My Thoughts On Blizzard Banning The Use Of

My Thoughts On Blizzard Banning The Use Of

Reasonable, fair, logical responses are something we can all hope for but don't always receive. Blizzard, the creator of several rather popular games including Overwatch, have a history of making incredibly controversial changes and decisions. The latest of which revolves around the use of third party stat tracking programs, namely two known as Pursuit, and Visor. Blizzard have decided that the use of these programs constitutes an unfair advantage - and I most definitely agree that Visor does but Pursuit definitely doesn't. Let's take a closer look, starting with their forum post.

Okay, so, Blizzard (as usual) announced their decision via their forum. The post is much of the usual anti-cheat stuff, nothing particularly special. The first paragraph states:

...a third-party application that offers users information such as enemy position, enemy health, enemy ability usage, or Ultimate readiness...

Sound reasonable to me, they then go on to point out how such software is in violation of the EULA and how their stance has always been against any software that provides "any sort" of unfair advantage.

Looks like they're really pushing the whole unfair advantage thing, let's take a look at the two programs, Pursuit and Visor in a bit more detail.

I strongly agree with Blizzard in regards to Visor - and I'm really suprised they didn't clarify that it's use was prohibited any sooner. Here's the description of what Visor does according to their site:

Visor provides real-time feedback and alerts in the form of graphical overlays on the game. I fully agree that this constitutes an unfair advantage (blatant cheating) as the whole purpose of it is to provide real-time advice and help - information that takes hours and hours of practice to learn otherwise.

Now, this is where I strongly disagree with Blizzard, Pursuit uses the open source screen capturing software known as OBS (which is used by many for recording and live-streaming) to take screenshots every few seconds throughout each game. At the end of the game these screenshots are uploaded to Pursuits servers (you can even pause the upload and upload them anytime in the future) where they are then subjected to optical character recognition to extract statistics from the UI, these stats are then presented to the user on Pursuits website.

There is nothing that Pursuit provides that couldn't be obtained manually.

The main reason I can't find a way to view this as cheating is because it's not real-time, Pursuit analyses the screenshots and provides the stats after the game has finished. You could equate it to manually entering your stats into an Excel spreadsheet - admittedly it also has averages for each rank but that's something you can obtain from a number of different websites.

Game publishers generally take the issue of cheating very seriously (and rightly so), they use anti-cheat software which looks for process names matching a predefined list, any interference with the game's RAM or files, any open handles to the games processes, and various other things - it's a constant game of cat and mouse with the developers of actual cheats such as: wall hacks, aim-bots, and so on and so forth. It honestly does feel like a bit of a privacy invasion but it's the price we all have to pay because of those who somehow feel the need to cheat.

Pursuit does not alter or read any game code or memory, nor does it control the game directly or indirectly and as such does not exploit any bugs, or provide any live advantage at all - and even imagining a potential future state where provides a lot more detail and coaching advice - it only levels the playing field; very few people have access to anyone to analyse their game play in anyway whatsoever - those who do have a massive advantage. Pursuit doesn't do anything to the game thousands of people don't do already - it takes pictures and looks at them later.

Blizzard's Email Warning

A lot of people (including myself) have received that email, at least Blizzard had the sense to "warn" people - otherwise they'd be banning pretty much everyone who takes the game seriously - although I wouldn't be at all surprised if they did.

Going back to Blizzards blog, specifically this part:

...a third-party application that offers users information such as enemy position, enemy health, enemy ability usage, or Ultimate readiness...

Pursuit doesn't offer any of that - and even if it did, it would only be accessible AFTER the game has finished, Pursuit could provide the user with any information it likes at this point and I still wouldn't class it as anything like cheating.

My favourite part of their post is the following paragraph:

We take competition very seriously in Overwatch. The foundation of good competition is every player being equally-equipped to compete against one another, but many third-party applications erode the level playing field in Overwatch we strive for.

I love how Blizzard is living up to the Overwatch mentality of ignoring ones own issues and blaming everyone else first. The fact of the matter is these tools wouldn't even exist if Blizzard had implemented a way to view match history. Something many games have and if they don't have it, they don't complain when other people fill the void.

It's really quite a ridiculous decision that Blizzard have made and I hope that they swiftly realise the mistake they have made. There are "unfair advantages" all over the place, higher refresh rate monitors, better PC's, better mice, keyboards, coaches, and so on. If they're really going down this road then we'll all have to question everything we do, I watch <this> streamer, and I learn from them - is that "cheating"?

The real kicker here is the fact that Pursuit is official partners (something that requires Blizzard approval) with Philadelphia Fusion (an Overwatch League Team), several Overwatch World Cup teams, and is used by many professional players and coaches - along with the rest of us. Oh, not to mention the fact that no one I've seen has any problem with the use of Pursuit.

Not really sure why I decided to type this up, it's a topic that I felt the need to talk about and I hope that my words combined with those of many others make Blizzard realise (once again) the error of their ways. We can only hope they do so and perhaps, for once, listen to what their player base has to say. Maybe Tom Powers has become the vigilante that no one asked for, who knows what will happen next? Tune in next week to find out... Or don't, I probably wouldn't as I doubt there'll be anything to see, but who knows! Tune in next week to find out.

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Owen Nelson

Owen Nelson

IT Systems Administrator from Northamptonshire, UK. Always on the lookout for ways to make things faster and more secure - and I enjoy getting through a fair bit of Tea along the way.

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