Autobalance Hell

The Daily Grind by Bacxaber

Autobalance. It’s something we all hate. Some more than others. Often not as much as we hate random crits. But still, it’s a fucking bastard. And not just to Medics and Engineers, to every single class playing the game. You often don’t get any sympathy from your now former team mates either. Hence why comics like the one above, made by my dear friend Baxcaber, really hit you in the feels. It’s happened to pretty much anyone who’s played Team Fortress 2 for more than 10 hours. Probably less actually.

Thing is, it’s a necessary evil. Team Fortress 2 has always been a casual game, with players coming and going as they please. By the time you’ve switched map, it’s unlikely that all 24 players in the server will follow you over, unless you’re a very tight-knit community or there’s an event going on. Some will have left and gone to do other things, others rejoin in the process. This happens at any point in the game, whether the round has been won or not. So you end up with uneven teams half way through a match and it’s a little unfair to leave it like that. Autobalance kicks in and shuffles people around so both teams have even numbers.

But Autobalance doesn’t take the time to see what class you’re playing as. Or what you are doing for your team. Or anything at all really. All Autobalance sees is whether the teams have the same number of players and whether it needs to kick in or not. Generally, everyone will get a warning saying that Autobalance is about to occur. If you’re on the team with less players, that’s fine, but the team with more players could lose anything that dies within the next few seconds. Not a problem if you lose a Spy who’s just joined, a BIG problem if you’ve just run your flag-running Soldier, your team’s only Medic or an Engineer defending your base.

It’s overall unfair, even more so if you have worked hard to push on to win, only to be autobalanced to the losing team at the last minute. This is more common than you’ll think. When players realise what is about to happen and losing is imminent, people will start to get tired and leave. The losing team starts leeching players, creating a balance issue. But since Autobalance doesn’t know that time is running out or that people are capping the control point or about to catch the last intelligence, so it will go ahead and switch people, from the winning team to the losing one. Sacrifice yourself for your team and you can find yourself being humiliated by them ten seconds later.

The worst thing is being autobalanced in Arena Mode. Sometimes you’ll get unlucky, win a few rounds, then get team-switched to the losing team and have to sit out. But the sitting out thing is more an Arena problem than an Autobalance one.

Thing is, Autobalance can easily be fixed. It just needs a few rules to follow before it decides to switch someone. What rules? Well, here’s a few:

Do not switch players if there are only 30 seconds or less left on the clock. This one is obvious. Amazing things can happen in those last few seconds, so why spoil them for everyone involved?

Only switch Engineers if they don’t have any buildings still functional. Being teamswitched means that an Engineer loses all his buildings. While this isn’t such an issue for the Engineer himself, it’s a big problem for his own team, who have probably just lost their dispensers and teleporters too. The same should apply if there is only one Medic on a team.

Do not switch players if someone is carrying the intelligence, pushing the cart or capturing the control point. If you’ve got a Medic and a Scout Quick-fixing their way across 2fort and one of them dies while the other has the intelligence, imagine how shitty they’ll both feel.

Do not autobalance a player who has been autobalanced recently. It’s bad enough being switched to the opposing team, it’s even worse that it should happen multiple times.

You could include more rules, to catch more subtle but equally annoying instances of Autobalance, but those three rules should sort out the majority of annoying cases.

All we need to do now is repeatedly email this article to Valve and hope they do something.

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