In Overwatch, you win some and you lose some. Other times, you win some, you lose a lot, and you seriously consider going to Blizzard’s headquarters so you can do that thing where at first you’re yelling but by the end you’re crying, and somebody gives you a hug and says, “there, there.”
That is hopefully (!) an exaggeration for most people, but you get the idea. Losing streaks suck, especially in competitive mode, where your hard-earned skill rating is always on the line. Sometimes luck just isn’t on your side, and it feels unfair to have Lady Luck’s fickle whims determining a number that’s supposed to be a tangible measure of your ability level. As part of Overwatch’s latest big patch, Blizzard says they’ve changed that—or at least tweaked it to make you feel less like rage-vomiting gouts of actual lava from your mouth on a regular basis.
The change centers around Overwatch’s streak multiplier, which is a multiplier to skill rating changes based on consecutive wins or losses. It exists to quickly bring players up or down to a matchmaking bracket befitting their real skill level, something Jeff Kaplan recently claimed has rendered the practice of smurfing—that is, when a highly skilled player starts a low-level account to stomp newbies—nearly useless in Overwatch.
Still, the system is far from perfect. In an ideal world, says Blizzard, you’d have a 50/50 shot at winning every match you play. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out that way. You go on a multi-match losing streak, and your skill rating enters free-fall, striking a few particularly unfortunate birds on the way down. The latest change, at least in theory, slows that free-fall (but probably doesn’t save the birds).
“We’re changing the tuning of the streak multiplier to be quite a bit less aggressive,” principle designer Scott Mercer wrote on Overwatch’s forums. “You now need to win or lose more games in a row before any multiplier is used, and it scales up at a slower pace. Furthermore, we will now try to only use the multiplier in cases where the matchmaking system has some confidence that the player’s MMR and skill are wildly mismatched. In cases of natural, random streaks, you ideally shouldn’t see any acceleration either up or down at all.”
As Mercer pointed out, this will have an effect on win streaks as well, so it’s not like you’re suddenly gonna rocket through the ranks.
Still, anything that lessens the teeth-grinding frustration of competitive matches is good with me. I doubt this change is gonna turn ranked play into a rage-free zone, but it seems like a step in the right direction.