Guest Post We have reached part two of the article “What they don’t tell you about server management”. In part one we talked about how I climbed the ladder within the ranks of Rust Factions and what to look out for and how to be honest with your community. In part two of the article we are going to be talking about the ecosystem, setting up rules, preparing yourself and your personal limitations.
Create Policies and Procedures
Eventually, using judgement calls and flying by the seat of your pants will lead into situations of disparate outcomes. Why does one person get punished one way, where the other gets punished more severely for the same action?
Developing standard server rules, policies and procedures will enhance player experience and staff competence. If everyone is following the same playbook, staff know that they can operate with a bit more independence and trust because they are following a set of guidelines that are the same for all, and players will know that a certain action will elicit a certain outcome.
As an example, one of the most challenging issues that we have had to face in the last few months is the rapidly escalating number of suicide threats that have been sent to staff. The reality is there is no good way to handle these that we have found across the online gaming community; and although in my professional life I am trained in some regard for this issue, there are players from multiple various states, provinces, countries or jurisdictions. There is simply no way that we’re going to be effective at properly managing this issue.
As such, we developed the staff policy that we will provide the contact information for the local or federal suicide prevention or mental health support programs directly to the player, and send the identifying information we collect server side to any official organization such as police on request, but we cannot disclose that information to other players; which has been requested an abundance of times.
Believe me, if you end up with an active community; This Will Happen, plan for it.
And lastly, create staff guidelines. Our server struggled as we had no concrete structure around staff conduct or what constituted staff abuse. Although you would hope people would use common sense, having staff abilities is like a cheat code for a difficult game, and it’s really hard to not use it at times. Thankfully for us, Tori built a slew of staff-tracking tools that record all staff abilities and the logs are available to all staff, making us a sort of peer-accountability server.
…But Be Flexible
At times, there will be circumstances where the specific policies and procedures will not cover, and you will have to once again make judgement calls. Ultimately, it’s supposed to be a gaming community; not a court and not a job.
If someone breaks a rule or acts in a certain manner with non-malicious intentions sometimes you can direct proper behavior through example, rather than by force.
Know the Ecosystem & Plan For The Future
One of the first things that Tori and I developed was a plan to effectively disclose information to the community via the systems that had previously been in place, but due to the long history of Rust Factions, there had been multiple changing of hands over the last several years. This led us to a situation where the keys to systems such as Reddit or YouTube were held by people no longer active in the community. It took several months to obtain and sort out who was in control of what systems, and even now we have some aspects of the systems outside of the server that are still under-utilized, such as server listings and metrics, that although we are registered; no one is quite sure who holds the access to those tools.
Plan ahead for server growth, know that people will register accounts or copycat servers that will utilize your name and brand and act on it before they do. If there are existing accounts, get everything together under a central account that you can hand off if you need to easily if life changes force you away from the server.
Carefully Consider Your Limitations
I consider myself one of the most patient individuals that I know, and in our server over the last few months there is rarely a major punitive action taken against an active player without a long conversation. It has become something of an inside joke amongst staff when they know that I’m speaking with a player who has or is at risk of being banned to count the hours that I have been conversing with them. I believe our longest has been a four hour conversation, but there have been multiple two or more hour long conversations.
In reality, that’s excessive when you’re trying to correct negative behavior, and unfortunately it is just simply the reality that some people will not be a good fit for your community. You never want to lose players; but ultimately you may simply have to wish them good luck and say they are not a good fit for your server.
If you burn yourself out working on a community, that community will often fail.
If you want to build a functional community, and not just a Rust server where you and your friends can spawn in items and fly around shooting the attack helicopter with rocket launchers, you need to realize that you will be forgoing nearly all of your active play time. When you eventually are able to seek out a few hours to play, if you engage in combat or any sort of raiding, it is nearly guaranteed that you will be accused of ‘Admin Abuse’. If you are planning on engaging in any real play, you most likely will need to consider an alternative account (alt) and not link it in any fashion to your main.
But realize that you are probably going to not be able to participate in the community you built in most capacities. You will constantly be dealing with reports, negative players, and hardware issues.
If you’re looking to get a server going so you and your friends will be able to fly around using noclip, spawn in ridiculous amounts of ‘fat lootz’ and generally break the game, go for it. For about $10 a month you can get a shared cloud hosted server via a service that does all the heavy lifting for you. But from personal experience this gets pretty old pretty fast.
You’re going to lose a lot of sleep, you’re going to question yourself at times, and there’s a good chance you’re going to fail. But if you have the drive and perseverance, and create a good community, you can make something unique and give others a chance to tell their stories.