Director’s Take – Matching up the Fun

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Director’s Take – Matching up the Fun

There is a lot going on in the world of Overwatch right now. Season 5 launched this week, and we’ve started releasing information about Season 6—also known as Overwatch 2: Invasion—with its Story Missions, new hero, game mode, and much more.  This week, we’ll go over a few topics: Season 5 and the changes to the Battle Pass that we've made, the game modes that we'll be releasing this season—with a focus on the 5-stack mini-season—as well as some thoughts on stomps in Overwatch and how they relate (or don't) to matchmaking.

Let's jump into the Battle Pass. We've heard feedback that you would like to see more of the season's themed cosmetics in the Battle Pass. Our Mythic skin has always been a part of this system, and we've typically had several other themed skins, but for Season 5, nearly every one of the skins in the Battle Pass is based on Season 5's theme. What’s more, we've also made changes to the Mythic skin. This season, it has been broken into several parts, and scattered throughout the Battle Pass at different tiers, with the first unlocking at tier 45. We've also built a story into Season 5's Battle Pass. At certain tiers, players will not only unlock an item, but also unlock the next part of the Questwatch story.

Not every Battle Pass will be like this—we’re still experimenting with what feels best, and what can make a season more fun. Going forward, we'd like to continue to evolve the Battle Pass to help it feel fresh, on theme, and exciting.

This season, we're releasing several new game modes: four of them, in fact! Defeat the Demon Lord, developed by CactusPuppy, is our first ever creator-made game mode. We're also releasing a new Summer Games event, Winston’s Beach Volleyball. I'm super excited for Magic and Mischief, our take on prop hunt. A piece of feedback that we hear is that you would like the new modes we release to have more replayability built into them. PvP game modes, like prop hunt and volleyball, by their nature, have more replayability, and our goal is for players to be able to jump into these games more often.

The fourth mode we're releasing in Season 5 is our 5v5 Ranked mini-season. This mode will require a premade 5-stack to be able to queue for a match. Internally, we're watching your reaction to this mode closely. This is a different type of competition and rating than our standard ranked mode. If this proves popular, it could open the door for other types of competition in our game that are based on teams (like an internal tournament system or mode), or could potentially force us to take a harder look at the way we treat grouping restrictions in our current system. As we discussed this version of a competitive season, we also discussed the possibility of a solo/duo mini-season. We ultimately moved away from that over fears that it could pull too many players away from the main Ranked modes to degrade match quality and queue times. The 5-stack version felt like a safer mode to try first, although we'll be closely watching queue times here. There’s the possibility that they get quite long depending upon player participation.

So…. stomps. Stomps can happen in all games, and they happen in Overwatch.  When a stomp happens, it's easy to blame the matchmaker: the match felt unfair, so it must be because the other team was much better or worse than your own. That might not always be the case, though. We’ve been collecting data and lopsided matches tend to happen at the same rate, regardless of match quality. Even in matches where the skill difference between players is less than one division. Have you ever played a match in Control and gotten clobbered on the first point, only to turn it around on the second and then win the match?  During that first point, it's easy to think the match was made incorrectly. The point of this example is that we think there are mechanics in Overwatch that contribute to matches turning out this way. For instance, the way ult charge is generated in the game is a snowball mechanic, and it can be very hard to stop that momentum. When a team wins a fight, they typically generate more ult, but they also get to dictate positioning for the next fight, they get to stick together without the same chance of getting staggered as the loser. In the earlier example of Control,  the reset between rounds negates many of these mechanics and puts each team on an even playing field for the next round. We are continually working on our matchmaker, but the biggest gains for perceived competitiveness in Overwatch lies in looking at our core mechanics and game modes and making adjustments here.  More to come on this topic.

That's it for this week. Talk to you all soon, and I'll see you in-game!