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09 February 2004

Safety in Toontown

A vexing problem for us was how to build an MMORPG that was safe for children, without giving up the essential communication features that are required to support a community. We focused much of our energy on safe communication.

In Toontown, there are two ways to communicate with other players. "Speedchat" is a hierarchical, menu-based chat system that allows a player to say everything they need to say to be able to play the game, but since there is a finite set of possible sentences, it is impossible to communicate any personal information. Alternately, the "Secret Friends" system allows players to exchange a secret code outside of the game that will allow two friends to chat with each other inside the game.

Another safety issue that we worked hard to solve was making it difficult for one player to "grief", or ruin, the experience for another player. The worst thing a Toon can say to another Toon using Speedchat is "You stink!" and because Toons can teleport freely between different "districts", or copies of the world, it is easy to avoid another player who is trying to bother you.

A common practice in other online games, often referred to as "kill-stealing", is for a more powerful player to be able to join a battle that is underway and finish off the enemy, thereby earning experience and even treasure at the expense of the players who started the battle. In Toontown, anyone who participates in a battle that is still there when it concludes is awarded experience and quest items independently, so weaker Toons are usually happy to have a more powerful Toon join their battle because everyone benefits...

Cooperative game play is essential to maintaining a thriving in-game community. Toontown facilitates cooperation by making it very easy to form groups. To join a battle on the street, simply walk up and "bump" into it... Additionally, a Toon may always teleport to another Toon on his or her friends list. This creates a social space that emphasises friendship and teamwork rather than walking around looking for other people.

Very smart design from Disney, reported in Gamasutra's Postmortem: Disney Online's Toontown

Posted at 07:44 PM in Children and teens | Permalink

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» Toontown from datacloud
Gamasutra [free registration required] reports on methods for building community in Disney’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORG), Toontown. The postmortem contains some interesting observations about online communities: Another... [Read More]

Tracked on 14 Feb 2004 18:56:56

Comments

I think ToonTown is so awesome!!! I would rate this game a 10! I'm about to get a gamecard so I can play every day because I've only played the 3day Free Trial and the trial doesn't let you do much. I LOVE TOONTOWN!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Austin at 7 Jul 2005 15:27:38

This game isn't for the lazy (or people with lives). When you get up to harder tasks in The Brrrgh (5th playground) or Donald's Dreamland (6th) or maybe even Minnie's Melodyland (4th). Having to defeat over 200 cogs can be grueling even with "one hit kills." Getting from 15 Laff Points to 129 Laff Points is- ok, you get what I mean. Besides the difficulty, Toontown can be a great game with racing, trolley games, decorating your house etc. especially if you have True Friends (previously Secret Friends).

Posted by: Monday's Dusk at 3 Jun 2007 20:53:55