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In a recent post on the Battle.net forums, Jeff Kaplan, the game director for Overwatch, went over some of the recent feedback that Blizzard has been receiving since they launched the PTR (Public Test Region) for their upcoming patch. The PTR for the patch was launched just a couple of days ago and was put out to help test incoming features for Overwatch including Competitive Play and changes to game modes and the Sudden Death system.

The new changes that are being tested out have been mostly praised according to Kaplan. He explained that players are enjoying some of the new features such as the ability to see your skill rating in Competitive Play, changes coming to Assault maps, stiff penalties for people who leave in the middle of a game in Competitive Play, and the fact that premade groups are now being highlighted in the game’s UI. However, there are also a couple of changes that the community doesn’t like, such as the implementation of a coin flip mechanic that would help break ties in certain game modes, and the new Sudden Death system.

Kaplan spent much of the forum post talking about Sudden Death since that seems to be one of the most outspoken complaints that PTR participants have been voicing. In Competitive Play, two teams face off against one another on either an Assault, Escort, or Hybrid map, one team on defense and the other on the attack. After that first game, each team flips sides. After those two rounds, the scores are tallied up, and if each team scored the same amount of points, then the match goes into Sudden Death. During Overwatch’s beta, for Sudden Death the match was taken to a Control map, and the winner of that mode would be the winner of the overall match. However, players didn’t like the matches being decided in an entirely different map and game mode, so Blizzard looked to change this. Now is where we get into the PTR feedback. In the PTR, Blizzard made significant changes for Sudden Death. Now, when a match is tied, a coin is flipped. This coin flip determines which team will attack and which will defend in a tie-breaker round on the same map as before. However, players involved in the PTR don’t like this new form of Sudden Death either due to the element of chance that goes along with a coin flip and the fact that on some maps there is a distinct advantage to being on either attack or defense.

Overwatch Competitive Play Match

So, as a result of all this feedback, Blizzard is planning on implementing a few new changes to the system. Kaplan wrote that looking long-term, the dev team is working to get rid of Sudden Death, and the coin flip altogether. Instead, the match will just end in a tie, and each team could then move on from there. However, to do that, the frequency of ties would have to go down significantly on some maps, and changes would need to be made for that to become a reality. For example, thanks to new tweaks on Assault maps (Temple of Anubis, Hanamura, and Volskaya Industries), games are going to Sudden Death only 9% of the time. However, on Escort maps (Dorado, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and Route 66) the Sudden Death rate is somewhere between 16-18%, and the Sudden Death rate is a somewhere between 20-29% on Hybrid maps (Numbani, King’s Row, and Hollywood).

Sudden Death rates may be high on some maps, but Blizzard is currently looking into a couple of short-term solutions to help fix this. The first of these changes would reduce the initial match time for Assault, Escort, and Hybrid maps from five minutes to four minutes in Competitive Play. The other small fix that could be implemented soon is reducing the Sudden Death timer from two minutes to one minute and forty-five seconds. Kaplan hopes that since these changes are relatively small tweaks, they will go live with Competitive Play in time for the summer season, assuming that people like the changes during the patch’s PTR phase.

Kaplan also included some more long-term changes that Blizzard plans to make. Mainly, Kaplan would like to carry over the “time bank” system that players seem to love from Assault maps to both Escort and Hybrid maps. Here are his exact words as to how this would work:

What this means is that, if both teams push the payload all the way to the end of the map with time leftover, you’ll go into a second round on the same map. We’ll remember how much time was on the clock for each team, and then you’ll have that amount of time to push the payload as far as possible. At the end of this second round, we’ll also look at how far your team pushed the payload vs. how far the enemy team pushed their payload. Push it farther than the other team and you win. 

With this change, games would rarely ever result in a tie. The only ways that the match would be able to end in a tie on these maps would be if neither team move the payload at all, if neither team can “capture” the initial point on Hybrid maps at all, or if both teams manage to push the payload all the way to the end of the map in overtime.

However, these long-term changes are much harder to pull off than the short-term ones, and would take a lot more work. Therefore, these changes would not be ready in time for the summer season of Competitive Play, and would have to wait for the fall season. Kaplan wrote that this way, a much larger group of people will be able to test out the current state of Competitive Play, and by the time the fall season comes around, all player feedback can be taken into account, and the game could be tweaked accordingly. There is still no word as to when the next patch for Overwatch will come out, but we can assure you that new Overwatch content is coming soon. Overwatch is currently available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Matthew Arrojas

Staff Writer

Just because I write about video games doesn't mean I'm very good at them. Unless it's Smash Bros. I'll wreck you in Smash Bros. I am also currently obsessed with Overwatch, so I'll wreck you in that too with Mercy.