Overwatch's Anti-Abuse System Is Getting An Overhaul

In competitive games, a handful of bad eggs can stink up the whole basket. Even Overwatch, a shooter designed with teamwork and a degree of positivity in mind, can't dump them directly into the bin fast enough. Blizzard's solution? Better tools.

During an interview last year, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan told me that toxicity is "a big concern" for the team, but he conceded that the report system — though "aggressively" monitored by Blizzard's banhammer squad — could use some work. Since then, it's received minor tweaks, but nothing huge. That, however, is about to change. There's now a new report system on the PTR, and it has a lot going on.

Clip courtesy of Arsenal2454.

The new system allows you to report people for the following reasons:

  • Spam
  • Abusive Chat
  • Cheating
  • Griefing
  • Inactivity
  • Bad Battletag
  • Poor Teamwork

Now, you might look at these options and see an anti-abuse system ripe for, well, abuse. Blizzard, though, has included very specific descriptions of what each category is and is not. "Poor teamwork", for instance, is avoiding objectives and being verbally abusive to teammates. It's not "playing a hero that is not considered optimal by the community or staying silent in voice chat". Other categories are similarly strict. So presumably, if people try to report you for dumb bullshit, their reports will be disregarded and tossed out.

This system seems much more specific than what Overwatch had before, and it will hopefully allow Blizzard to tackle individual reports more efficiently. Will it have a noticeable effect on the game, though? That's a tougher question to answer. Game companies tend to stay quiet when they take action against specific players, in part due to privacy concerns and also because cheaters, hackers, griefers and so on could game the system if they had a wealth of information to go on.

Reporting toxic players, then, can feel like bellowing helplessly into an uncaring void, especially if you just go on to encounter other toxic players down the line. Blizzard, however, insists that they put a lot of effort into cleaning up the community, and the only way they can be truly comprehensive is if players use the report function early and often. So if somebody's making your virtual life hell, think of the report button like karma. It won't give you the immediate and bloody vengeance you desire, but eventually that jerk will get struck by lightning or savaged by (very methodical) wolves for days on end. Also, they might get banned from Overwatch.


    Here's hoping that when this system comes to consoles (as Blizzard have confirmed it will) that they free Overwatch from the restrictions of the Xbox Live reputation system.

    Currently if your reputation gets down to "Avoid Me" then its effectively a matchmaking ban in Overwatch as it will only group you with players of similar rep. Thing is, people with that rep aren't playing Overwatch; they're playing other games like the Battlefield games or World of Tanks (which aren't beholden to the rep system) in order to get their rep back up.

    And it's not always toxicity that gets your rep down to "Avoid Me". I know firsthand that other players reporting you for "Unsporting Conduct" simply for playing characters they don't like can drop your rep.

    I've been on Xbox for around 10 years and never had a problem with my rep before Overwatch. It was always "Good Player" until, back in January, it dropped down to "Avoid Me" because of other players making "Unsporting Conduct" reports against me because I like playing "off meta" characters despite the fact that I always try my best, will switch up heroes to play tanks or healers as necessary, and have never, ever thrown a match. I've got many a screenshot saved on Xbox of the Victory screen showing me with gold medals for Eliminations, Objective Kills and Damage Done while playing characters like Junkrat & Torbjorn.

    I know they've done this as I've received many a message from random players telling me that I've been reported for playing . That and Microsoft's Rep website tells me I've had a lot of Unsporting reports made against me.

    First time it dropped back in January I ended up playing Battlefield 1 for a weekend to get it back up to "Needs Work". Problem is that it's very easy for it to drop back down to Avoid Me by trolls making false reports which has happened twice since (most recently earlier this week, in fact!). Every time I play Overwatch now I run the risk of getting more reports made against me and having my rep drop back down.

    It's a horribly broken and easily exploitable system so its baffling as to why Blizzard continue to shackle Overwatch to it. World of Tanks used to be tied to it as well until Wargaming.net released because people were abusing it to intentionally avoid other players in game. Blizzard needs to do the same with Overwatch.

    Last edited 23/03/17 2:19 pm

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