Overwatch’s Competitive Mode Is Out Today

I’ve been enjoying Blizzard’s colourful team shooter Overwatch precisely because I don’t feel competitive when I play it. If I continue with it, there will surely come a time when I have expectations of my own performance and will be frustrated by my constant failure, but I hope to stave that off for a while longer.

You may feel different, and if so then you’ll be glad that its previously excised competitive mode will return later today.

Competitive mode was present during earlier betas but was cut from the game for re-tooling, apparently for not being competitive enough.

As it is now, the mode still doesn’t change much that’s core to Overwatch. All 12 of its maps will be playable in ranked matches, with slight twists on each mode in order to avoid ties via deciding rounds or sudden death matches.

In order to access ranked play you’ll need to have reached level 25 by playing ‘quick play’ matches, and then to play ten placement matches to decide your current skill level. Your skill is measured by how many matches you win rather than your personal points, which seems odd to me, and you’ll be assigned a rating from 1 to 100, with 1 being the worst, 100 the best, and 50 ideally representing the average player’s skill.

“We also wanted to let players know that the first season of Competitive Play will be an abbreviated one, lasting only two months instead of the normal three,” says a post about today’s update on the Overwatch site. “This is because our Competitive Play patch is launching in the middle of the Summer 2016 season, which technically began on June 1 (a minor side-effect of our real-world season system).” The summer season will end on August 18th, after which will follow a two-week off-season before play resumes for the Fall season.

I enjoyed my time in various Counter-Strike and Tribes clans, so I can more than understand the appeal of a mode made for people who want to play seriously, and one which offers you clear feedback as to your performance and progress. I will remain swimming in the shallows however, splashing around where my feet can touch the ground if I feel lazy.

For more on competitive mode, read Pip’s interview with game director Jeff Kaplan about how it works, its exclusive rewards and how they communicate progress to players.


  1. Lakshmi says:

    “Your skill is measured by how many matches you win rather than your personal points, which seems odd to me”

    Trying to reward teamwork and working to objectives rather than the solo player who is all about points? Not sure how effective it’ll be.

    • aircool says:

      Looks to me that it’s setup to see how well your whole premade performs.

      As a solo player, well, you’re reliant on the eleven random players that you play a match with.

  2. airtekh says:

    Hopefully this means the quick play mode will become a little less toxic, as the people who REALLY MUST WIN OR YOU ALL SUCK filter over to competitive.

    I love Overwatch, but I’ve been surprised at the level of toxicity in this game. I place the blame for that squarely on presence of the matchmaking system coupled with the lack of a server browser.

    • gpown says:

      I think this kind of game suffers greatly from giving players the freedom to switch characters at any time. Some will change every time they die, never to anything actually useful.

      It’s not about having to win, it’s about people realising it’s more of a MOBA than a shooter, 70% decided by picks, and the other 30% being rare cases of extraordinary skill.

      • SyrusRayne says:

        Well, okay, sure. But that’s also the pretty much the only way Overwatch is at all a MOBA.

      • aircool says:

        Well doesn’t that mean that Planetside 2 (the last fps in which I put in many hours) is part moba as well?

        I’ve never played moba’s as they look particularly annoying and stressful, but as far as I’m aware, Overwatch is a FPS through and through.

        • Wormerine says:

          It is an FPS but it has strong MOBA influences. Starting from the idea of Heroes, rather than classes. They not only have individual weapons but also “kits” including unique mobility and skills with cooldown. It seems Lawbreakers goes for a more pure FPS. The stuns in Overwatch for examply are very MOBAlike.

          • Premium User Badge

            gritz says:

            The idea of heroes instead of classes is a distinction without a difference, aside from the fluff. An Overwatch hero’s “kit” is no different from a PS2 or TF2 class loadout.

          • Reefpirate says:

            I have no idea why everyone thinks this is ‘MOBA’ stuff… Probably because DotA-clones got so insanely popular so everyone wants to make comparisons to them.

            There existed a universe before DotA, and it was a universe that included distinct ‘heroes’ with varied abilities along with team-vs-team objective-oriented play.

          • Nauallis says:

            So like you mean FIFA maybe

    • Syt says:

      I usually play 6-12 games in the evening after work. There was a bad crowd in the beginning, but the last few weeks have been generally positive for me, and the last few nights my team compositions in solo queue were fine. YMMV, and I may just have been lucky, though. :)

    • Scelous says:

      Are you playing on the PC or console?

