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Blizzard will toughen up to tackle toxic behavior in Overwatch community

Blizzard has promised to toughen up after one Overwatch player claimed the game's reporting system is a "failure" and branded its community "toxic."

A few months ago, Blizzard said it would be retooling Overwatch's reporting system to better tackle instances of cheating and harmful player conduct.

At the time, the company pledged to increase the severity of penalties issued in response to reports of abusive chat, harassment, in-game spam, griefing, and match inactivity. 

Now, the studio has promised to up the ante again after a user on the Battle.net forums claimed the reporting system is a "failure" and branded the game's community "toxic."

Responding to that post, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan explained the reporting and punishment system remains one of Blizzard's "prime focuses," but made it clear the company feels the need to harden its stance going forward. 

In the short term, Kaplan says the team are re-evaluating every punishment and are currently in the process of on converting silences -- a sanction that mutes players who've been reported for verbal abuse -- into suspensions. 

Blizzard will also be increasing the length of suspensions, and eventually hopes to do away with silences altogether by making suspensions and bans the standard punishments for most offences. 

In the medium term, the developer is looking to completely ban repeat Competitive offenders, meaning that if a player has been banned for more than "X seasons" they'll be banned from ever playing competitive again. 

It also wants to reassure those filing reports that their voices are being heard. To that end, the studio wants to build out the in-game notification system to let players know their reports are doing something meaningful. 

For more serious offenders, the company will be phasing in a new series of punishments that escalate quickly -- resulting in swifter, harder sentences for "extreme offenders."

Beyond that, Kaplan says the studio is also working on other systems that actively encourage positive behaviour and reward good players. 

"It really bums us out to spend so much time punishing people for being bad sports. We like making cool, fun game systems -- that's what we do for a living," he wrote.

"But because people seem to lack self-control or because people like to abuse anonymity and free speech we're put in a position of spending a tremendous amount of our time and resources policing the community.

"We will do this as it is our responsibility but we'd like to spend more time rewarding good players rather than having to focus on poor sportsmanship and unacceptable bad behavior so much. 

"Like it or not, this is an 'us, the Overwatch community problem' and not just an 'Overwatch team problem.' For better or for worse, we're in this together."

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