Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan on how needing to babysit toxic turds slows down game dev for everyone

“I’m Jeff from the Overwatch team,” the outrageously famous Blizzard game director Jeff Kaplan says in this week’s Overwatch developer video. I get a kick out of it when he does that. In fact, he’s back again to talk about “the rising tide of toxicity” in the game. Because it’s a day that ends in Y, and that’s what Blizzard does on days that ends in Y: talk about toxicity.

Kaplan says the PC reporting feature is now on console, in spite of its imperfections, but he says more is coming, including a pilot program for providing feedback on resolved reports that actually result in disciplinary action. He promises your reports actually matter: Almost half a million accounts have been disciplined, a third of a million “a direct result of players’ using the reporting system.”

Behind the scenes, he says, Blizzard is working on what it does to miscreants based on different types of behavior. The philosophy, he says, is that toxic players – whom he suggests are propelled by their anonymity – simply aren’t welcome. Indeed, he says that Blizzard can do only so much: “The community needs to take a deep look inward at each of us and really consider” how to “spread positivity” and “own up” to the players’ own responsibility. Otherwise, Blizzard is spending tremendous piles of resources chasing after and punishing toxic players instead of developing the game, literally slowly down content.

“There’s not going to be a moment when we have a magic patch in Overwatch that makes bad behavior go away, but it is a continual process that we are very dedicated to fixing and improving,” he says. “The Overwatch team accepts the responsibility that we have that we can do far better and add a lot more great systems to the game to improve everybody’s behavior and everybody’s overall positive experience, and I hope that all of us as the player community decide that we’re doing to do our parts to really make a difference as well.”

Source: YouTube

More on toxicity in the MMO community and especially Blizzard’s progress in combating it:

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56 Comments on "Overwatch’s Jeff Kaplan on how needing to babysit toxic turds slows down game dev for everyone"

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Slaasher

While I agree that the toxicity level in all games is on the rise I have also noticed that those who are quick to claim that they are reporting someone quite often show the complete lack of ability to understands what “real” reasons for reporting people are.
So often I see people claiming they are going to report someone just because they made a bad decision in playing the game. They quite bluntly state it in chat, the person responds, possibly defends their choices and BOOM…….. “reported!!!!
For what? Not knowing how to play the game? Or maybe your class? Game devs need to be careful how much weight they put on community policing. The whole process is rife with unfairness and could potentially get much worse.
I applaud any efforts to dampen the amount of as#hol#ery out there but I do hope they also understand that some people are sensitive to the point of ridiculous and often don’t know what are good reasons to report someone and what are bad reasons.

oldandgrumpy
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oldandgrumpy

Imagine that toxic behavior in game design that allows it.

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steve

Jeff knows all about being a toxic turd, having been one of the greatest toxic turds in EQ history, and his behavior had a huge impact on the development not just of EQ, but of MMOs as an industry.

“Oh, he grew up.” So will most of the little shitlords in Overwatch today, only to be replaced by the next generation of competitive kids with underdeveloped social awareness.

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Melissa McDonald

If I was a college kid I’d be seriously tempted to do a dissertation on ban/discipline stats and the percentages in games that are PvP versus PvE or those without non-consensual PvP.

Like, proving on paper that PvP environments are more acrimonious and hostile and trollish, which I believe (in my hypothesis) is true.

Wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, but could end up with a degree in today’s cotton-candy universities.

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Kenny

I’ve adopted Zen’s mentality about games and try and put a positive spin on everything. Even simmering some feuds down, but the idea that people will just do it consistently is incredibly naive.

My thoughts have, and always will be: Give incentives to being a good player, rather than ONLY punishing toxic ones. It only takes one game for someone who was a good player to become a troll/toxic. The bribe of just giving up, or giving in is strong when you have to rely on 5 other people in your team (and unfortunately, we can’t all be 6-stacks).

People that get punished don’t care if they get punished. In fact, they’re more likely to just comeback and do it all over again with a new account.

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RandomSadGamer

You would think that actually winning games would be a good incentive enough but… nope.

