Season 3 has ended; we’re now in that period of anxiously twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the next one to begin. When it starts next week, Season 4 will likely give us another Meta shift; most heroes are getting small changes, with larger ones coming to Bastion and Roadhog. Blizzard has been teasing a new hero; if it’s a tank, as rumors say, I hope Reinhardt becomes less of a crucial pick. We could also see the return of triple tank compositions, which reduced after D.Va’s recent nerfs. Rumors and speculation aside, let’s look at the issues I had with Season 3 and possible ways to solve them.
The third season started back in November 2016, and its placement matches took the Season 2’s final Skill Rating (SR) into account. The idea was to keep the playing field fair. It was meant to stop players placing higher than they should, avoiding significant drops in SR throughout the season.
Unsurprisingly players received lower placements than in the season before.
“No Fair. Players should get a clean slate”, people cried! Having your SR reset completely may, or may not be a good idea; I can see arguments on both sides. Those who ended the season in Bronze don’t really want to be stuck there next season, but their skill level was probably that of a Bronze player. While a reset could be good for those misplaced, some lower SR games can be hellish, and, unless you play with a group of other skilled players, you can be doomed to rot in Bronze forever.
I’ve had an idea, at the start of placement, everyone’s SR should be set to nil, levelling the playing field. Players from two ratings either side of their Season 3 final placement should be in the first game. For example, say I ended Season 3 in Gold, my first game would take players from all levels up to Diamond. Both teams have a nice mix of skill levels. Whatever the result, the spread could then be narrowed, along with background SR. If I lost, the search would draw Bronze to Platinum players, another loss Bronze to Gold, and so on. Inversely a victory in would exclude Bronze, then Silver, etc. Eventually the cone is reduced to a single league and SR could adjust as normal. It’s not perfect, and misplacements could happen if players get carried, but it would give people a chance to change their Seasonal starting level. It would give those starting in Bronze the opportunity to place in gold, but only if their skill was good enough.
Placement aside, players leaving mid-match was Season 3’s biggest issue. My most frustrating matches were a result of this, which happened in around a quarter of my solo queue games. It wasn’t always their fault, some re-joined mid-match, but, in some instances, not before others tilted and left themselves.
It’s clear though. Penalties for leaving still aren’t harsh enough! Currently a match ends if someone leaves within 30 seconds, after this it continues as normal, until the end, or the whole team leaves. In both instances the leaver receives a loss and a penalty, stopping them joining another competitive game for 10 minutes. This time penalty increases the more games they leave. Eventually they’re banned for the remainder of the season, and receive a 75% reduction on XP earned.
One issue that remains is the AFK timeout. A player is removed from the game for not moving after roughly 40 seconds. While it hasn’t been much of an issue, in my experience, someone being AFK at the start will miss the match cancellation window, get booted, and leave the rest of the team one player down instantly. You can report players for this, but I’ve never heard anything back from tickets.
So where can Blizzard go from here? Penalising only the leaver is the obvious choice, but Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch’s Game Director, pointed out a potential problem with this solution. What would stop the losing team turning on one another? To try and avoid a loss they could bully others to leave. It would make matches unbearable. Harsher penalties need to be in place for Season 4.
As well as the current penalties and bans, a possible way forward is to ‘Sin Bin’ repeat leavers. When their ban is lifted, for Season 5, it would place them into a separate queue, almost like the solution Titanfall used for cheaters. Not only would they have increased queue times, we’d get rid of them for a maximum of 6 months. Glorious! If they continually left matches in Season 5, they’d be back in the Sin Bin for Season 6, separating them completely, or until they learn to stop leaving.
Some people with bad connections could unfortunately become sin binned too, but assuming it’s not their fault, a failed connection every now and then wouldn’t penalise them. As harsh as it sounds, maybe they shouldn’t be playing competitively if their connection is that bad. It’s just unfair on the other five players.
Draws haven’t plagued Season 3 as much as leavers have. They’re still an issue though. Draws can only happen on Point Capture maps, but this doesn’t stop them feeling like a humongous waste of time. Draw a match and your SR doesn’t increase, and all you receive is 3 Competitive Points (CP). Season 1’s sudden death mode stopped them happening, but resulted in some horrifically long games, which weren’t fun to play. I, like a good doctor, thought of two potential cures:
- Give reduced SR for draws.
- Make it harder to draw.
Giving a small boost to both teams SR would make matches, ending in draws, feel more worthwhile. The boost would have to be low enough for people to still want to win, so, to make it more difficult to abuse, the only fair way is to reward skill. I propose that SR should be awarded to those receiving medals at the end of the match, 1 for Bronze, 2 for Silver and 3 for Gold, capped to a maximum of 10 SR. Blizzard, please. Make all matches feel worth people’s time, not just some.
While option one would help, decreasing the possibility of a draw is a better solution. The progress bar for capture points is currently split into thirds. When reached, these stay locked in, even if the attackers leave the point. So why not include this as part of the round score? Instead of receiving a point per capture, each could offer three, one per third, with six to play for in each round. Say one team only gets the bar a third of the way full and the other two thirds, the second would win. Sure draws could still happen, but at least the spread would be wide enough to reduce their possibility.
I hope Blizzard address Season 3’s downfalls, they have some challenges, but at least the issues don’t completely stop Overwatch being fun to play. Maybe my ideas won’t be used for Season 4, but, I for one can’t wait for it to start. What changes do you want to see in the next season? Hit me up in the comments section below or on twitter, who knows maybe Blizzard will take note.