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Overwatch's Competitive Mode Is About To Get An Overhaul

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Overwatch’s first competitive season is winding down in a couple days, but season two is set to kick off in a few weeks. If you didn’t love season one, Blizzard’s really hoping season two will be more to your liking.

In a new video, Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan broke down the upcoming changes to competitive mode.

Here are the biggies:

  • The skill rating system is getting turned on its head. Instead of a 1-100 ranking system, it’ll soon be 1-5000. That way, you’ll be moving up and down in whole numbers, hopefully leading to a less confusing progression.
  • Skill ratings will also be divided into tiers. There will be seven total. Some of the ones mentioned include gold, diamond, master, and grandmaster. “We don’t want that number to be the thing you associate with you as a competitive player more than anything else,” Kaplan explained. “We want you to realize that the skill rating is naturally gonna go up or down as you play competitive matches... We want to focus you more on ‘I’m a gold player.’ Sometimes my skill rating goes up or down, but I think of myself as a gold player.”
  • Even if you fall below the numerical rating of the highest tier you’ve earned, you won’t fall out of that tier (unless you’re in the top two tiers). Kaplan explained that he doesn’t want competitive mode to be a disheartening slog, and if you slip, you should have some time to pick yourself back up again.
  • Sudden death is dead. So is its reviled sidekick, the coin toss. Ties will happen, but Kaplan believes they’ll be very rare. For instance, the only way a tie might be able to happen on a payload map is if nobody on either team pushes the payload at all. “That seems exceedingly rare,” said Kaplan.
  • Competitive points are being multiplied by ten. You’ll get ten times more, weapons will cost ten times more, and anything you have right now will be given the times ten treatment. Why? Kaplan didn’t really explain. Big fuckin’ numbers are cool, I guess.
  • The time bank system, currently present on assault maps, is coming to hybrid and payload maps. Say you push the payload all the way to the end and have three minutes left. You’ll then get another round to see how far you can push the payload.
  • Players will get a decent number of competitive points for a tie. Not as many as for a win, but it won’t feel like a loss, either.
  • Players with wildly different skill ratings will not longer be able to group up. If you want to be in the same competitive group, you’ll soon have to be within 500 skill rating points of each other, per the new system. Blizzard wants people to be able to play with their friends, but they don’t want to leave a loophole open for exploits.
  • The top three skill rating tiers (diamond, master, and grandmaster) will be subject to skill rating decay. If you don’t play for seven days, you’ll start losing 50 skill rating points every 24 hours. Kaplan explained that this is because he wants top players to really earn their spots. However, he doesn’t want competitive mode to be overbearing. “We’re not asking you to play 20 hours a day,” he said. “We’re just making sure you’re checking in with the system.”
  • To break into the top 500, you’ll need to have played at least 50 competitive matches in a season. This is to ensure that people don’t place into/near the top 500, stop playing, and hold a spot so they can reap the competitive point rewards.

“We want season two to feel kind of like a new beginning,” Kaplan concluded, adding that the competitive overhaul will soon be on Overwatch’s public test servers. It’s certainly different, and while I still feel like something more deliberately teamplay-oriented would make more sense for Overwatch specifically, I can understand why Kaplan and co are hesitant to go for it.

In the meantime, it sounds like we’re getting a system inspired by DOTA 2 and League of Legends. Not sure how I feel about some of the smaller things (I could see trying to play with friends quickly turning into a real mess), but we’ll see. What do you think?