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Castagere Shaikura

Its to late to do anything about this crap. PewDiePie and all the rest of these fools have had free rain to do and say whatever they feel like. And most of them get paid by corporations to do it. When you have the highest paid utuber and twitchtv gamer channels doing it nothing is going to change.

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Joshua Dickerson

It is a reflection of where our society is going. No amount of moderation is going to cure it.

We honestly as people have to change it. But as things are going, “trolling” is becoming a lot more common and even seen as entertainment now.

I have been playing online games since 2001 and even some of the older people I used to play with, I have seen how they have changed over the years. When they used to be more diplomatic and focused on having a good time. I can see how they sort of jump in on the trolling in a moments notice now. Sometimes I make a side-joke to make them aware of it. But most times I am too tired to keep debating with them on how trolling is “just clean fun”. Sure the two people going back and forth are having fun, but the rest of us have to sit there and try and enjoy a game while others are seeing who can cut the deepest into the other person’s Ego.

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Melissa McDonald

20 years ago people worried that they could get “banned from the internet”. But everybody realizes now it’s the Wild Wild Web, and stuff like that almost never happens. “do as thou wilt” has become the creed of the High Church of Intarwebz.

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Armsbend

An astute observation on the human condition really.

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camelotcrusade

I’ve never played this type of game so I am wondering how much meaningful communication actually takes place. Could it be turned off altogether and replaced with signaling mechanisms, so as go here, target x, and things like that? I mean, you could still troll with those, but it’s not the same as telling people go kill themselves. Anyway just wondering whether it’s possible to fix toxicity the same way some some websites have handled it: by turning off the comments.

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mysecretid

I haven’t played Overwatch, but I have never used a headset when playing the Destiny games (or any games) on my PS4.

The Destiny games have emote choices, which are all I’ve needed to communicate thus far.

I know as sure as I’m typing this that I enjoy the games much more because I don’t have to listen to people’s toxic bullshit behavior while I play.

For whtever it’s worth,

Cheers,

DeadlyAccurate
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DeadlyAccurate

I’ve never turned on voice chat in Overwatch, and many times I turn off text chat. Most of the time what I’ve noticed in Quick Play is that the people who spend the most time bitching about the team are also the worst players, whereas if everyone is just playing and having a good time we do great.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

1). Communication is KEY.

2). No, because there’s things like communicating team comp, enemy position and character, abilities, etc.

3). Socialization is a good thing and there are some very fantastic people to meet in the community online. It’s unfortunate that the horribles drift in the mass with them but that is the same with society right now, unfortunately (Ever had that ONE rude, loudmouth person nearby at checkout at a store while everyone else is nice, chatting with cashiers, and even allowing the person with 1 item to go ahead of them? Ya, that one former person is the real life toxic.)

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

You can go watch vids about toxic Overwatch players on youtube.

People get whiny and nasty because you pick someone they dont think you can play, they get nasty because you are a specific gender, i.e. female, they get nasty because you are female and not playing Mercy.

It really is sad to listen to.

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Melissa McDonald

As much as I would like to believe I am too mentally strong to be a so-called “feminist” that complains about inequities, I have to admit that I have been picked on in video games, I’m almost certain, for being a girl. I’m doubly sure I’ve been targeted in PvP for that. And never by a female character. What you’re saying doesn’t surprise me at all.

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mysecretid

An anecdote which might amuse?

Years ago, in City Of Heroes, my guild-of-real-life friends were working on one of the PvE missions set inside one of the game’s PvP zones.

We were meeting up. Our friend Rae was the first to arrive, and she was playing a stylized superheroic version of herself (it was a “conceit” of the guild — we all did this with our mains).

I arrived second, but I was high up in the sky, on lookout.

I saw these three little shites vectoring in on “the chick” to gank her — surreptitiously stealthing their way to her position.

I tipped Rae, and the rest of the guild on the incoming gankers, and we co-ordinated something …

Just as these guys were about to strike, the guild en masse dropped out of the sky into a circle around Rae. Basically, the entire guild appeared in force.

