A Comprehensive Report On Reforming Overwatch's Toxic Competitive Community


#1

Hello! My name is Zim. I have no qualifications besides the ability to think critically, I haven’t played comp in months, and you literally need to know nothing about me to know two things about Competitive Overwatch.

  1. The playerbase is extremely toxic – a term which here means “an attitude which contaminates and negatively impacts the experience and mindset of other players.” Toxicity for the purposes of this discussion includes the acts of feeding, trolling, excessive raging, afking, deliberately feeding, refusing to communicate, spamming, flaming, etc.

  2. Blizzard’s solutions to the problem are not working.

Tired of watching complaints about this phenomenon while doing nothing about it, I decided to write this report in the hopes that someone on the Overwatch staff will see it, though, in actuality (because they’re a mega-corporation and I have little-to-no faith that this thread will be read by them, nevermind discussed among the team) it’s so that when Acti-Blizz gets tired of throwing money at their competitive scene and it crumples like aluminum foil, I can have the grim satisfaction of saying ‘I told you so.’

The following report breaks down the why of what makes Overwatch’s community so particularly obnoxious and aggressive, from both a perspective of what the problem is, and how the reaction of the players creates an unstable playing environment. Following that, it also presents what I see as solutions to the problems, ranging from stopgaps to full game reforms, as well as giving context to why these particular solutions are necessary.

TL;DRs will not be provided. If you don’t care to read the whole thread, I don’t care to see why you should be included in the discussion at all. I also make WAY too many points to individually dispute and, frankly, don’t care to debate random people on the internet who, respectfully, probably haven’t even spent a tenth of the amount of time thinking about these problems. If you really want to talk, PM (that’s a thing on these forums, right?) me and we can talk on a discord over a mic.

(And as a note, parts of this have been posted previously on /r/competitiveoverwatch, by me. They’ve since been updated and edited to fit here.)

A word on the greater cause of toxicity.

Overwatch breeds toxicity. Toxic players don’t gravitate towards the game – the game creates toxic players.

Toxicity, I believe, is symptomatic. This is the assumption I work on. I believe this because fundamentally, people are reactionary. This is shown in business, in engineering, in driving, in food, in news, and in politics. In virtually every area of life, people are presented with stimulus, react, and move onto another set of stimulus.

Whether or not it’s true, you can only address toxicity by assuming that it is symptomatic, rather than inherent. If toxicity is inherent, than there may as well be no attemptive cure at all, because those players will always exist, can appear at any time, and any system designed to filter them out will not be effective because of how random their behavior is. If toxicity is symptomatic, however, filtering out toxic players is treating a symptom, and the underlying causes have yet to be addressed. This is also in line with how the gaming community trends – certain games are just more frustrating than others.

Because of this, it stands to reason that Overwatch doesn’t simply attract “more bad players” than other games. Not only this, but the assumption that it does makes very little sense. Overwatch is a fun game on the surface, with excellent development support and a great marketing scheme. There’s nothing that would lead me to believe that it simply pulls more bad players into the community. If people are reactionary, there’s nothing on the surface of Overwatch that would make the “bad apples” gravitate towards it. Therefor, they have to be coming from within the game itself.

The problem, then, is game quality. The game is fun, on the surface, but beneath that, becomes frustrating.

A word on Blizzard’s response to toxicity.

If we work on the assumption that toxicity is symptomatic, it becomes easy to see why Blizzard’s responses haven’t worked to address it. They don’t deter people from becoming toxic, they only catch the newly-created ‘bad apples’ as they appear. Even if this response is nearly simultaneous with the creation, it doesn’t come close to solving the problem.

What’s more, the current system is not nearly sufficient to catch and eliminate these ‘bad apples’ even as they do emerge, rendering the entire practice pointless. That’s because the XP penalty, silencing and suspensions are all already pretty ineffective deterrents – players just don’t care. They’re more likely to walk away from the game then to correct their behavior.

A better report system isn’t going to fix this. The ability to block players isn’t going to fix this. A more efficient banning system isn’t going to fix this. You’ll just have more people leaving the game when they’re punished. It doesn’t deter toxicity – it just filters for it.

Additionally, rather than reform players that have had a bad day, the punishment attacks them without providing a clear path to reform besides “stop it.”

The long and the short, though, is Blizzard’s response to toxicity is to blame the players. But this mindset of assigning blame is breaking Overwatch. I’m not going to go into scrutiny on why their current measures aren’t working - that’s worth a report in itself. But if Blizzard tries to “fix” Overwatch’s toxicity by only building a better report system, they’re blaming the players, when the players are just reacting to Blizzard’s game.

The 8 reasons why.

The big problem with Overwatch’s toxicity is that there’s no ‘one big boogeyman’ of a reason behind why it exists. With my experience in, say, League of Legends, it was pretty easy, especially in retrospect, to pin down why it was happening. There were other issues, but most of the time, people just wanted to play the part of the game that they enjoyed, and were reacting negatively when they couldn’t. And while that’s part of the issue in Overwatch, it’s not the only reason.

I’ve narrowed down Overwatch’s issues to about 8 different key problems, which I’ll be talking about in sequence, here. Here’s the short list.

1. The queue doesn’t allow you to tell it why you want to play ranked.
2. Mobility and character potential are completely rage-inducing if you’re playing without them.
3. Many of the game’s mechanics are fun to play with, but impossible to play against, and also completely unbalanceable.
4. The game’s team-based, but only gives you the ability to soloqueue.
5. The Murdergoblin Problem, 1: Hero distribution is totally lopsided and punishes the player for doing what any player would do.
6. The Murdergoblin Problem, 2: DPS has a completely disproportionate, much more flashy impact on the game, compared to the other classes. And they’re the only ones which don’t rely on a team.
7. The Murdergoblin Problem, 3: Heroes are way too stiffly aligned into their roles.
8. “One pick wonders” are just doing what the game tells them to, but get punished for it. Players who play all characters are just doing what the game promotes, but get punished for it.

There are other reasons behind player toxicity. I do not, and will never, pretend that the ‘bad apples’ that “just exist” aren’t real. But there is a disproportionate number of toxic players in Overwatch’s playerbase in particular, which suggests that Overwatch itself is causing the toxicity. As such, the reasons behind it (and the solutions) are based almost entirely within the game. If you’re looking for a magic catch-all that can make a player take a happy pill before logging in, well, keep looking. This focuses on what Blizzard can fix, which lies exclusively on what happens to a player when they jump into a game.

1. The queue doesn’t let you tell it why you want to play ranked.

Here’s the short version:

There are four reasons to play ranked queue right now, and they all completely contradict each other.

  • You can play to communicate, be competitive, and win in a way that’s best for your team.
  • You can play to show off your skills in one particular circumstance above all others (hi, Genji mains!)
  • You can play to get a gold skin.
  • Or you can play because you’re sick and tired of quick play.

All these players go into one queue, are matched together, have no way to tell the game what they want, and completely sabotage each others experiences.

Here’s why it’s toxic:

Let’s say you queue for comp, specifically trying to climb the ladder. You’re matched with people who just don’t seem to care. There’s a guy on your team that doesn’t really want to communicate. He just wants to have a more serious experience than quick play. And there’s a guy on your team that’s only playing Hanzo, because he’s trying to get a golden bow and doesn’t care about much else.

Keep in mind, no player is in the wrong here. These are all things that the ranked queue is for.

Look at it the other way. All you want is a golden skin, and you only really like playing one character. But you can’t get the gold skin without playing ranked. Now you’re getting called out by some over-aggressive dipstick for not playing to win when you really just wanted to play your character and try to get the gold skin. Screw that guy, you’ll play what you want.

Or maybe you’re just here because quickplay makes it impossible to get a team comp that’s correct. It’s almost impossible to have a fair game because the skill difference is so wide. So you queue up for ranked, not really looking to “test your might” or whatever, but just because you want to play something a little more serious. Now you’ve got a jerk on one side that’s getting mad at you for not communicating or for picking outside the meta. And you’ve got the jerk on the other side that still won’t pick what the team needs.

See the problem here?

If Kaplan and the Blizzard team want to solve the toxicity problem in Overwatch, this is the first thing they need to address. You can’t expect players to play competitively, then pair them with people who are just there for the skin, and others who are just there to escape quickplay.

You can’t incentivize ranked play and expect players to not just play for the incentives.

You can’t completely ignore quick play and not expect players to go try and find a better experience in ranked.

When those situations above happen, you get rage. You get people cussing each other out over voice, and people playing whatever they want, whenever they want, because it’s the only way to play correctly. It’s so completely counterintuitive to what the system is designed for, it’s hilarious that nobody on the Blizzard team has pointed it out.

So, here’s the basic solutions.

A) Gold weapon skins should not be exclusive to ranked. This was an absurd idea and AFAIK at least some of the Blizzard staff agrees. They are, at this point, relatively worthless anyways – I got one by doing placements and literally nothing else for each season. The points used to earn them should be given for playing any part of the game, with no more emphasis on playing ranked than on playing casual.
B) Players need to have the opportunity to play specifically what they want, every time they queue into competitive play. DPS mains should always be able to play DPS. Support mains should always be able to support. Tank mains should always be able to tank.
C) Players should be grouped together based on preferences for communication at the least. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lone-wolf it if that’s how you like the experience. There is something wrong in being asked to play as part of a team when you don’t want to – or, likewise, being forced to play with people who don’t want to communicate should not happen.
D) HEAVILY emphasize pushing players towards finding teams rather than playing solo. More on this later.

2. Mobility and character potential are completely rage-inducing if you’re playing without them.

A much more complex issue, I want to emphasize that character balance is not the subject of this post. Personally, I think everything’s pretty well balanced in theory. The problem is, in practice, stuff gets frustrating, and it’s easy to see why it’d be perceived as frustrating. With this in mind, please avoid “nerfs” and “buffs” and instead focus on the problem at hand – frustration, toxicity, and how some characters are often responsible. Buffs and nerfs will ultimately be necessary, but I will restrain myself to a general point of view.

There are five subsections to define why mobility and character potential are prime contributors to Overwatch’s toxic playerbase. Strap in, we’ll be here awhile.

  1. Strike 1: Mobility and character potential (CP) makes some heroes “more fun” than others (A definition of ‘more fun’ in a moment).
  2. Strike 2: Mobility and CP makes doling out punishment easy.
  3. Strike 3: Mobility and CP makes heroes that use it difficult to punish.
  4. Why they’re toxic (in a nutshell) and the “why bother” of Overwatch.
  5. Solutions + the “all or nothing” concept.

Additionally, here is my definition of “mobility and character potential.” Mobility and character potential are concepts which refer specifically to mechanics and designs which allow disproportionate map control, options in combat which would normally be unavailable, and the ability to always be at the most advantageous angle. Typically, the wider array of options takes a higher level of skill to use, but rewards the higher skill level with advantages that other characters without said options can’t access.

