Blizzard hasn’t said much about in-game toxicity in Heroes of the Storm since before the game had launched, leading the MOBA’s current systems to feel somewhat outdated for its growing audience. Today the developer finally revealed some promising new initiatives on the dealing-with-jerks-online front.
Writing in a post on the Battle.net blog, Blizzard said that it’s going to add two new features to HOTS with the next major patch in order to help curb toxicity going forward. First, there’s the new categorization system through which players can report teammates if needed. The current categories for reportable offenses have felt way too broad and therefore less effective than they should be at times—there’s no way to differentiate between verbal abuse and in-game trolling, for instance, nor is there a clear way to report someone for ragequitting or going AFK for some other reason. The new categories seem like they’ll clean up a lot of these sorts of clarity problems, given how much more detailed they are than the previous ones:
Report Categories & Guidelines for Use
Insults, cruelty, or ongoing harassment directed at one or more players.
Real life threats
Player intentionally and repeatedly gets their hero killed in order to anger allies or feed XP to the enemy team.
Player is idle or inactive for an extended period of time during a game.
Player is present, but has given up or refuses to take part in the game.
Suspicious behavior which indicates the player may be using third-party software or hack programs to gain an advantage during a game.
Character names or BattleTags that are offensive, insulting, bypass the mature language filter, or are otherwise considered objectionable.
Excessively communicating the same phrase, similar phrases, or pure nonsense
Blatant or repeated advertising for third party websites
Along with the new reporting categories, Blizzard is also adding a new penalty for players who cross the line. Going forward, players who receive multiple reports for spam or abusive chat will be temporarily “silenced”—i.e, unable to participate in most types of in-game chat.
Here’s the full list of what silenced players can and cannot do:
|Silenced Players Cannot||Silenced Players Can|
Blizzard’s post went on to say that the duration of a player’s silencing will go up if they’re chat restricted multiple times:
The first time a player is silenced, their chat will be restricted for 24 hours. This duration will double for each silence penalty received after the first, and there is no maximum. This means that players who receive multiple silence penalties may find themselves unable to chat for a very, very long time.
Silenced players will be notified of the penalty’s remaining duration each time they log in to Heroes of the Storm, and a new icon will be displayed on their player portraits in the game’s menus to indicate their silenced status to others. Players that are in-game when they receive a silence penalty will be logged out at the end of that game, but will still gain any XP, Gold, or Ranked Points earned during the previous match.
This sounds similar to the way that League of Legends handles its chat restrictions. And while Riot’s penalties and reporting systems aren’t perfect, they’re certainly more robust than what Heroes of the Storm started out with. The main problem that HOTS (like League) will likely run into here is with accuracy—penalizing the wrong people, say, or misreading player reports that were submitted for the wrong reasons. To Blizzard’s credit, however, they already addressed some of the most common concerns with inaccurate reports. Today’s blog post mentions that Murky and Abathur players who are reported for feeding/being AFK won’t be punished simply for playing these characters the way they’re supposed to.
Regardless of the immediate effects that will follow the next major patch, it’s good to see Blizzard taking player toxicity seriously and putting forward concrete plans to address it in a comprehensive way. And speaking of the next major patch...well, Blizzard didn’t say exactly when it’s coming, but they did say the Warcraft hero Rexxar is going to drop into the game later today:
WOOOO MANBEARPIG HYPE!