One of us said something in chat like, “Did you guys want something?”

They ran like the punks they were … :-D

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

So if you can’t fight toxic behavior, what other option there is? let it happen without a fight? defeatist attitude is not the solution, as Kaplan said, it is a continual process, and we have to admit, it is a cultural and social problem, different societies have different ways to deal with technology, tech is not the only way to solve these problems.

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Bhima Jenkins

I sympathize with devs and those in gaming communities that constantly butt up against these people. I also sympathize now with Blizzard on their Real ID program. True, it is overall a bad idea, but it would reduce the amount of toxicity by removing some of the anonymity.

Part of the problem is that PvP based games sort of attract this type of attitude. Not just bringing in the worst people, but also bringing out the worst in normal people. Of course, that isn’t to say we should not have PvP-based games, its just that some of the toxicity will have to just be accepted as par for the course in these types of games.

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Jack Kerras

It’s weird to me that we’re all participating in this thing, that we all have this shared interest and real reasons to be cool to each other, and somehow there’re folks who just decide that the community they’re making use of doesn’t matter. Contributing to the community by being helpful and engaging with other people is just good for the games that you like; being a trolly asshole is bad for them.

There’s some degree of humor in this stuff, but everyone knows it goes WAY beyond humor WAY too often, including the people who do it. They’re anonymous, and no one can step up and sock them in the fucking mouth for being such an asshole, or stop the game until they leave once they’ve arrived, which is exactly what would happen if this were a quick basketball or football or… fuck, I dunno, stickball game among friends.

This is the one thing I don’t like about video games. Huge assholes think ‘Oh, it’s just a game, lighten up’, despite the fact that they are there playing a completely different game, in which they ruin the amusement of other people as often and as terribly as they possibly can, actual game mechanics irrelevant. At what point, I wonder, do you stop blaming other people for being thin-skinned and go ‘Oh fuck, I guess -I’m- the asshole here.’?

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Nathan Aldana

never. because assholes dont usually tend to have empathy for their victims.

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mysecretid

One thing I have noticed about the genuine assholes and the genuine riminals I have encountered in my life — anything bad that happens is never, ever their fault. It’s always someone else’s doing.

When things get tough, they take responsibility for nothing.

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TomTurtle

This article’s title amused me. It’s good to see Blizzard acknowledging the issue, and it kind of reinforces my view that they want to make Overwatch as friendly as possible to a diverse crowd. Letting toxic turds rule the roost in online communities can be a big turnoff to many and is rarely a benefit to a game’s bottom line in the long run.

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birini

Blizzard is increasingly hostile to the sensibilities of the hard-core gamers who made the company successful and allows their CMs to completely disengage from the boards or — worse — engage in snark against people who dislike the direction the company is going in. Then they decide what they really need is a first person shooter/arena game because those are renowned for their helpful, supportive community. It would almost be like Longshanks (from Braveheart) saying, “Wait, brutal, power-hungry, sexual predator lords are moving to Scotland after I instituted prima nocta? How did that happen?”

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Melissa McDonald

although sad and a bit on the brutal side, that almost made me laugh.

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Darthbawl

“Toxic Turds” — band name! :P

what-4
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what-4

Seems like a fairly futile hill to fight on.

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Sray

You don’t just fight the fights you can win: you fight the fights that need to be fought.

No single game company is going to patch out bad player behaviour. Instilling a sense of etiquette in a largely anonymous forum (the Internet) is the social engineering challenge of our lifetime; and change won’t happen overnight, but ignoring the need will only slow the process down.

what-4
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what-4

“No one WILL EVER patch out bad player behaviour”

Fixed that for you. Its not possible, companies can spin their wheels all they want. I dont care, I am either in private voice coms or not in them at all. I have NEVER dealt with this “toxicity”. IMO its not a problem. Mute them, ignore them, move on.

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Sray

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Ignoring problem behavior will not fix it. We will never stop people from occasionally acting like jerks in any forum, but over time we can teach ourselves and our children to behave on the Internet as they would in real life. It is the job of everyone to make that happen one day; including these game companies by giving us tools to correct behavior that is out of line.