Here is my definition of “more fun.” A character being “more fun” means they provide a more in-depth experience. They give a wider array of options, in any given scenario. They have a higher skill cap, and take more practice to truly “unlock” the full potential of.

Finally, here are examples of how I classify potential. Soldier has a sprint, which accelerates his movement speed, and requires strong tracking to aim. This provides slightly more control over the exact circumstances of an engagement, and its result, but doesn’t do much to qualify him in any of the categories listed above – he doesn’t typically have disproportionate control of any scenario. He is the highest potential example of a low potential character.

Pharah has air control, which gives her access to an entire third axis of the map, which would normally be unavailable. She can fly over terrain which would normally be problematic, like walls, and has a large amount of control over when she engages and is engaged, but not many tools to disengage besides killing something, or sacrificing her height element. She doesn’t move particularly quickly in any direction except down, while in the air. Her rockets require skill to aim, but are linear and individually fairly low-impact. She is the middle of the road – the perfect example of a “mid-potential” character.

Genji has a wall-climb, dash, and double jump, giving him unparalled speed and access to the map in virtually every scenario. He has an on-kill reset that enables him to engage further, or escape in unfavorable situations, a reflecting barrier, and both a close-range, and long-range damage burst which requires precise aim. He is the ultimate example of a “high potential” character.

The problem, in summary: mobility/CP (character potential) affords characters the chance to make mistakes, while non-mobile characters need to perform nearly flawlessly to stand a chance. Mobile/HP (high potential) characters are also less susceptible to punishment then they should be, while non-mobile/LP (low potential) characters are punished more.

Additionally, most of the characters in the game are simply not equipped to deal with mobility in any form.

Finally, the game has virtually no suitable counterbalance to mobility/CP, and most of its abusers even have further escape options, beyond what non-mobile characters have.

With these points in mind, let’s dive in.

- Strike 1: Mobility makes heroes “more fun.” (Threshold vs. Potential + Disproportionate rewards)

Mobility touches on something that’s going to take quite a bit of time to explain properly, which is how atrocious Blizzard’s hero design choices are, and how they prioritize the player at the seat having fun, at the expense of everything else. Sorry, guys. You know it’s true. But we’ll come back to that in later points.

Again, this isn’t about individual balance. I actually think that, with a few personal, opinionated exceptions that I won’t go into, the game itself is in a relatively stable state right now. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be fun to play, or particularly balanced in practice.

Although heroes are balanced according to their threshold, they aren’t balanced by their potential. What I mean when I say that some heroes are “more fun” isn’t that they’re too powerful. It’s that they have too much potential, and are too overbearing, compared to others. Or, if you prefer, other heroes have too little potential comparatively.

Put more simply, if a Genji fights a Winston, his theoretical counter, the outcome of the fight still depends almost entirely on how the Genji performs at all skill levels, while the Winston has very little input.

In this way, Genji is “more fun.” They provide a more in-depth experience. They give a wider array of options, in any given scenario. They have a higher skill cap, and take more practice to truly “unlock” the full potential of.

Unfortunately, the problem arises in the inverse. By comparison, all other characters in the game have less options, fewer answers, and have a much lower perceived skill-cap.

Compare McCree to Tracer. It’s worth noting that in a straight fight, McCree has a theoretical “leg up.” One flashbang-headshot kills Tracer. But in practice, he seems lackluster.

This isn’t because of Tracer’s abilities themselves. On paper, McCree’s 3+3 equals 6, in just the same way that Tracer’s 2+2+2 does. It’s because of Tracer’s execution of her abilities. More mobility & character potential = more options. Tracer has access to more tools, because she can move faster. She can be in more places, and as a result, has more options open to her. More importantly, it gives her tools that McCree will never have access to. Although McCree theoretically counters Tracer, not only will Tracer be more useful in a wider variety of fights, she will still find herself winning a disproportionate amount of skirmishes against the McCree because of map control, harass ability and the ability to always pick her fights.

It’s also worth noting that I enjoy her design. She’s fun to play, and feels really good. She’s not overpowered (I don’t think), either. I bring this up because it’s not Tracer having too much mobility/CP that’s the problem. The problem is that McCree is shallow by comparison – more on that in the solutions section.

Let’s dive deeper into why this causes toxicity.

If you kill Tracer as McCree, it’s a flash of the moment. It’s the relief of finally swatting a mosquito. It’s not satisfying – or rather, it’s only satisfying in the “thank god she’ll screw off for a minute” kind of way.

That is, the satisfaction isn’t built out of a happiness at the performance – it’s the relief of finally overcoming one of the most difficult actions in the game, and finally matching your lower potential’s character threshold against the higher potential’s. In short, the characters are theoretically balanced against each other, but in practice McCree feels like you’re climbing a mountain, while the Tracer just has difficulties looking down.

In even simpler terms, on a low-potential character you haven’t ever performed particularly exceptionally – you’ve just overcome a situation where the odds seemed to be stacked against you.

Compare this to Tracer’s point of view. Mobility/CP demands twitch reflexes against big, slow, lumbering opponents. It’s exciting, and the world is at your fingertips as to how you want to approach. No matter how things begin, you’re always in the fight on your terms. As a result, getting a win on Tracer – finally killing the McCree – isn’t based off of “oh thank god, he’s finally dead” like the inverse. It’s an actual reward for good play. It’s the satisfaction of gained momentum, and the excitement of outplaying your opponent.

But beyond this, the bigger issue is that mobility/CP disproportionately rewards skill. On a non-mobile/LP character, skill means a headshot. It means the right place at the right time, and a chain of kills as you aim correctly.

On mobile/HP characters, this effect is present, plus ten. You now have your own position to take into account, and you can actively control how difficult you are to aim at. You’re still considering your own aim and position, but you’re now looking at your enemy’s as well. You have more relevant tools at your disposal, because a mobility/HP character’s kit is built around staying mobile and utilizing all of their potential – whether the player is able to or not.

Potential = More actions, different results, different consequences, all under your theoretical control.

Non-potential = Going for headshots. Overpowered? No, the threshold is the same. But the perceived gap in character strength? Enormous. We’re talking about why people hate playing Overwatch, and there’s no better way to make someone hate their situation than making them think that the odds are constantly stacked against them through a lack of tools and answered.

This in itself isn’t crippling, though – it’s when combined with the other two items on the list, that disproportionate CP earns the spot as the second post in this series.

- Strike 2: Potential affords punishment.

CP affords characters to be more punishing. This is nothing new. HP characters are essentially the “assassins” of Overwatch – faster, deadlier, and existing to kill squishy supports. Conversely, they (supposedly) fare worse against tanks, and die to classes which specialize in killing flankers. But lets focus on the first half for the moment – how they create frustration by being disproportionately effective at their jobs.

This is where Overwatch’s design as a whole starts to fall apart, because it puts undue strain on some players, in exchange for making others completely powerless (more on this in a moment). In most scenarios, you have your magazine, and two options; stand and fight, or run away. Mobility, though, means your character has the potential to literally never confronted with this choice.

The problem is, regardless of the option that a LP-character chooses, fighting against mobility always means that they’re always at a disadvantage. You’re always being punished. Standing to fight means that you’ve committed 100% to an opponent which might disappear as soon as they start to lose. Running away means that you’re retreating against an opponent that has every opportunity to exploit your decision with an engagement.

That is, if the fight turns against the mobility player, they can just leave. If the fight turns against you, you can’t. And though the winning move is not to play, mobility affords certain heroes the ability to take away that option, too.

Engaging a HP hero inherently punishes you beyond this choice as well. It takes much more time, practice, and skill to kill HP heroes, because mobility allows them to not only engage on their terms, not only makes them nearly impossible to punish by merit of their kit and hitboxes, but any mistake you make will be punished twice as hard, because of their various designs. Missing shots means they can get in closer, where they’re more effective. Missing abilities means you have one less tool in your arsenal in an already-unfavorable fight. Etc, etc.

What’s more, failing to kill a mobility hero doesn’t just punish you. It punishes your support, because they have no option to fight. It punishes your tanks, which are designed for drawn out, slugfest engagements against multiple enemies – not short, consecutive bursts of extreme damage. Most characters in the game just aren’t equipped to deal with mobility – they just die to it.

In short, while fighting a HP character, you’re fighting a stacked matchup where you’re more heavily punished than your opponent ever will be. Not only that, but if you lose, you’re now inadvertently responsible for putting your team at a huge disadvantage.

This is where the point of confusion comes in, though, because, again, these characters are not overpowered. They’re frustrating.

This is all part of the job for a HP character. They’re high damage and fast, which means that they’re not good at drawn out, long term engagements. There are many scenarios that Genji, Tracer and others just aren’t equipped to deal with. But despite this, their impact in what favorable engagements they take is, I think, possibly the most disproportionate in the game. In the hands of a skilled player, their gains are too disproportionate to their losses, because their gains are all-at-once and their losses are over time. Not only that, but they have the luxury of choosing to avoid unfavorable situations altogether. This is strike 2 that makes these heroes a problem.

- Strike 3: Mobility/HP heroes are unpunishable, partially in concept, especially in practice.

In any engagement, you have two options: fight, or run. The two are, generally speaking, mutually exclusive. Stick around and slug it out until someone wins or backup arrives… or leave and find help.

Mobility never needs to make this choice, which makes it nearly impossible to punish at a baseline.

Let’s avoid talking about hero designs for a moment, and just think about how a character with extreme map access can dance.

Most characters, you make a choice; you fight, and pit yourself against an opponent. You don’t have the opportunity to leave until the engagement subsides, because that risks punishment. Giving up a position, or turning your back. Or, you leave, and you retreat to safety. You don’t have the opportunity to fight again, until you find the next engagement. These actions take place constantly, over the course of seconds in a game, which turn to minutes.

HP characters throw this equation out the window, because the more character potential you have at your disposal, the more choices you can make at any given moment. You can fight, and still leave. Strike in the opportune moment, then disappear before you can be attacked. Or leave if you’re caught off guard, and return when advantageous to you.

In short, we already talked about how easy CP makes it to have the upper hand before an engagement, even if those opportunities are rare. It also allows you to have the upper hand, during and after one.

Effectively, the definition of CP alone makes it hard to punish, because you’re faster, flightier, and more responsive. You have more options. This is where the problem is at a baseline. But Overwatch makes this issue worse, in multiple ways.

There are three key counters to high-potential characters that need to be talked about, which are present in nearly all games which have them: tanks, mistakes, and health pools.

Tanks are the natural enemy of the assassin. Tanks typically have more crowd control effects, like stuns and slows, which eliminate most of an assassin’s natural mobility. They have more health, which makes an assassin’s burst much less effective. And they’re always with a team, which is equipped to pounce on an assassin, when the opportunity is presented. They’re bulky, which makes it easy for them to forgive play mistakes, and harder to catch off guard.

