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Published: September 29, 2022

Written by: Isabella Aslam

  • Overwatch 2 will have a new automated system that aims to curb voice chat toxicity
  • The system will record voice chats for later analysis of the potential for toxic behavior
  • Players will need to link their account with a phone number in order to play Overwatch 2

In their continuing attempt to clean up their image, Blizzard will be implementing a new machine learning system called Defense Matrix to combat toxic behavior in the upcoming Overwatch 2.

Blizzard Introduces Defense Matrix

When playing online games, it’s not too often that players can encounter annoying opponents who spam the text and voice chats. Overwatch is no exception to that and as the release of Overwatch 2 draws closer, Blizzard is unveiling a new system to combat toxicity and voice chat abuse. 

What the company calls Defense Matrix will be used to combat all forms of “disruptive behavior” in the game. Blizzard’s aim in implementing this system is to “nurture programs that will ensure a positive experience for all players”, “ensure competitive integrity”, and “create a safer community”, according to the company’s official blog post regarding the change. 

New SMS Protection

Blizzard’s new system will require players to have a mobile phone number connected to their account to play the game. Blizzard also says that this is a second layer of security that is already used across other titles and will help verify the ownership of one’s account, in the case of a loss. 

One important fact is that a player will not be able to use the same mobile number on multiple accounts at the same time, nor can a player use the same phone number to create multiple accounts. 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.

Players will have to make this connection if they want to play Overwatch 2, even if they already have the previous iteration of the game. 

How Does the System Work?

From a technical perspective, Blizzard’s new Defense Matrix is quite interesting. The company will introduce the recording and monitoring of vice chats, implementing audio transcriptions to help review in-game reports. “Audio transcriptions allow us to collect a temporary voice chat recording of a reported player and automatically transcribe it through text to speech programs,” Blizzard’s blog post reads.

These voice logs will be scanned for “disruptive behavior” using an automated system. The voice logs will be deleted after they are transcribed as their sole purpose is to identify potentially disruptive behavior. The remaining text file will be deleted no later than 30 days after the audio transcription.

This approach still depends on players reporting toxic, abusive, and disruptive behavior manually and is similar to other systems present in games like VALORANT. 

What Else Is Blizzard Doing to Diminish Toxicity?

Blizzard is trying not only to curb toxic behavior but also to encourage positivity. This is why the company is making some changes to Endorsements. Overwatch 2 will only have a single category of Endorsements per match and players will only be able to endorse others on their team. “Our goal is that players recognize and aspire to be positive forces in our community,” reads Blizzard’s blog post, “and we plan to award Battle Pass experience to players with high endorsement levels to show our appreciation!”

Overwatch 2 will also see player level displaying being removed. This means Portrait Borders that symbolize player level are going away from all game modes in Overwatch 2. Blizzard cites the fact that “some players were passing judgment on their teammates before the match began, causing either explicit or implicit bias to occur immediately” as a reason for this decision. 

The game will also see the introduction of a Ping system. It will give players the ability to communicate with their team without having to use voice chat. Blizzard says this will enhance voice communication and provide alternative ways for players to riley information to their teammates. 

Blizzard will also remove the General Chat in the game menus as it says it’s a place for frequent disruptive behavior. “General chat doesn’t serve a productive purpose, and it could be removed without compromising the core mechanics of the game,” the company reassured.

Ever since the series of scandals regarding discrimination and toxicity in Blizzard boiled over last year, the company has been trying to clean up its image. The new stricter ways of monitoring players’ communications for toxic behavior are part of that attempt. Some have even commented that Blizzard’s new Defense Matrix system seems too invasive and almost Orwellian. Time will tell if the system is actually effective and curbs “disruptive behavior”.  

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