Solving Problems – When Tempers Rise

MMO Masters


By Lady Nerium 

Let’s face it – none of us would be here if we did not enjoy the competition and challenge Stormfall provides us. This is a war game, and in any game such as this someone wins and someone loses and emotions can take over. Sometimes mistakes are made, tempers rise, and nasty things get said and done. Those things can disrupt players’ relationships with each other, or your League’s relationship with its Allies. 

How will you handle it?

The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and remember not to react too quickly. Sometimes the situation is not what you think, so take a minute and try to understand what is happening. Keep your emotions out of it – the objective is to solve the problem, hopefully to the satisfaction of both sides, with as little drama as possible.
First, find out what the problem actually is. This sounds simple, but when you are dealing with two upset players who each think they are in the right, it can be difficult to pin down the actual sequence of events. It may be especially hard when it is a player from a different League, and all this has to be done by email, or by communicating through one of their Captains or the Marshal.  If there are language issues, this is even more difficult.

Apparent Situation:

·       Alan, a respected but hot tempered Guardian in your League and one of your stronger players, logged in a short time ago and is complaining that Betty, a Commander in an allied League, has taken his Settlement and refuses to give it back. Betty is an aggressive player with a high offense score, and her name has come up in reports before due to complaints about her raiding Sieges belonging to your League’s players, so she is not well liked in your League.
·       Alan has taken revenge by raiding “a couple” of Betty’s Sieges to “get back Resources for recruiting” to replace the Defense lost at the Settlement.
·       Betty has attacked Alan’s Castle “without provocation”, catching a large number of Offensive Units unprotected, and now refuses to apologize or pay restitution.
·       Mara’s Lash (firebombs) are flying in both directions.
·       Other players in your League are getting involved and are threatening to attack players in their League in support of Alan. Demands for you to “make it right” and calls for counter attacks are flooding the League chat.
The agreement between your two allied Leagues states that Castles, Settlements, and Hamlets belonging to the other League are not to be attacked, spied upon, or sieged. Sieges/fiefs can be raided, very sparingly, but are not to be captured.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just make Betty give the Settlement back and send restitution for the destroyed Defense and Offense? It is not that easy, however, and reacting in favor of Alan, while understandable given the current information, might very well be a bad decision.
There is always a second side to any conflict, so it is time to start digging for the truth.
More questioning of both Alan and Betty and a multitude of emails exchanged over the next several hours brings the following facts to light:
·       The timestamp on the attack Reports from both sides shows that Alan had lost the Settlement to a player from a different League two hours before Betty captured it, and the Reports make it clear that Charlie had been in possession of it at the time Betty took control. There is no agreement in effect that would give Alan the right to recapture, given the elapsed time.
·       Betty refused to release the Settlement, with the justification that it was a fair capture per the terms of engagement between the two Leagues. Copies of the email posts show she made an attempt to calm the situation but was responded to in less than polite language by Alan.
·       Alan attempted to take back the Settlement from Betty and lost his Offense in the process due to a huge amount of Defense present.
·       Further Raid Reports from Betty show that Alan has repeatedly raided a large number of Betty’s Sieges, multiple times after she had sieged them back, and not just the couple he admitted to, despite Betty pointing out that it was against the Alliance terms and asking him to stop.
·       As a last resort, Betty sent a large attack against Alan’s Castle, hoping that a show of force would stop his attacks on the Sieges. Alan lost well over half of his Offense at that point.
·       Alan responded with more profanity, and firebombs, which Betty kindly returned.
·       Alan has been filling the League Chat with complaints asking League members to help him with his revenge. He refused to share the Reports showing the sequence of events until Leadership threatened to demote him for not following directives. 

Now what do you do?