Overwatch’s tanks do none of these things. They have one purpose – to soak, and deal, damage in long, drawn out engagements. They have very little crowd control that works against flighty characters, virtually nothing in the way of stuns or slows, none of it instantaneous, and most importantly, this absence makes it nearly impossible for the team behind them to kill these bothersome characters. A HP character will always have the tools to dodge the LP character’s attacks, even though they can’t always kill them in return.

Health pools are also typically weaker on characters with higher mobility & potential. They’re squishy and easy to kill with just a couple hits, to help promote the idea that they can be punished if dealt with quickly and effectively. The idea being here that the less intense, but still potent sustained damage of regular classes, will now be able to kill them.

But of all the characters in Overwatch, Tracer is the only one to deviate below the standard health pool of 200, and that’s only by 50.

In short: the traditional counters are completely ineffective, making the hard-to-punish characters even harder to punish. That’s not the end of this point, though.

We finally have to dive into individual design on this one, because the more potential a character has, the more mistake-proof Blizzard has made its kit. And this, more than anything else, is really what bugs me.

Tracer’s rewind, Genji’s deflect and on-kill dash reset, Doomfist’s barrier, and Sombra’s teleport are the easiest offenders to spot. They conceptually make these high-skill characters effectively mistake-proof, in addition to all the aforementioned problems. They reward plays that shouldn’t be made – like jumping into the center of an enemy team to die, taking unnecessary fire, or staying to fight in an unfavorable engagement – by ensuring that the character always has a tool to turn the scenario favorable.

Being unpunishable is strike 3 against mobility. Not just in concept, but in practice. The characters which have the most mobility are also the least punishable because of their kit.

So now, let’s talk about the consequences, and an on-off switch.

- Why they’re toxic (in a nutshell) and the “why bother” of Overwatch.

This is a good time for me to remind everyone that despite my above points, I don’t think HP characters are overpowered. They have their strengths and their weaknesses, just like any others.

They’re frustrating. That’s my entire point. Let me point out why.

A properly utilized, uncountered (and emphasis on uncountered) high-potential character has an impact that’s second-to-none in Overwatch. There is nothing else in the game that renders tanks so nearly pointless, and makes support so virtually impossible to play. So if you queue up for a game looking to play a tank or support, first, roll some dice. What kind of high-potential characters will you be playing against, this game?

And more importantly, how good is your team going to be at dealing with it for you?

Your effectiveness is nearly entirely dependent on the answer.

Mobility always favors the player using it, and never the player against it. That is, they picked Tracer and you picked McCree. Congratulations, you’re now going to spend the rest of the game being harassed for your decision. Sure, it’s chip damage. It’s having to help your support fight off someone, one too many times. It’s a walk from spawn that shouldn’t have happened, because your entire team was right in front of you and you were 3 steps from a health pack. It all adds up, and over a couple hours of play, make no mistake, has a real impact.

That character also enables the player to show off their skill, in a way that you can’t. There are so many more options available to them that you’ll just never have. Character potential disproportionately rewards players for their effort, by giving the mobile/HP character the ability to dance around the one without, and that’s completely infuriating – not the other character in particular, but the design of the fight to begin with.

Besides this, you’re now stuck against some of the most difficult to punish characters in the game, where they can miss an entire magazine and retreat to reload – but if you miss half of yours, you’re done for.

They have the same health pool as you, but more ways to recover it.

They have more tools at their disposal to make sure they have time to get away from you.

They have more tools at their disposal to make sure that you can’t get away from them.

Nobody in the game is good at killing them, except other high-potential characters that can match these decisions.

Even in the best case scenario, you can come out on top every time and the mobility character is still a constant, attention-requiring presence.

Add all these factors up, and you’re left with a “why bother,” which is the real problem. It’s a situation that’s so frustrating, I’ve literally had teammates and friends throw in the towel, just because there’s a good HP character. The odds are stacked against you in every engagement, and you’re constantly, incessantly bothered by a character that will constantly disappear, but, if ignored, will kill you or your support in an instant. It feels like the entire game is punishing you because you just don’t have the same options that they do, in any situation, and your character isn’t mistake-proof, like theirs is.

This is what earns mobility the second spot on this report, and why Blizzard needs to find a solution to it before their game can be healthy.

- Solutions + the “all or nothing” concept.

Character potential is not something that can be gradual. You can’t have “just some of it.” You can have it, or you can’t. If flankers leave the game tomorrow, Pharah becomes top dog. If Pharah disappears, Soldier becomes king. Meanwhile, Lucio is still a must-pick. I haven’t talked much about it, but mobility has a real impact on the strategy of an entire game, from the lowest to the highest levels, and its extreme importance can’t be understated.

If it’s introduced – if characters have different speeds and rollouts - it needs to be something that anyone can play with, or against, on any character, in any scenario. If you give one player mobility, and the tools to deal with non-mobile characters, but the other player doesn’t have mobility, or the tools to deal with it, the mobile class will always come out on top, no matter how ineffective the mobile character is. Because again, these characters aren’t overpowered on paper. Their power comes from the ability to choose to completely remove their biggest weaknesses.

But it’s more than that. Even if every team has the tools to deal with an assassin, they’ll still be a problem, because of the fundamental, game-breaking gap between what you can do on a character that does have mobility, and the character that doesn’t.

Let’s say Genji loses his reflect and dash reset, tomorrow. (He can’t. Remember how I was ripping on Blizzard for their design choices? This is why.) It would totally crush the character (which is, in part, the topic of the next problem), but let’s just say it theoretically happens. He’ll still have the double jump, the wall climb, and the instant dash. He’ll still always have more options than the opposing player, and that is the real problem. Not the dash, not the reflect, but the options.

So long as those persist on some characters, but not on others, even if perfectly balanced, the game will never be perceived as an even playing field. And perception is the only thing that matters.

But, unfortunately, we’re talking about reality. I can’t just go back and say “remove mobility.” We’ve already opened that can of worms. Plus, true mobility is one of the best parts of the game. This is a problem that can’t be solved… but it can be alleviated.

With that in mind, here are my solutions.

A) Give high-potential characters immediately apparent weaknesses and threats that should be played around accordingly. Health pools could be smaller. Health packs could restore less. They could heal slower. Some of these already exist – the cooldowns on Tracer’s rewind and Doomfist’s burst. But not only are they not immediately apparent, their windows are too small to properly give players time to punish characters.
B) Remove/alter ‘perfect outs’ like Genji’s current reflect, Sombra’s indestructible teleporters, and Tracer’s rewind. Not only is it impossible to tell if they’re available/ready to be used while choosing to engage the character, but they effectively remove any window of punishment for playing against them – and in the case of Genji’s barrier, punish you for trying. These abilities are infuriating, and should not be on characters that should otherwise be designed to be killed if played wrong.
C) Give more tools to the rest of the game to deal with these characters. Unless the character is explicitly supposed to die in the matchup, they should have a capable defense mechanism. A lot of this will come from the above windows of opportunity – Winston, Soldier and McCree all become much more effective against HP characters if they don’t need to deal as much damage to get the kill - but there are also characters like Mei and Bastion that wilt in the face of these opponents for no reason.
D) In that vein, define what it is HP characters are actually supposed to do. Function as a DPS? Kill supports? Taunt tanks? Pick one or two and make it so that they perform in that specific job.

Together, these solutions will take some of the power of the high-potential character and put it back into the hands of the rest of the game, maintaining the effective power levels of those characters while defining what they’re actually supposed to do, and raising the power of their LP-counterparts by comparison. It doesn’t solve all of the problems of their existence, but it at least makes it so that you actually have a clear view on how to deal with them correctly.

3. Unbalanceable mechanics are frustrating and ridiculous.

Just because something is balanced and fair in theory, doesn’t mean it will be in practice. Just because something works in the top tier, doesn’t mean it solves the problem entirely.

You can’t build a house on rotting foundations. I’m about to talk about some concepts that, theoretically, are pretty balanced. You may have noticed (because I’ve been pointing it out) that I’ve already been doing just that. But the problem of toxicity is not that it affects the top 1% where the game actually starts to look like it’s supposed to (more on that in a minute), the problem is that it trickles up from the bottom 99.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Roadhog.

Did you know: Overwatch was not created to be competitive, and its heroes are released to be “fun,” a word which here (in contrast to earlier) means, “enjoyable to play in a flashy and over-the-top manner.” McCree was created to be able to High Noon. Reaper was created to dual-wield shotguns and steal peoples’ souls, Hanzo was created to shoot arrows at people, and Mercy was created to bring people back from the dead.

You can really… tell.

Because the game was created to be “fun,” there isn’t much thought given to how obnoxious these characters are to play against, and many characters just don’t have the over-the-top strengths that a few do.

This also has competitive implications, because the heroes are created to be “fun” and balanced to be “competitive” - a word which here means “fair to play against.”

The result is a mess of characters which are all combinations of “competitive” and “fun” to play, coexisting in a volatile environment where often as a result, things feel neither “fun” nor “competitive” by comparison.

The result is frustration, anger and virtrol. If you’re not having fun, you’re pissed that you’re losing, or you’re attacking your teammates for not playing to their strengths, it often feels like it’s because your character doesn’t have something that others do.

The problem here isn’t characters being too “fun” (Blizzard’s definition, anyways) or too “competitive,” though. The problem is that some characters just… aren’t, by comparison.

Let’s dive in.

At the top of the last point, I touched on how absurd Blizzard’s design choices for Overwatch are, particularly in terms of heroes. Not from a power level standpoint, or in terms of dominance, but just how infeasible they are to balance.

The problem, at its core, is the same as it was a minute ago. Things are put into the game as “fun to play” (Blizzard’s words, in this case – see Doomfist, later), without any regard for how fun they are to play against. As a result, we have half a roster of heroes that are defined by how aggravating they are to try and deal with, while simultaneously, being completely unchangeable.

Overwatch, at its core, isn’t designed to be competitive. If you’ll recall, the game didn’t launch with a competitive mode in mind. When it was introduced, it was done with a huge caveat – that playing competitively is supposed to be done towards the end goal of having fun. Of gauging your ability to make ridiculous plays, against your opponent’s.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s been totally forgotten in the noise made by OW’s high-profile tournaments. The marketing team never got the memo, and pushed millions of dollars into making the game the next ‘Esport sensation’ (quite successfully, I might add) without considering if was ever even designed to do that.

That is, the game’s developers and publishers have embraced the concept of competition wholeheartedly. The game’s design itself, however, has done anything but.

The perfect examples of this are Roadhog and Mercy. Characters which have had huge, glaring competitive issues since launch, not for balance reasons, but because they’re frustrating. Mercy’s resurrect completely invalidates plays made by the opposing team, but it feels really good to res someone after they die defending you from a Dragonblade. It felt great to completely counter a Zarya combo with one ult, back before her change. She’s Blizzard’s definition of “fun.” Flashy, impactful, and over-the-top.

