While we count down the days until Blizzard releases the next Bastion-themed animated Overwatch short, the developer is announcing a slew of updates for the mega-popular multiplayer shooter. With Gamescom currently underway in Europe, Blizzard took the opportunity to release a lengthy video addressing its controversial competitive multiplayer mode in a video featuring game director Jeff Kaplan.
Here are the biggest changes that Kaplan revealed in the video:
The current skill rating system is getting revamped. Currently, Overwatch uses a system that ranks you between 1-100, but soon that will expand to 1-5000. Suddenly, being rank 59 feels a whole lot less impressive than it did after my placement matches.
Skill ratings will be divided into different tiers. Much like in StarCraft, Overwatch will be divided into seven different tiers based on player skill level. Considering what Kaplan mentioned in the video, it’s safe to assume that these tiers will be bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, master, and grandmaster.
There will be a safety net, of sorts. If you fall below the numerical rating necessary to remain in the highest tier you’ve earned, you won’t be downgraded out of that competitive tier. (Unless you’re in Grandmaster or Master, but those are meant to be the most elite competitors in the world). Basically, Kaplan and company don’t want you to get too bummed out if you find yourself on an interminable losing streak, something to which any solo queuer out there can relate.
The top three skill tiers will feature rating decay. What this means is that for those players in the top three skill tiers—diamond, master, and grandmaster—is that they must play at least one match every seven days or their competitive skill rating will begin to atrophy. After seven days without playing, your skill rating will decrease
You need to play consistently to be in the top 500 players. As Overwatch currently stands, many players can get an artificially inflated competitive rank depending on how they performed during their placement matches. This can lead to a level of incongruity between a player’s competitive ranking and their actual skill level. In order to separate the sick zebras from the wheat, Blizzard is implementing a policy that all players must have at least 50 competitive matches under their belt during a given season in order to qualify for the top 500 players. This doesn’t mean you have to play for 20 hours a day, as Kaplan noted, but rather that you are an active part of the community.
RIP sudden death and the coin toss. While the sudden death mechanic has made for some thrilling conclusions, it has also made for immensely frustrating ones, with the coin toss often giving a perceived advantage to players on offense. Kaplan and the Overwatch team agreed with fans who complained about the game-deciding mechanic, and are discarding it in favor of a best-of-5 match scenario coupled with the time bank system used on assault maps. This time bank system will now be applied to all maps, making victory a combination of distance, time, and skill. Ties will be possible, but rare, and will still net you a few competitive points.
On Tuesday, Blizzard revealed another addition to their ever-evolving title, a new map called Eichenwalde, a sprawling Payload map set in a German castle town:
Nestled in Germany’s Schwarzwald (“Black Forest”), Eichenwalde is the former home of Balderich von Alder, a German military officer who made a fateful last stand in Eichenwalde Castle against an advancing horde of murderous machines during the Omnic Crisis. Players must escort a battering ram from one end of the map to the gates of Eichenwalde castle in order to retrieve Balderich’s body, which currently sit atop the throne. Man, between Leoric, Arthas, and Balderich, Blizzard really has a thing for hulking dead guys in giant suits of armor sitting imperiously atop thrones, huh?
Season one of Overwatch competitive mode ends on August 18. The new map and these changes will likely coincide with the launch of season two, which is presumed to kick off in early September.
What do you think of these changes to Overwatch? Are you excited for the new map? When will we learn about Sombra? Let us know in the comments below.