Team balance

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I almost joined their bloody team!
The Demoman
The Team Balance Icon

Team Balance is a gameplay feature that automatically balances teams that have been made uneven (for example, by a number of players disconnecting on one side) by switching one or more players at random from the side with the most players. When team balance is initiated, a timer appears informing the players how much time is left until the switch is made.

Though the balancing process is a necessary one, many players have voiced disapproval at being switched to the losing side shortly before the end of a match, or while playing on a team comprised of people with whom he is in charge of or engages in regular communication with. In such a situation, the switched player may choose to attempt to arrange a manual switch with a member of the opposing team.

It is generally frowned upon to switch back to your original team after being autobalanced (such as moving to spectate and allowing another person to be balanced, and reclaiming their spot on the original team).

In October 2014, Valve added the ability to call votes to enable or disable autobalance.

In December 2016, Valve released a new autobalance system and enabled it on all casual match servers. Should one team outnumber the other, a prompt will appear for select members of the larger team offering a chance to switch teams. Players switching teams are awarded more experience points at the end of the match. If no players switch, the members offered will be automatically switched. The members will still receive experience points if they are switched automatically.

Since May 2018 Patch, the autobalancing system no longer request players to join the other team; instead, it picks a random player, giving them a notice, shortly before being switched. The bonus experience points are still given to the switched player, at the end of the match.

Update history

October 25, 2007 Patch
  • Improved autobalance calculation code when determining who to switch.

February 28, 2008 Patch

  • [Undocumented] Changed team autobalance code to not balance the teams when the active round timer shows less than 60 seconds.

September 25, 2014 Patch

  • Updated the auto-balance code to immediately respawn players that are automatically switched, or that voluntarily switch, during a balancing period.

October 1, 2014 Patch

July 7, 2016 Patch

  • [Undocumented] Disabled autobalance on all Casual matchmaking servers.

December 21, 2016 Patch

  • New autobalance system to help with balancing teams when players leave a match. The system will ask players to volunteer to switch teams.
    • Automatically enabled for all Casual match servers
      • Players who switch will be able to earn bonus XP as a reward
    • Community servers can enable this new feature by using "mp_autoteambalance 2"

March 28, 2018 Patch #1

  • Updated the autobalance feature to more quickly respond to team imbalances.
    • Will select the best candidates to balance the teams then ask the candidates for volunteers.
    • If no volunteers are found, candidates will be switched when they die.
    • If no candidates die within a reasonable period of time, candidates will be forcibly switched to the other team.

May 17, 2018 Patch

  • Updated the Autobalance system to skip asking/waiting for volunteers. Instead, it will go straight to switching candidates to balance the teams.