Reporting players in an online competitive game is always a balancing act. On the one hand, competitive communities are notoriously toxic and it’s best for everyone to get those particularly toxic players out of the player base as fast as possible. On the other hand, sometimes the line between purposefully throwing a game and causing your team to lose and having a bad Overwatch match is incredibly thin.
In order to help achieve their goal of better and more advanced reporting system, Blizzard announced on Thursday a few behind the scenes improvements that it plans to roll out to the reporting feature over the next several months.
The goal of these improvements, for the most part, is to give players slightly more feedback than they have now. For instance, players who report toxic teammates now get a message that notifies them that action has been taken against the reported player. It’s a nice feeling that reminds us that the Overwatch community is actively getting cleaner, one toxic person at a time. But that’s not the only feedback that Blizzard wants to offer.
According to its announcement Blizzard also added a system that warns players that are acting abusively toward their teammates in chat, that they need to improve their behavior or suffer the consequences. That kind of feedback to the toxic player is important, because it could act as a quick and easy way of helping a player recognize the issues with their own behavior.
“That being said, we recognize that anyone can have a bad day, and they might not even realize they are using abusive chat or acting negatively to their fellow players,” said Overwatch developer Scott Mercer.
Should a player not recognize the error of their ways, however, Blizzard is also working toward a more proactive means of punishment, through the use of machine learning. Though it sounds like the system isn’t quite ready, Blizzard says that it will soon have technology that will help it identify abusive behavior in game and allow player reports to be dealt with more quickly.
Along similar lines, Blizzard is also upping the ante on the punishments they can deliver players. In the past, player punishment was generally limited to chat restrictions and mutes, in the future, players could be suspended from playing the game at all, or even permanently banned. This should help clean up some of the worst offenders in the game, and make sure that they can’t continue their toxic behavior.
Even if a player’s reports aren’t responded to, Blizzard is upgrading the power it gives players to avoid teammates as well. While the current version of the system allows players to avoid just two people, Blizzard would like to allow players to avoid even more in the near future, so long as it won’t affect matchmaking too much.
It also seems like improvements are something that should be coming more regularly to Overwatch’s player behavior systems as Blizzard also mentioned the creations of a small “strike team” that will be coordinating efforts with the customer service team, community team, and other teams within Blizzard.
Blizzard’s post was a little short on details about how these systems will be improved, and to what extent they are in the game already, but it’s nice to know that they are cracking down on bad behavior, and even helping to reform a bit of toxicity.