But Blizzard never seemed to think about how it felt to see your ult countered, or your kills made meaningless. Even now, months after her changes, her res is still a problem mechanic that can completely change games, despite taking no skill to use effectively. In return, the rest of her character is awkward and stilted, particularly her do-nothing ultimate that randomly turns her into a combat class.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about the other end of the spectrum – Roadhog’s hook. It got nerfed into the ground – no one’s denying that. But did it need the nerf, mechanically? No, not really. Well, maybe. I mean, I don’t really think so, but the important thing is, it wasn’t really a balance nerf to begin with. The problem was perception of an unfair mechanic.

Roadhog was well-balanced in team comps that accounted for him, and on teams that were communicating to play around him. The problem arose in less organized play – when you’d be instakilled 2+ times a game because your opponent hit a skillshot that you had no visible, apparent input on.

With the keywords being visible and apparent. You did, of course, have your own positioning – but that’s gradual and not noticable, compared to Roadhog’s all-at-once advantage.

In many cases, you could also be accounting for the hook, but still die because Roadhog was out of position. Frustrating - again, a mechanic which invalidated the other player’s actions.

So it got nerfed, then what? Well, the character got completely trashed. Roadhog was the bottom of the barrel for a couple months, because he didn’t function without this completely feel-bad mechanic.

Even now, you can dispute his viability, but you can’t deny that Roadhog has not, and probably never will, come back to the same power level that he had before the hook nerf.

There are so many abilities that are like this. Hanzo’s arrow log headshots and ridiculous scatter-arrow shotgun are awesome examples, particularly because in the case of the former, the game deliberately hides the problem. The arrows which should miss will move into your hitbox when you review the hit.

Genji’s deflect, Tracer’s rewind, D.Va’s defense matrix, Mercy’s resurrect, Doomfist’s punches, Moria’s life-leecher, Symmetra’s cheap, annoying turret tumors, no-skill microwave beam and ridiculous, hilarious, awful high-damage bubble projectile, are all skills that feel stupid to die to. Are they OP? Absolutely not, I just brought up Symmetra on that list.

But it says something that, after Roadhog’s nerf, dying to a hook in one hit now feels feels JUST AS BAD as dying to one back when he could one-shot you unconditionally. The circumstances behind the hook are exactly the same outside of your health pool, now it just happens less often.

We’re talking about toxicity, and why your teammate is raging. Why they won’t switch off of the one character that they want to play, and why they’re so pissed off and blaming the team. In part it’s because these all-at-once abilities take away control, and response. You just die to them and your first thought isn’t “good play!” but rather “wow, that’s crap.”

The biggest issue is, though, this problem is not getting better. Since I originally wrote this post, we’ve had Doomfist and Moria release, both with their stupid kits that feel like crap to die to because you have almost no input over being killed.

And again, the reasoning is the same. At launch, Kaplan talked about how it was “so much fun!” to smack someone with Doomfist, throw them into a wall, and see them pancake. They loved this feeling so much that when Doomfist was released he was completely busted.

He’s since been nerfed, but the central mechanic of his kit is the problem with the character. Then it’s compounded by excessive mobility that makes him harder to hit, and a barrier which rewards him for taking actions he shouldn’t, and you can see why he’s a cause of frustration at lower tier play.

OP? No. Just annoying.

But on the other hand, these are problems that have weaknesses. Doomfist is completely lackluster if you feint his punch. The problem is, if you don’t, you don’t get a second chance, and unlike taking an extra bullet or missing out on 50 damage, this one mistake could regularly cost you a game. This is a problem with lower ranks especially, but telling that player to “git gud” also doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t solve a problem, and it certainly doesn’t help you find a better teammate.

See my point? The problem is the player, yes, but the only thing that anyone can change is the mechanic. It’s not OP, but it’s still perceived as totally unfair. And telling the player that “actually, you’re wrong” isn’t going to stop them from getting pissed off at it. They know it’s their fault. That doesn’t mean they’re okay with it.

Players are reactionary, not proactive. Cause and effect. These abilities are the cause, and the effect is anger, frustration and irritation.

But there’s more to it than that. Let’s turn the problem on its head.

The problem with these mechanics isn’t that they’re “too good.” Like we’ve said, they’re some of the most fun parts of the game, and there’s something to be said for that. If it were up to me, I’d change Mercy back to how she was, and give Roadhog’s hook back. These abilities are some of the best parts of the game. You can’t remove them at this point, but you need to make sure that they’re kept in check.

The real problem is, only some characters have these spots to shine.

Remember back when Bastion had 70% damage reduction (or whatever it was) when deployed, and he was totally invincible? When Soldier had the damage and spread to kill any character in the game, in a heartbeat? When McCree could fan his hammer at anyone, and they’d die?

These things were all nerfed, and for good reason. They were totally unbalanced – not just in perception, but in reality.

Despite this, though, when Bastion lost his indestructible armor, Roadhog didn’t lose his ability to hook. When Soldier lost his damage and spread, Genji kept his reflect and double jump. When McCree lost his… multiple things (he’s been changed a lot), Hanzo kept his arrow-log headshots, his scatter shotgun, and D.Va is still, even today, able to eat an entire team’s ultimates.

Without a space to shine in, clearly and at first glance, you have a roster that seems completely unfair on the surface. Just a moment ago, I talked about the problem that mobility caused – a “why bother.” This is the same problem. Because Bastion lost his armor, but all these other things are still in the game. I’m not mad that they are, I’m disappointed because I love playing Bastion, and now, he has no space to shine in. Meanwhile, though, I can go play Hanzo and get the same ridiculous aim compensation that he’s had since launch, and I can still kill people with Roadhog’s hook. But I want to play Bastion, so I guess I’ll either play what seems like a sub-par choice, or not play.

The problem is not that Mercy’s new form is too strong or too weak. The problem is, there’s no other heroes in the game that can match it. I’d happily leave it as-is, if it meant that the characters I want to play got equivalent changes. Would this break the game? Yes. Everything certainly still needs a balance. But is it the space that those abilities are supposed to exist in, anyways? Absolutely.

Blizzard introduced heroes that were balanced around fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when some heroes have super-apparent, overblown strengths, and others don’t, Blizzard is effectively telling you that there’s no reason to not just play those heroes, unless, and this is important, you look for one. Balanced in reality or not, perception is what counts, and in this case, the perception is inequality.

Things can be balanced to be fun (which seems to, in general, mean “powerful”), or things can be balanced to be competitive (which, contrastingly, seems to mean “subdued,” “contained,” or perhaps “niche”), but the two definitions are at odds. You can’t have Mercy balanced as she is, to be “fun,” while you have Ana and Zenyatta balanced like they are, to be “competitive.” The two don’t really coexist. You can have heroes that are powerful, or you can have them contained within a niche, but you can’t just pick one for this hero, another for that. You can do both – Roadhog’s hook was both “fun” and “competitive” – but only if you make sure that everyone is balanced in that way.

Pretending otherwise is just frustrating.

Looping back, if you want to stop players from raging at the game, take out the crap that they’re raging about or make sure that they’ve got their own to fire back. What’s more, make sure that no hero is all-purpose, or that everyone can be played.

With that in mind, here are my solutions for this point. These are alternatives, not a sequence. Pick one you like and STICK TO IT.

A) Balance things to be fun, and play the game accordingly. All characters should be dangerous in all situations and everyone should be able to do what they want. Forget about taking away Genji’s reflect or Tracer’s rewind, just give Roadhog his oneshot back, give Mercy her ult back, give Bastion his armor back, give Soldier his damage and McCree his spread, restore Rein’s earthshatter, make Mei’s freeze better, speed up Junkrat’s bombs, make Orisa’s gun worth something… the list goes on. And then just increase health pools and survivability to compensate. If you’re going to give some people fun toys, everyone deserves to have them.

B) Get rid of these unbalanceable mechanics entirely and start acting like the game is supposed to be competitive in the first place. Doomfist needs to do something to contribute to a team beyond getting the occasional pick and dying for it. The same can be said of a well-balanced Tracer or Genji or Sombra. Mercy’s res needs to go, because it makes your teammates mistake-proof. So do D.Va’s unconditional projectile-eater and Roadhog’s “oops killed you” hook. Give everyone a clear purpose and have them do their job. Start standarizing what skill level is expected to play the game with everyone, and stick with it.

Standardize the gameplay experience, and start balancing around it. Quit this stupid tightrope-walk.

4. The game’s team-based, but only gives you the ability to soloqueue.

So this is an interesting point, because we’re halfway down the list, and we’re only now coming to the core of the problem. Ironically, everything we talked about so far would be a completel nonissue if the game just properly facilitated teambuilding.

There’s no denying that Overwatch is a team-based game. The game works best around, and is balanced for, fully developed and strategized team comps. That is, generally, the game is built to be played with a team. Despite this, there is literally no support or encouragement for building or playing with a team to climb the ranked ladder.

WHY???!

We’ve already talked about the problems posed by playing with people who have too many different goals. As a reminder for what this point is attempting to solve, people get mad when they’re stuck with others that don’t share their mindset and game-goals.

This is primarily because the preconception of the ranked queue should be that you’re there to rank. In actuality, though, many of the players there have different goals, whether they’re there to play competitively, earn a gold skin, or just get away from quickplay.

This issue is further compounded with problems like what players are best at, and what they want to play when they join the queue.

In all, you have a mess of a structure which serves no one. But this is all a problem entirely because you don’t know who you’re playing with. The short answer should be, “just find a team. Build a team. Play with a team.”

We’ve also talked about how frustrating mobility is to play against, and one of the primary factors behind this is that, for most characters, dealing with mobility/HP characters is “someone else’s job.” Whether they have the tools to do so or not, tanks should be able to deal with assassins effectively. Wherever you are, if you’re playing support, your teammates should prioritize protecting you at all costs.

But this doesn’t typically happen, due in part to those points about everyone having different goals. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be on a team that wants to communicate, or even particularly cares about winning.

Again, the solution? “Just find a team. Build a team. Play with a team.”

I’ve shown how mechanically ridiculous some characters are in a vacuum. Roadhog’s hook wasn’t nerfed because of power, it was nerfed because of perception. People hated playing against it when they were playing alone, despite it being well-balanced in a team environment.

And guess what the answer there should have been? “Well, just find a team. Build a team. Play with a team.”

SEEING A PATTERN HERE? I’d sure hope so, because pardon me for my personal annoyance, but I really think a 6th-grader should be able to see it at this point. So, what the heck, Blizz?

All of the problems we’ve talked about so far have been surface-level. They’re all things which are problems with the game as it is, today. Only now are we starting to touch on some much deeper flaws in the game’s design systems.

