By Mohammad Abubakr
Overwatch has been a weird game for me. When playing it during its early stages, it was a pass from me due to its casual nature. However, as the game slowly evolved and with the introduction of its Competitive Mode, I was pulled back into the game. After playing around a little bit in Season 1, I decided to get more serious and begin focusing on climbing through the ranks; it’s always a lot of fun working towards a high ranking. Unfortunately, I made this decision 2 days before the end of Season 1 so you can imagine my disappointment. Nevertheless, this gave me all the more reason to look forward to Season 2. Read on to learn more the upcoming Overwatch competitive season.
While it was great to see a competitive mode for Season 1, there were some issues with the game formats. This was even admitted by Blizzard and from the beginning it was indicated that certain properties like the ‘Coin Flip’ were only temporary and would be changed for Season 2. Even the ranking system made up of ranks from 1 to 100 was misleading and not a good indicator of skill. For example, if someone is rank 64 vs 65, how much of a difference is there really? Can you treat these to be the same ranks or does this one rank difference account for a big difference in skill? Season 2 helps to address these issues in hopes of providing players with a better competitive play experience.
Eichenwald, the new map, is beautiful
To begin, the entire ranking system has been rewritten to use skill tiers. These tiers, like those found in Starcraft II, place players in different tiers depending on their skill rating. Unlike Starcraft your skill rating is also visible and ranges from 1 to 5000. The Bronze tier is assigned to players with a skill rating between 1-1499 with every sequential rating falling between a 500 skill rating range. There are a total of 7 tiers including Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, and Grand Master. Unless players are in Master or Grandmaster tiers, they will never drop out of their tier even if their skill rating falls below the cut off. When I first heard about this I was not very happy as it adds a more casual feel to a system which should be competitive. However, after some thought I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not too bad. Players that are serious about the game will be able to climb into the Master and Grandmaster tiers where they do have the ability to drop down. On the other hand, more casual players in lower skill tiers can focus more on having fun and not worry about their skill tier every single match.
This decision should help to create a friendlier play experience even in competitive play. Whenever there is a rank on the line, players tend to overreact to mistakes as they do not want to drop down into lower tiers. With this system, once players have reached a certain tier, they can continue to play the game without the risk of each match potentially kicking them out of their skill rating tier. Plus in the background your skill rating number, which can still fall, is used for match making purposes. Even if a player is in Diamond but does not play well for a long period of time, they will slowly be getting matched against lower and lower ranked opponents in hopes of creating balanced matches.
Got placed in Platinum, still got a lot to learn!
Overall, this new tier system is great. The simple 2-digit number did not give a lot of indication as to where exactly you fall in between ranks as the progress between ranking up or down is visible only to yourself. With this new ranking system, we get the best of both worlds with up to 4 digit numbers representing a large spectrum of skill plus skill tiers helping to organize players in groups. I’m looking forward to climbing through the ranks and although I am still very new to the game (only around 40 hours played thus far), I am hoping to be able to reach at least Diamond or Master by the end of Season 2.
Aside from revamping the ranking system, the game format has been modified to focus more on a team’s skill rather than their luck. The original ‘Coin Flip’ system helped decide ties by flipping a coin determining which team attacks or defends for the final round. Often times, maps gave slight advantages to one side and therefore this coin flip system ended up causing an imbalance before the round even began. Thankfully, this system has been scrapped and replaced with a new tie breaker. Now the remaining time for each team is stored in a ‘time bank’. This time is withdrawn by each team when there is a tie and they are both given an additional chance to attack using only their remaining time. There is a small chance that this system results in a DRAW if both teams end up with a tie again after their second attack attempt but Blizzard ensured us that this is unlikely. Overall, the new system works much better by eliminating the luck factor and focusing more on each team’s skill. The team with more remaining time has a better chance at winning and the team who ended up with more remaining time likely played better in order to capture all objectives quicker.
Ties are now decided by playing an additional round using your remaining time
Several hero balance changes were also made in order to bring all heroes onto a more level playing field. The full patch notes contain all the details but major changes include Genji’s wall climb no longer resetting jumps, Genji’s ultimate not lasting as long, Lucio’s movement speed boost being reduced, Mei’s ultimate piercing through barriers, and Hanzo’s projectile speed being increased. Genji is no longer a hero that is must have at all times due to his ultimate ability but is still a very strong pick. I’m a big fan of Mei so I hope to see her being picked up more in competitive play.
Genji’s ultimate doesn’t last as long anymore
Conclusion: Season 2 brings changes wanted by the players
In conclusion, Season 2’s changes are those changes that we all wanted. There is nothing in this patch that players are adamantly against and it goes to show how closely Blizzard is working with the community. Even in a game as massive as Overwatch, the developers are taking into account what the community thinks and giving us what we want. They are willing to try out ideas, test if they worked, and scrap them for new ones if they didn’t. This approach will help Overwatch continue to evolve into an even better game over time. I can’t wait for Season 2 to hit the main server; it was a blast checking it out on the Public Test Realm. Let’s see how far I can climb up the ranks, see you all on the leaderboards!