Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has taken to the official Overwatch forums to condemn player use of custom game Skirmishes to farm experience points while inactive. The development team is also preparing measures to ban the accounts of those who participate in these activities.
Kaplan went further and warned that continued abuse of the system by the community in general could even lead to experience points being removed from custom games altogether.
We've reproduced the full statement for you below, but first of all here's a quick summary of the key points from last night's announcement:
- The team was aware of the potential for exploits with the new feature, but wanted to give the community the benefit of the doubt.
- There is now an AFK timer in custom game Skirmishes. This will roll out globally in the next 24 hours.
- If you create - or join - a match advertising itself as a way to farm experience points, you risk having your account banned. Even naming a server in jest could result in you losing your account.
- There is an internal escalation path for dealing with this risk. The final stage will be removal of experience points from custom games entirely.
- Kaplan ends by imploring the community to help Blizzard retain experience gains in the Game Browser, and to report anyone abusing the system using the in-game reporting tool.
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.
I’ve seen some discussion in the community and in the press on this topic and sometimes it gets talked about as if it is a grey area. Is this wrong or is this ok? Well, let me take a grey area and make it starkly black and white for you. Abusing and exploiting Custom Game or any other game mode to earn experience in Overwatch while inactive is NOT ok.
The reason I want to be absolutely clear about this is because we are going to start to take disciplinary action against people who partake in these activities. If you create a Custom Game that in any way encourages players to gain experience while inactive, you risk having your account banned. If you join any game mode – including Custom Games – with the intent of gaining experience while being inactive, you risk having your account banned. Also, do not name your Custom Game that in anyway even implies that gaining experience while inactive is OK – please do not even do this as a joke – because you are putting yourself at risk of having your account banned.
We are not naive 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 [sic] 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.
Obviously, I know what our plan is and how we will ramp things up to combat this behavior here on the Overwatch Team. But at this point, I am making a plea to you – the Overwatch Community at large: please decide what you want to happen here and be a part of the solution. If you enjoy Custom Games awarding experience then please help us combat the behavior we’re seeing now. Do not create Custom Games with the intent of gaining experience while inactive. Don’t join those games. Don’t jokingly put those names in your own Custom Games. And report players who are abusing the system.
We, as much as the vast majority of you who are enjoying the feature as designed, do not want to see experience gain go away. Please help us out here.