Key Release: Player Watch

Key Release: Player Watch
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

November 27th 2012 at 10:00AM

Develop looks at a new tool for monitoring player behaviour

What is it? Player WatchA new software as a service tool for monitoring player behaviour in online games
Company: Crisp Thinking
Price: Contact company
www.crispthinking.com

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Founded by CEO Adam Hildreth in 2005, Crisp Thinking made its name developing technology for analysing and moderating online communities, particularly in the realm of children’s games and websites.

Since then, the company has worked supporting numerous online games, targeting illegal and predatory behaviour, monitoring user-generated content, and policing the likes of spamming, gold farming and the myriad of other unscrupulous activities undertaken by those consumers most games developers would rather do without.

And now Crisp Thinking has released a piece of software as a service specifically designed for modern online games. Named Player Watch, the technology has been built to accurately detect threats to developers’ games, economies and users.

Player Watch takes game data and passes it through a range of ‘intelligent classification algorithms’, so as to automatically analyse in-game actions.

And, if the developer wants, the system can automatically ban and suspend players, demand credentials from users and escalate cases to a studio or publisher’s customer service and moderation teams.

HACKING OFF HACKERS

“What our technology does is essentially look at player behaviour, so it can take into account everything that’s going on,” explains Hildreth, who met with modest fame when he founded Dubit in 1999 aged just 14.

“From the contents of MMO chat streams all the way through to things like how individual player’s actions and things that might indicate some kind of cheating or hacking, it can pick up any kind of negative behaviour within a game’s world.”

And, says Hildreth, Player Watch serves not just to protect developers, but the consumers that are so important in promoting and protecting a game’s reputation.

“Player Watch is a two way thing really,” he says. “Ultimately, yes, our data can help protect the business models of games developers, by protecting an in-game economy by counting things like gold farming and gold spamming.

“But it also protects the players and maintains the quality of their game experience. The last thing any consumer wants is to put a lot of effort into an online game only to find out the people they were competing with were cheating.”

While Player Watch’s data analysis is automated, the platform is also highly customisable, say its creators. The process at the point of detection in particular is flexible, and can be handled by staff contact or entirely without human involvement.

In fact, Player Watch offers perhaps more flexibility than any other Crisp offering in this regard, giving studios a wealth of choices with regard to how they monitor their games.

But what size studios is Player Watch conceived to serve? According to Hildreth, that’s a question with an answer that changes almost by the day.

“It’s currently something for studios of a mid-size and above,” he offers. “That’s purely because we haven’t managed to get our price point down to the level suitable for those smaller studios. The more that we allow people to customise the tool themselves, and the more we can open up the self-service model where people do much of the process themselves, the more that price point will come down.”

And, say Hildreth, as the company – which has servers across the globe managing seven billion player interactions a month – increases its ability to handle a level of data sometimes similar to Twitter, it may again be in a position to drop its prices.

INTERNAL AFFAIRS

With over 100 clients already on its books, Crisp is doing something right. But what of the matter of games studios building internal solutions for monitoring player behaviour? That is surely a viable option for many developers.

“The fact is you can’t really predict the problems you’re going to face in this area until the game is published; it could be gold farmers or hackers or cheats, and it’s very hard to predict,” states Hildreth.

“The fact is our platform is ready for any of those eventualities, and many more, so there’s a flexibility. Player Watch can fit any problem as it arises, on the fly so to speak. You wouldn’t, as a developer, want to spend a fortune developing a certain solution for one problem – say goldfarming – and then realise you actually need to address something different like spamming.

“Player Watch is designed for the whole industry, so already has everything covered. What it offers you will fit to the problems that arise.”