Overwatch's Play of the Game feature is sometimes a bit of a mess, but overall it's a very popular feature. Players get credit for being a hero amongst heroes, and maybe even more importantly everyone else bears witness to their mighty deeds too. In fact, it's such an important part of the experience that Blizzard wants to patent it.
The patent application was originally filed at the end of 2016, crediting lead gameplay programmer Keith Miron and designer Geoff Goodman as inventors, but only became public earlier this month. The abstract describes the system as scoring the events of a match "according to a plurality of criteria corresponding [to] a plurality of play of the game categories," which include such things as High Score, Life Saver, Sharpshooter, and Shutdown. One of those categories is selected by the server, some magic happens, and boom, it's Play of the Game for somebody.
The filing is very detailed in its descriptions of systems and also in the situation it covers, although there's a good bit of wiggle room too. Consider this description of the Sharpshooter scoring category:
"The 'sharpshooter' category focuses on plays which are impressive due to being a shot that is difficult to perform. In some embodiments, factors considered for scoring the 'sharpshooter' category include how far away the target was from the initial shot, whether the player making the shot and/or the player shot is in mid-air, the relative elevations of the player and the enemy, whether there were nearby objects that could have blocked the shot if off by a relatively small margin, whether a critical area of the enemy was hit (e.g. headshots), time between the opponent coming into line of site and the shot being made, speed of the enemy being shot, and so forth. In some embodiments, certain characters or types of events may be weighted less than others in the 'sharpshooter' category for some factors. For example, a sniper character generally has an extremely long range and therefore the distance factor may be weighed less heavily when determining the sharpshooter score for a sniper shot. In addition, certain factors may be weighted higher than others due to drastically increasing the difficulty of the shots, such as shots where the player, the enemy, or both are airborne. Furthermore, some characters may have abilities that let them float in the air and "rain justice from above" for relatively long periods of time and those characters may receive a lesser score from the factor related to being airborne. "
The filing also makes a point of differentiating the Play of the Game from other, superficially similar systems. Some games may record and play back the final kill in a game, for instance, but there's no guarantee that it will be an important kill—a bit like how the winning goal in a hockey game isn't necessarily the last goal scored.
"There may have been a situation earlier in the game where one player managed to survive and emerged victorious even while being severely outnumbered," the application states. "Capturing only the last kill would not make it possible to display such cases which would be considered far more impressive than a single kill that ended the game."
The patent application hasn't been approved yet, and I have no idea if it will at all. But the application itself makes for some very interesting reading, especially if you have an interest in how this stuff actually works.
Speaking of Overwatch, Blizzard rolled out a massive update today that overhauls Symmetra, makes big changes the Horizon Lunar Colony Map, and adds new Endorsements and Looking For Group social features. Get caught up with all that right here.