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Nathan Aldana

You really cant ignore when someone decides to intentionally sabotage his own team for lulz.

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Jeff

For Context I suggest folks read Jeff’s EQ blog on Wayback….It goes a bit beyond “mean things”
If lighting actually struck the hypocritical Jeff would no longer be with us.

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Loopy

I think it’s fair to say that it’s possible that Jeff got more mature and changed his behaviour after almost 20 years.

Let’s not judge people on what they said during early adulthood.

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Utakata

He was a raid leader back then that went on to help develop a MMO to my understanding. Now he’s running a multiplayer shooter unapologetically. So something most certainly changed on his way to the Colosseum. O.o

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Jeff

Point taken we all grow up (or not) but honestly, especially where MMO’s are concerned…Rob Pardo’s and Jeff’s antics pretty much set the toxicity tone in EQ, and in MMO’s in general.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he realizes that and truly want’s to effect change. I just hope that this new diversity honestly means everyone is included not just everyone that supports a specific ideology.

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Utakata

“I just hope that this new diversity honestly means everyone is included not just everyone that supports a specific ideology.”

…and if it does, I doubt it would effect anyone negatively in general, save those who pursue an agenda of toxicity. To which most of us wont miss much if that ends up being the case when the banhammer hits the road. :)

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Arktouros

While I think, on some level, there should certainly be some measure of reporting features against toxicity in competitive gaming I think ultimately these guys are just spinning their wheels in the mud. Add an ignore or block or mute feature and call it a day.

Social behavior is incredibly adaptive. If you lock down one kind of behavior they’re just going to adopt a different form of behavior. Fundamentally they’ll never really get at the root of the issue, the salty interior that competitive games ultimately fosters and grows. Really they should be educating people on how to handle a toxic team mate and some of the ways you can have fun with people as they lose their shit.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

I recommend swift, permanent bans on behavior that even walks the line. It won’t hurt Blizzard’s bottom line in any noticeable way and will make it clear to people with no self-control or sense of sportsmanship that they’ll just be throwing away $40.

Doesn’t require a lot of fancy systems, just raw people power to examine reports, investigate, and act accordingly. Nobody involved with actually developing the game need be involved so development doesn’t need to be slowed down. It still takes money, but I assume it’s worth it to keep making a bunch more money and have a much more pleasant playerbase.

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Serrenity

I worry about accidental banning, or people manipulating the system as a method of trolling. If you have even a small number of players who get incorrect permanent bans, Blizzard is going to have a lot of negative publicity and (more) angry players

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birini

Do we know for sure how important to the bottom line Overwatch is? I don’t really feel like digging through the financial statement but comparing Overwatch to the pay-to-win games like Hearthstone would be enlightening.

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Chris Moss

YOU WILL NEVER TAKE TOXIC BEHAVIOR OUT OF PVP!

You make a game mode, that pits players vs players. Of course there will be players who are naturally toxic, and those that grow bitter through constant death and other players harassing them.

Again….. YOU WILL NEVER GET RID OF TOXIC PLAYERS!

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Serrenity

You know, I have to wonder why don’t we see this kind toxicity in casual sports? All the community softball, basketball, baseball, frisbee golf teams — none of those get toxic (in broad strokes). Just looking at that, I don’t think it’s fair to say that we will never get rid of toxic players, because video games seem to be the only place where we have this kind of problem.

Sure, sure we can make excuses about internet and blah blah blah, but really, that’s just making excuses. Other competitive environments don’t have the same toxicity amongst the participants.

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steve

If you haven’t seen this behavior in casual pick-up games, then you’ve been very fortunate.

Ever seen an all-star parent go apeshit when his little darling gets “held back” by the filthy casuals on the team? Ever watched a group of teenagers get into a fistfight over a game of basketball?

This is nothing new. If you want good behavior and sportsmanship you need a referee, not an algorithm.

