Blizzard is taking a lot of new steps to stop toxic behavior in Overwatch 2. One of these is a plan for a system that will record all voice chat and ban players based on “chat review tools” that look at the transcripts.
Overwatch, like many other shooters, has had problems with bad player behavior almost from the beginning: In October 2017, not much more than a year after the game came out, we said that Blizzard’s failure to stop toxic behavior undermines the game’s message of acceptance. A few years later, Blizzard talked about using machine learning to stop abusive chat, which seemed to work well: In November 2020, the country’s president at the time, J. Allen Brack said that the technology had led to “an incredible decrease not only in toxic text chat but also in re-offense rates overall.”
The updated system, which is expected to go live soon after Overwatch 2 comes out, will add to these features by using automatic transcriptions of voice chat recordings when disruptive behavior is reported. Once the transcription is finished, Blizzard’s internal tools will be used to look for any wrongdoing. Blizzard didn’t say what will happen if the results are good, but they did say that the new transcription tool “will allow the team to act on abusive voice chat.”
Importantly, none of the recorded or transcribed data will be kept for a long time, Blizzard said. Audio files will be deleted “quickly” after they are transcribed, and transcribed text files will be deleted 30 days after they are made.
“This system depends on players reporting disruptive behavior as soon as they see it in-game, because we don’t keep voice chat data for a long time,” Blizzard explained. “This means that you should report disruptive behavior while it’s happening in-game to give us the best chance of finding, catching, and stopping disruptive players. Your reports are important. Reporting by players is one of the best ways to quickly find and stop disruptive behavior.”
Overwatch 2 isn’t the first game to use this technology. The idea of machines listening to and judging my voice chat strikes me as a bit dystopian, like the first piece of a grim “Lowtax bans hentai” real-life meme that leads to a war with Skynet. This distinction goes to Valorant, which started testing a “voice evaluation” system in July. Initial reactions to that news weren’t all positive. Many players were worried about corporate intrusion and what would happen to the data that was collected, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the game or player numbers in a significant way. In fact, Riot just announced plans to step up its fight against toxic behavior by looking for more disruptive in-game actions.
Along with the automatic voice recording, starting October 4, Blizzard will also require that all Overwatch players on all platforms, including consoles, have a phone number connected to their Battle.net account if they want to play Overwatch 2. Each account will need a unique phone number, and prepaid and VOIP numbers can’t be used. Since Overwatch 2 is now free-to-play, cheaters with multiple accounts can get back into the game easier than ever. Blizzard said that the SMS Protect system will do two things: prevent stolen accounts and make it harder for banned players to get back in.
Blizzard said, “Overwatch 2 gives us the chance to keep leveling up and improving our systems to fight disruptive behavior and cheating in ways that a simple update wouldn’t allow.”
On October 4, Overwatch 2 will come out and completely replace the original game. The voice recording transcription system is expected to go online “in the weeks that follow.”
Phone Number Requirement & Chat Recording to Monitor Players
According to Game Rant, Blizzard revealed the details of its “Defense Matrix” plan to stop cheaters and make the community a better place for players. The new security measures, which are named after D.Va’s signature ability, will require players to enter their phone numbers and agree that the game may record their voice chat. Blizzard is also using this project to verify players’ Battle.net accounts with their phone numbers and stop banned players from signing up. Players can’t have more than one account with the same phone number.
Players won’t be able to add either a pre-paid phone number or a VOIP number. When Overwatch 2 comes out, people who already own the boxed version of Overwatch will need to add their phone numbers in order to keep playing. Blizzard plans to temporarily record voice chats of players who have been reported in order to find “disruptive behavior.” But the company promised players that it would delete audio files after they were transcribed. Text files, on the other hand, are deleted after 30 days. This implementation makes it clear that players should report any annoying behavior right away because audio recordings are not kept for long.
Defense Matrix isn’t the only big change that Blizzard made to the upcoming game. In Overwatch 2, the number of players on a team goes from six to five, and the number of Tanks goes from two to one. However, Tanks get stronger. Jon Spector, a vice president at Blizzard and the commercial lead for Overwatch, confirmed that new Overwatch 2 characters are available on the free track of the Battle Pass.
Overwatch 2 will have a Battle Pass system like Fortnite, which was announced at Blizzcon in November 2019. The new game will be free to play, which is different from the first Overwatch, which cost $40. Some fans were disappointed by the Battle Pass system because it was different from what they had seen in the past. The above game structure often requires players to spend real money to get the advantages they want and has time limits. This suggests that the game is unbalanced because it depends on microtransactions. Also, it’s not clear how much skins and other cosmetic items in Overwatch 2 will cost. Diablo Immortal, which was made by Blizzard, got the worst reviews of any game in the last 20 years for doing the same things.