Activision Blizzard’s online hero shooter Overwatch is a massive success. It just recently hit 10 million players in its first month of release. In Pixelkin’s review, Stephen Duetzmann called it “an amazing game and…a worthwhile addition to anyone’s library.” People around the world on PC and consoles are healing with Lucio, sniping with Widowmaker, and getting frustrated with Bastion. But one thing they haven’t done yet is play in a ranked match.
“The thing that we’re working on right now and really focused on and hoping to deliver at the end of June is our competitive play update,” says Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan in the latest Developer Update (above). Kaplan details that “competitive play is an area where players who want to take the game a little more seriously and focus their efforts.” Overwatch had a Competitive Mode in place during the Beta. But based on player feedback, they decided to temporarily remove and rework it.
The biggest issue was the length of Seasons. All of Blizzard’s online games use Seasonal ranked modes. At the end of the set time, all rankings reset. This gives players incentive to continue to play throughout the year, as well as allowing for some major periodic shake-ups. A month-long season works for Hearthstone, but for Overwatch it was way too short. Overwatch’s upcoming competitive play mode will be based on actual real-world Seasons, lasting about two and a half months. Blizzard plans on matching up Overwatch’s seasons with our own—the very first ranked Season will begin shortly to coincide with the beginning of summer.
Competitive Play won’t be a simple change in name from Quick Play. Kaplan mentions several important gameplay changes that will be implemented, such as decreasing the rate of Sudden Death and changing the format of Assault maps. Kaplan is cagey on the details. “I apologize for not giving all the details right now. We’re going to have a lot of explanations coming very soon that’s going to detail what’s going on in these format changes.”
Progression vs Skill is also a major concept to get reworked for competitive play. Players will gain a Player Rating after their placement matches. This rating will be openly visible before matches, and even display the team’s average. This lets you determine how fair the upcoming match will be, and how much you stand to gain or lose. “That level of transparency is something people have been really asking for in competitive play. They want to see their skill. They want to know how their skill matches up with other players.”
Jeff Kaplan’s earnest approach to gameplay discussions is eminently refreshing. Blizzard Entertainment’s post-game support is legendary. Given Overwatch’s incredible popularity, we’ll continue to see regular updates, changes, and additions for the foreseeable future. “We really appreciate your patience and support throughout [the launch]. It’s been very overwhelming to the entire team and all of Blizzard to have so many people enjoying the game right now. Thank you for being a part of Overwatch.”