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Schmidt.Capela

What do you mean by “casual”, the ones where players are more interested in having fun than in winning? Because when winning ceases to be the main goal of everyone taking part in the PvP activity, toxicity tends to vanish.

This, BTW, is why I prefer to mainly play PvP games, and game modes, that don’t reward winning, or failing that those where the rewards for playing and losing are almost on par with those for winning. The resulting environment makes the game far more enjoyable for me.

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Wakkander

Anonymity

Casual sports leagues you are having a good time playing with others who all know they aren’t going pro. Some of them are friends or co-workers, people you will see again. These are people in your community, and you are on display publicly before the community.

e-Sports on the other hand you are anonymous and playing with other anonymous users, you are unlikely to ever play with any of them again unless you made a pre-made team with them.

Add in the Dunning-Kruger effect where people are convinced they would be winning and totally be on the pro scene if it wasn’t for the others on the team.

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Sray

Actually, it’s a lack of immediate consequences that is at the root of the issue. Anonymity is simply the means by which consequences are avoided. The fact that people regularly spew absolutely hateful crap out on their Twitter and Facebook feeds without anonymity shows that it’s not about the fact people don’t know who you are; it’s because you’re not going to get punched in the face. One needs to look no further than Pewdie Pie’s latest bonehead move to see that.

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Chris Moss

There is a difference when you play a sport style game. Where you have time to plan out plays, and takes like an hour to play a game.

PVP Shooters and Combat style modes are completely different. You usually have a low hp bar, you have people one shooting you, plus their is the added bonus of…..\

MOTHER F*CKING HACKERS

They infest any game they can. If they can use an hack that increases their chances of winning, they do it.

Go play APB Reloaded for about an hour or 2. You will come out of that game the most toxic person alive. And I actually LOVE APB, but they hackers have ruined it for me.

what-4
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what-4

Its not an excuse, anonymity breeds toxicity.

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Serrenity

But … there’s no define-able reason that anonymity *has* to breed toxicity. And lets be honest, while there’s lots of air time for asshats of the world, the people who manage to be anonymous and not toxic in games (and on the internet in general) exceed the number of people who are anonymous and toxic.

Toxicity is a less common outcome of anonymity. Toxicity isn’t the inevitable result of anonymity. Hell, for all it’s worth, MOP is full of anonymous people who generally keep from being toxic. To me, that says that we use the internet and anonymity as an excuse to be terrible to each other – anonymity does not mandate toxicity.

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steve

I agree it has less to do with anonymity/pseudonymity and more to do with Massively having active moderation, and even for a “small” website the cost of moderating a divisive thread is greater than the revenue earned from such a discussion.

I don’t see how a game with millions of players could apply active moderators and remain profitable, though I’d love to see someone try it.

what-4
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what-4

People are shit. What you see in your day to day is a LIE. Most of the people would trample over you to get what they want or need if society would allow it. I would argue that that anonymity brings out the true nature of people.

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Harry Koala

Sure there is.

Most people are basically nice. A few people are irredeemable assholes. The assholes are kept in check in most things by the fact that there are consequences for being an antisocial, unpleasant asshole, and the negative consequences outweigh the benefits.

(And where the negatives don’t outweigh the positives, you get assholes in real life, witness school bullies, fraudsters etc.).

On the internet, with anonymity in place, there is essentially no negative consequences for being an asshole, so those who are so inclined get free reign.

It doesn’t help that that kind of asshole attitude is something most people grow out of over time, so it is most prevalent in (although certainly not limited to) teenagers and 20-somethings, and rather less common in the over 60’s for example. But guess which group is more likely to be playing online multiplayer games.

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Schmidt.Capela

Being anonymous doesn’t automatically turn a person into a toxic troll, but it does provide cover to those that were already predisposed to that and only restrained themselves due to the fear of social repercussions.

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Utakata

…sometimes they sprout pigtails so pink, you want to eat them as though they where made of cotton candy. <3

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Utakata

However, you can always build systems to deter them and encourage better behavior. Not sure why that is a difficult concept to understand. o.O

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