Blizzard Reveals Major Updates For Overwatch 2’s Competitive Mode, Including Emerald Weapons
Blizzard has been talking about major changes for Overwatch 2’s Competitive mode for a while and at BlizzCon, it took the opportunity to break some of those down. A number of changes are on the way in Season 9, which should start in February.
Senior systems designer Gavin Winter revealed that the Overwatch team is removing the widely-disliked requirement to get five wins or 15 losses to get a rank update. “Loss streaks would guarantee that you were going to rank down, so what’s the incentive to keep playing if you’re on one?” Winter posited.
Replacing that system is a Competitive Overview page designed to make your rank more transparent. Here’s what it looks like:
Your rank will soon update after every match and you’ll be able to see how close you are to ranking up or down based on a progress bar. As soon as you reach either end of the bar, your rank will change.
The green arrows under the bar are called rank modifiers. The idea is to give you a clearer sense of why your rank changed in a certain direction. If you win several games in a row, you’ll get a boost thanks to the streak modifier. The information button on the page provides more details on all these modifiers.
It’s not a return of the old Skill Rating, but this should provide more clarity or where your rank is and how close you are to moving up or down the ladder.
Discussing issues with the SR system, game director Aaron Keller noted that it “was a very arbitrary number to just say you were 2374,” for instance. Indicating that you’re 85% of the way through Gold 1, however, “has more meaning for the vast majority of players.” In addition, it might only take a few wins for you to move up a rank in some cases, so this system should make that clearer than SR ever could have.
In perhaps bigger news, there will be a rank reset (but not a full MMR reset) in Season 9. Placement matches are returning too. As you work through your 10 placement matches, you’ll see a rank prediction based on your wins and losses so far. Here’s a peek at that screen:
Placement games will account for more significant changes to your rank. Blizzard hopes to reset ranks every year while making big changes to systems and hero balance, Winter said. “We want to give everyone a chance to earn a new rank because we’ll also be redistributing players at all ranks.” A redistribution can help players who have been hardstuck at certain ranks escape from that, Winter noted.
As part of that rework, there will be a new rank coming to the game. This will be above Grandmaster and it’s called Ultimate.
There will also be a brand-new reward in Season 9: emerald weapons. Blizzard plans to provide new Competitive rewards every year as well. The artwork on the emerald weapons isn’t final, but Blizzard gave a sense of what they’ll look like:
As part of the introduction of emerald weapons, current Competitive Points will be converted into a legacy currency that you can still use to buy gold weapons. To unlock emerald weapons, you’ll need to earn points under the new system.
I hope that change doesn’t lock out players from earning golden weapons they don’t already have. But it makes sense for Blizzard to require all players to start from scratch in the hunt for emeralds, especially those who already have every golden gun and a healthy balance of Competitive Points.
Elsewhere, Competitive challenges are going away, and there will be a new page that Team 4 hopes will make it clearer to players how they’ll earn seasonal rewards:
Rather than getting a major haul of rewards at the end of a season based on a final rank, “wins and losses both progress you toward big payouts of Competitive Points,” Winter said. Wins will grant you more progress, of course.
On top of that, the Competitive match start screen will now display the range of ranks of players in the lobby. That’s instead of showing the average rank.
Sometime after Season 9, Blizzard will remove most of the current grouping restrictions in ranked. This will help folks play Competitive games with more of their friends.
This has an impact on matchmaking, of course. To combat that, groups with a large disparity in skill level (say a duo of Bronze and Platinum players) will be designated as a “wide group” and only be able to play with similar groups. “We’ll try to find groups with a similar shape as yours,” Winter said. So the game will try to match you up with players of equivalent skill levels in the same roles on the other team, but Blizzard can’t promise that will always be the case.
On a similar note, solo players will only play against self-explanatory “narrow groups” or other solo players. Reading between the lines, that should prevent solo players from being matched against a group that has players with a far higher or lower rank. “We expect to see big improvements in match quality for solo players,” Winter said.
In addition, Winter added that this approach should help mitigate the problem of smurfs since it’ll be less likely that players will need to create a new account to play with a friend who’s at a very different rank.
These all seem like smart changes. To be honest, as someone who plays Mystery Heroes 99% of the time, they’re more likely to get me to play ranked in the future. And if Team 4 introduces chrome weapons in a couple of years? Consider me a full-time sweaty Competitive player at that point.