Overwatch has frequently been criticized for its lack of response to toxic players. Now, Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch game director, says there is a new 'Strike Team' in place to combat negativity in the Game Community. This team is made up of game designers, support staff, analytics people, and a special group that focuses on cheating and hacking. The strike team will make short, medium, and long-term plans to alleviate issues with toxicity.

According to Kaplan, “We’re starting to act less toward silences and more toward suspensions. If somebody’s doing bad behavior, just silencing them can sometimes convince them to do things like throw matches and grief in other ways.

If you keep exemplifying bad behavior, we’re gonna have you leave the game [permanently].”

Overwatch's history of toxicity

The community has lambasted Kaplan and the others at Blizzard for lack of action regarding game updates and negative players. In September, Kaplan responded to a post in the Overwatch forums, stating that the development team is constantly expanding. He added that though the team struggles to communicate effectively with the community, the concerns of the players are being noticed.

Also in September, Kaplan released a developer update saying that toxicity in the community had slowed production of the game. The update focused mainly on the limited resources of the game developers. When the developers have to focus so heavily on problem players, there is less time to devote to game features and characters.

Kaplan went on to say that the console developers were splitting their time between improving the console report features and improving gameplay on the console.

Kaplan's plan for a better community

During Blizzcon, Kaplan spoke extensively about the negativity in the community. He stated that now, more than ever, combating toxicity is a priority. This, he explains, will be as important to the Overwatch team as adding new features and characters. This came shortly after the announcement of a new character and map, both revealed at Blizzcon.

“We’re not sitting here with our heads in the sand,” said Kaplan. “You have concerns, and your concerns are now one of our top priorities. If that means the thing we’re gonna focus on as much as Moira and Blizzard World is toxicity, then we’re gonna do it.”

Kaplan also stated that they are currently testing a report notification system. Tens of thousands of players are notified by email when there is action taken against a player they have reported.

The current plan is to implement this feature for every player and to move the notifications to in-game messages rather than emails. Kaplan hopes that this will show players that the developers are taking action.

Additionally, the strike team hopes to implement machine learning as a tool to combat chat toxicity. If implemented, phrases associated with toxicity reports written in the in-game chat would lead to automatic bans. This feature is also being tested in Heroes of the Storm, another Blizzard title.