Overwatch 2 differs from its predecessor by being free-to-play, which means it will be more vulnerable to players who are up to no good. Blizzard today outlined how they intend to prevent "disruptive behaviour" from players, including the use of SMS verification and machine learning. More awkwardly, game modes will be locked for first-time players, and Overwatch 1's original heroes will only be unlocked "over the course of approximately 100 matches."
Blizzard explained what they're calling their "Defense Matrix" in a blog post today. The pertinent part is the First Time User Experience, which offers new players only a limited set of game modes, heroes and features when they first start. This is pitched in part as an attempt to avoid overwhelming new players, it'll also slow down disruptive behaviour, Blizzard say, because of the time investment required to unlock everything.
Game modes and in-game chat "rapidly unlocks", while characters dribble out over 100 matches. Unlocking Competitive mode requires new players to win 50 Quick Play matches before it unlocks.
Overwatch 2 has already had some criticism because it will lock new characters - which were free in the first game - behind the new Battle Pass, through which players will need to either grind to Level 55 or pay money to unlock them. The First Time User Experience is its own thing, but it does still mean that I - a mildly interested player who will likely play Overwatch 2 for a few hours at most - will never really get to experience the game as its intended to be played.
Limited accounts aside, the use of machine learning to detect disruptive behaviour and cheating is interesting. It has been used in games previously, but Blizzard say they'll now automatically transcribe in-game voice chat so that the text can be analysed for potential abusive behaviour. "Once the audio recording has been transcribed to text, it’s quickly deleted as the file’s sole purpose is to identify potentially disruptive behavior," says Blizzard. "The text file is then deleted no later than 30 days after the audio transcription."