Busy times for Overwatch 2, which is currently turning like an oil tanker towards its new future. Blizzard is still going to be delivering singleplayer content for the game, but the larger story focus has all-but-gone, and the current focus seems to be on making its new events feel, well, like events rather than another excuse to flog you a battle pass.
A new blogpost goes into detail on some improvements Blizzard's making to competitive play, including looking at how it matches friends with significantly different skill levels who want to play together. Blizzard says it's noticed something more interesting generally about getting a wide skill range into a given match: "we’ve started to prioritize placing similar groups with wide skill ranges into the same match: while this makes queue times a little longer for large groups, it helps to ensure a fair match".
Season 5 will also mark the return of the Competitive Mystery Heroes mode, a fan favourite mode that randomises team compositions and maps: lots of folk were pretty gutted when this was removed, and it is a lot of fun, so this is a bit of a sop in difficult times.
Then there's a whole big section on how skill ratings are calculated, with the three most important factors in how MMR is adjusted remaining:
- What is your skill rating compared to your opponents’ rating?
- How new are you to Overwatch?
- How frequently do you play that specific Competitive mode?
These are pretty self-explanatory: the second factor is why new players often see their skill tier and division wobble about a bit before stabilising. The third one is maybe the most interesting because it basically means you have to play often or the game gets uncertain about you and will make bigger adjustments when you do return.
We then get a visual of the competitive rank distribution on PC, showing Overwatch 2 has more players at the Grandmasters rank than ever before. Blizzard puts this down to simply having more players than ever in competitive, and says it's also down to players simply growing in skill.
Then the kicker: remember that thing about the game becoming unsure about you if you don't play that often? An unintended side effect of this is that "more players have ended up in Bronze 5 than we want. This is mostly an unintended side effect of adding MMR decay for inactive players in Overwatch 2". Blizzard says it's making "incremental adjustments" to allow more players claw their way out of Bronze 5 and says it's going to closely monitor the effects: so if you're in Bronze 5, blame Blizzard.
A new option for competitive is team queue, which requires you be in a group of five players, and has no grouping restrictions: so any combination of ranks. This will have a separate skill rating from the other competitive modes and role-lock the teams to one tank/two damage/two support heroes. It'll launch on July 11.
Competitive is clearly where the players are, judging on Blizzard's recent focus here: my favourite part of which was the game's director saying that Overwatch matches sometimes descend into "stomps" because, like, that's just the nature of things sometimes. It is a game that needs to make this new direction work, because it's probably just had its worst month ever.