The Overwatch team wants to make new content for the game, including animated shorts, new maps and new features. But the toxic behavior of so many players is causing them to prioritize fighting abuse.
“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,” Game director Jeff Kaplan said in a recent video post. “I wish we could take the time we put into putting reporting on console and have put them towards a match history system or a replay system instead. It was the exact same people who had to work on both who got re-routed to work on the other.”
This problem is bad for everyone, because it means less time spent on the game itself. Kaplan draws a straight line from fighting abuse to fewer updates.
“The bad behavior is making the game progress in terms of development on a much slower rate,” he said.
Blizzard has added a reporting function to the PC and console versions of Overwatch, and Kaplan said they plan on giving more feedback when complaints lead to disciplinary action. He also pushed back against the idea that reporting someone isn’t worth the time.
“We have taken disciplinary action against over 480,000 accounts, and 340,000 of those were a direct result of players using the reporting system,” he stated. “So you can see, the vast majority of actions we take are because players have said hey, there’s another player here doing something very bad and I want to see some action.”
Kaplan doesn’t mince words: They don’t want you in the game if you’re a bad person doing bad things. “We don’t want to create areas for you where just the bad people are in Overwatch, we just don’t want those people in Overwatch,” he said.
Kaplan also asked the community to take responsibility for their own actions, to try to say more nice things to other players instead of attacking them.
Blizzard seems to be taking this issue seriously, but it remains frustrating when developers speak about the issue of abuse as if it formed organically and uniquely inside their game as it became popular.
Toxicity is a common problem in most online communities; taking steps to fight it after it has become a large problem is less effective than thinking about how to fight back against toxic players as the game is being developed. We’re past the point where we can pretend games won’t have a toxic element in the fanbase, developers should take that situation as a given and have an effective way to limit the damage from launch onward.