Blizzard Says Fighting Toxic Behaviour Is Slowing Down Overwatch Updates

Overwatch has serious issues with toxic players, and in recent months, those problems only seem to have gotten worse. Blizzard swears up and down that it's working to improve player behaviour, but according to game director Jeff Kaplan, those efforts are taking a direct toll on other aspects of the game's development.

In a new video, Kaplan explained that poorly behaved players have essentially poured toxic goop into the works of the Overwatch team's development machine, slowing down the creation of other features.

"We want to make new maps, we want to make new heroes, we want to make animated shorts," Kaplan said. "But we've been put in this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resources punishing people and trying to make people behave better."

He then offered a concrete example: the recent addition of a reporting feature on consoles.

"I wish we could take the time we put into having reporting on console and have put that toward a match history system or a replay system instead," he said. "It was the exact same people that had to work on both, who got re-routed to work on the other."

"The bad behaviour is not just ruining the experience for one another, but the bad behaviour's also making the game progress — in terms of development — at a much slower rate."

That is unfortunate, but also a functional reporting system should be the absolute baseline as far as anti-toxicity and harassment tools go, and Overwatch already had one on PC.

Players were justifiably perplexed that Blizzard took so long to add one on consoles, which makes Kaplan's comment here come off as weirdly combative given how much Blizzard dropped the ball before finally addressing the issue.

In the video, Kaplan acted like player toxicity was this unexpected, unpleasant issue that the team is only now confronting out of obligation, even though countless other games have dealt with and continue to battle the same problems.

It's not like this is new. If you're running a large-scale multiplayer game in the year 2017, it's par for the course, and resources should be allocated as such. It's worrisome to hear somebody in charge of one of the biggest games out there talk this way.

This mentality is, I would wager, part of the reason things were able to get so bad in the first place.

The rest of the video is odd. Despite it ostensibly being about the Overwatch team's plan to fight "the rising tide of toxicity," Kaplan only lightly touched on concrete plans.

He mentioned that people who've filed reports are now getting notified when Blizzard takes disciplinary action against players, though it's only a "pilot program" at the moment. He hopes to notify people more frequently in the future, so as to assure them that hitting the report button doesn't just open up a chute and toss all your exasperated rage into the void.

For much of the video, though, Kaplan just spoke in generalities about why toxicity happens online (anonymity, etc) and suggested that responsibility for fighting toxicity rests on the shoulders of the community.

"The community needs to take a deep look inward," he said. "Think about all the times somebody's said something negative to you in the game and imagine now if somebody had said something positive to you instead. There's a way to spread positivity that I don't think is really prevalent right now."

To an extent, he's right: if the community's determined to be a bunch of garbage-spewing rage weasels, even Blizzard's best systems won't be able to do much. It's pretty clear, though, that most players would like to just enjoy the game and be decent to one another.

Kaplan didn't really need to spend so much time laying this all out. In light of how much people have been begging for clearer, more effective reporting tools and how little has changed so far, the video comes off as alternatively defensive and not particularly reassuring, given how vague most of it is.

The weirdest part is that Kaplan has outlined specific changes to reporting and punishment that the Overwatch team is hoping to implement in the coming months, albeit weeks ago in a forum post only a relatively small portion of the player base saw.

There, he talked about how the game will soon only punish people with suspensions and bans (no more silences), incoming competitive perma-bans for repeat offenders, punishments that escalate into bans more quickly, and harsher punishments for SR boosting and match throwing, among other things. I'm not sure why he didn't mention more of those things here, as they actually sound like small steps (if not giant leaps) in the right direction.

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Comments

    Its cause your game is shit and you keep nerfing the wrong characters

    Fk U Blizzard

    I love the irony of my comment

    He mentioned that people who've filed reports are now getting notified when Blizzard takes disciplinary action against players I was expecting this article to be about weak sauce deterrents like colour coding tips and such, So I'm really impressed by this ballsy move. Its far easier to believe that actions have consequences when game developers aren't trying to sweep them under a rug.

      Not sure what's ballsy about it. Dota 2 has done this for years.

        It's not the norm though, especially for blizzard. And the increased transparency does invite closer scrutiny on their rulings.

