Overwatch Competitive’s percentile-based skill rating was a “mistake”, says director

By Brenna Hillier, Tuesday, 19 July 2016 04:14 GMT

Your Overwatch Competitive skill rating isn’t as bad as you think it is.


Overwatch Competitive mode ranks by players by skill, something that Blizzard is still trying to get just right in a game that relies so heavily on teamwork but is so frequently played by solos, all of whom want to be Widowmaker.

In a wide-ranging interview with Kotaku, game director Jeff Kaplan said that one of the problems with Overwatch’s Competitive Mode is that players feel worse about their rating than they should.

“We realized a mistake I think we made was picking the percentile based system. Ours goes 1 through 100,” Kaplan said.

“I don’t know about you, but I grew up in North America and anything less than an 80 was not good. I didn’t want to get that in school if it was less than an 80. I really wanted scores in the 90’s and if I was in the 60’s, I maybe wasn’t even passing.

“Whereas in our system, now that the dust as settled, I’ve realized actually a player with a 60 skill rating is a super badass in our system.”

So even though a competitive Overwatch player has reason to be very proud of a 60’s rating, they feel bad about it; it’s probably similar to the way the one to ten video game review scale has been rendered somewhat meaningless by expectations about what each number means.

Once the Overwatch team has resolved “some bugs and some issues with leavers”, Overwatch’s rating system will be working as intended, Kaplan said.

“Once we really look at our skill rating non-emotionally and we look at the distribution curve of where players are at, it’s exactly how we modeled it to be. It’s this beautiful bell curve,” he said.

As an example of how well the Overwatch skill rating system is working, Kaplan said the top 100 players in Blizzard’s system are the same ones dominating the pro scene, such as TviQ and Surefour.

“Those guys are sitting at the top of our system so in that regard, I think our system actually did a really great job of identifying who the great players were and it wasn’t just based on time investment,” Kaplan said.

The Overwatch team needs to find ways to communicate this with players so they feel better about their skill rating and don’t freak out as it goes up and down over the course of a season, Kaplan added.

“I’m not TviQ so I’m not going to have an 86 skill rating so make me feel good about my skill rating. That’s what we’re working on now, making players feel better about where they’re at,” he said.

Interesting stuff. The full interview includes discussion of Overwatch’s axed teams-only Competitive Mode plans, the similarly-axed Competitive system we saw in beta, controversia skins and much more.

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