On the 28th February Overwatch’s Custom Game Browser went live on all platforms and was unlike any other browser before it. The custom game modes allowed to you to change a wide range of things within Overwatch and also let you find other games. A great addition by the Blizzard team, but it wasn’t long before players noticed an exploit which soon became abused.
Image via Kotaku.
Players soon noticed that these custom games awarded experience, and experience leads to loot boxes. Of course, these exploiters were using the custom game tool to either quickly or idly gain experience, which was completely against what Blizzard had hoped and eventually led to a very sad post by Jeff Kaplan on the Overwatch forums.
When we introduced the Game Browser and new Custom Game features we were excited to allow players to earn experience playing the game in unique and different ways. We also knew that there was the potential for this system to be exploited but we wanted to give everyone the benefit of the doubt before becoming overly restrictive with the system. It’s very disappointing to us that players abused the system to gain experience while inactive. As some of you have noticed, Skirmish in Custom Game no longer rewards experience. Also, the AFK timer is now in place in Skirmish mode (in Custom Game only). This change is rolling out over a 24 hour period and should be live in all regions by the end of today.
Players have been abusing bugs and exploits in Blizzard games for the better part of a decade, Jeff, so you can’t be too surprised that this escalated so quickly. While exploits will always exist, Blizzard’s measures for dealing with them only get better with time. The new AFK timer will make sure people do not exploit experience, and those who continue to abuse or exploit features in the game will receive a permanent ban, and a strongly worded message from Jeff Kaplan.
We are not naïve to player behavior and motivation. When we put this feature live, we had an internal escalation plan for how to combat this behavior. Today marks the first steps on that path. And in a lot of ways it really makes me sad. The feature is so much cooler and better for everyone if we do not have to put draconic restrictions on it. To fast forward a bit, the end of the escalation plan will result in experience gain being turned off in Custom Game. I really don’t want to see us getting to that point. So I am going to ask for some help from the vast majority of you who are simply playing the game and having fun and not abusing it: please report those who are creating Custom Games with the intention of gaining experience while remaining inactive. If you select someone’s Custom Game you get three options: Spectate, Join and Report. These options exist on all 3 platforms. Use the Report feature. It works.
So there you have it, if you see someone abusing the system make sure you use that report function. There’s nothing more satisfying than received a notification that your report on someone led to disciplinary action, especially if they’re out there cheating the system.
If you partook in some experience farming, then shame on you. If you were considering it, don’t. And please don’t be the reason we lose our nice things.