323: Usage of XP Systems

This article will focus on explaining the functionality of these systems in detail in addition to showing how well they can contribute to your community. Additionally, we will be going over several bots which you can use to implement an XP system in your server.

What Are XP Systems And How Do They Work?

One of the most important factors of keeping a community alive and healthy is activity. To maintain activity, moderators can use a few different methods which generally can be separated into two groups: active and passive. Active methods are those which require the presence and active participation of a moderator. Passive methods, on the other hand, do not require a constant presence from an individual and are often automated by using bots. Keep in mind that even passive methods will require occasional maintenance from a moderator.

One of the more popular passive methods are XP systems. XP systems, otherwise known as experience or leveling systems, grant users experience points (XP) and levels based on their activity in a server. Their main purpose is to reward member activity in the community. These systems exist in the form of bots. Usually they are just one function of multi-purpose bots, but there are cases where the sole function of the bot is the leveling system. 

The basic way these systems work is:

  • Granting experience. A certain number of XP points is rewarded per message in text chat. In the case of rewarding voice chat activity, they grant experience based on time spent talking in the voice chat.
  • Preventing spam. Leveling systems have built-in cooldowns. This means that not every message sent will contribute towards gaining XP points. Only the messages sent after the cooldown expires will grant additional XP. 
  • Leveling up. After a certain number of XP points is acquired, the user reaches a new level.
  • Granting roles. When a certain level is hit, the bot automatically assigns a role to the user.

These four steps are only a simplification of the process, and there are many options to consider while using these systems. Depending on the bot you choose to use, you can get various options for configuration but there are several that are commonly available on most bots. Some of these options are:

  • XP and level customization. Changing the XP gain per message and cooldown will allow you to have better control over the system, as well as fine tune it towards the level of activity in your community. This can be extended to role based reward systems as well. It’s important to adjust the levels at which certain roles are acquired, as the roles need to be reachable in order for the reward to have a purpose. Keep in mind that not all bots will allow changing the cooldown or XP gain per message, but they will always allow for setting roles at a level of your choice.
  • XP Awareness. Being aware of the current XP a user possesses is also a valuable aspect of XP systems. The two ways to see these stats are through leaderboard and rank commands. Leaderboard commands typically show the current top 10 users based on their level or experience, while rank commands show this info for specific users. Usually, XP systems have built in announcement messages for level-ups to keep members posted about their level automatically, some even with a ping to the user in question. These notifications can be turned off.
  • Channel Control. XP gain can be disabled or enabled per channel. While helping prevent needless spam, it also allows you to remove XP gain in channels where spam-like activity is encouraged, such as channels with bots.
  • Manual XP Control. The last two basic options are adding and removing XP manually. Adding XP is commonly used if XP is automatically removed upon leaving the server. This allows users who had to re-join to gain all their former XP back. Alternatively, manually adding XP could also be considered a reward for certain actions, while removing would be used for punishments. Finally, resetting XP could be used for all users when you have a cyclical leveling system, while resetting XP for users who have been banned or left allows you to prevent clutter on the leaderboard.
  • No XP Roles. The No XP role allows you to completely block XP gain for any user who has this role. It can be used in two possible ways: 
    • Use this role on obvious spammers. Anyone who you can tell is attempting to abuse the system via spamming should be put under this role in order to further hinder meaningless activity. 
    • Grant the role per request. In the case where your system does not grant permissions via leveling, users should be allowed to request this role. Not everyone likes being seen on a leaderboard or the sidebar.
Usage of XP Systems

The main function of XP systems is to reward user activity. Their ability to passively lead users towards being active allows moderators to occasionally take a moment to step back from their usual activities of engaging with their community. The existence of a leaderboard appeals to the competitive nature of humans and pulls them to be more active. Rewards additionally add to this appeal. This is applicable in small, medium and some large communities.

Alternatively, XP systems can be used as a measure of security. By locking certain permissions behind levels, you can make sure that inactive and malicious users are prevented from committing certain offenses. This is mostly applicable in very large servers.

Both of these routes will require the utilization of roles. There are two main reasons for this:

  • When it comes to rewards, not all moderators are willing to invest money into their rewards. In those cases, roles are the simplest way to grant rewards within the community itself.
  • When it comes to security, permissions are tied to roles, so using them is needed as they allow control over which permissions are granted to large groups of people.
Regulation of Activity

As the goal of XP systems is to boost activity, it is important to note that they will also lure in users who believe any type of activity is acceptable. This is not the case. While the problem of spam is already resolved by the cooldown ability of most XP systems, there are still behavioral issues that need to be addressed. 

Members need to be aware that rules still exist in the community and they cannot simply do as they please. It is important to moderate those who blatantly misbehave in order to level up. Other contributions to the community, which are not measured with activity in text or voice chat, should also be rewarded, such as artworks, stories, etc.

Furthermore, activity that comes from channels which encourage spam-like behavior, such as bot channels, should not count towards the total. For that reason, XP gain should be disabled in channels of that sort.

Types of XP Systems

Knowing that we have the ability to reset the XP in the server, we can use this option to create different types of XP systems. We can divide XP systems into three different types: cyclical, permanent and combined.

Cyclical Systems

Cyclical systems reset XP points in a regular cycle. Cycle duration should be set based on activity, though it is not advisable to use this system in communities with very low activity. The constant resets in the leaderboard allow new members to climb the charts quickly, but this only lets the system be used for rewards. It is common to give out special rewards to the most active users at the end of the cycle, such as custom roles for the duration of the following cycle, which encourages continued activity to retain their rewards. This also gives moderators the opportunity to post announcements regularly at the ends of cycles. The biggest downside of this system is that not all bots have the ability to also remove leveling roles when the cycle ends.

