Overwatch Still Has A Major Problem On Consoles

Image: Supplied

Say you're trying your hardest in Overwatch, and there's a player or two on your team blatantly not giving a shit. Maybe it's Symmetra dropping a teleporter to a completely useless part of the map, or Roadhog just sitting down on the ground miles away from the action.

If you're playing on PC, no problem: just report the player and move on. But if you're on consoles, the process is either too aggressive or doesn't exist at all, leaving a system that's ripe for abuse.

For the majority of Overwatch's life, Blizzard has done a reasonably good job of retaining feature parity between PC and consoles. Balance is handled separately across the platforms, as is appropriate for a competitive game, but for the most part you're getting the same game irrespective of what system you play on.

Except for one major thing: the ability to report dickheads.

Over the last few months, Overwatch has gradually overtaken Destiny as my evening game of choice. It's been a fun transition, going from only playing co-op games, to trying competitive PvP titles, to exclusively playing Overwatch's competitive mode. And on the PS4, the experience has been mostly good: matchmaking times are usually no more than a couple of minutes and people don't abandon matches too often.

Nobody likes a leaver when in competitive mode. But if someone abandons, there's always the possibility of getting a drop-in replacement. The problem is when people choose to deliberately lose, presumably because they want to tank their competitive rating (maybe so they can group up with lesser-skilled friends, or because they want the lowest rating possible).

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Earlier this year, game director Jeff Kaplan promised on the forums that consoles would be getting the same reporting feature available on PC. "I don't have an exact ETA because there are many moving parts to make this happen," he wrote in January. "My hope is that everything locks into place before summer ... or sooner. But we're at the mercy of things beyond our control on this one and we've been working super hard to make it happen."

But we're almost at the end of autumn, and the feature is nowhere to be seen. Overwatch fans haven't forgotten:

Blizzard has made announcements at E3 before, although they don't typically make a huge splash. If anything, they're more likely to announce things through the Overwatch forums or site directly. And for what it's worth, the official support account on Twitter confirmed this week that a reporting feature was being developed for consoles, but didn't provide an ETA:

It's understandable why Blizzard hasn't or can't port over the reporting feature yet. On PC, accounts are tied into an ecosystem that Blizzard controls entirely. That's not the case on consoles, where your account is inextricably linked to the rest of the platform.

And depending on what console you play on, it's created two separate problems. For those playing on PS4, like myself, it means you literally have no recourse against players who decide to be deliberately useless. Annoyed that Mei keeps throwing ice walls in front of you at spawn, or that Winston just spends half the match leaping and camping out half a world away? Too bad.

If you want to report a player, you have to go to their PS4 profile, click options and then go report. From there, you can report "In-game Behaviour or Things Created or Shared Within Game". But the report goes to Sony, not to Blizzard, and Sony's support staff wouldn't have easy access to chat logs or records of gameplay from Overwatch.

Xbox users have the same problem, albeit to a vastly different degree. Reporting gamertags on Xbox is a far simpler process, but where the Xbox platform differs is the reputation system:

Image: Major Nelson Blog

As players submit reports through the Xbox reputation system, those reports are tallied against their profile. If their status starts to drop, Xbox begins issuing penalties: their ability to communicate through Xbox Live is reduced and limits are placed on what players they can matchmake with online.

In theory it sounds like a decent alternative, but it's ripe for abuse of a different nature. The Overwatch community likes to poke fun at those who play snipers exclusively, like Hanzo or Widowmaker. But far too often people who main the latter are subject to endless amounts of abuse, from other gamers insistent on the belief that literally any other hero would be better.

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If you're playing on PC, getting reported for maining Hanzo won't have much impact on your Heroes of the Storm or Diablo 3 account. But get enough reports on Xbox Live from players who think they're doing the right thing, and your ability to enjoy other games is compromised as well.

Earlier this year, a Kotaku reader got in touch about this very problem. "Once enough [Unsporting Conduct] reports are made, the reported players' reputation drops down to "Avoid Me" which is effectively a matchmaking ban in Overwatch as it will only match you with players of similar reputation and there's typically not 11 other people with that rep in the game in the same region to make up a full match."

