Cabbage, *****, and other chat filter nightmares

*********? Fletch?
By Mangleman

We are all sometimes annoyed by the chat filter in Runescape. In the past there have been some real problems in the game created by this feature. Most players laugh about the filter, most players accidentally trip the filter from time to time. It is here to stay but it does have its consequences and a unique impact on the culture of Runescape.

It is reasonably uncommon knowledge that an early version of the filter changed words to "cabbage" instead of replacing with asterisks. The cabbage confusion was part of the Runescape culture and traditions. It took years to die out. For a while it was a cliche that new players would run around saying "Why does everyone keep calling me a cabbage???" Even as Runescape matured to the *** model; cabbage remained a running joke for a long time.

When they released pineapples, pizza topped with pineapple promptly became the best food available. Some enterprising people (mainly me) noticed this and decided to make a bunch of them to sell. The result was:

mangleman: Selling ********* pizzas 5k each
RandomPerson: huh?
mangleman: Selling applepine pizzas 5k each
RandomPerson: Oh you mean *********?

Events like the pineapple fiasco really made players clamor for some change in the filter. Item names in the game should never be filtered out. Eventually they did patch the filter to allow us to say pineapple, but this problem is pretty common, and pretty likely to continue happening like this.

So what about Runescape that makes this seemingly ridiculus chat filter so important to Jagex? Why is there no option to turn it off on a player by player basis?

On November 14th 2001 Andrew got fed up with all the cursing and scamming and removed the ability to say much of anything in-game. He literally limited the allowed vocabulary to role-playing use and automatically changed words around that were not on the limited list. There was uproar, oh man was there uproar. The same day he did this, he shut down the official message boards, which remained closed for several years. Just one day later Andrew rolled back his vocabulary filter and implemented the **** system we all know today. It was generally believed that the Party Hat drop (one month later) was an unofficial "I am sorry for the chat filter madness" apology.

It all boils down to Andrew's personal politics. He wanted a game free of swearing and so he made one. We are all just along for the ride so-to-speak. What I find particularly interesting is how beneficial Andrew's personal politics have been for the game. The truth is that parents worry about language in games. Personally I am not afraid of "bad" language, but many parents want to avoid it for their kids. I have recommended Runescape to many parents who have voiced the language concern to me for their kids. The chat filter is part of what keeps the Runescape community young. Parents are happy that their kids are in a more "clean" environment, and the filter is little more than a humorous inconvenience to the other players.

Last update: 23-Mar-2008
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