There are five basic ways to handle conflict:
Avoiding. The Leader is uncomfortable dealing with conflict of any kind, so they avoid the problem by joking about it, or not handling the situation at all, possibly denying that there is a problem in the first place, and hoping it will go away if they allow the discussion to drag on long enough. The original problem is never actually resolved, leading to resentment and more conflict between these players later on.
·       You joke about how great the PvP points have been, and tell everyone you are working on the problem, knowing you really will not do anything unless forced to. You log out for the night soon afterwards, hoping it will all be settled by the time you log in tomorrow.
Accommodating. This is a passive approach to conflict management, and this type of
Leader, when faced with conflict, tends to give in to the demands of their players in order to keep them happy, no matter the facts of the situation. Happiness is of higher priority than a fair settlement sometimes, which could lead to broken Alliances, and the League getting a bad reputation for breaking agreements.
·       You tell the leadership of this other League that you want the Settlement returned to Alan along with some compensation for his losses. This League’s leadership, justifiably unhappy with the request, refuses to force Betty to do this but agrees to send some Resources to Alan to keep the peace. The Alliance is at risk, but Alan is happy that you have stood up for him and makes plans to get his revenge as soon as he has his forces rebuilt.
Collaborating. A Leader of this type believes in cooperating with others in an effort to find a solution that satisfies everyone involved in the conflict. They tend to be both highly assertive and able to see both sides of a problem and understand the feelings involved. They usually have good communication skills and are willing to work to find a “win/win” solution whenever possible.
·       You find out the facts of the problem, and speak at great length with the other League’s leadership, Betty, and Alan, then bring a solution to the table that will allow both sides to retain their pride, even though nobody is going to “win” in this case.
Compromising. Compromisers value fairness and are willing to accept the negotiated settlements in order to establish peace when a solution that satisfies everyone cannot be found. By accepting some of the demands put forth by others, they encourage others to meet them in the middle and find a solution everyone can accept, however grudgingly. This combines some parts of the “accommodating” and “collaborating” approaches to conflict resolution.
·       After a great deal of negotiating, it is decided that since the PvP scores are approximately equal, with both having lost about the same number of Units, Betty will agree to release the Settlement in exchange for some compensation from Alan. Both agree to no further contact.
Confrontational. A Leader who uses this manner of conflict resolution generally has little empathy for others, and believes in “win or lose” solutions, emphasis on the “win” part. Negotiations are likely to end up failing due to his or her inflexible attitude, and can involve threats of retaliation and similar power plays to force the other side to accept the desired solution.
·       You are aware that Alan is in the wrong in this instance, but your League is ranked higher than Betty’s League, with more players and Units overall. The other League’s leadership is requesting that Alan to pay compensation to Betty for attacking her, but you refuse and threaten to end the Alliance and attack them unless they drop their protest over his actions.
No matter what approach to conflict management you take, there are some things you should do if you want to be fair, and actually solve the problem rather than avoid it, giving in to your player’s demands, or starting a war with your former Allies.
Acknowledge that there is a problem. Open communication and honesty are very important in this situation. Find out what has happened and be open about the problem with the other League’s Leaders. Avoiding or denying it can cause serious diplomatic problems and will not solve anything. The Reports make it clear what happened.
Let players express their feelings. Tempers are probably high by this point, and the players will need to vent before any kind of problem solving can take place, so acknowledge their feelings and allow them to calm down. It may be necessary to order the players involved to block each other’s email/chat at this stage to prevent further contact between them. Take the discussion out of the League chat and make sure it stays out of the regional chat – sometimes a player’s emotions are amplified by the opinions and feedback of other players and spreading the problem to the entire server will not make it easier to resolve.
Define the problem. What is the actual problem? Determine the actual sequence of events, who did what to whom, without going solely by the “he said/she said” commentary you are likely being bombarded with. What were the actual losses and consequences to the players involved?
Determine the players’ needs. You are not trying to decide which person is right or wrong. There is probably plenty of blame to go around by this point. The goal is to reach a solution that everyone can live with. You should look first for needs, rather than solutions, and to discover needs, you must try to find out why people want the solutions they do. Once you understand the advantages their solutions have for them, you have discovered their needs. The loss of the Settlement, the raided Sieges, the troop loss, and the retaliation - what really matters to these two players, and what will need to happen to resolve the situation?
Find solutions to satisfy the needs of the players and the Leagues:
·       Try to solve the problem with your leadership team, and the leadership of the other League by coming up with multiple alternatives.
·       Determine which actions will be taken by both Leagues.
·       Make sure the players accept the solutions. (Total silence may be a sign of passive resistance, and the player making plans for retaliation at a later time.) Be sure you get real agreement from everyone. They may not be happy with the resolution, but they need to accept it for the good of the League.
Determine how you will monitor the players in the future. You may want to watch future interactions between these players and others who were outspoken in the conflict to make sure they do not cause more problems for each other and for your League. The communication ban may need to be made permanent, and you may need to set strict limitations on both of them if they cannot leave each other alone, and try to continue the argument later.
Decide what you will do if the conflict goes unresolved. If the conflict is causing a disruption between your League and the allied League, and it remains unresolved, you may need to explore other solutions.
·       An outside party, such as another League Marshal or a player both parties respect, may be able to offer other insights into solving the problem that may be accepted since it will be coming from a neutral party.
·       In some cases, the conflict may have been caused by a lack of knowledge about the League’s policy on the part of a player, or a misunderstanding of game mechanics, in which case you need to increase your player training to prevent the problem from recurring. Clearly posting your League’s policies and enforcing them in an evenhanded manner is always a good idea.
·       It may become a disciplinary issue, and your options are limited since you have no real authority over players, other than what they have granted you as Marshal. You may need to take actions such as a written warning and probation, suspension of privileges such as Dark Essence use, demotion to a lower rank, or even release from the League.
It is important that you are seen by your League and fellow Marshals as fair and responsive to their problems. Honesty, integrity, and the ability to make decisions that are best for the League as a whole are very important qualities for a Marshal to have, and enforcing discipline, while not enjoyable, is necessary if you are to have a smoothly running League. You cannot allow players to do whatever they want without expecting consequences in return.
Alliances are important, and difficult to secure sometimes, so they are worth protecting. Players who refuse to comply with their League’s policy are a liability, no matter how many Units they bring to your League. If a player is unable to act as part of a team, you do not need them. If you prove yourself a good leader, you will not have a problem filling the open spots in your League with quality players. 

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