Overwatch competitive play has been eagerly anticipated, and Blizzard has been working to get the update out to the masses, already putting it on the Public Test Realm. But that doesn't mean that once the mode launches, that will be the end of it.
Game Director Jeff Kaplan took to the official forums to outline a basic roadmap of what will happen with the mode once it kicks off at the end of this month. He said that feedback has been constructive so far, with players liking their Skill Rating, the penalty for players leaving a game early, changes to the assault map, and the fact the premades are noted in the UI. He admitted that the coin flip and Sudden Death still need work.
"Even though we feel like tuning the attacker vs. defender advantage in Sudden Death is achievable - and we’re really close right now - the community perception is that one side always has a clear advantage on Assault, Escort, and Hybrid maps, and (as a result) you feel the coin flip mechanic is unfair," Kaplan said. "The balance is the easy part for us, but the perception issues are much more challenging. Challenging and important."
To that end Blizzard is working to eliminate the coin flip and Sudden Death altogether. Changes to the assualt maps have resulted in fewer sudden detah matches, but he said that Hybrid and Escort maps still tend to go to overtime too often. To that end, match times on all maps are being cut from five minutes to four, and the Sudden Death Timer is being cut by 15 seconds to 1:45.
"These adjustments should make Competitive Play games a little shorter, giving you the opportunity play more of them," Kaplan said. "They’re also fairly quick to implement, since they don’t require a lot of additional work to the core of the system. As a result, you’ll see these go live with Competitive Play and our Summer season (assuming we like what we see on the PTR)."
Moving forward, he said the team will be evaluating Hybrid and Escort maps to make the same type of changes that are working on Assault maps. The bad news is that the changes may not be available until fall, but delaying the launch of Comeptitve Play is not the answer.
"We want players to be able to work towards Competitive Play rewards sooner rather than later," he said explaining why Competitve Mode will launch as is for now. "We’ve also gotten a ton of positive feedback from people who are playing and enjoying the system right now on the PTR. And, perhaps most importantly, we feel like starting the Summer season will allow us to learn a lot about what works in Competitive Play and what doesn’t—even more than we have from the PTR. I’ve mentioned previously that I believe Competitive Play is the type of system that will require a few seasons before we reach the place where we want to be. We need to run the system through its paces, in the live game environment, so that we can see how the community as a whole uses and reacts to it. By getting the system out there sooner, we can start making meaningful improvements sooner too."
He concluded that if everything goes well, changes to Hybrid and Escort maps could be on the PTR by the end of July, while players are already enjoying and getting used to Competitive Play.