      I’m playing on PC and I seethe with rage at incompetent team members, think they are filth, they ruin the game for me, etc, etc. However, the extent to which I show that is by saying “This team f****** sucks,” and then rage-quitting. And that’s about the extent I’ve ever seen in the game. I haven’t heard any complaining via voice chat. In general, FPS’s on PC seem a lot less toxic (and a lot more quiet) than the console versions, and that’s been my experience in Overwatch as well.

      Now in competitive mode, there is some REAL toxicity going on, but I can’t blame them since obviously competitive is more score-oriented.

      • FunkyB says:

        What you describe is toxicity. Please don’t say stuff like that, it doesn’t help, and it makes things worse for everybody because it demoralises some, and frustrates others.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    My biggest fear going into overwatch was the 6v6 format would mean everyone would take it super seriously and there would be huge pressure to always be playing optimally for the team. I’m very glad that hasn’t been the case and I’ve found it generally to be pretty relaxed (barring the odd grump who takes those yellow warning boxes way too seriously).

    I might try competitive mode to see what it’s like but I’d say I’ll probably have more fun in the all Mercy/Pharah mode that’s on this week.

    • bglamb says:

      I had found the Overwatch crowd really pleasant, but my first game of competitive somehow managed to have 3 of the most toxic players I’ve ever seen. Demanding we run 2 tank, 2 support, calling GG in the spawn room over hero choices, calling for the lowest performing players to be reported. It was ugly.

  4. Zankman says:

    Curious to see how this affects Overwatch as a whole and what it leads too.

  5. JimDiGritz says:

    Well, I’m not an amazing player but usually do pretty well in QuickPlay.. just lost 3/3 Competitive placement matches I’d go as far as to say we never even put up a fight. I think I got 1 or 2 eliminations per round… and I wasn’t the worst… yes that bad!!!

    Maybe it’s the daytime pro-gamers (I usually play evenings) but wow that was a different level.

    • DarkPenfold says:

      I think this is something that’ll shake out as you play more Competitive games.

      In the short term it’s disheartening to get stomped, but the worst thing that’ll happen is that your initial rank will settle pretty low and you’ll have an easier time winning games (as you’ll be matched up with other lower-ranked players) until you see your win rate approach 50%.

      Unsurprisingly, I’ve found that being willing to get on the mic and call out enemy movements (as well as praising good teamwork and lightening the mood when we hit a loss) has made a huge difference – not only in coordinating the team, but in building up a friends list of players my wife and I can team up with regularly.
      I suspect that voice comms are going to be essential in Competitive mode, because even if you’re not using your mic, the enemy team will almost certainly be chatting away (particularly if you’re in a premade group of 4-6 players).

      • JimDiGritz says:

        Yes, good points.

        That said it seems more of a function of daytime gaming – I’ve just played a few Quick Plays and despite a few decent games I only appeared on the ‘Vote’ screen once…

        I’m guessing this evening will be full of more casual gamers – probably more my speed!!!! ;)

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      gritz says:

      Hi Jim.

  6. Banks says:

    I’ts pretty fun, It’s still in beta tough that’s fine. But I HATE that you get kicked from the game for being 15 seconds afk, and you can’t even reconnect. So infuriating.

    • DarkPenfold says:

      I’m personally pretty concerned about what’s going to happen when the game inevitably crashes on me during a competitive match (my computer’s mostly a decade old and woefully underpowered; it somehow manages to play Overwatch at 45-60fps on Medium settings, but with a tendency to crash to desktop at least once every hour of play without any kind of warning, even if I downgrade everything to minimum settings).

      I play OW alongside my wife, and I’d hate to think my pensionable hardware is going to end up branding me as a filthy quitter and locking me out of games for a while, as well as hurting her chances of getting the rank she’s after, just because the team finds itself a player down at a crucial juncture.

      • Scelous says:

        Honestly, since it’s a team game, maybe it *should* be locking you out of games if you crash regularly. As an OW player, I know I wouldn’t want to play with someone who has a guaranteed point at which they will crash out of the game. If you were just playing against the A.I., then of course it wouldn’t matter. But in the case of player vs. player, other people are relying on you.

        You may say, “Well, my pensionable hardware is the only way I’ll get to play,” to which I would say, “Unfortunately, I’m not sure you should be playing at all, then. At least not team games.”