The common thread, just in case you missed it, is that most of the things which can cause a toxic environment would be complete nonissues if players were just playing in an organized team.

Not only this, but teams are awesome at preventing toxicity in the first place. When you’re playing with people you know, you’re communicating better, your own personal flaws are more readily apparent, your strengths are more nuanced and emphasized compared to those of others, and you’re less likely to get pissy at your teammates when you could be giving and receiving actual feedback.

So, then, it’s fundamentally ridiculous to me that Blizzard has done nothing to facilitate playing with a team, at all.

Moving on…

Let’s talk game balance. Not on a hero-to-hero basis, but on a design level as a whole.

Breaking it down, I can say with reasonable certainty that there are about 3 key areas that Overwatch is balanced around, because there are three areas which can ultimately affect or even determine the outcome of a game.

  1. Player skill. How good an individual person is at their individual role, and how disproportionate an impact they can have while playing it, is at the forefront of how games are determined. This is 75% of what hero buffs and nerfs are based on.
  2. Communication. Relaying positions, commanding and controlling the landscape of the game, and ensuring that every player is maximizing their potential in a scenario, are all accomplished by good communication. Even if you’re only interested in playing in conjunction with others, rather than as a team, communication takes the front line in making sure you succeed.
  3. Formation and team-play. Once you’re skilled as a player and you’ve started to communicate, the final barrier is team-play. That means practicing formations, combos, and learning your teammate’s strengths and weaknesses while they learn yours. That’s the remaining 25% of the balance decisions, as well as map changes. Formations and teamplay, not individual heroes, are ultimately what make or break maps, team comps and individual heroes.

As you’ve probably already noticed, though, soloqueue excels at promoting the first point, the second is an afterthought, and the third is not present in any capacity. Despite this, the ranked ladder judges the player who embraces one point, in the same way as the player who embraces all three.

In even simpler terms, whether you win or lose is determined by your play, your communication, and your teamwork, but there is no mechanism in the game to promote the latter two points what-so-ever. You can see how this would be frustrating, to both parties: the player who embraces all three is disappointed, annoyed and depressed that their team does not. The player who couldn’t care less about points 2 or 3 is annoyed or irritated that the expectation of them is greater than what they’re ready for.

(There’s also players, theoretically, who value points 2 and 3 more than their counterparts, but for simplicity we’re going to pretend they don’t exist for now.)

Here’s how completely asinine this problem is: if you want to play soloqueue, I have a recommendation. Go play mystery heroes instead. In an environment which is unfriendly towards communication or teamwork, you’re left to rank on raw mechanical skill and game knowledge. Accepting that Overwatch is supposed to be a team game (meaning 1v1s are out), team play and composition shouldn’t matter, and neither should your ability to keep track of your allies’ strengths, weaknesses or preferences.

The only things that should matter are game knowledge and mechanics, applied in every scenario imaginable. That means random heroes for both sides, where each player is judged solely by how good they are at their roster.

Viola. Mystery Heroes. ‘Competitive’ mystery heroes, even. Sounds stupid to me, but that’s the logical progression of soloqueue.

Switching tracks, let’s talk about what a team can be, and what a team doesn’t need to be.

There are a lot of common, totally fair arguments against forming a team. You might not have time to attend practice all the time, or organize everyone. I’ve tried both starting and joining teams before, and it’s hard work.

The ideal team for most of us isn’t that, though. All a team needs to be is a group of people who know each other, with a similar goal in mind in terms of play experience, a want for similar communication styles, and a mesh in terms of whose strengths complement whose weaknesses.

There’s no need to organize practices, attend tournaments, or build new compositions and strategies. Most of the issues that we’ve talked about in this series will go away if you just know who you’re playing with.

And more importantly, this isn’t something that the community can do for Blizzard.

Right now, finding a team is proactive, and if Blizzard wants to solve toxicity, it can’t be. Right now you go onto /r/OverwatchLFT (or your preferred source of play buddies) and find what’s the rough equivalent of a pickup game. Through some concerted effort you might play with those guys again, but realistically, trying to filter such a limited pool for what you’re exactly looking for is damn-near impossible. Alternately, you might end up trying out and joining a “real” team, running into the time and effort pitfalls that we’ve talked about already.

Reactivity is the key. If Blizzard wants to solve Overwatch’s toxicity in the quickest, easiest way possible, putting players together into loosely structured teams is the fastest way to do it. They have the tools to do so, with performance measurements and play preferences being the easiest ones.

So, in summary, a huge source of toxicity in Overwatch is caused by the game only actually servicing one of three primary factors in a win or a loss, which leads to a slew of other problems that we’ve already talked about. Here’s my solution for implementing a team-based system into the game, while totally removing soloqueue in the process.

1. Institute a solo-play based way of assigning a number to a skill level. This could be any number of things. An aim test. A playtest against a team of bots. A competitive 1v1 arena where you’re pitted against another player while both using the same champion. Let’s go with that last one for now, since it’s already in the game and is a pretty decent judgement of skill, though you’d need to play more games to get an accurate rating. Putting players into a solo-based environment allows them to play their own way, and not have to rely on others to determine their skill level. It’s not perfect, but it’s a starting point.

2. Institute a ‘play profile’ of gathered data for every player which they can see but they have no control over. These are statistics about how players play the game overall. Do they gravitate towards tanks, supports, or DPS? Do they switch characters or do they tend to stay on a single pick? How well do they typically perform in the role that they’re assigned? How many games do they usually play in a session? How often do they leave? The only thing that should be given to players is the ability to temporarily turn this data-gathering off (or opt-out altogether if they don’t want to play ranked) so they can goof off without having to worry it’ll affect their performance. This is not a skill-gathering system, it’s a performance metric to match players with similar playstyle interests without causing chafing. A lot of toxicity is caused by players who just want different things from the game. Obtaining this data can help alleviate that.

3. Disable soloqueue. This is the toughest pill to swallow, but has to be done. The idea of soloqueueing for a team-based game is Compltely. Asinine. It’s frustrating because you don’t have time to learn your preferences, the team’s preferences, match them, get used to communicating, and play the game properly in the time you have to ‘prepare’ for a match. The outcome of a match (and your resultant rank) is judged almost entirely by actions that you have virtually no control over. Saying that you’re part of a ‘team’ just because you’re stuck playing with 5 other people does the term ‘team’ a complete discredit. Soloqueue is a breeding ground for miscommunication, and a playground for trolls, ragers and other ne’er-do-wells to show themselves with no consequence for a dozen other reasons I haven’t even touched on yet. Torch it.

4. In its place, put players into ‘ranked leagues,’ balanced and tailored/based on the ‘play profile’ preferences, and matched based on the solo-play based skill numbers, with each league numbering from 10-20 players total. Each league should have a dedicated mix of DPS, tank and support mains (with flex players interspersed), and trend players towards one of the poles that they prefer to play at - I.E. one-tricks can play with and against other one-tricks, and vice versa, or people who play the game religiously are pitted against others who do the same, and vice versa. This solves many problems. It allows the game to be balanced closer around true team play. It allows players to get to know their teammates over the course of a season. It holds players accountable for their actions to a group whose opinion matters more than randoms. It creates a new filter in that respect, as racists and jerks are less likely to be tolerated and more likely to be completely booted from the system.

5. Facilitate interaction within these leagues, then, as all subsequent ranked matches pit teams of players from each specific league against teams of players from other specific leagues. Push players to play together in and out of game, push them to communicate, to know each other personally, and help them understand the fundamental fact that, just by embracing this new framework, they will be more successful competitively and be experiencing the game closer to the way it’s intended to be played. On the flipside, it should be understood that joining competitive play for a season is a commitment, just like if you were to join a team in competitive TF2. If you fall out, you’ll be replaced as leagues are gradually consolidated, and you will not be given the option to continue playing in the season. It should not be hard to fall out. If you don’t regularly play in the league, or don’t think you will, you don’t get to finish. The leagues won’t work if players don’t wholeheartedly participate, so it’s the game’s responsibility to make sure as many do as possible.

6. Dramatically shorten/lengthen the competitive season/preseasons in Overwatch to compensate. Players should look forward to a long break for practice, interspersed with short periods of intense competition, and leagues should gradually adapt over time to old players leaving and new players coming on. This combats ‘ranked fatigue,’ gives time for reflection, time for preparation, and makes the competitive aspect of the season shine.

7. Perform a complete reset on competitive rank in Overwatch. Not a soft reset, no seeded matches, a complete restart which makes all but the top tier and bottom tier ranks available to be placed in. This is necessary, at this point, because rank resets so often, but your placements seem to have so little impact on where you’re placed, that it’s incredibly frustrating to essentially be ‘stuck.’ Your rank, incidentally, is now determined by a X/Y split between game-to-game performance and your league’s overall standing: if you win a match, you rank up, if you lose, you fall down, but the distance you move up/down is determined by your league’s rank and performance overall - and your individual wins and losses impact this performance.

Some other minor notes on this rather dramatic system change:

  • The report system functions as it does now, but reports from teammates should carry far more weight than currently.

  • Players should be warned of bad behavior before being punished, punishments should be more severe than an exp penalty, and there should be more tiers of punishment.

  • Over time, players should be presented with a path to reform, probably inverse of whatever the punishment is. What’ll that look like? No idea.

  • Competitive leagues should offer cooler rewards than what’s in the game for comp now. Gold guns are nice, but I’m talking exclusive skins, the ability to make your own spray, titles and icons, etc. Load it on there. Completing a season by itself (regardless of rank) should be seen as an accomplishment, de-emphasizing tier and placing emphasis on performance itself. There should be rewards beyond baseline completion bonuses for exceptional results as well. Introducing these rewards to soloqueue would be a nightmare because of how players are currently matched without regard for goals. Introducing it into a true league of teams where players are matched by preference would have an incredibly energizing effect by comparison.

  • While we’re making changes, let’s go ahead and ditch the tired ‘bronze-silver-gold-plat-diamond-challenger’ tier structure and just go with a number. Higher numbers amplify existing rewards. Everyone knows that you don’t want to be in bronze, you’re not a better person just because you made diamond, you don’t need to be in plat+ for your opinion to matter, and the witch-hunting and elitism surrounding low ranks and high ranks respectively is not okay. Screw this system, we’ve outgrown it.

5. The Murdergoblin Problem, 1: Hero distribution is totally lopsided and punishes the player for doing what any player would do.

You might think we’re close to done to addressing the problems that Overwatch causes. Nope, not even a little bit. This rabbit hole goes deep. We’re now firmly in the murky underbelly of design choices and fixing the systematic, fundamental processes that make Overwatch so full of irritating contradictions. These are things so inherent to the game’s design that they’re going to take some pretty serious resources to fix. What we’ve talked about so far are stopgaps – now we’re starting to dive into game theory.

So, let’s talk about the new player progression path in Overwatch.

