Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Unintended Consequences of Anti-Toxicity Systems

Jeff Kaplan made an excellent post on the Overwatch forums about matchmaking. It's definitely worth the read. The most interesting part, however, was this section:
For example, we recently realized that “Avoid this player” was wreaking havoc on matchmaking. One of the best Widowmaker players in the world complained to us about long queue times. We looked into it and found that hundreds of other players had avoided him (he’s a nice guy – they avoided him because they did not want to play against him, not because of misbehavior). The end result was that it took him an extremely long time to find a match. The worst part was, by the time he finally got a match, he had been waiting so long that the system had “opened up” to lower skill players. Now one of the best Widowmaker players was facing off against players at a lower skill level. As a result, we’ve disabled the Avoid system (the UI will go away in an upcoming patch). The system was designed with the best intent. But the results were pretty disastrous.
Essentially, players took a system meant to avoid toxic players, and instead chose to avoid players who were simply more skilled.

Another issue with this system is that it didn't have a cost. I think time and again, games have shown that when an action does not have a cost associated with it, people will abuse it. Think vote kicks from MMOs. Then the action gets removed or hedged with excessive restrictions, such that it becomes fairly useless.

Imagine if avoiding a player cost 50 credits (the currency for the cosmetic items). The amount of people who abuse this system would drop drastically. But if there was a cost, everyone would complain that they had to pay "real" money to avoid the people harassing them. Yet the end result is that we lose the avoid ability entirely.


  1. A solution would be that avoiding/votekicking players would need some objective criteria. For example you can only initiate it if he is AFK for 3 minutes or if he chats.

    If you just play actively and silently, you are immune. This way those who have reason to fear unfair kicking can simply turn chat off. Average players have no reason to fear abuse (most people don't abuse most people).

    1. What if the person chats appropriately? I played with a Reinhardt once who led out team like a general. He called out opponents and directed our forces appropriately. We stomped the opposing team, and it was all due to him.

      Not to mention that it is considered polite to "gg" everyone after the match.

      The problem with trying to quantify bad behavior is that it soon becomes unworkable, and the bad agents take your restrictions into account. I think it's better to let players decide what is bad behaviour, but add a cost to keep them from abusing it.

  2. So instead of "block from chat" they implemented a "don't play against" feature and didn't expect that it would be used by lesser-skilled people against higher-skilled?


    1. Overwatch has a "block from chat" feature as well. I guess that's why the devs were okay with removing the Avoid Player option. You can still block toxic players, even if you can't avoid them.

      Heh, to be honest, if you told me people would be avoided by skill levels, I would have imagined that players would choose to avoid low-skill players on their own team.

    2. Rohan, your imagination is because of your MMO background.

      Most FPS players don't care about team wins and losses, just personal kills and deaths. So a low skilled teammate who loses the game don't bother them as much as a high skilled opponent who pwns them.