Competitive Mode   Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Competitive Mode   RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Overwatch -- It's Been a Good Year Wed, 21 Dec 2016 12:33:09 -0500 Jeffrey Rousseau

Today, Blizzard has shared a new developer update for Overwatch. The video, again featuring Jeff Kaplan, addresses 2016 and the game's number of content.

Kaplan begins the video noting the success that Blizzard has seen with Sombra upon her release. It was addressed that any update to Sombra may take some time. The team wants to avoid an issue that would create an overpowered character. Previously in a past update, Ana became somewhat over powered after she was perceived as being too weak. The development team does not want to repeat the same mistake.

He also goes on to confirm that new heroes are in development. Their release is dependent upon a number of factors. This requires a number of play testing and so forth. An example he refers to is the hero Genji, whom required a year and half for proper testing. This being said, he also hints that a new hero maybe ready for 2017.

More details can be found watching the video.

Fans of competitive FPS titles and Overwatch can look forward to these changes in 2017.

PUGs and Ladders: Why the competitive grind is killing your game Sat, 24 Sep 2016 06:03:29 -0400 Seth Zulinski

If you've played any games competitively (or even noncompetitively), you've probably heard one phrase a lot since you started. You've heard it whenever you started learning an instrument, lifting weights, trying sports, learning a new skill, or generally doing a thing or being around anyone who does. It's almost impossible to avoid having heard it at least once in your life. 

"Practice makes perfect". 

And, for a large part - that's true. Sure, sometimes you're just sort of naturally gifted at something. Sometimes you're a prodigy, and have a massive head start right out of the gates. In order to get better, though, you still have to practice. In order to improve, you train. Every person, every place, every time. In fact, a large part of PowerUP, my series right here on GameSkinny is almost entirely dedicated to helping you practice new and good habits for your climb to the top of the ranked ladder in whichever game you decide to dominate. 

That's the key though, isn't it? It's not practice itself that makes you better, it's practicing good habits and skills. Practicing bad habits is going to make you worse at whatever it is you're doing (or make you better at being bad, however you want to look at it) - and habits don't get much worse than grinding the Ranked/Competitive Ladder. 

I know, I know. The Ranked climb is how you know you're getting better, right? Learn things, practice, skill up, ranked up, shiny new metal for your Rank. The Ranked climb is your single ticket to the top. 

Except it isn't - it's usually a one way trip to the bottom, and here's why: 

They're usually team games - without a team

The end goal of practice is to be better at any given thing - and it's hard to find a more solid image of "better" at a pursuit than the professional scene. For many players, the end goal of practice is the professional scene. So when talking about the merits (or lack thereof) of the Ranked grind, it serves us well to compare it to the professional gaming scene equivalent. 

Take one of the major stars of the eSports world currently - MOBAs. Ranked ladders across most Battle Arenas are solo, duo, or sometimes triple queue - meaning you often can only queue competitively with one, two, or three people in your party. The rest are "pick ups" or "Pugs" (technically PUGs are pick up games, but the term has broadened to the randomly assigned players you find in said games as well). Half of any given game of 5v5 is just praying to whatever will listen, "Please, please let them have any idea what they're doing". 

Often, they do not. Just as often, they do - but even if they do, what they're doing might be on a totally different wavelength than what you're doing. Their skillsets, plans, and style of play are not only totally able to be completely out of sync with yours, but possibly out of sync with the game as a whole.

You know what many successfully professional teams don't have to do every game in their matches on the tournament stage? Deal with any of that. Adapting to the enemy, sure - but not your own team. At least, not after the first few games played together, after which the team will (usually) have gelled. Certainly not every game. 

Is learning how to work together on the fly a valuable skillset to have? Sure, in Ranked matches. Is it an applicable skill to the top tier of competitive play? Not in the slightest. It's like being able to deal with trolls in competitive games - useful skill, but one totally alien to the professional scene. 

