviour out, you can't ever stop players from being toxic but what you can do is prevent them being able to ruin other players' experiences," he went on. "You give people these tools that encourage them to interact positively with each other and then if someone is interacting negatively with you, well, they can't ruin your experience."
If all else fails, there's the option to completely avoid multiplayer in Destiny, though this somewhat cuts against the game's ethos of cooperation, which stems from the premise of a fallen human civilization. Read more about that in this bulky feature.
There have been some interesting discussions around player misbehaviour of late. Check out this article on how Xbox Live's new reputation system works, for instance.