"The only option is to go play other games like Battlefield 1 and World of Tanks which are not beholden to the reputation system in order to get your rep back to "Needs Work" at which point you can matchmake as normal ... all because I prefer to play characters like Torbjorn, Junkrat, Hanzo and now even Orisa. Doesn't matter that I tend to get multiple golds in a match, am always contesting points/payloads, and always trying to support my team. You dare to play a character someone doesn't like and apparently that's 'Unsporting Conduct'."

The problem facing Overwatch isn't new. It's been an issue amongst the World of Tanks community for years, with artillery users copping the same level of treatment as Hanzo and Widowmaker mains. Wargaming eventually decoupled their free-to-play tank brawler from Microsoft's model, allowing gamers with crappy reputations to matchmake as per normal. And the decision has had an odd benefit: it's meant that World of Tanks is one of the few games on Xbox One that players can go to if they need to improve their reputation, as they won't be beset by empty lobbies or exceptionally long queue times because of something that happened in another game.

I've reached out to Blizzard for comment, but hadn't heard back at the time of writing. Either way, Overwatch's griefing problem needs a solution. It's something that Blizzard understandably couldn't have solved for Overwatch's release: the game was their first major simultaneous release on console, and dealing with two separates platform you have no control over is a completely different kettle of fish from an ecosystem you built from scratch.

But competitive games on console, right now, can be completely hijacked by anyone who suddenly decides they want to lose. PS4 players have no decent recourse at all, and those on Xbox are being unfairly hit to the point where it can ruin their experience entirely. Overwatch has needed a solution of its own, and it can't come soon enough.


Comments

    Every time Overwatch piques my interest, articles like this completely demolish it. I'm not great at videogames, so the idea of competitive games put me off due to detesting abuse in videogames (I barely have time to play more than a couple of hours of games a week, I'm not spending any time not having fun). I'm also the kind of person that drawn to a characters aesthetics over stats, so the idea of being reprimanded for playing the character that I like playing with is just the ultimate deterrent.

    Can anyone confirm that it's as bad as some of these articles make out?

      If you exclusively stick to quick play, you're fine. People drop in and out of games all the time, queues are low, you won't have a problem.

      Competitive play - which most people gravitate towards, because people are more inclined to do their jobs properly and not fuck around quite so much - is a different story.

      It's no where near as that bad. If you stick to quick play or even the brawls (Mystery heores is a load of fun), you should generally be safe from all the crap.
      If you have friends that play, or if you can play with people from Kotaku, then it'll make your experience a heck of a lot better

        Thanks, both yours and @alexwalker 's comments have given me food for thought. I don't really have friends that game on the same platforms as I do, so my PSN and Steam friends lists are both under ten. Do we have a Kotakau friends list group floating around anywhere? Wouldn't mind my first couple of Online sessions to be with people who I know aren't jerks.

          But I thought you wanted to play with us lot :P

          If you're on PC, my battlenet is scree#1257. There's a group of us that plays mystery heroes a lot. It's a good way to learn to play characters you don't know and if you do badly, who cares, it's mystery heroes

            For some reason I thought you did PS4. Otherwise I would've jumped on with you guys, except now I'm way out of practise and can't remember how to drive it any more. Also forever busy playing Splats instead.

              I don't even have a PS4 XD
              I'm hoping to get into splatoon again when it comes out. Of course, I don't have a switch either

      These kind of articles only really apply to Competitive Mode. I've only played Competitive Mode a few times and I vastly prefer Quick Play; it's not stressful, there's not really anything at stake and most importantly it's fun. Some people find Quick Play frustrating because people don't take things seriously, but I've often grouped with plenty of good players who play objectives properly and do want to work together.

        Well, Quick Play is meant to be the "training ground" for Competitive. Many comp players I know will start off a gaming session with a "warmup game" or 2 in QP before jumping into comp, or they might be on a losing streak in comp and play a few QP games to blow off steam.

