Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan has stated that Blizzard will be taking action against players who use custom games for AFK farming of Experience according to a post on the game's official forums.
Game browser functionality and better support for custom games were recently added to Overwatch in a patch just over a week ago. Initially announced in early February 2017, the game browser allows players to find custom games by filtering by the game name, map, or various other settings such as tweaked hero stats or different game rules. Ostensibly, the idea was for players to come up with interesting gameplay modes.
Unfortunately, some players have taken to naming servers with terms relating to AFK farming of experience. Similar to the Idling phenomenon in Team Fortress 2, players are sitting AFK in order to earn experience over time, level up, and earn loot boxes without having to actually be present to play the game. This was done either through the "Skirmish" gamemode (which has laxer rules relating to kicking) or by changing hero stats to keep players considered active (such as reducing turret damage and increasing health of characters so you're always "in combat").
This has resulted in some immediate changes. To start, Skirmish will no longer award experience in any circumstances whatsoever. As for people using game mechanics in custom games to idly gain experience, Jeff Kaplan has stated that they want the community to report any games or players they see engaging in this activity. The essence of the post is summed up in this section:
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.If Blizzard feels that players continue to abuse custom games for AFK farming of experience, they will escalate their responses accordingly. If it gets to be bad enough, Mr. Kaplan has cautioned that it may result in the removal of experience gain from custom games altogether. In the meantime, it's probably best if you avoid creating or joining any custom games that purport to allow AFK experience gain.
Quick TakeOn the one hand, I can understand Blizzard's response to this. AFK farming takes up server resources that are intended for people actually playing the game and it upsets the balance of the free(ish) side of earning loot boxes. On the other hand, I feel that the loot box system has a lot of flaws. I'm particularly displeased with the fact that you can get duplicates of items in a game with hundreds upon hundreds of custom items - you'd have to spend hundreds of dollars to get everything if duplicates weren't a thing, so the current system kinda feels like a bit of an insult to me - all the more so in a game that people paid $40-60 for upfront.
What do you think of players AFK farming experience in Overwatch? Do you think Blizzard is right to be concerned about this or do you think they're making a mountain out of a molehill? Do you feel that the experience gain in Overwatch and in custom games, respectively, is generous or too stingy? Let us know in the comments below!