In a regular developer update, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan has addressed a number of popularly talked about topics in the game’s community. This touches on toxicity and how the team is currently handling it, as well as the state of hero balancing, particularly in the way of Mercy.
Blizzard and the Overwatch team are committed to combatting the ongoing problem of toxicity in the title, with a good amount of progress dedicated towards the reporting system. Console players gained the ability to report not so long ago which has proven successful.
Offenders in Overwatch will receive a warning before they receive a ban that their behaviour is deemed unacceptable and punishment is impending if they continue, while the people who report will be notified when their report has been sanctioned. This has resulted in a 17 percent decrease of toxicity within the in-game chat and players’ faiths have been restored in the reporting system as shown by a 20 percent usage increase.
“We know those numbers are not as great as they could be, we know that the problem is not solved, and things aren't perfect, but it's getting a lot better,” Kaplan said. “A lot of the initiatives that we're doing here at Blizzard are starting to make a difference.”
In fact, Kaplan revealed that the Overwatch team actively hunts down toxicity shown in YouTube videos and presumably Twitch also, shutting down the accounts before players even have a chance to report the bad behaviour.
Hero balancing is another thing that Kaplan touches on, describing that the judgement is made based on community feedback, statistics and the intuition of the developers themselves. “There’s no one driving thing that’s causing balance to happen at any one time,” he describes, as all three points are evaluated equally.
He explains that given there are 35 million players in the game, players might often feel like they are voicing what’s right for the game, when in fact they are a part of many smaller communities which all feel different ways due to varying mains and playstyles. “There's not always one central community voice,” which is why each of the three points of Kaplan’s “triangle” are just as important as the other.
In particular, Kaplan mentioned Mercy, whose changes are currently being experimented with in the Overwatch PTR. Mercy’s ultimate, Resurrect has been tinkered with since October last year, and finding a balance has proven difficult for the team.
“If we tone her down too much, we will bring her back,” Kaplan said. “We want her to be viable, we just need to tone down the impact of Resurrect. We do believe it's a balanceable ability.”
There are many more characters that Kaplan expresses aren’t quite where the team would like them in terms of balance, and he reassures fans that they are constantly prototyping and playtesting until a suitable direction for each is chosen. In the meantime, he feels like the balance in Overwatch still works due to the sheer amount of variety and strategy between all heroes.
KitGuru Says: It’s nice that the Overwatch team is listening so closely to fans and how they feel. Of course, not everyone will be pleased and many people are likely to feel left out as their favourite picks get hit with a nerf or don’t get touched at all, but as far as a wholesome experience goes, hats off to Blizzard. How do you feel about Overwatch’s toxicity management and hero balancing?