The single most obvious and heavily practiced aspect of any current MOBA - quick team building - is nearly never utilized in the professional scene. It doesn't matter how good your Thor is, or if your Mid game might as well be Faker's, because we're given a few minutes to succeed at what professional teams allow themselves weeks or months to achieve. Every. Game.

We are spending hours, and entire games suffering through the learning process and consequences of a skillset that, if we're successful in our dreams of professional play, we will not use. You don't practice drums to get better at guitar - and you shouldn't practice with PUGs for competitive team games. 

Evidently, the professional scene at least somewhat agrees - which is why the professional/semi-pro "in house" community tends to be alive and well across most major competitive games, and team vs. team "scrims" are common to keep skills sharp.

Even single player titles are rarely the same game

This veers dangerously close to "meta" territory, but as team-based competitive ladders force prospective professionals into strange situations not found in the upper tiers, so too do many single player titles. The broken, dangerous "bait and switch" of Hearthstone's competitive ladder vs its professional tournament scene is a prime example of specifically this. 

In the simplest possible terms - Hearthstone's Ranked ladder, the cornerstone of competitive Hearthstone play worldwide and the main avenue of entry into premiere Blizzard tournaments, is not the same game as said tournaments. The "Conquest" style of play, wherein multiple decks are selected for each player, who then bans one of the opponent's decks before shuffling up until one player wins with all of their selections, is not found anywhere in the actual Ranked ladder. It is not available. Players cannot practice Conquest, the default mode of premiere Hearthstone tournaments, at all in their grind to Legend. 

As the ladder itself is best of one (and mostly grinding odds), certain decks are massively over-represented when compared to their tournament appearance - because they suit the ladder, the much different game of the ladder, far better than their Conquest counterparts. 

So, as possible Hearthstone professionals, we have to ask ourselves as we work towards that Rank 1 Legend - what exactly are we practicing? The answer, after you've achieved relative competence at basic game mechanics (which doesn't take long if you're actively attempting to learn), is "not much that's relevant". 

So what's the winning play?

The winning play in games with broken ladder systems (read: nearly all current offerings) is the same as any broken contest - don't play. Now, I don't mean don't play the game, mind you. If your goal is to become a top tier professional team or player in League of LegendsSMITE, CS:GO, Duelyst....anything, really, then by all means practice that game. Practice it until your hands go numb and eyes bleed from the glare of your computer monitor (note: please do not actually play until body parts go numb or bleed). Practice it so much you can play it blindfolded and drunk. 

Mostly importantly, make sure what you're studying is what's actually going to be on the test. If you're practicing in a 5v5 MOBA, get a team of 5 together and play against other teams as often as possible. Work on eliminating as much of the "out of game" elements as possible, letting you (and your teammates) focus on improving your mechanics and teamwork much more effectively. 

If you're playing a single player game, make sure that your practice experience matches that of the tournaments you'll be attending. If you're going to try to grind Conquest tournaments of Hearthstone, make sure to actually practice Conquest

In general, improving your odds at tournament performance and success can be achieved by following these three rules - 

1. If at all possible, practice with those who are better (preferably much better) than you are as often as you can. 

2. Recreate tournament conditions of play as accurate as possible. 

3. Isolate variables that need improvement as much as possible - practicing six things at once is going to leave your mental gains lacking compared to only practicing a thing or two consistently until you have it down. 

Now, ask yourself - 

Does your competitive ladder follow these rules? Does MMR calibrated to find players of around your skill level meet rule one? Do the constant format changes and PUG games meet rule two? Does the mad mess of ranked trolls, "testing" players, bought accounts, and complete lack of communication and teamwork meet rule three?

I'm willing to wager not. 

There's no bright light at the top of the Ranked climb - just an endless abyss of wasted time and salt at the bottom. We're going to need to practice smarter, not harder. We're going to have to think laterally if we want to bring our game to new heights. 

