Overwatch Removes Avoid Player System With New Patch That’s Now in Public Testing

A new update for Overwatch is now available on public test servers, giving players a chance to try out the changes prior to them going live for everyone.

The test offers a look at Competitive Play, as well as some other fixes and changes. Competitive Play allows for a “more serious experience,” though you’ll first need to play 10 placement games before you start getting matched up against people who are at your skill level.

Blizzard’s patch notes only talk broadly about what’s changed exactly since the version of Competitive Play that was available during the beta. “Some of these changes are simple interface changes, while others ensure that maps and modes don’t favor one side or another–plus we’ve added a sudden death mechanic that ensures tied games are broken as fairly as possible,” it explains.

There are also stricter penalties for leaving or going idle during matches. You’ll be unable to start a new match while one you left is still going on, and repeatedly leaving “could result in restrictions or removal from Competitive Play.”

Among the other changes in the update are a tweak to Widowmaker’s Ultimate so that her voiceline is heard by everyone on the map and the removal of the Prefer/Avoid player system. This currently allows you to designate other players as ones you either do or do not want to play with again in the future. There’s no explanation for this change in the patch notes, but a lengthy forum post from director Jeff Kaplan about matchmaking does touch on it.

“We are constantly improving the matchmaker. We learn more each day. We have one of our best engineers and best designers full time dedicated to the system,” he explained. “Many of those ‘silent’ patches that go out during the week are adjustments to the system.

“For example, we recently realized that ‘Avoid this player’ was wreaking havoc on matchmaking. 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. As a result, we’ve disabled the Avoid system (the UI will go away in an upcoming patch). The system was designed with the best intent. But the results were pretty disastrous.”

You can test out this new update for yourself if you’re playing on PC by following the instructions from Blizzard below. While the test is PC-only, many or all of the changes will also eventually go live in the Xbox One and PS4 versions.

  1. Restart the Battle.net desktop app.
  2. Navigate to the Overwatch tab on the left-hand menu.
  3. Select “PTR: Overwatch” from the REGION/ACCOUNT drop-down menu.
  4. Click “Install” to begin the installation process.
  5. Once the PTR client is installed and updated, click “Play” to begin!

Blizzard updated the PC version of Overwatch recently, bringing changes to both McCree and Widowmaker.