A player’s progression path informs everything they do in a game. The first 20 minutes of a game, if amazing, can affect the next 20 hours. If they’re awful, you may never play the game again. In an RPG, that means introducing systems, the world, the aesthetic, the characters, the story and the pacing. In a shooter, it means all of that except gun flavored, minus the story aspect.

In Overwatch, the game is designed around an equal distribution of three different hero types: tanks, supports, and DPS. Tanks protect supports and DPS, supports heal DPS and tanks, DPS kill everything.

Let’s just go ahead and highlight the obvious.

There are 27 playable heroes in Overwatch. Let’s call Sombra a support. Just, y’know, for fun.

Of the 27 playable heroes, there are 13 DPS heroes. There are 6 tanks, and there are 8 supports.

So, immediately, you see the problem.

The fundamental contradiction of “Competitive Overwatch” is that the game trains you to play it in the most unintuitive way possible. That new player experience is extremely important, because the first 20 minutes will probably be spent doing exactly the opposite of what the game needs from you. We’ll have more contradictions as we go down the list, but if you spend equal amounts of time playing all heroes (in the theoretical ‘perfect world’), you’ll spend 48% of the time playing DPS heroes, 30% of the time playing supports, and 22% of the time playing tanks.

As you start playing, you try out all of the characters, or see them played. In all likelyhood, you end up playing a few more disproportionately than others, and those become your “mains.” You’re disproportionately likely to pick up DPS. As a matter of fact, you’re more likely to pick DPS than the numbers even suggest – because supports and tanks take up such a small minority in the cast, you’d have to play such a large amount of a few characters that you’re even less likely to pick up the archetype overall because it gets stale more quickly.

That is, if you main DPS, you have over a dozen choices, not counting Sombra. That’s a lot of variety and playtime. The cast is diverse, too – you can jump and blink around as Genji or Tracer, be a burlier nuisance like Reaper or Mei, spam with Junkrat or Pharah… the list goes on.

Tanks, meanwhile, have 6 choices, 3 of which play fundamentally the same way: “put up barriers, tank damage, protect supports.”

Supports have a similar problem, with 3 of the 8 (we’re counting Sombra as a support, remember) consisting of “Heal your team and do small amounts of damage to the enemy.”

But the game is not built around a 3/1/2 among DPS, tanks and supports. Because everything is supposed to be picked equally across archetypes, the format is 2/2/2. Despite that, though, you have 50 or even 60% of your new players maining DPS, going into competitive play, and expecting to perform the way they want to.

Remember when I talked about how Overwatch wasn’t designed to be competitive? This is a stellar example of that philosophy.

The game sets its players up for disaster, by putting in circumstances where you’re inherently forced to play something you don’t want to, some or even most games. Players get mad when they have a crappy experience. The best way to ensure a crappy experience? Force players to do their chores and play something they don’t want.

That affects performance. I play DPS and now I have to play tank – so I’m going to play tank like a DPS. Oh, we lost? Too bad I wasn’t playing DPS where I’m actually good.

Alternately: We need a tank? That sucks, I’m awful at tank, and/or don’t want to switch.

Or: We need a tank? Well I literally only play tank most days and there’s only 6 options. I want a break.

How many tilting arguments have been started over players bickering about who has to play what? How many games have been lost because everyone thinks that they can do one role better than the others – and they’re technically right?

This is a no-win scenario for everyone involved, and it doesn’t magically go away by implementing teams, which is why it’s earned spot five on this report. Even in a team-based setting, there will never be an even implementation of roles in leagues, forcing most players to fill, at least occasionally, or GTFO.

This a deep-set problem that needs a real solution if Blizzard is serious about tackling the root of toxicity in their community. It’s deeper and more inherent than miscommunication, it’s more frustrating and omnipresent than mobility or character potential, and it’s the one thing in the game that even approaches the consistent, inherent failures of the soloqueue structure. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. All I can offer are common-sense approaches in the meantime.

A) Stop releasing DPS characters! Doomfist was a fan favorite, I get it. But until the roster is equalized, it’s the highest folly to release anything that further destabilizes this balance. This is already a problem that’s going to take months or even years to solve through hero releases, and adding into it at this point would be willful ignorance. This is to the point that if I were to SEE another DPS hero release, I would pretty much call it quits on thinking that Blizzard is even trying to solve their game’s problems. It would be that stupid.

B) Make more heroes good at multiple things. We’ll get to this later in point 7.

From here, we have 2 further possible options.

C) Start balancing the game around the 3/1/2 team format until there are enough heroes in each class to counteract this problem, OR

D) Deliberately limit how many DPS heroes can be played in a game. It’s not a perfect solution, but at least now players know what they need to be doing.

These are major changes, I get it. Change is scary. But this decision was stupid to begin with, and it’s time to face the music. Unfortunately, this is only half the problem to begin with.

6. The Murdergoblin Problem, 2: DPS has a completely disproportionate, much more flashy impact on the game, compared to the other classes. And they’re the only ones which don’t rely on a team.

If you’ve played Overwatch for literally any length of time you’ll know this one was coming.

Still, here’s a short summary.

People want to shoot, punch, poison, stab, or otherwise murderfy things in the game that’s about murderfying things.

The game also rewards you for said murderfication far, far more than it does for preventing it.

Makes sense, right? Too bad it’s completely counterintuitive to what the game actually needs.

The ultimate goal of the DPS is to kill the enemy team. When you pick off a support, get a triple kill or are even responsible for a team wipe, you’re acknowledged and rewarded. Both teams immediately notice, but more than anything, you’re proving your dominance.

The game shows play of the games for impressive feats. DPS not only feels more impactful, but it’s far more difficult to deal damage than it is to heal it or soak it – so when you do just that, it’s far more impressive.

Contrast this to healing. For most characters, healing is a trivial, mundane task – not only are you healing players that want to be healed (in contrast to shooting players which don’t want to be shot and/or fire back), saving an individual teammate isn’t just unremarkable, it’s expected. Preventing a pick might earn you thanks from one teammate – maybe. The enemy team, likely, will not even notice. Certainly they won’t in the way that they do when they all die at once.

There are a few exceptions to this (a Zenyatta team-ultimate through a Zarya team-ultimate, for example), but even then, Zarya’s graviton is much more impressive of the two – she had to take the shot. All Zenyatta had to do was press Q.

And then there’s tanks. If you’re out there, reading this, and you’re a tank main, my heart bleeds for you. Because your entire purpose is to be as boring and mundane as possible – you stand still, and take damage while your healers heal, and your murderizers murderize. There is no way to make this flashy or impactful, and yet it’s debatably the most important role in the game.

But we’re just talking about appearances, here.

What about impact?

When a DPS character kills an enemy, they’re overcoming a challenge. When a healer heals a teammate, again – it’s expected. And when a tank takes damage, whether it’s purposeful or not, that’s… well, he’s getting shot. The only impact that has, despite being of crucial importance, is making sure that the shot doesn’t go into a different, more important target.

Then there’s the question of reliance, which is a HUGE part of the reason why DPS mains are so predominant. You can function as a murdergoblin without a healer, but you can’t function as a healer without a murdergoblin to heal. You can kill tanks as a murdergoblin without a tank in front of you, but you can’t kill murdergoblins as a tank without a murdergoblin behind you to do it.

Those three principles of balance that we talked about awhile ago – individual performance, communication, and team play – each reflect a single role. Communication and team play are the purview of tanks and supports. Meanwhile, individual performance is emphasized as DPS. Communication and team play are almost nonexistent in the current competitive Overwatch queues. Individual performance, meanwhile, is about the only thing that matters by comparison.

So the conundrum deepens. We now have three substantial reasons why players really have no reasonable excuse to play anything besides DPS, seeing as they know nothing about their teammates. Supports and tanks should always be “someone else’s job,” because not only are you able to show off the most as DPS (making it much more immediately apparent that you’re effective), but you’ve also already played more DPS than anything else, making you inherently better at it, and you’re less reliant on teammates that you have no reason to care about, to boot.

Obviously, everyone wanting to play DPS causes some problems, most of which I’ve already talked about. The game is balanced around the “boring” roles that are also disproportionately effective at their jobs, even though a majority of people don’t want to play them. Arguments, deliberate throwing, trolling, unbalanced team comps – these are all symptoms of “the DPS problem.”

So, once again, here we are at some pretty comprehensive and wide-reaching solutions. I was not kidding about the “bitter medicine” part. Essentially, you have three options.

A) make healing and tanking more valuable and emphasized. If you want people to play healers or tanks, they need to feel like they’re actually good at their jobs, one way or another. The easiest way is to make the jobs they’re already doing more valuable through things like universally higher damage, lower health pools, and most importantly, A BETTER SYSTEM TO HIGHLIGHT EXCEPTIONAL PLAY. Maybe a spot in the killfeed when Mercy heals 600 damage over 5 seconds, or Rein tanks thousands in only moments? A more impressive-looking POTG? Make objectives more intrinsic to the experience, and make tanks better at a flashier version of the in-game acts required to cap them?

B) make it harder to heal and/or tank effectively. The other option to make healers and tanks feel better about being good is making it so that it’s not the easiest, dumbest, most simple thing in the world to do. Zenyatta’s healing orb is so boringly effective that you can forget about it while playing him. Mercy’s healstream could be manned by a bot in most scenarioes and be about as efficient. Meanwhile, Reinhardt is so far into the definition of tank that he’s forgotten what it looks like to swing his hammer (if the player is competent), and all he has to do is hold right click to be effective, 90% of the time.

C) de-emphasize the importance of a DPS character’s damage. If kills become rarer and less expected, or damage becomes harder to put out, DPS characters lose some of the spotlight, while impressive tanking capabilities or healing saves take its place. This comes with its own glaring set of problems, but it’s the obvious third alternative to the above.

7. The Murdergoblin Problem, 3: Heroes are way too stiffly aligned into their roles.

Hero alignment is a systematic problem with the way heroes are designed and developed in Overwatch, as opposed to the champion design in games like League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm. There are many contributors to what I’ll call “hero rigidity,” some of which are intrinsic by design. The battlefield on Overwatch, for example, is pretty much the same for everyone. There’s no “laning phase” for different roles to shine in. There aren’t any item sets that allow classes to specialize over the length of a game.

I won’t pretend that a class-based hero shooter is overly similar to a class-based MOBA, because they’re two very different things. That said, some points translate: team compositions, the unique strengths and weaknesses of heroes, and the overall role-based and class-centered gameplay are all traits borrowed from these games. Because it’s the closest true point of comparison, it’s also the only real point of reference.

With this in mind, a primary balancing factor in a game like League of Legends or DOTA 2 is an individual hero’s ability to do multiple things. Not only are there multiple different damage types to be built around, but the inherent itemization of heroes as the game goes on allows many to be viably built as DPS, tank OR with a supportive focus, without fundamentally changing the character.

