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Blizzard celebrate "incredible decrease" in toxic chat

Ashe from Overwatch poses with her robot pal.

In a new virtual ‘fireside chat’, Blizzard head honcho J. Allen Brack has given an update on the success of their anti-toxicity systems. They’ve been using machine learning to help combat abusive chat and bad behaviour in Overwatch and Heroes Of The Storm for a while, and recently brought the system to World Of Warcraft’s public channels. It sounds like a success there too. Brack also announced that the next BlizzCon, which is online-only, will be free for everyone to watch.

A while ago, Blizzard implemented a machine learning system into Overwatch and Heroes that helps them verify player reports, and allows them to issue penalties quicker. It’s basically a robot with a frown that automatically points at community nastiness and swats it away. Thanks to the robot’s hard work, Brack says Blizzard have “seen an incredible decrease not only in toxic text chat but an overall decrease in re-offence rates.” And given its success, they expanded it into World Of Warcraft’s public channels a few months ago, where it’s also done well.

“We’ve already seen a decrease in the time disruptive players stick around by half,” Brack claimed. That’s a pretty significant drop in folks spewing bile.

This tech should get stronger over time, as Brack says they’re “continuing to improve the speed and the accuracy of this system”. If it makes their games a nicer place to kick about in, I’m all for it. Plus, Blizzard have also increased the severity of penalties in Overwatch and implemented more profanity filter options which should help phase out even more unwanted horribleness.

As for BlizzCon – or BlizzConline as they’re calling it, very clever – Brack said it will be free for everyone to watch when it returns on February 19th and 20th, 2021. Seeing as some juicy deep dives were previously exclusive to ticketholders, with virtual passes costing £35/$50/€40 last time (and real life tickets costing even more), it’s a nice touch.

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Ed Thorn

Senior Staff Writer

Ed is fond of melt in the middle chocolate puddings and games.

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