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Overwatch Linux ban troubles seem resolved

As the Year of the Linux Desktop rolls on, a number Linuxeers playing Overwatch have reported being banned for supposedly cheating then seemingly unbanned after Blizzard realised it was a technical hiccup. Overwatch doesn’t have a Linux version, see, but unofficial tools can make it possible for pals of the penguin to run it – and Blizzard’s cheat-detecting guard dog last week apparently became confused and started barking at one such tool. Following a couple of frustrating and confusing days for grepheads, it seems cleaned up now but, y’know, I thought you might be interested to know.

The kerfuffle rippled across the Linuxsphere but was largely documented by Reddit poster “IngeniousDox” on the Linux Gaming board. That started last week when IngeniousDox said they found themself suddenly banned after a year of a happily Overwatching on Linux, and a number of other folks chipped in to say they’d been hit too.

IngeniousDox said their ban message gave Blizzard’s stock “Recent activity on this account shows the use of an unauthorized cheat program” ban message. It did look a little like Tuxnuts might perhaps get shut out as a side effect of Blizzard upgrading their anti-cheat.

While Overwatch doesn’t have an official Linux version, Blizzard have seemed to condone using technotrickery to play it outside Windows. One customer support person said in April that “playing on Linux or even a Mac while on an emulated Windows environment is not bannable,” adding the disclaimer that “Since the game isn’t actually designed for those operating systems, we can’t guarantee stability however.” But playing something in an unsupported way always brings the risk that you might get shut out by changes focused on platforms that are officially supported.

One theory among players was the bans were triggered by a new option added to DXVK, a tool which pushes games built for Windows on Direct3D to run through the Vulkan API on Linux using the popular tool Wine (this is me trying to avoid jargon). This was taken seriously enough as a potential cause that DXVK removed that ‘asynchronous shader compilation’ option – but some who’d not been using that option reported they had been banned too. In short, mysteries.

While the precise cause remains unknown, and Blizzard yet to issue a public statement, the situation seems cleared up.

“After performing an additional review of the evidence considered in this action, we determined that this account closure was an error,” reads the message IngeniousDox says they received from Blizzard. “We are reopening the license for play, and hope you will accept our sincere apologies for the mistake.” Other folks have reported being unbanned since.

While official Linux (and Mac) support for more games would be grand, unofficial support is still improving nicely – hiccups like this aside. Valve are working on expanding Steam’s Linux support so Windows games which play nicely with their customised version of Wine appear seamlessly in Steam libraries on Linux, working just like a game with official Linux support. Valve are also sharing their improvements with Linuxnauts at large, so it’s not just limited to Steam.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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