Towards the end of last month, Overwatch received its first major update that introduced Competitive Play to the multiplayer FPS for the first time. This pretty significant change forced a more serious approach to play, however hasn’t exactly had the smoothest of launches and it seems Blizzard is still trying to figure out the best way to gauge player performance in relation to Skill Rankings.
One particular instance which appears to have negatively affected matches is when players decide to duck out before their conclusions. As a result of how the previous system operated, fewer skill points were in turn allocated to winning teams as the game identified an unbalanced 6v5 team member outcome. Naturally, players expressed their concerns with this method, to which Blizzard duly responded to on Friday.
“Previously, if a player from either team left mid-match, the game would automatically recalculate each team’s probability of winning, taking a look at not only who left the match, but also when they left,” explains a post on the official Overwatch blog. “The assumption was that if a team was a person down, the odds of them winning would go down, too, and that the most accurate thing we could do was account for this when adjusting each player’s Skill Rating at the end of the match.
“Despite being more accurate, we received a lot of feedback that this recalculation just didn’t feel great and that it incentivized bad leaver behavior—which is last thing we want to do in Competitive Play. As a result, the game will no longer recalculate each team’s probability of winning whenever one or more people leave. This means that your Skill Rating will always be adjusted based on your team's odds at the beginning of the match, even if there are leavers on your or the enemy's team.”
All good? Well, not really, as a bug apparently stopped the fix from working, prompting yet more angst from players, and causing Blizzard to follow-up again yesterday. In a second blog post from community manager Lylirra, she explained that the bug was in fact dealt with on Friday evening, saying: “At this time, we can confirm that the change is live and has been working correctly since last Friday night. While leavers previously had an impact on how Skill Rating was adjusted, they don’t anymore (and haven’t for a few days).”
Multiple players have since followed up suggesting the same issues remain unchanged, however Lylirra notes that “other factors”, beyond team numbers, impact Skill Rating—such as probability of success, individual performance, and win/loss streaks. She concludes her post with the suggestion that a misunderstanding of how the system works might be to blame, instead of perceived bugs, which is in itself an issue.
“In fact, a lot of the complaints in this thread seem to be a result of that confusion rather than any existing bugs in the system (we checked),” she says. “That's a concern for us, because we not only want Skill Rating to be accurate, but also for it to make sense. The fact that it doesn't is good feedback for us, and seeing how we can make Skill Rating feel better is definitely something we’ll be keeping in mind as we look at ways to improve Competitive Play for future seasons.”
The perception of balance in Competitive Play is clearly a difficult problem to solve. Even if Blizzard can confidently claimed to have fixed whatever is going on behind the scenes, player perception is ultimately more important. If the current system continues to cause confusion and discontent among players, a more substantial redesign might by on the cards—it's happened before, after all.