Despite the popularity of Blizzard’s Team FPS, Overwatch’s Competitive Play has been the target of a lot of criticism. Their forums are littered with unhappy players voicing their discontent at the design. From the unbalanced win-loss gains and losses to a “Skill Rating” (SR) system that appears to ignore skill. Solo players wanted to play competitively but were often stuck with random groups (of questionable skill and teamwork) that led them on a downward spiral they could never rise from again. All the while, the response from Blizzard was silence as other players shouted “learn to play” and “Competitive isn’t for solo players.”
Apparently, Blizzard was listening as they’ve responded with a list of changes they’re testing out on the PTR. Scott Mercer, the principal designer, hopes these will answer many complaints, although they may not fix everything players are demanding. The primary focus is guaranteeing people are playing at their appropriate SRs and making sure they get there… without being drawn into the whirlpool of bad teams that drops people’s rankings.
Mercer said that one possibility they’re testing is to allow player’s original SRs to influence their starting rating in the new season. This approach looks to be like Hearthstone’s ranking system, which gives you a higher starting rating based on how far you made it in the previous season. Certainly, this would allow players to slowly “rise” in the rankings each season, but it doesn’t guarantee that those caught in the downward spiral will be able to dig themselves out.
Another area they’re looking at is improper placement of many players, who overfilled Gold and Platinum levels and left sparse players among Silver and Bronze. Many of these players could have received their initial ranking because of lucky placement matches rather than skill; that could explain why so many teams were riddled with unbalanced talent and experience. Blizzard’s solution is to look at new approaches for placement, which might place more people lower than they did for Season 2. To counter this, they might implement a new gains and losses system that will initially favor faster rises for those who win. The hope is to allow people to discover their SR naturally and to remain there, even with a 50/50 w-l ratio.
Of course, all of this is still in playtesting, and there’s no guarantee any of it will work. There are several areas they did not address, including fixing the problem with leaving players, the “win streak” system, or the demand for solo Competitive queues. Obviously they can’t address everyone (nor need they), but some of these are problems that have been brought up since Season 1.
Will these changes work out in the end and, if implemented, fix Competitive Play? That’s yet to be seen, but hopefully, something changes. Otherwise, Overwatch will continue to struggle to find its place in the eSports scene and bleed players.