Blizzard is rolling out changes to deal with toxicity and onboard new players
The launch of Overwatch 2 is just a week away, and today Blizzard is announcing some new systems for its multiplayer shooter. Specifically, it’s addressing disruptive behavior and the first-time player experience in Overwatch 2.
One major part is the First Time User Experience, or FTUE. It’s designed for brand-new Overwatch 2 players, who make an account after the game has launched.
According to Blizzard, a consistent piece of feedback is that new players feel overwhelmed by Overwatch‘s modes and hero pool. Under the FTUE, new users will gradually unlock pieces of Overwatch 2.
This starts with modes and chat, in the first phase. Then phase two will have players unlock all of the original Overwatch heroes. Blizzard estimates it will take “approximately 100 matches” to unlock them all. As the Blizzard dev blog explains it, this is to “ease new players in” to the world of Overwatch. Newer heroes will still roll out via the battle pass, as previously detailed.
Notably, Blizzard says “most” FTUE restrictions will be lifted while players are in a group. Competitive is the exception. New players will need to unlock that by winning 50 Quick Play matches before they can queue up.
In an interview with The Verge, Overwatch 2 principle designer Scott Mercer says the new user experience design works twofold.
“One of the basic things, from a game design standpoint, is that we simply didn’t want to overwhelm a new player with 30-plus heroes all at once,” said Mercer. He also told The Verge that it adds a bit more of a cost to losing an account.
Blizzard is also adding some new measures to further deal with disruptive players. The first is SMS Protect, which will require all players to have a phone number linked to their account on Battle.net to launch Overwatch 2. As players can’t use the same number to create multiple accounts, this will make it easier to keep banned players from simply making another persona.
The Overwatch team is also using machine learning to detect disruptive behavior, cheating, and chat. Audio transcriptions will also let the team collect a “temporary voice chat recording” of a reported player and transcribe it, to be analyzed by chat review tools. While reporting disruptive behavior is still encouraged, this adds another wrench in the tool box for dealing with these issues.
Enter the matrix
Some of these adjustments, like the chat detection and smaller updates like removing general chat and adding in pings, all feel like they will make for a better experience.
The first-time user climb for the original Overwatch cast, though, leaves me stumped. Yes, there’s a decent number of Overwatch heroes at this point, as well as maps to add some additional twists. But it feels like an unnecessary restriction on what new players can do.
It would be like opening the new Street Fighter and being told you’ll have to play 100 matches to get Cammy or Zangief. In my personal experience, it’s hard to get players to stick with a game if they can’t pick up the character they want from the jump. Even if they discover that Ana isn’t their style, or they like Winston more than Wrecking Ball, having the option to try, fail, and learn is part of the process.
Overwatch 2 goes live on October 4.