Blizzard has announced its new “Defense Matrix” initiative to deal with disruptive players upon the release of Overwatch 2 (OW2).
Released on October 4, the game will be free from launch, which could lead to an upsurge in disruptive behavior. So Blizzard addresses these concerns from the start. Blizzard said: “Overwatch 2 gives us the ability to continue to level up and iterate on our systems to combat disruptive behavior and cheating in ways that a simple update wouldn’t.”
The first major change is “SMS Protect”, whereby all players on all platforms – even owners of previous physical copies – will need a phone number to associate with their Battle.net account in order to launch OW2. . Blizzard calls the move “an industry-proven solution to combat both cheating and disruptive behavior.” Only one Battle.net account can be created or registered to a number at a time, and prepaid and VOIP numbers will not be accepted.
Blizzard is also addressing in-game toxicity through a series of system design changes. Most important is the implementation of text-to-speech programs alongside their existing machine learning technology. When a player is reported, the in-game audio logs will be turned into a text document, which will be automatically reviewed for any disruptive behavior. Blizzard said: “Your reports matter – player reports are one of the most effective methods of identifying and acting on disruptive behavior as quickly as possible.” A ping system will also be implemented and general chat will be removed from the game entirely.
Blizzard’s approach to First User Experience (FTUE) is undergoing a complete overhaul. With the exception of previous players and Watchpoint Pack owners, players will start out with limited access to OW2’s various game modes, features, and heroes. The first phase of this FTUE will unlock all game modes and in-game chat, while the second – estimated to be around 100 matches – will unlock all original Overwatch heroes.
Most game mode and communication restrictions will be lifted for new players learning group play, as Blizzard believes that “the game should be played and enjoyed with friends.” In order to access Competitive Matchmaking, players must rack up 50 wins in Quick Matches. This comes with the removal of in-game levels and increased customization options to reduce pre-game bias towards less experienced teammates of OW veterans.
Blizzard said: “Disruptive players are unable to immediately affect the wider community, with things like voice chat and match chat unlocking later in FTUE. Brand new accounts created by cheaters or players Disruptors will all have to play through this experience, giving us the chance to identify suspicious accounts before they enter other game modes.”
These steps should provide OW2 with a stable foundation to navigate the future of the franchise. “As the game develops, our efforts will maintain the long-term health of Overwatch,” said Blizzard. “We will constantly work to improve and expand our defense matrix to ensure Overwatch 2 is a fun, fair, and safe game for everyone.”