We're going to have to get off the ladder, and go play games that matter. 


5 Things I Learned In Competitive Mode On Overwatch Wed, 06 Jul 2016 09:52:18 -0400 Death Metal Hero

Now that competitive mode is unleashed on Overwatch, we're all trying to get to rank 100 and show off those beautiful golden guns. But lets be realistic, getting there is going to be a dreadful task. Although with the right amount of knowledge and skill, you might be able to make it. Hopefully some of this knowledge will help you on your journey.

1. If no one is a healer then be a healer.

Don’t be that player who spams “We need a healer” and then doesn’t switch to a healing character. Try not to rely on your teammates to pick a healing character either. If you’ve never been a healing character, then here are some of my suggestions:

Zenyatta is great if you’re more interested in doing damage and reactive healing. Simply place a Harmony Orb on a wounded team mate and go back to fighting. Discord Orb should be used as often as possible to increase the damage an enemy player takes, But it cannot be used on more than one player at a time. Zenyatta’s Transcendence makes everyone almost invincible while near him, added with a good push towards the objective can result in a win.

Lucio is great if you want a more defensive and active healing role. Simply by being in the general area of your teammates you will heal them, you can increase your healing done for a short time by using Amp It Up. There is a counter on screen that shows how many of your teammates are affected by your songs, which is great for judging when to use Sound Barrier. This ability puts a huge temporary shield on your team mates who are close by. Lucio also has a knock back ability that is perfect for sending enemy players off the map to their death.

2. A well placed Rip-Tire from Junkrat is the difference between a win and a loss.

There have been countless times when my team is about to lose, then some one uses a Rip-Tire and wipes out the enemy team. When you are controlling the Rip-Tire you can jump, which is helpful to survive your journey. Try your best to not enter the point or payload in the direction that everyone is facing. If you learn to flank your enemies, you will become an invaluable asset to your team.

3. Don't play competitive mode on a wireless internet connection.

I learned the hard way that if your internet disconnects, the game will see this as you leaving the match early. Leaving early results in penalties. These penalties range from lower experience gains, rank losses, or even a permanent lock out from the season. If you can hard wire your computer or console to your internet router, you can potentially avoid random disconnects.

4. Stay on the point.

This isn’t Call Of Duty where you go out of your way to kill an enemy player. No, not at all. These are objective-based game modes. There have been countless times my team has lost the point because everyone decided to push the enemy team back to the spawn, instead of defending the point. Even if you’re the only one on the point, defend it with your life. Don’t forget to remind your teammates to come back if they stray too far.

5. Pay attention to the team tips when selecting a character.

Your team doesn't need three Bastions. If you're defending on the Hollywood map, use Torbjorn and set up a Turret on the elevator. If your team is not putting out enough damage, try switching to Reaper or Pharah. Although sometimes you don’t need to worry about the team tips, just be aware of your team’s composition.

Try your best to be a well-rounded player. Simply sticking to one character is only going to hinder your progress. If you're not feeling confident with a new character, you can always switch back to quick play for some training. Getting to rank 100 is going to be a long journey, and don't forget that we get to do it all again after August 18th. Suffer well.

Community unhappy with current state of Overwatch's Competitive Mode Tue, 05 Jul 2016 09:55:12 -0400 Kevin Malkiewicz

*UPDATE 07/08/2016*

This update is a two parter.

Blizzard Community Manager, Lylirra, posted a response detailing their fix for leavers in competitive matchmaking. The post, that can be found here, outlined how the previous MMR was calculated both before and after a player left a match in progress.

The post also outlined other/further changes and fixes:

  • Looking to add a "time bank" system to Escort and Hybrid maps
  • Coin Flip being removed for Season 2
  • Sudden Death duration tweaks
  • Control map skill rating fix
  • Disconnect and reconnect issues fixed
  • Experimenting with Overtime changes

After the fix was deployed, players still complained about rating gains and losses which led to Lylirra making another post, which can be found here, stating that they are looking into the continuing issues to determine if another fix needs to be implemented.