      • FunkyB says:

        That sounds strange. Have you run a memtest? Stick memtest86 on a bootable USB pen and let it do its thing.

        I only suggest this because it may be a faulty stick of RAM, and if it is, then the repair would be very cheap and may get you up and playing again.

        • DarkPenfold says:

          Thanks for the tip re. Memtest, I’ll have a crack at that over the weekend. I suspect it’s an issue with the game code, though; I’ve not experienced crashing issues with any other game I can think of in the past 4-5 years. Most likely it’s having problems because I’ve only got 4GB of DDR3 in there.

          Scelous – I agree with you up to a point. In practice (2-3 crashes during my 10 placement games last night, of which my team won 4), I was always able to rejoin within a minute with perhaps another 10 seconds of choppiness after I loaded back in.
          Yes, it put my team at a temporary disadvantage, and we did lose those games – but (luckily?) the tide had decisively turned before the game decided to ‘nope’ me back to desktop. Maybe a few extra seconds of my borderline-incompetent Roadhogging might have helped, but it’s doubtful. And in the long run, the worst thing that happens is my ranking ends up lower than it should be because any disconnect from a game that you rejoin and win is still recorded as a loss for you (so you lose ranking points, while your team gets a rank boost).

          Where I take issue is the assertion that I shouldn’t play at all. That’s not helpful, and it’s really not fair either, particularly when other players are reporting similar random CTDs. Each crash issues a report to Blizzard, so there’s hope it will be fixed in the future, but I’m not going to hold my breath – but even so, you’re effectively saying “you’re not allowed to have fun”.

          • Scelous says:

            Well, what I was going for was specifically that you can’t have fun at the cost of five other people’s entertainment.

  7. Jetsetlemming says:

    Finished my ranking matches, was placed at 57! Woo, slightly above average!!

    They really need to replace missing players with bots and allow for reconnecting. With only six people per team, it’s basically impossible to win a man down unless the other team is way outmatched. No idea why the bots aren’t there already, considering they’re already in the game. It’s not like they have to make them anew.

    Still, nice to get games where people are more likely to talk and be social, and only one of those ten placement matches had a jerk on mic. The last game there was a jerk in text chat on the other team, but we all made fun of him and then we won so it actually made things sweeter. :3

    • Darloth says:

      They only have bots for about 5 of the classes so far though… it’s something like Bastion, Widowmaker, Reinhardt, Lucio… Torbjorn? I forget exactly, but not that many of them.

  8. Calculon says:

    I have to say – Ive really been enjoying Overwatch and I didnt think I would. I havent had this much with an FPS since Tribes 2.

    What I find particularly appealing is the high skill ceiling, the true variety of play styles and options, and the team play aspects. Even the healers are quite challenging and fun to play (which is unusual for a game of this type/style). I also find you can really feel like a contributor to the team instead of just being lost in the blob of players on your own team.

    Looking forward to competitive mode – Im still lvl 24 – so once I break through Ill look to join the competition scene.

  9. aircool says:

    Would someone mind putting me straight on something…

    As an average or below player (at least when it comes to twitch skills, my tactical reasoning is good), if I enter competitive mode, does that mean, after time, that I’ll be put up against people of similar skill?

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Yes. You will play 10 matches against people of varying skill, these matches will determine your ranking and for the rest of the season you will play against players of a similar rank.

      • DarkPenfold says:

        It’s worth noting that your ranking isn’t static. Winning games will (eventually) cause your rank to increase, and losing games will have a much more pronounced negative effect.

        It’s also weighted depending on the map (e.g. winning an attack push on a map that statistically prefers defenders will give more of a boost) and your individual performance with your chosen heroes.

  10. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I went to play a regular quick-play match last night and found my team too disorganized to be any fun playing so I switched to Competitive. I only played 1 match and aside from the one guy who instantly starting calling another team member a “fucking weeb” for having an anime screen name it was a very good match.

    I really hope this game doesn’t turn into a choice between playing with competent players or playing with people who aren’t assholes.

    • Nauallis says:

      I guess all that you can really do, if you consider yourself a “competent player” is choose to not be an asshole.

      • Koozer says:

        I miss the days of server browsers, where you’d spend a while joining different servers to find the right balance between competence and friendliness. I still miss my old regular TF2 server…