There’s about to be a lot more banhammer swinging in Overwatch.
Overwatch players have long been complaining about how ineffective developer Blizzard’s system for punishing bad player in-game behavior is. But this isn’t proof that Overwatch’s biggest fans are whiners — it’s proof that Overwatch’s punishment system really is ineffective, and Blizzard has taken notice.
Responding to an itemized list of fan complaints on the official Overwatch forums, Director Jeff Kaplan said Blizzard was in agreement that it has a problem on its hands. “The reporting and punishment system is currently one of our prime focuses,” he wrote, adding that an already-recorded developer update on the issue was coming “very soon.”
The fan brought up a point that many other players have previously raised: no one is scared of Overwatch’s current punishment system. Kaplan admitted that his team has done a subpar job of keeping the fan base informed of the changes it has planned to improve a community that the fan described as “toxic.” According to Kaplan, there are plans in place for the short, medium, and long-term to address this problem.
“In the short term, we are re-evaluating every punishment and are in the process of converting silences over to suspensions,” he explained. “We’re also increasing the length of suspensions. Pretty soon, we hope for silences to go away altogether and only have suspensions and bans for punishments.” There will be some exceptions to this new approach, though, most notably when Blizzard forces BattleTag changes to address vulgar names.
This isn’t the first time Blizzard has acknowledged that muting players for bad sportsmanship has not been a sufficient punishment. Community Manager Stephanie Johnson said as much last month and noted that many changes were planned for the coming months. But Kaplan’s post today is the first time Blizzard has really detailed those changes.
Kaplan now says Blizzard will start emailing players to let them know when their complaints lead to the studio taking corrective action against bad players. And for players who don’t want to wait for even this short-term changes, Kaplan noted that the team yesterday began banning accounts for cheating during the game’s fifth competitive season.
“In the medium term, we’re looking to completely ban repeated competitive offenders meaning if you’ve been banned for more than X seasons, we will ban you from ever playing competitive again,” continued Kaplan. “We also want to increase the email notification system to other forms of reporting as well as work on an in-game notification system to let you know that your reports are doing something.”
And although some of those in-game notification changes might not be deployed until a bit further down the road than the other medium-term updates, Kaplan says more aggressive punishments are coming in Season 6, which begins tomorrow at 2 p.m. EST. Effectively, Blizzard will begin banning the worst “boosting/throwing” offenders and players who otherwise manipulate skill rating much quicker.
“In the long term, we really want to work on systems that encourage positive behavior and reward good players,” continued Kaplan. The Overwatch director noted that his team wishes it could focus more on making the game fun, but “because people seem to lack self-control” and “abuse anonymity and free speech,” the developer knows it has to spend “a tremendous amount of [its] time and resources policing the community.”
In conclusion, Kaplan wrote that that Blizzard is “working hard to make changes” to improve the punishment system and hopes its community will make changes toward better behavior.