By Scott Murray
Overwatch has quickly become one of the most popular video games on the market today, and deservedly so. It's a simple but brilliant concept that features fun characters to play in a FPS-style setting. The random maps, colorful characters and challenging situations keep everything fresh. I've played it more than I've played any other game for some time.
I wasn't sure if I was "ready" for Competitive Play when it was launched, but I immediately jumped in and played it. When the first 10 placement rounds were complete, I finished with a player rating of 41 (on a 1-100 scale). That's about where I thought I'd place. While I used to play FPS games all the time (and I love MMO PVP), I knew I was still getting used to it all again.
However, it wasn't until the I started playing games after the placement rounds that I noticed some frustrating flaws. Before I get into these, let me just point out these things:
1. I have never, ever been one of those players who constantly complains about games and developers in public, private or online forums.
2. I have no delusions about my skill level. I think I'm in the mid-range....not elite, but not someone who doesn't belong in Competitive Play.
3. I love the game itself.
So, with that out of the way. Here's what's making things a lot less fun.
The player rating algorithm penalizes me for bad teams
It didn't take long after getting a 41 rating, to end up in the 20s. The worst part of it was that I had very little control over what a team game did to MY personal rating. I could medal (even gold medal) in categories like heals, eliminations, objective time or objective eliminations and it would still dramatically lower my rating due to a team loss.
On July 4th, I had a run where I lost about 10 out of 12 games. In a game where I was voted EPIC, led in team damage and got 3 gold medals...and I dropped to 23.
That isn't right.
I got into a match with a friend, and he had multiple medals in that match. He was basically an Overwatch Rambo...killing it in damage, kills and objective time. The player rating algorithm said, "Meh, so what. Your TEAM lost, so we're going to make your rating suffer."
If you you're stamped with a SKILL RATING, that implies it represents YOUR skill...not the team's skill.
The player rating has a confusing purpose.
I'm not saying there should be no penalty for a loss. Nor am I saying you should be rewarded for losing. What seems to be causing the confusion and frustration is assessing personal and team penalty. Since the only thing the game has attached to Competitive Play is personal rating, it's the only win/loss stat that is affected.
Here's the other problem - Blizzard is either just as confused or is simply offering canned answers in response. I tweeted them about my frustration with MY rating taking a big hit over a team loss. This was their response:
Right. Knew that. So, why is a bad TEAM going to affect my rating so much?
Okay, fine. Then why is there a PERSONAL player rating? Why are there PERSONAL medals awarded? Why is there even a PERSONAL level you can achieve? If it's more about TEAM and less about PERSONAL achievement...then, should we not care about our personal rating even though you gave us one?
Whether Blizzard likes it or not, the personal rating becomes a goal.
They say it might be about team, but people care about that rating number attached to their account.
I can say this from not only personal experience, but people I've talked to in game - once you drop into the 20s, it becomes seemingly impossible to get back into the 30s or 40s again. Due to the hits the game makes you take via losses (no matter how good you were), you are likely not going to win enough to get back there again.
Losing streaks seem more common than winning streaks, and if you're trying to get your rating back up...you feel like you're gambling. I might think:
Is that the experience Blizzard wants players to have? I figured they'd want people to play for hours on end. What good is it to encourage players to learn and improve, when you can do just that only to get heavily penalized when your randomly selected team plays like they still need improvement?
If it was a little easier to move up or not so automatic to move so far down, I think this would all be a lot better.
Your rating suffers for disconnects and teammates bailing on you.
So, as if a bad TEAM experience couldn't make your PERSONAL rating worse...get in a group where 2-4 people leave you to take on an entire team. You're screwed, and so is your player rating.
If you disconnect accidentally, when you log back in...your lowered player rating is waiting for you. Or you might get a situation like I had where:
1. You get disconnected
2. You log back in, only to see your rating has already been reduced.
3. Your'e able to jump back into the same match
4. You win, but it still shows you a graphic of your rating getting lowered. So, you won...but you're rating goes down.
Again...you might not deserve it, but you're going to get hit.
Look, I understand it's a new game and changes will be made. I just hope the Tweets above don't fully represent Blizzard's attitude about these issues. Like I said, I know I'm not the only one bothered (and sometimes demoralized) by this. Also, let me reiterate, I'm not saying I deserve to be in the 60s or 70s. I AM saying that I'm a better player than to be unfairly stuck in the twenties. I also understand ratings are ways they can attempt to match up equally skilled teams.
However, if your rating is 25, but in reality you're 39, the system isn't doing it properly anyway.
I think some of this could be improved by changing the 1-100 system. Maybe it needs to be 1-500 so that there's more room to take a hit and not feel like a bad team just put your performance in the cellar. Or maybe just a new and improved algorithm could make a difference.
What if your team lost badly, but you spent quality time in the objective getting kills? Is it possible for your PERSONAL performance and your TEAM performance to cancel each other out? In other words, your rating doesn't move up or down?
If team play and winning is the main goal, I'm just saying Blizzard needs to help us continue to be driven to achieve that goal. I'm already enjoying the game, and I care about my player rating enough to keep trying to get it back into the 30s or maybe 40s.
I'm putting the time and effort into playing hard, and better yet - improving. That is a PERSONAL goal I know they want people to have. So, I'd like them to help us believe we can improve by not penalizing us for certain game elements that are way beyond our control.
Geek topics from AoG hosts and contributors.