Overwatch does not have this luxury. The genius of a system like the one described above is the variety involved, yes, but it’s also the means to make heroes flex into multiple positions, allowing players to play the character they want, in the style that they want, while still aligning with a theoretical role in the game.

More simply, a League of Legends character can often be built to be tanky, to be supportive, or to do lots of damage, because characters are designed to function in all three aspects. But the largest inherent problem with Overwatch’s roster by comparison is that NOT ONLY are there far too few tanks and supports compared to DPS characters, but you can’t play a DPS character “more like” a tank or support.

McCree will always be built around shooting opponents, and will never be good at stopping a tank from dying beyond that. Genji will always be built around flanking and fast picks, and will never be able to fill the same healing niche as Mercy or Zenyatta. Supporting in the above games places emphasis on CC effects and fight-control more than healing, which are tools you can give to pretty much everyone. In Overwatch, though, tanking is synonymous with an inherently high, inflexible health pool. Supporting means “healing or supplementing a health pool.”

The result is an unbalanced roster that isn’t only unbalanced for its lack of choices in certain roles, but also a roster where heroes are always committed to a certain singular role. The problem, at its core, is still the unbalanced roster – but by making heroes so linear and inflexible, it’s now even further emphasized by players being forced into a certain role, only because they prefer a certain character.

We’ve already talked a lot about how this causes problems – the game is balanced around a certain team composition that players are not prepared for and will often outright reject. This has two halves: players being stuck in roles that they don’t want to play because their role is unavailable – and players being stuck on characters that they don’t want to play because their character is tied to one specific role.

  • Solutions:

A) Design a system where characters can be more apparently customized into performing certain tasks, and balance the characters to fill a more general space while allowing them to be specialized based on player preferences. Items, adjustable skill trees and flexible, multi-purpose abilities are all excellent examples of this school of thought.

B) Rebuild the roster so that characters can innately fill multiple roles, by improving every hero’s ability to do multiple things, while de-emphasizing singular overall strengths. Conceptually, this would mean removing the hard line between tanks, DPS characters and supports altogether. When heroes are given a multitude of strengths to play to, they can slot into more compositions overall, while being must-picks in fewer scenarioes.

C) De-emphasize the importance of any individual class overall, allowing a team with 6 supports to function just as well as a team with no supports. This allows players to always play the role they enjoy, without regard for being forced into a composition that they don’t want to deal with. OR:

D) Create a baseline expectation and outline for your players to fill in with their picks – that is, you’re already balancing the game around an equal distribution of tanks, supports and DPS, so it’s time to start making that expectation clear to the people playing the game. Players should be assigned roles that they only have certain choices to fill, ensuring that the competitive composition is always correct and removing the inherent arguments of “do what you want” styles of play.

In order for players to get along in game, you, Blizzard, need to stop inherently pitting them against each other, which is what blind-pick role-based matchmaking does by default. Find a way to let the players do what they want, or remove that expectation entirely – putting the expectation into the game and not enforcing it ensures that everyone who enters the argument loses by default.

8. “One pick wonders” are just doing what the game tells them to, but get punished for it. Players who play all characters are just doing what the game promotes, but get punished for it.

We’re almost done, here. This is the last inherent contradiction of Overwatch, and it’s also, I believe, the core of the problem, which is why I’ve saved it for last. Overwatch, in being casually-designed but competitively-minded, punishes everyone just for playing it.

That is, there are many wrong ways to play Overwatch, but there’s no right way.

Unlike the problems listed above, which have clearly visible and easy-to-see consequences, the problem of the Loser’s Choice is inherent to the game, its frustration is felt at all tiers of play, and it’s inherent from the first time you lock in any hero in any game.

Here’s the core contradiction:

When it comes down to it, Overwatch is a game about playing to the strengths of a diverse roster of heroes to overcome the challenges and counters of the enemy team, ultimately emerging victorious. In that, there are two problems.

  • First, by virtue of it being a hero-based game, players are inherently pushed towards a small group of heroes which agree the most with their playstyle. It’s rare to find a player that’s fully proficient with the rest of the game’s heroes as a result, because once you find someone you enjoy, you get good at that one specific hero, and are able to overcome more challenges as a result.

The problem, though, is that Overwatch is designed to allow you to switch heroes, and originally, even allowed for multiples of the same hero on each team. Heroes have inherent strengths and weaknesses that their counters can exploit, ranging from as broad as the rock-paper-scissors format of DPS, tanks and supports, to the specific hero-based counters like how a good Widowmaker or McCree will always have the upper hand against an equally skilled Pharah.

The result is the largest, most difficult to deal with question in this report: “is a one-trick player toxic?” By the player who isn’t playing the one trick, yes. By the player who is, no. By Blizzard’s standards, which punishes and rewards both playstyles, there is no answer.

One pick wonders are doing what the game is designed for – they’re picking a hero that matches their playstyle preferences, and getting really, really good at them - enough so to overcome some of the obstacles that the hero might face in its counters. But the game also punishes them, and their team for it – not only do teams need certain players to play certain roles in order to function, but there will always be scenarios where, no matter how good you are at a hero, you just don’t have the tools to deal with the problem. Reaper will always be better at killing tanks than Genji, and Widowmaker will always be better at shooting Pharah than Junkrat.

  • So, then, there’s the alternative – switching characters regularly to make the best use of your roster as you die, and maintaining a core game knowledge across the entire roster. This, though, also has problems.

First, as discussed, tanks and supports do not have the options to switch like DPS mains do. Assuming that there are 2 of each role on your team, tanks have a whopping four options to choose from outside of their current picks, and supports have 6 (counting Sombra for fun), whereas DPS characters have 11. The lack of variety not only means that the game becomes stale more quickly, but also that when it comes time to make the change, you have fewer meaningful options – especially considering how relatively linear some of those options are when compared to one another. Zenyatta and Ana fundamentally function the same way, as do Orisa and Zarya. While the same can be said of some DPS characters, more choices overall means that these similar picks are still unique in a diverse cast.

Second, the game inherently rewards you with going for what you’re best at for the first teamfight, because you’re not able to see what your opponent’s team composition looks like – nor are you able to pick against it. Not only this, but the fact that your ultimate timers reset in a character-to-character basis means that when you switch, you’re losing the most impactful tool that you have at your disposal in exchange for making that choice.

Finally, because there’s so much room for skill in what characters do to begin with, a player who is especially good with one or two heroes may still be able to come out on top because they’re just better at using the tools at their disposal, even in an inefficient matchup – a problem compounded by high-potential heroes that have tools for almost ANY matchup.

So, in summary:

One-tricks are doing what the game tells them to, because they’re theoretically good enough at one hero to overcome obstacles they normally wouldn’t be able to – not to mention that the playstyle agrees with them more.

BUT, in gravitating towards the playstyle that the game is designed around, they’re also costing their team the resources provided by a wider roster, they’re not able to respond to specific threats as well, AND there will always be some matchups that they just can’t reliably win (Pharah V. Widowmaker).

Generalists who switch and play the entire roster are doing what the game tells them to, because they’re flexible enough to use a hero’s specific strengths as ‘silver bullets’ against opposing compositions, and they’re able to inherently boost the rest of the team’s performance by being what’s needed for everyone, instead of just what they’re most effective at.

BUT, in being generalists, they’ll never be exceptionally good at a single thing by comparison, which means that they’re prone to losing matchups they shouldn’t because while the opposing player is worse at the game overall, they’re far, far better in that one specific scenario. They can’t pick what’s best for the team at the BEGINNING of the game at all, because they don’t know what an opponent’s team comp looks like, and if they DO switch, they’re punished by losing their ultimate charge, the one and only resource besides cooldowns that the game presents you with.

So is the one-trick in the wrong? Yes! And no. They’re sacrificing the good of the team for their own personal preferences, and they’re not optimizing against the opposing force. BUT, they’re really good at their role and probably genuinely think that their only shot at winning is if they put on their best face – meaning the one or two characters that they can play perfectly.

Is the generalist wrong? Yes! And no. Generalists are never going to be as good at one specific thing as the one-trick, meaning they’re more prone to losing fights, even where they shouldn’t based on their hero strengths. They’re sacrificing ultimate charge to optimize, and might even put their own team off balance as they change from role to role. BUT, they’re optimizing against the enemy, putting the good of the team first, and contributing more to the game OVERALL than a one-trick will typically be able to.

See the problem here? This is why I saved this problem for last – because EVERYONE is wrong, at all times, and you can’t have a clear path to improvement if you can’t even decide WHAT’S RIGHT! You can argue with a one trick all you want, but they have just as many legitimate reasons to be picking a single hero over all the others, as you do to be picking multiple heroes every game. So here we are.

  • Solutions:

PICK ONE, Blizzard. That’s what this comes down to. You can give players the ability to switch with ease, or you can give them the ability to emphasize skill with an individual character – but you CAN’T HAVE BOTH.

A) Emphasize that picking a single character and sticking with it is the way to go. Stop punishing one-tricks by removing/de-emphasizeing silver bullets entirely and focus on balancing individual characters against each other in all matchups and compositions. Restrict the player’s ability to switch heroes in game further than you already have, and promote the idea that ‘all heroes are created equal.’

B) Emphasize that picking a diverse roster is more important than being exceptional at one character. Place FURTHER emphasis on silver bullets to close the gap between a one-trick’s disproportionate ability to be excellent at a single thing, and a generalist’s ability to contribute better overall. Make ultimates draw varying amounts of charge from a single overall pool, instead of resetting every swap. Make one-tricking a reportable offense and promote the idea that by sticking to a single hero, you’re not contributing to your team’s success, and make a very deliberate effort to show that one-tricking is not a path to victory in any scenario.

Conclusion & A Genuine Round Of Applause.

I am tired.

This took weeks to write and months to think about and digest. These solutions are radical, polarizing and you’re probably going to look at at least one thing on this list and say “that is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”

But there’s only one fundamental truth that all of this is built on: Blizzard’s current approach isn’t working. The idea of “blaming the players” makes no sense. And whether you agree with the problems or solutions here or not, if you’ve actually given them some thought than you will agree that they could work.

When summed up (a summary I had here but deleted because of character limits), the above issues result in a frustrating, impossible-to-balance experience where everyone loses as soon as they decide to play.

But after dissecting this problem so thoroughly, the immediate question I now ask is no longer “why is the community so toxic?” The question I now ask is “how in the hell is this game even still functioning??!”

Which brings me to my final point: A round of applause.

When it comes down to it, the idea that a game can still stand in a competitive setting with these problems eating away at it isn’t just remarkable, it’s absolutely extraordinary. I genuinely applaud Blizzard’s design, development and balance teams for walking this tightrope up until now.

Not only that, but the community AROUND the game is absolutely incredible to have even survived these problems.