    Probably just whinging about the influx of reports they're getting now because Console owners have had to wait so long, not to mention all the personal/unwarranted reports from Squeakers who didn't get their way in a match, and lets face it those kids are more likely to own a PS4 over PC due to price and ease of access.

    Personally I've only reported 2 people so far, and only in competitive for griefing/throwing a match and rude or toxic behavior in chat... But I had people in chat threaten to report because people weren't using mics or because of their character pick, thats just childish.

      My partner had some issues with another player in Overwatch, but back then, consoles didn't have a proper reporting system. My partner was playing a competitive match, but she had to unexpectedly go so she left the match.

      When she returned hours later, she had a bunch of abusive messages from one of her team mates, calling her horrible names and insults, just basically being a cliche', angry online gamer. She apologized, asked him to stop, he kept persisting, so she eventually blocked him.

      She reported him to PSN and PSN turns around being all "Yeah nah mate, couldn't find anything wrong with this, sorry!"

        PSN report feature may as well not exist. I've recently started getting bots sending me messages pretending to be females, first message sounds legit and then they're very obvious auto replies, eventually they sent me a link to a cam site and so I reported it, but apparently it doesn't go against their terms of use. I don't pay for PSN to receive spam and I'm sure your partner doesn't pay to receive abusive messages. while blocking is the most appropriate action some people need to be removed from the service all together.

    Um online toxicity is bad stuff but surely he and blizzactivision must've known about the potential problems it causes well in advance.
    It's also kinda stupid to have the programmers/artists/developers etc, to sort out the tides of sh*t the enforcement processing must generate. The announcement kinda infers the message "you guys are being bad, so we can't make new content until you stop being bad". Not the best statement for a games director to make.

    I actually don't think it's unsurprising that Kaplan didn't expect the LEVEL of toxicity in Overwatch. It's frankly ridiculous. Overwatch's community is even more hateful than CS was in the early 2000's, something for which it was infamous at the time. I find it particularly confusing considering that Overwatch is both a much more colourful/friendly game in terms of presentation and much less unforgiving in terms of gameplay. I've been playing online shooters since the mid-late 90s and I have never seen a community as toxic as Overwatch's, ever.

    CS in 2001 involved the use of a lot more bad words and a lot more rape and death threats (these were taken a lot less seriously back in the day), but it never felt as genuinely spiteful and petty as the Overwatch community, and never had nearly so large a negative impact on my enjoyment of the game.

    I understand that MOBA communities have had similar problems, and my brief time in LoL and DotA 2 confirms this. I always assumed it was because the games were so painfully boring that people had to try and tilt each other to stay awake. But maybe Blizzard should be looking at how MOBAs have dealt with it in the past, if any of them have done so successfully.

      I understand that MOBA communities have had similar problems, and my brief time in LoL and DotA 2 confirms this. I always assumed it was because the games were so painfully boring that people had to try and tilt each other to stay awake.

      I think it's more because of the time investment. If you're 10 minutes in to a game that can go for an hour, people are going to get pissed if people do "stupid" things early on, meaning the game feels like you've already lost, yet have to play for the next half an hour anyway. Alternately, if you're ahead, and then someone throws your 30 minutes of effort out the window.

      But maybe Blizzard should be looking at how MOBAs have dealt with it in the past, if any of them have done so successfully.

      One of the things that Valve have done for years is letting people know when those they reported were punished. The next time you go to the main menu, be it after a game or booting up fresh, you'd get a nice pop up thanking you and letting you know that someone you reported has been punished.

    I understand the article but what i don't see is any mention towards the amount of programming and skill that is required to deal with this issue. Its as if there were a magic button to apply to games to solve toxicity. Its not as if every report is genuine, and having played hundreds of hours in both standard and competitive mode, the whole "most players are nice and just want to have fun" is bs.

    The report function will just get abused more and there will be more false reports. They will probably implement an auto report feature that bans someone after 20 reports, which is even worse. Just mute and move on.

    Battlefield 1 on PC has an awesome community. No toxicity at all, just in your face amazing action and gameplay :)

    Blizzard blaming the player base for slow content release, what else is new.

    Where are people finding all these toxic players? It is just competitive?
    I exclusively play quick play and social and rarely encountered anything that could be described as toxic.

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