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Blizzard launching Overwatch 2 with "Defense Matrix" to combat disruptive behavior

The initiative is built around tools including SMS Protect and a revamped user experience that will keep certain features locked away from new players.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

September 28, 2022

4 Min Read

Blizzard is introducing a new initiative called Defense Matrix alongside Overwatch 2 that will help the studio "disincentivize disruptive behavior and gameplay" as the franchise embraces free-to-play..

The studio said it's aware that pivoting to a freemium model will introduce new challenges where player behaviour is concerned by opening the franchise up to a more people, including some potential bad actors.

As a result, it wants to "protect the integrity of gameplay and promote positive behaviour" using Defense Matrix, which is described as an "infrastructure of systems" designed to deliver great experiences across the board.

The Defense Matrix team is being spearheaded by a group of cross-functional teams throughout Blizzard that have defined a set of a goals to guide the initiative.

Those goals include nurturing programs that will encourage positivity within the player community, ensuring competitive integrity at every level of play by "rapidly identifying and eliminating cheaters," and creating a safer community both in and out of the game by "embracing a firm stance against disruptive gameplay."

In practice, those goals will be achieved by implementing a variety of protective and preventative design philosophies and security systems such as SMS Protect, which Blizzard explained will help Overwatch 2 players verify ownership of their account in the "unforseen event" it becomes compromised.

"Starting October 4, 2022, all players across all platforms, including consoles, are required to have a phone number attached to their battle.net account to launch Overwatch 2. The same phone number cannot be used on multiple accounts at the same time, and players can’t use the same phone number to create multiple accounts," wrote the company.

"A phone number can only be used once when making a new account, and certain types of numbers, including pre-paid and VOIP, cannot be used for SMS Protect."

Other technologies such as machine learning and audio transcriptions will also be used to detect and prevent behaviour such as cheating and toxicity, including aggressive or abusive text and voice communications -- although Blizzard noted those tools will lean heavily on player reporting, and is encouraging people to report disruptive behaviour as soon as they encounter it in-game. 

Designing against disruption

Blizzard has also revamped the First Time User Experience (FTUE) in Overwatch 2 specifically for new players who'll be creating an account post-launch.

The new-look FTUE includes notable changes that will see new players unable to access certain game modes and heroes in a bid to gradually onboard them, while also preventing more nefarious characters from quickly creating burner accounts that can be used to wreak havoc.

"New players begin with access to a limited set of game modes, heroes, and some other restrictions to onboard them more gradually. The first phase of our new FTUE rapidly unlocks all the game modes and the ability to chat in-game, and the second phase unlocks all the original Overwatch heroes over the course of approximately 100 matches," said Blizzard.

"This focused experience eases new players into the world of Overwatch by teaching them about different modes, rules, and other high-level aspects of the game in an approachable way."

Notably, Blizzard is also changing the requirements for entering Competitive mode by removing player levels and instead requiring players to win 50 Quick Play matches before Competitive unlocks. According to the studio, the tweak will give new players more time to hone the skills needed for competitive play, while also ensuring Overwatch veterans aren't being paired with less experiences teammates.

"In the process of unlocking Competitive, we analyze new player skill levels to optimize matchmaking in a way that feels good to everyone," added Blizzard. "While this process helps new players join the fun, it’s also an effective way to discourage disruptive behavior and cheating.

"FTUE is an investment to complete because it takes time to unlock game features – Competitive, specifically, cannot be accessed without winning matches. Disruptive players are unable to immediately affect the larger community, with things like voice chat and match chat unlocking later in FTUE. Brand-new accounts made by cheaters or disruptive players will all have to play through this experience, giving us the chance to identify suspicious accounts before they enter other game modes."

All of the changes mentioned above, including additional tweaks such as the removal of general chat from the sequel and a new ping system that lets teammates communicate non-verbally, will be rolled out when Overwatch 2 debuts on October 4, 2022. To hear Blizzard run through its new Defense Matrix initiative in greater detail, check out the full blog post

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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