The long-awaited debut of competitive Overwatch is upon us!
Game Director Jeff Kaplan announced on Friday that competitive mode would be released by the end of June! Seasons will be 3 months long interspersed with 2 week breaks, to coincide with the NA natural seasons. Naturally, first season will be Summer season. He acknowledged that competitive will be a work-in-progress, particularly since they scrapped their initial focus and reworked the entire game mode.
Let’s talk about that.
I had only two weekend beta invites, one of which fell on a weekend I was scheduled to work 48 hours in four days, and so you’ll have to take my internet research and Kaplan’s word on competitive mode’s original build. The focus was on progression which you gained similar to experience. Once you’d reached a certain tier, you could not fall below that tier for the rest of the (admittedly short) season and would focus only on upward mobility.
Unsurprisingly, players rejected this outright. We want to show off our skills. There is nothing of value in Challenger tier, if anyone could be Challenger given enough time. Blizzard scrapped the tiers altogether. The new competitive mode will be directly based on your matchmaking rating (MMR) percentile in comparison to all Overwatch players. This is translated into a 0-100 number, Jefcalled “Skill Rating (SR).”
In terms of transparency, Overwatch takes the cake. In every single competitive match, the loading screen shows each player’s SR, the overall average SR of each team, and which players are in a premade group. Your MMR will reflect how fair the match is when positive or negative points are assigned at the conclusion of the match. There are no screenshots of what this will look like, as yet.
On the positive side, every player can easily see where they are ranked, and the numbers are absolute MMR. However, it is unclear how MMR is actually built. Since it appears to be dynamic queue, with players able to queue solo or with a number of other players up to and including a complete premade, the MMR may actually be diluted and not as reflective of individual player skill. Still, the player skill rating does appear to be a true competitive mode and not just an alternative experience-gathering mode as it was presented in beta. Cheers to that!
Considering the sheer number of ‘champion mains’ I’ve come across in casual play, it’s interesting that no mention has been made at all about integrating role selection into the competitive play model. Overwatch has always relied heavily on counterpicking as a major game feature (which is why every champion is unlocked from the beginning of the game and champions can be changed mid-game), so it may be that game developers are trying to discourage champion mains as much as possible. Still, the more competitive the rank, the more likely that players will hotly contest champion picks.
Reward for competitive play includes cosmetic rewards like sprays and player icons. Kaplan also mentions a “Golden Gun System” which seems to be a cosmetic upgrade to the weapon of your primary champs in ranked. There will be some rewards that you can achieve only at the highest levels of skill. I can’t wait to see what that’s about!