Heroes Of The Storm Developers Detail Plans To Combat Online Toxicity

Heroes of the Storm’s community has been on a trajectory of toxicity as it progressed from exclusive alpha to full release. We sat down with two developers and asked how Blizzard plans to starve the trolls of their fun.

Anyone who's put enough hours into the game will know it's a problem. Especially when one moves from Quick Match into Hero League, where players are expected to know how to play, and often think they know better.

Chris Sigaty, executive producer on Heroes of the Storm, and Alan Dabiri, technical director at Blizzard, are thinking of multiple ways to solve the problem -- and some of them have serious promise.

In addition to methods we’ve seen in games like DOTA 2 and LoL, such as relying on algorithms and player policing to bear as much of the grunt work in policing as possible, the two talked about improving the game’s ping system to a point at which normal communication isn’t necessary. That, combined with the new ability to auto-mute everyone, could make for some much more pleasant matches in the textually turbulent Hero League.

At the bottom, they mention the feature I’m most excited about -- community lists would be a great way to team up with like-minded players, as well as attaching a smidgeon of accountability to your Battletag.

Read on for details.

Do you think the ping system is actually a solution to in-game abuse? There’s usually a trade-off between muting abusive people and wanting to communicate with your team effectively. Could a robust ping system allow people to communicate enough without words, like in Hearthstone?

Chris Sigaty: I think so. For me, it’s a great solution.

Alan Dabiri: I think the ping system can replace a large amount of communications. That’s exactly why we added in the “Mute all” function. In fact, we’ve got some regions with cross-country play, where they don’t even speak the same language. And as a result, those pings are very important, and people really learn to use those.

You’re still trying to police players at a global level, but there’s no real algorithm yet that’s smart enough to ban the right people, and systems can be gamed. What other measures are you considering?

Alan Dabiri: The customer service is there as a first line of defence. We do have a full reporting system. You can report someone if you think they’re acting inappropriately. The threshold is surprisingly low, so don’t feel like your one report won’t mean anything.

Chris Sigaty: It’s not as visible as we’d like it to be, but if you’re writing anything about it, feel free to call it out, we’d love people to understand it’s there. We’re monitoring it much more, especially now that we’re launching.

Alan Dabiri: I think the key thing there is that we’re actually actioning people. Obviously that takes manpower, which we fully have and are committed to do, but when you talk about other systems that’s another thing we want to explore.

We’re already considering doing automated types of action as well. We could silence someone so they can’t speak anymore, we could actually just remove them from the game if they do something egregious enough. And then the last thing would be around systems that allow the players to police themselves as well.

And this is something that’s a little further along, we’re still investigating, where you could almost rate your teammates. If he gets a bunch of thumbs down or something, we’re going to have you be matched up against these other guys who are more like you. Who are a little more aggressive, a little more hardcore.

I read a developer interview a while back alluding to a possible feature allowing players to create in-game communities -- sort of like an extended friends list. Did I interpret that correctly?

Alan Dabiri: We definitely want to have like a groups and clans feature. So we’ve had it in Starcraft and Diablo as well, where it’s like an extended friends. So you don’t have to have all these people on your friends list, but by joining all these people on this group, it might be like “Hey, we’re the casual players group”, or “We’re the hardcore Hero League eSports players”, or whatever. So you get in, you can see these are all the people who are online, you can message them to get into a game, have a good time, and if you want to take it a step further and get them on your friends list, you can still keep track of that.

Anyone can create one of these groups. The Sydney group? You can do that. Maybe it’s a style, like people who like to play Murky.

The All Murkys Group?

Chris Sigaty: I get to play Murky! No, I get to play Murky!

Alan Dabiri: You can pretty much make a group for anything. If it’s an eSports group, a club, or a regional thing.

Our thanks to both Chris and Alan for speaking with us.


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