Many users have expressed vehemently their opposition to down voting when reviewing Project Spark user generated content (UGC), however, the powers that be at Team Dakota, the creators of Spark, do not yet wish to remove down voting as there has not been a consensus on the topic, and there are some cases which there are good games that do have high ratings (ignoring the quality levels with low ratings (fine example: the newest addition to TD library, Guily All the Same, has received a ton of downvotes (86% rating at the time of this post) despite the quality effort put into the level), and also overlooking ignoring the marginal levels with high ratings, but I digress). BigDaddy has already written an article explaining the opposition to down voting (found here http://www.project-spark.org/blog/entry/it-s-time-to-end-down-voting ), so this "opinionated editorial" will focus on identifying and briefly evaluating the potential alterations to the current down voting system which have been mentioned by Team Dakota, as well as mention some of my own ideas for reducing the impact of downvote trolls in Spark.
Inform the Voters
What is a down vote supposed to mean? Tell us the intended use. Is this supposed to a Zoidbergian troll call "Your level is bad and you should feel bad!"? Should it be an anti-DLC statement, "this level contains DLC which I do not own, and cannot remix it, feel my misplaced wrath!"? How about remixes, "You didn't do most of the work, I am going to down vote so the original creator will get attention" (this may be addressed soon with the upcoming improved lineage system, but people may continue to vote in such a way)? Or is it just to be "This game has a high rating, but I didn't quite like it at the level of 95%, I think it is more of an 85% game, so I will down vote to impose my will on the game rating"? How about X1 compatibility, "this game doesn't function well on the X1, which I am using, it looks cool, and I want to play it, but I can't- BURN!"? None of the above, all of the above? At least tell us before voting the intent so we can be consistent and have the scores be meaningful.
I am not in a position to say if there are bots in Project Spark at the moment, but a captcha form being required for a down vote to be processed would have two effects. Firstly, it would prevent down vote bots from becoming a thing, if they haven't already. Secondly, basically everyone hates captcha, so if they want to down vote, they will need to hate the level more than they hate doing a captcha. However, this will also likely result in levels ratings being skewed higher, with only especially bad levels being filtered down. And of course those people would likely feel especially embarrassed.
Perhaps require feedback to be tagged with why the level was down voted. These tags could be displayed in a histogram to the creator so that they may improve their level, or future levels. This way a down vote will come with constructive feedback. Heck, allow anyone to submit feedback tags even if they don't plop down a down vote. It may be worth adding a "Be Trollin'" feedback tag in case any trolls feel like being frank about it.
Scale the Down Votes
First and Foremost
Regardless of which algorithms Team Dakota implements, please do not tell us, keep it a black box. Do not tell trolls how to be effective trolls, if the trolls know which obstacles are up, they will figure out how to get the most troll for their time.
You Must Be This Tall to Down Vote
A minimum spark level for down votes to actually be counted may negate the effect of trolls who log in to Spark with no intent on creating or actually playing games. If there were a level of 5, it wouldn't be hard for a real user to reach, however if a user switches to troll mode after losing interest, it would be a rather low barrier of entry for them, as I recall reaching level 5 within a day or two of playing. Higher levels or 10 or 15, or what ever, would be more likely to filter out potential turn coats, but would have a minor side effect of also removing legitimate down votes from members who have not yet rising above the threshold. This may be mitigated by decensoring the down vote after the user reaches the appropriate level.
Weighting the Down Vote
It has been mentioned that some factor could scale the impact of a vote, such as the user's spark level. At first glance, this would also reduce the impact of a low level troll. But at the moment, it isn't all that entirely difficult to quickly level in Spark, especially with a few tricks which any mildly clever user could come up with. So do users who figured out these tricks really have a more important opinion when it comes to voting than a user who has ignored the dailies and didn't concern themselves with leveling? The low hanging fruit aspect would be combining the minimum level discussed previously with the weighting. Perhaps a hard cap and a soft cap, concepts that may be familiar to MMORPG players, but flipped upside down. The hard cap could be that users of a spark level below 5 would carry a weight of zero, while users between level 5 and 15 would have a soft cap reducing their effectiveness by some amount.
Frequency of Voting
It may be useful to take into consideration how many down votes the down voter is doing, either per day or as a percent of how many ratings in total they have given. If a user down votes every level they come across, their rating could mean less. Or if they down vote a lot, but also up vote a lot, their vote could have a normal weight. Or perhaps if they rarely down vote, and/or rarely up vote after playing a game, perhaps their votes should have more of an impact.
If a user down votes a level which has a substantially high number of up votes, perhaps the down vote shouldn't mean as much. Even Babe Ruth didn't get 100% of votes on Hall of Fame Ballots (today writers use that as rationale for leaving surefire hall of famers off their ballot, essentially down voting, just because if the best player in their minds wasn't perfect, why should anyone be given a perfect rating? It's silly, but again I digress), so maybe the people in the minority shouldn't impact the score very much.
Subtract the Toxic Noise
Alternatively, find a "background noise" of level ratings, this view of this approach comes from my background in analyzing genetic/epigenetic microarrays, where even something that should be 100/100 or 0/100 will have its signal altered by the overall and/or nearby environment. Essentially, look at all levels, with particular attention to the very good levels. If even really good levels with 100 total votes is expected to get 5-10 down votes just from the toxic environment of the internet, reduce the impact of the first 5-10 down votes per 100 votes.
Do you have any other possible solutions worth considering? Post in the comments below.
I, Paradoxmoose, am a mostly harmless life long gaming enthusiast, raised on console, PC and tapletop gaming, having spent years playing Final Fantasies, Warhammer, Everquest, Diablos, Heroes of Might and Magics, Metroids, Mario Karts, Castlevanias, WoW, and Ogre Battles, as well as designing cards for the online card game elementsthegame.com .