Blizzard has taken disciplinary action against more than 480,000 Overwatch players, creating a volume of work that has slowed progress of the game in other areas.
In a developer update video released yesterday, game director Jeff Kaplan addressed the "rising tide of toxicity and bad behaviour" within the Overwatch community. Blizzard announced that it would overhaul its reporting system back in July, and Kaplan said that over 20,000 players who reported toxic behaviour since the "pilot program" launched have received emails updating them on action taken.
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The problem in Overwatch is much bigger, though. According to Kaplan, Blizzard has "taken disciplinary action against over 480,000 accounts" since Overwatch launched in May 2016, around 340,000 of which came directly from player reports.
"There's not going to be a moment where we have a magic patch in Overwatch that makes bad behaviour go away," he said. "It is a continual process that we are dedicated to fixing and improving."
"If you are a bad person doing bad things in Overwatch, we just don't want you in Overwatch"
Jeff Kaplan, Blizzard
This involves constant turning of "punishment threshold and punishment gravity" to help promote an inclusive atmosphere, and it's clear that Blizzard is becoming less and less tolerant of negative actors within the Overwatch community.
"If you are a bad person doing bad things in Overwatch, we just don't want you in Overwatch," he continued. "We don't want to create areas for you where just the bad people are. We just don't want those people in Overwatch."
Kaplan was careful to place the issue in a wider context. The problem isn't just Overwatch, but a consequence of the way games allow people to exchange ideas freely - which is "super valuable" - and to do so in relative anonymity. With that in mind, Kaplan insisted that the community must play its part in creating an inclusive atmosphere, rather than just relying on Blizzard to build a solution.
"I really do believe that, as much as we're doing at Blizzard to improve the situation, the community needs to take a deep look inward," he said. "There's a way to spread positivity that I don't think is really prevalent right now. Sure, we can try to build game systems to encourage that more - and we will - but we need the community to own up to their part in the accountability they have for really creating a great game space."
Kaplan said that the Blizzard team wants to focus on creating: new features, new maps, animated shorts, and so on. However, it has found itself in a position where it must dedicate, "a tremendous amount of time and resources to punishing people, and trying to make people behave better."
The people working on a match history and replay system had to be "rerouted" to deal with this rising tide, meaning that Overwatch as an experience is progressing at a "much slower rate" than originally intended.
"If you have that negative comment, try to hold it back," Kaplan concluded. "And remember that we're all here to have fun."