Permanent Systems

Permanent systems do not reset at any point in time. Occasionally, users that are banned or have left are removed from the leaderboards. They give a good look into who the most active and dedicated users in the community are. Permanent systems can be used both for rewards and security. Their biggest downside is that they are not very friendly towards new members, especially in older communities.

Combined Systems

Combined systems are a combination of cyclical and permanent systems. They usually require the usage of 2 separate bots to keep track of rankings on both leaderboards. They take the best aspects of both systems, meaning they can be used both for rewards, which would be connected to the cyclical system, and security, which would be connected to the permanent one. This also allows for the cyclical leaderboard to help involve new users more, while still giving good insight of who the most active members of all time are with the permanent one. The only big downside that remains is the issue of removing roles from a large number of members.

Negative Aspects

As with any system, there are several negative aspects to consider when it comes to using XP systems. All of these should be taken into consideration before you make a decision on whether you want to use one. Some of the most commonly voiced concerns would be the following:

Spam

The fact that these systems encourage sending a larger number of messages automatically leads to the idea of spam. Since spam is considered a violation of rules, as well as a ToS violation, this would become a huge problem. The issue is easily resolvable, thanks to the built in anti-spam measures XP systems have, primarily the message cooldown. This, in combination with good moderation would make it certain that no spam is generated by the presence of the system.

Role Bloating

Since most XP systems require utilization of roles for truly fulfilling their usage, the issue of role bloating comes to mind. It is important to manage and space the leveled roles properly in order to avoid creating an excessive number of roles with no real use in your server.

Low Quality content

It is believed that when it comes to rewarding members, rewards should be granted manually through qualitative judgement of content, rather than quantitative. It’s a fact that bots cannot themselves tell the quality of the messages sent. The fact that all types of conversations allow users to gain XP means that there is no meter on what the quality of the conversation is. Granting privileges as a result of such conversations sends the wrong idea of what sort of activity is encouraged. Only humans can truly judge content subjectively to determine quality. By combining proper moderation, for handling the judgement of quality, and the built-in preventive mechanisms of XP systems for quantity control, this issue can be held down to a minimal level.

Inorganic Communication

This would be one of the most difficult problems of the system to resolve. Many members, with the intent of increasing their XP count and level, will attempt to hold conversation in the community. This part of it is perfectly fine. The problem arises when they start forcing conversation at any point in time solely to increase their message count. The result would be communication that is completely unnatural and unhealthy. 

This type of abuse of the system can’t really be stopped with the cooldown system since most of the time it is not spam. The only real way to prevent this is to use the No XP role, but the difficulty of telling organic and inorganic communication apart raises the question: Was there really any violation of the system?

Difficulty with Community Integration

Not in every case is an XP system useful for a community. In many cases moderators can’t figure out how they can add this sort of system and make it seem like a natural part of the server, or how it can fit the theme of the community. Considering the theme and purpose of your server is an important part of making the decision of adding a leveling system to your server. Before you make the decision, ask yourself: How can I make this system a natural part of my community? 

Which Bot Do I Use?

In the following section, several publicly available bots will be presented as options for what you can use for an XP System in your server. The following bots have been chosen based on data collected from a survey of various moderators, administrators and owners in Discord communities. 

This list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of alternatives available online. All of the listed bots are free and public. Some features may be limited to paid additions or private versions of the bots. The content of this article is not endorsed by any bot or company related to the bots.

Gaius Play is an entertainment bot that also hosts an XP system. It takes both text and voice chat activity into account. The basic version comes with a preset configuration for XP gain and leveling, as well as commands for adding rewards up to 6 roles, fully customizing and toggling level-up messages, manually controlling XP, ignoring activity in certain channels and the ability to boost XP gain within certain parameters (roles, channels, time periods). It also has the ability to remove leveled roles from all users, making it ideal for use in a cyclical system. Additionally, there are several premium features, such as unlimited reward roles and a tree leveling system. Users can also reset their own reward roles in order to change paths on the tree leveling system.

Amari is a bot that is solely focused on leveling systems. It only looks at activity in text channels. This is a very simple bot, containing commands for setting rewards, manually controlling XP, customizing and toggling level-up messages, as well as ignoring activity in some channels. It has the ability to have 2 leaderboards active at the same time, both of which can be reset at any point. Donor features allow for modification of the cooldown between messages, as well as modification of the XP gain per message.

Nadeko is a multi-purpose bot with a leveling system module. It detects activity exclusively from text chat and has a preset configuration for XP gain. It contains commands for setting up reward roles, toggling level-up messages, ignoring activity in channels and manually controlling XP. A big upside of this bot is that you have the option to host it yourself. This also adds the ability to set up in-bot currency rewards, as well as better overall control of the bot.

Tatsu is another multi-purpose bot with an XP system module. It has several basic commands, allowing creation of reward roles, toggling level-up announcements, modifying XP gain per message and cooldown, manual XP control and ignoring channel activity. It also features a dashboard and a global leaderboard alongside the local one.

Summary

With the available selection of bots and documentation explaining the setup of XP systems, using leveling modules is simpler than ever. The configuration options that exist on these modules allow for creative usage of leveling systems with the goal of passively increasing activity within the community.

Naturally, you have to consider several factors prior to deciding on using XP systems. If you are considering using one, think of how you can best integrate it into your community. In which way will you use it? Which type of system would suit your community best? Which bot would be the best for the task? Of course, there are negative aspects to consider as well, meaning you’d have to figure out how to control and minimize them. Carefully weigh all the pros and cons prior to making a final decision.



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