Silence is golden: Heroes of the Storm adds mute penalty for verbal harassment
MOBAs are notorious for their toxic communities and every game invariably comes out with a system to combat it, to varying degrees of success. In the latest patch of Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard has further refined its reporting set-up as well as implemented a new penalty for players who are consistently reported for verbal abuse.
Changes to the reporting categories are mainly for clarification, though, the term "harassment" was expanded to the broader "abusive chat." The official statement assures players that Blizzard will evaluate the reports and take extenuating circumstances into account i.e. the announcement's example of an Abathur being reported for non-participation. Players who are too liberal with the report button will also be flagged.
Anyone who accumulates reports for abusive chat or spamming may find themselves on the wrong end of Sylvanas' Wailing Arrow and be silenced. This mute will last a long longer than the Banshee Queen's heroic, however, with an initial duration of 24 hours, doubling with each penalty received after that - potentially scaling indefinitely.
While Allied chat in-game will be disabled, a silenced player will still be able to use Party chat so pre-made teams won't be affected. However, they won't be able to contribute to chats in the General and custom channels or Hero League draft lobby or send whispers to non-friends (though they can reply). It's far from total silence but enough to provide incentive to follow the adage:
If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
The announcement implied that, like all reports, receiving the silence penalty will be at Blizzard's discretion, so it's doubtful players will have to worry about being smacked with a 24-hour chat ban because they happened to argue with their teammates (provided it stayed relatively civil).
Many might think that chat moderation is resource sink and that players should simply grow a thicker skin. Without getting into the fact that a constant barrage of angry messages will wear on most people, this is especially important in Heroes of the Storm, which lacks a surrender option. If you're going to keep chaining themselves to four random people for likely 25 minutes at a time, it helps that their every communication doesn't grate on you. Too much vitriol and you're likely to find some other way to spend your time.
While League of Legends and DOTA 2 will likely remain the frontrunners in community moderation, Blizzard has taken some good first steps fairly early in the life of the game, which bodes well for future changes.