What we see in Overwatch’s community is not the sum of the scum of humanity, but rather, a triumph of it. The problems this report details, and the community’s reaction to them, tell a story not of toxicity and anger, but of perseverance, of the majority player who can have ALL ODDS stacked against them, and STILL finds a way to make things work.

The truth of the matter is, when you look at Overwatch’s minority of toxicity, it’s just that: a minority. A large one, but still - a fraction of the community as a whole. Do not look in despair at the frustrated and angered trolls of the world, but look at their surrounding community which has somehow, still risen above it against all odds.

That’s remarkable. It shows that this game isn’t just fun, but that it brings out the best in most people and the worst in a few, in a way that few other mediums can replicate.

Thanks for reading.

(Blizzard – hire me to solve these problems. This synopsis was not for other players to read and disagree with, it was for you, because I don’t have a better way of talking to you. I have the solutions, I understand the problems, and I want to help. If you really want to fix what’s wrong with Overwatch, this is where we need to start. My application is in the mail.)

(Shoutout to the profanity filter on these forums. I wasn’t expecting it but certainly respect it.)


#2

A good post and worth the read. I feel that the toxicity that Overwatch breeds boils down to 3 fundamental things, 2 of which you covered.

The first being the game doesn’t let you tell it why you want to play competitive. You covered this well, but I feel some things could be added. There are varying degrees of competitiveness, to some this means the game is life and raw SR number defines them, to others it’s excelling at one character and to others still its having a game slightly more realistic than qp. Lumping casuals and die hards together always breeds toxicity.

The second being the point you made about it being a solo queue game. This is right on the money. Since I started playing in season 2, people have been asking for an in-game system to form groups. There’s still nothing. That’s pathetic. People have suggested solo queue/ less than 6 stack competitive mode and a purely 6 stack competitive mode that awards the team as a whole a rank. This would be excellent, but again still nothing. So now you have a bunch of different competitive play styles lumped together all in one mode and everyone hates everyone that doesn’t play the exact way they intended to play competitive which feeds right back into your first point.

The third being is the game sucks at teaching you what the game is really about. The tutorial is a joke, it doesn’t teach you about picks or counter picks or any elements actually important to climbing in competitive or the etiquette of teamwork. There’s 0 info given to a new player about how Blizzard thinks you should actually play this game. Which then leads back into the first problem when people finally do go into competitive.

To resolve this Blizzard needs to flat out state how they want the game to be played, perma ban people across all modes of gameplay for first infractions and have more competitive queue options to separate out the different mindsets of “competitive” that people have for playing competitive in the first place. Until this is done the game will just breed toxicity because that’s what always happens when a game mode is poorly thought out and people have little to no control over their own competitive experience.

When the player base feels they finally have control over their own competitive experience and are content with this experience they will no longer be toxic. This will mean longer queues and more specific game modes sure, but I think the community has made it pretty obvious they’d prefer that over a fast queue time. I think those issues as you stated are really the core and everything else would be a complete non-issue if the core issue was actually resolved.


#3

31 pages and 16,624 words with no TL;DR… Well done OP.


#4

Hey Zim, as someone with the attention span of a fly, I didn’t read any of this. But I’m gonna leave a like cause it’s super long. In the meantime I’m gonna wait for someone summarize this in a clickbaity tldr title for me to understand.


#5

Idk man, I’ll be honest here, I read only about 10% of your entire rant but it seems to me your basing a lot of your points on your own assumptions and experience with competitive. I don’t find a problem with the people I play with in competitive.

No offense, but I don’t think you’re going to get a blue response with that kind of tone and attitude for introducing your ideas which are essentially just solutions for the complaints that you established yourself.


#6

Roadhogs hook was nerfed because it could get you around corners…


#7

Well I didn’t know I was gonna be reading a bible but I did manage to read 75% before realizing I still had a long ways left.

Anyway, I’d like to fly over and shake your hand and even buy you lunch. I personally really liked the first half of the post about mobility vs non mobile characters. I think this is a big thing for sure with the toxicity problem as since most of the game is solo-queue and the mobility thing is a soloqueue problem… that would go away if you could actually form actual teams like you said.

For me personally, I’m more about having fun than comp so I would love to see old hogs hook back, McCrees old fan the hammer, old mercy Rez etc back. All of those were needed because of soloqueue play. McCree should have never been able to melt tanks like he did w fan the hammer if the other team played like a solid team. His mobility is crap, so if he was in a spot to melt a tank, he was way out of position and should have been easy to deal with. I never minded old hook, it took a team to play around it.

I think in the games current state, they can leave it as is just bring mobile flankers health down to 125.

Or fix the team building aspect which doesn’t exist.

Just a critique, your post was really good till about point 4 or after you stopped explaining mobile/cp characters. After that, still on point but it got a lot more snarky and pissy tone to it. I doubt if blizzard did read all that, they’d bother to read or care about what was said. You can make good points without adding an attitude and coming off as one of those toxicity has taken a hold of and poisoned. Just for next time.:wink:


#8

The report system is a complete and utter farce on Blizzards part. Their pathetic customer service goblins who uphold suspensions are a joke also.

I have been suspended about 10+ times on multiple accounts for playing an offmeta hero.

I would say the report system breeds toxicity because it is not fair and it is being abused constantly.

Blizzard need to pull their head out of their a$$ and look at the accounts that are getting suspended, how many times do these people go on again to get suspended for similar reasons etc, it’s not deterring people from certain types of behavior by suspending them, it’s just giving them a time out.

They are not fixing anything, they’re just annoying me as a customer and making me angry at how people abuse the report system, to the point where I end up toxic myself.


#9

All that effort OP to try to explain natural human behavior , it never will be explained , it is what it is . You play a game dominated by all ages , all personalities , all behavior, you can’t generalize the community as a whole as any one thing, because it is many things.


#10

Kudos on the whole post, really really insightful and well-written.

I agree with everything above really. I feel the game is at odds with itself. The mechanics and design of the game are opposed to the desired behavior. You should work together as a team, but are provided no good way to team-build. You should group up, but you will spawn individually. You should talk to one another, but there are three different chat options, one of which is simply “opt-out”. You should have a diverse team, but as you so eloquently pointed out, healer and tank are just plain un-fun. Someone over at Blizzard needs to decide if this is a first-person MOBA (and then focus on roles and team-building) or a role-ish shooter (and then make everyone feel effective alone).


#11

Hey Prometheus. I didn’t read your full post yet, but I can already tell that this is a well written discussion about toxicity in Overwatch. I’m actually writing a school paper about toxicity in Overwatch, and I’m pretty sure this post you made is one of the best sources from the community that I could ask for. I’ll make sure to read all of it before using it as a source for my paper, but I just want to prematurely thank you and the other people who posted on this thread for providing me with great thought processes and ideas about toxicity from members of the Overwatch community :slight_smile:

I’ll also might consider sharing my own thoughts later on once I’ve been able to read the whole post, since there is definitely room for discussion here.


#12

I agree,

I have not been playing for long - I recently moved over from CS:GO and im slowly deciding to move back already.

Don’t get me wrong the game is super fun - But the attitude of some players is amazing…from all my years of gaming I have never been up against and with so many toxic players - Some of the things said to me and other people is things I could never repeat or say myself. I know a lot of you have experienced this and know it all already. Its a shame that so many players have to be so racist and throw disgusting insults to someone who is having a poor game and in some cases even when someone is doing amazingly well.

I know every game has its players where they are just horrible people - But this game is every other match its insane!

The sad thing is - The toxic players make the community look awful and all the good helpful and supporting players I salute to you, as you guys are what make this community - You guys are what overwatch is all about! You guys make the game what it is and thats why I come to it.

I only have 1 friend on overwatch lol :frowning: so if anyone wants to hit me up for comp and we can have fun and chill with no toxicity please do message me :slight_smile: would love to play with you guys! I am only ranked gold in comp - its my first ever season. so please don’t judge! lol ;D


#13

I appreciate you taking the time to write this. I agree with most of what I read which was not a lot. I think you did miss some things. The medal system is horrible this is coming from someone who gets golds all the time. The system is set up and encourages bad team work and poor choices in favor of medals. The same goes for potg. Should I use this ult to get a safe kill or just save it all game so I can get play of the game? This is a choice that some players will choose the potg. The medal system is very toxic. It makes people think they are contributing because they have medals but are really hurting the team more. For example a rein going full rambo complaining that dps are not doing anything or a moria using only purple orbs all game getting mad at dps for not doing their job because the moria has gold elims. I hear this is games over and over and even if you call someone out they just say my medals or the game disagrees with you I am doing the best in x.


#14
  1. Work on your brevity.
  2. An LFG would solve all toxicity because you could make up your own teams.
  3. They said something is going to be coming out this summer and will be announced soon.

#15

1.) Sure, the thread is long, but holy heck, I think people can spare some time to actually read everything. May even help in improving attention span. In order to go into full detail, keeping it short may risk losing details.
2.) LFG may work, but it won’t solve all toxicity. If anything, what’s needed to go along with that is a beefed up report team (Blizzard can afford this. Saying a company is all about profit and it shouldn’t matter means you really like being shafted by shoddy customer services and business practices. We paid for this game, and many are still continuing to pay for this game, might as well get our money’s worth).
3.) It better be good.


#16

Incorrect. Here is how you solve all toxicity with an LFG.
1.) Allow unlimited Avoids/Bans (for 6 stacks.) If you’re going to make your own group there should be no need to write down on a piece of paper the players you don’t want to play with.

2.) Give us the DPS/HPS charts. This will solve all underperformance arguments, because the facts are right there in front of us.

If there are any other toxicity problems you can think of, I’ll explain how well an LFG system can handle it.


#17

Would the toxic behavior subside if the point system focused more on the player than the team? So say you carried and still lost and it only took 5-10 SR. Would that help?


#18

Simple: Human factor. Remember, the key word is “all”. LFG solves alot, maybe most that is quantifiable, but yes, human factor. I mean, I don’t know about you, but there have been a fair lot of cases of toxicity even in the r/Overwatch discord. Which doesn’t surprise me that after more than a year or atleast two years that teaming up in there has been less than effective in there. Heck, one bad experience in a team-up and they start avoiding each other. There have even been cases of griefing.

Do I have faith in humanity? I do… its just fading over time.


#19

Correct. So the only thing that the LFG won’t solve are things that nothing can solve, I’ll give you that lol :slight_smile:

There’s two problems that I see. Sabotage; someone can come in all nice and friendly and then throw the game. But they can just do it once and then you can ban them.

Problem two, there are a lot of ppl who play Overwatch. It would take a while to weed out all the ne’erdowells.

But like I said, you can’t solve this problems with or without an LFG. So since an LFG solves 96% of the toxicity problems, I can’t wait for the Dev team to knock another one out of the park!


#20

Wow that’s a long post.