Blizzard removes ‘Avoid this player’ feature from Overwatch after matchmaking abuse

Ben Parfitt
Blizzard removes ‘Avoid this player’ feature from Overwatch after matchmaking abuse

Some of Overwatch's best players found themselves victim of a matchmaking feature that allowed rivals to ostracise them.

Blizzard has said that it has disabled the ‘Avoid this player' menu option (the UI itself will be updated in a later patch) after players were using it to distance themselves from skilled rivals rather than steer clear of toxic gamers.

We recently realised that ‘Avoid this player' was wreaking havoc on matchmaking,” director Jeff Kaplan said in a forum post. One of the best Widowmaker players in the world complained to us about long queue times. We looked into it and found that hundreds of other players had avoided him (he's a nice guy – they avoided him because they did not want to play against him, not because of misbehavior). The end result was that it took him an extremely long time to find a match.

The worst part was, by the time he finally got a match, he had been waiting so long that the system had ‘opened up' to lower skill players. Now one of the best Widowmaker players was facing off against players at a lower skill level. The system was designed with the best intent. But the results were pretty disastrous.”

The post is actually full of fascinating information that provides a real insight into the challenges of creating and managing a good matchmaking system.

For instance, the following passage explain the difficulty in balancing up the need to find a ‘quick' match and the need to find the ‘best' match:

The matchmaker will try to find you match quickly and not force you to wait too long. A very common thing that happens is that a player will become dissatisfied with a match and say ‘I don't care how long you make me wait. I'd rather wait 20 minutes and have a good match than get matchmade into a match like you just put me into.' What we've seen is that when the time crosses a certain threshold, players begin to complain about it taking too long to find a match. It sounds good… waiting for that perfect match. But when the reality of waiting too long comes down on most people, they end up vocalizing their discontent on the forums. Also, there is an unrealistic expectation that if a player waits longer for a match, the ‘better' the match will be. The concept of ‘better' when it comes to matchmaking is a really hard one to define.

If I were to summarize match results into 5 broad buckets it would be these:

1. My team won. We beat the other team by a long shot.
2. My team barely won.
3. My team barely lost.
4. My team lost. We lost by a long shot. It wasn't even close
5. It was a broken match somehow. Maybe someone disconnected, was screwing around or we played with fewer than 12 people (of course there are more cases than this – I am overly simplifying here).

Most players will say that they want a match to be either type 2 or type 3 as I described above. Those sound even. Barely win or barely lose. But I believe when psychology comes into play, most players actually expect type 1 or type 2 to be the result. Even an amazingly close type 3 match can turn into a highly negative experience for a lot of players. And if you keep ‘barely losing' it's not a very fun night. Winning is fun and good. Losing is less fun than winning.

So waiting a really long time to lose by a long shot is obviously not good. But waiting a really long time to barely lose is also a negative experience. And if we assume that your chances of winning are 50%, that means that even waiting a really long time for a ‘better' match means that you're going to wait a really long time to probably lose half the time… If your expectation was that you were going to wait a really long time for an awesome match where you either 1) Won by a long shot or 2) Barely won… but still won nonetheless, your expectations for what the system can or should do are in the wrong place. We do not generate bots to take losses so you can win more than 50% of the time. Those are real people losing on the other end of every loss you take.”

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