        That said you'll still run into players in Quick Play that want to report you for playing characters they consider "trash", or for picking their favourite hero before they could, or for not playing to their standard, or just because some people are dicks.

        Blizzard just need to free Overwatch from the Xbox rep system and give console players the ability to report so that said reports can be vetted by a team who know that playing a certain character in a game is not "unsporting behaviour".

      OVerwatch doesnt need a beefy PC to run, play it on PC. i think its a much better environment for it anyway (i have tried both PC and console versions).

      There are dipsticks in PC as well, but the ranked mode has been mostly great.. im around platinum rated.

        I would if I could play decently enough with keyboard & mouse. I find I've done much better on console with a controller than I've done on PC with kb/m. Finally got to diamond this season on Xbox! :)

      Looks like the bulk of the 'problems' listed here are due to Xbox Live's shitty system.

    This post went to moderation hell.

    Last edited 12/05/17 12:23 pm

    I got a message after a comp game from a guy saying him all his friends were going to report me until i was on avoid me just because i played as torb. Rep went down to needs work for a few days but recovered again. The higher you get in comp the dodgier people get.

      Yeah, I've had the same thing happen to me and have to play other games (like BF1 mentioned in the article) to get my rep back up.

      How'd you get yours back up?

        Pretty much just kept playing overwatch a ton to balance out all the neg reports, seemed to work. Lucky i was on uni holidays at the time and had free time for a couple of gaming days though.

          If your account was Avoid Me, though, you wouldn't be able to play Overwatch as it's matchmaking system is tied to the Xbox Live rep system so it'd only be looking to match you with other players who're on Avoid Me (and they're not likely to be playing Overwatch; they're more likely to be playing a Battlefield game or somesuch to get their rep back up).

            I wrote that it only went down to needs work :) which meant i could stay play overwatch normally

              Duh! Of course, lol ;)

              You were lucky then, it seems! I've been told it only takes around 10 reports to go from Needs Work to Avoid Me.

      Sounds like Xbox Live is utter trash then, that's like a critical system-breaking flaw.

        It's just the easily-exploitable reputation system.

        Blizzard just need to unlink Overwatch from it and the core issue of people exploiting it to intentionally ban others from playing wouldn't be an issue any more.

    I feel like no one should talk to the media, ever. Kaplan's hope has been interpreted as a promise... i just want to know where the line is one things people say. I mean, if you're asked a direct question and provide a direct answer and follow it up with a bunch of info then great but when people say they "hope", are uncertain or vague in what they mean by a yes or no - since these can obviously have broad meanings - why is there basically the same standard held to them as if they held a press release? Immediately, when i heard about the reporting feature coming (i didn't realise it was just a post), the words used illustrated to me that it could be a while despite a very tentative time frame given. Am i wrong for reading it like this? At what point do assumptions get deemed "reasonable"? Because that point seems rather amorphous to me, like it becomes reasonable whenever someone wants it to be. Just curious where the line between expectation and reality is on these issues and how that should affect the creator/consumer relationship.

      Well they did tweet this week that a report feature for consoles is in development, so it's not just something hopeful now. It's definitely happening.

    This article kinda sums it up. The problem with over watch is the people that play it.

    That XBL example also happens on here and other places with down-votes. On Kotaku, if enough idiots down-vote you, you will start going into perma-moderation for a while, effectively censoring you.

      It's pretty much cyber-bullying.

      But in the case of Overwatch on Xbox it has the extra effect of preventing you from playing a game that you paid for.

      Such a shame neither Microsoft nor Blizzard are doing anything to prevent this from happening.

        Well guess what... my Xbox Live rep is Avoid Me again, which means no more Overwatch for me for the time being.

        Once again people have been reporting me for playing heroes like Torb, Junkrat & Orisa to the point where I'm blocked from playing the game.

        And once again Blizzard & Microsoft will do nothing about it despite the fact one of their customers is being harassed.

        I didn't realise Blizzard would allow one of their paying customers to be trolled in such a way, nor did I realise Microsoft would allow such harassment to a customer who's paying for their online service.

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