'Overwatch' Director Says Toxicity Delays Game Updates

"Hell is other people." That is most true in two places: amusement parks and online games. Both are supposed to be places where you can relax, have some fun, and forget about your problems for a little while, but you can only deal with so many screaming children and inconsiderate adults before the magic fades away and you realize your escape can be just as stressful as real life. Welcome to Disney World; welcome to Overwatch.

Overwatch is all about cooperation. Unless you're playing the new free-for-all deathmatch mode, you have to play with a group of people to win. When you get a team full of people trying their hardest and communicating in a healthy way, Overwatch shines. Unfortunately, those games are too few and far between for many players' liking, thanks to the rise of people who deliberately "throw" games or engage in toxic behavior.

Blizzard has tried to address this problem in several ways. The most notable was to expand the reporting system from PC to console, which happened in late August. That expansion should help Overwatch players on console police their community as well as PC gamers do. The game isn't restricted to a single platform, so it makes sense for Blizzard to address the needs of the community no matter what gaming device it uses.

The company also said it would increase punishments for people who are reported for bad behavior. Other changes, such as "scaling competitive season bans, a notification system that will alert you when a player you’ve reported is actioned, and functionality that will allow us to more aggressively penalize players who attempt to abuse the in-game reporting tool," were expected to debut in "the next several months."

All of those changes require the Overwatch team to focus their energies on community issues instead of, you know, making the game. Game director Jeff Kaplan made that point clear in the most recent developer update, which are usually devoted to new heroes, maps, or features. Instead, Kaplan devoted the video, titled "Play Nice, Play Fair," to discussing the effect toxicity has on Overwatch's developers and community:

We want to make new maps. We want to make new heroes. We want to make animated shorts. That's where our passion is. But we've been put into this weird position where we're spending a tremendous amount of time and resource punishing people and trying to make people behave better. I wish we could take the time that we put into putting reporting on console and put that towards a match history or replay system instead. It was the exact same people [who] had to work on both who got rerouted to working on the other. The bad behavior is not just ruining the experience for one another, but the bad behavior is actually making the game progress, in terms of development, at a much slower rate.

Calling out these delays in development might hit home for Overwatch players. Even though we recently got a new hero (Doomfist) and will soon enter a new map (Junkertown). many have decried the game's relatively slow release cycle for new content. Match history and replay features have also been long-requested by people who want to keep better track of their in-game performance or improve their skills.

But instead of working on those features, Blizzard has been forced to manage what feels like increasing levels of bad behavior from Overwatch's community. These changes are welcome—many people acted the way they did because they didn't have to worry about repercussions—but the fact that they were necessary in the first place speaks volumes about the day-to-day experience of playing Overwatch with other people.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • compprob237
    "scaling competitive season bans, a notification system that will alert you when a player you’ve reported is , and functionality that will allow us to more aggressively penalize players who attempt to abuse the in-game reporting tool"
    Now if only Valve would implement such a system for their games. DOTA2 needs this, specifically, very badly. Especially the penalties for abuse of the reporting system.

    This, sadly, speaks about the gaming community as a whole and how a few bad actors are ruining the experience of the many. It's been my experience with many games. A majority of players are just trying to have fun but a select few are specifically trying to make everyone else not have fun and enjoy doing so.
  • derekullo
    Is Toxicity a new character being released?

  • klyze
    And this is why i dont play online competitive multiplayer games anymore.
  • NoviceNob
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I too wish Valve and others would do a better job of blocking, banning hackers, haters, and racists. But... Step by step. And it is to bad that you have to put so much time into getting rid of problem people. So... Thank you again. Camp David :) AND... You are correct. We as the community of players should do a better job of policing others.
  • ravewulf
    Reasons why I stick to single player games like Skyrim
  • IceMyth
    Why they dont admit that they screwed things up in OW. They cut the development team so bad that hardly any is working on the game and that is why the patches takes ages to come out, with small changes if exit. Toxicity/hackers were since day one, and they refused to knowledge the problem and their ban wave is a joke. Me and 3-5 friends quited the game at mid season 3 (for the reasons I mentioned), and I don't think I will go back to try this again. Lastly, wining in this game is heavily based on ultis (assuming hacking is impossible) in compare to other similar games lie Paladins.
    and what if i like being a toxic SOB what about my happiness, i dont think i would play computer games or go online if i couldn't grief idiots
  • dunque
    Toxicity comes in games where you get oneshotted without even fight. Overwatch in most of times are one-two shots to kill a player, making the communication quite useless. Its not an MMO where you fight a world boss and communication keep you unite and alive.