*UPDATE 07/05/2016*

Game Director, Jeff Kaplan, commented on the recent problems with "leavers" in competitive matches. The post, which can be found here, states that there is a fix and update that will be released this week, and that more fixes are on the way. 


Overwatch has released its much-requested Competitive Mode on all platforms, but the reception from the community has been lukewarm. The Overwatch subreddit and official forum have been flooded with posts ranging from matchmaking concerns to personal rating problems.

Players have been experiencing random disconnects that leave them unable to rejoin the match, causing an almost guaranteed loss for their teams. Some players have reported being able to rejoin matches, but receiving a loss of rating regardless of match outcome. Even if the team was able to pull out a miraculous victory with one man down, the rating received is a fraction of what would have been earned with a full squad. Additionally, the team without a disconnect or rage quit is penalized with a reduced rating amount upon victory, yet still is credited with a full loss upon failure.

Disconnects and “Rage Quits” are only the tip of the iceberg. There are a host of other problems -- such as support characters earning less rating with wins and losing more rating with losses, the “Coin Flip” Sudden Death being a temporary fix for ties, and the majority of the player base being squeezed between 40 and 60 skill rating has made this first season of competitive play feeling like the beta test for future seasons.

While Blizzard has addressed some of the issues in forum posts, they have stated that applying changes mid-season would result in inconsistent play. This leaves players with a flawed system for several months until this season ends and changes can be implemented.

The current status of Ranked play is not what Blizzard had in mind for its finished product. They have departed from the systems that were in place during beta which may mean that further iterations of Ranked play may be in store for Overwatch before everything is said and done.

What are your thoughts about the current status of Overwatch’s Competitive Mode? Leave any critiques or possible solutions you may have in the comments below.

What's Blizzard's Next Step With Overwatch? Mon, 20 Jun 2016 10:10:13 -0400 Girvan Lambert

Blizzard's Overwatch is shaping up to be the next big eSports contender. Indeed, as we saw, the game has quite a lot going for it in this respect, but the general consensus is that its eSports future hinges entirely on what Blizzard is planning next with the IP.

What exactly do they have planned for Overwatch?

This is the question many of the forums are buzzing with, and unlike other times, Blizzard seem eager to answer it now. In response to those questions, game director, Jeff Kaplan made an unusually long and detailed forum post in which he touched on a number of things the team had lined up for the title. From Kaplan's post, it's obvious that the game - in its current shape and form - represents but the first stage of the project. Apparently, there's a plethora of new content in the works, including new maps, new heroes, as well as competitive play.

According to Kaplan, there's a lot of focus on new heroes right now. There are quite a few of them in "development", some of them near completion, others not as far down the creative conveyor-belt. Still others are mere prototypes which might never actually see the light of the in-game world.

The time investment into the heroes is obvious because Blizzard is aware that one of reasons Overwatch is so popular is their characters. They're focused on delivering more interesting heroes and personalities that may lead to more internet memes, and generally more player interest.

The game's director has also revealed that there is a brand new map currently in the works. The new map is apparently play-tested all the time to make sure that the art additions do not in alter its specific game-play. During this process they're abandoning ineffective maps. For example, one such map highly favored long-range heroes while others were left redundant.

Special attention is being paid to competitive play, a mode which has come along nicely. Kaplan said however that he didn't expect the team to be where they wanted to be with this mode before a few seasons passed, as constant tweaks and iterations would be required in the beginning.

The mode is still scheduled for a June release. Now given its complexity and importance for the eSports viability, competitive play will hold many surprises that will have to be cleared before Blizzard releases the feature.

Kaplan has promised that competitive play will be highly entertaining upon launch.

Girvan Lambert currently mans the Overwatch barricades at, the web's top eSports hub.