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Overwatch dev spills the beans on matchmaking

A match made in Blizzard

Peeling back the mysteries of matchmaking is a bold move. Leave them covered up, and they can be a safe source of general dissatisfaction where everyone's free to moan about whatever's happening to their season ranking. Throw back those covers, and everyone can specifically tell you why they think the system is dumb - and why it's to blame for their crummy ranking. That and the fact that they only ever get matched with noobs, obviously.

Overwatch dev Scott Mercer correctly decided to ignore that subset of 'complain no matter what-ers', and has written a detailed forum post explaining exactly what factors into matchmaking.

Mercer's post includes far too much information for me to include it all here, so do go check it out for yourself.

Mercer starts by dispelling one myth in particular: "The first and maybe most common misconception I want to correct is the belief that the Competitive Play system decreases your SR gains and increases your SR losses when playing in a group. The simple answer here is that there’s no SR penalty based on your group status." However, that doesn't mean your Season Ranking adjustment isn't effected by how skilful your teammates are.

Here's Mercer's list of what does affect those SR swings, and I'd pay particular attention to that first one:

  • What was the quality of the enemy team and your predicted win chance? You gain more on a win if your predicted win chance was <50%. You gain less on a win if your predicted win chance was >50%.
  • Are you playing consistently? New accounts or accounts that have been inactive will see larger magnitude changes both upwards and downwards. This settles back to normal as you play additional games.
  • Did your 3000+ SR recently decay due to inactivity? If this happened, you’ll gain more SR on a win until you get back to your “undecayed” SR.
  • Are you a Platinum-tier player or below? If you performed particularly well or worse than what is considered a typical performance during a match, then there’s a small SR modification to reflect that.
  • Is your current SR really high? Your SR increases less on a win than it decreases on a loss as your SR approaches the systemic limit of 5000.

He goes on to give some statistics about how you're likely to be matched against other solo players when playing solo, then goes into some detailed examples designed to "demonstrate that playing solo or playing with a group doesn’t have much of a global systemic effect on your win rate or SR!".

The rest of the post is devoted to why he thinks you'll have more fun if you play Overwatch with a group, and why the upcoming Looking For Group tool is going to be so neat. I'm thoroughly on board: playing with friendly people on the mic can have a transformative impact on how much enjoyment I can get out of a game. Who knows if the new feature will actually put me in touch with friendly folk, but it can't hurt.

My feelings are more mixed when it comes to the upcoming Symmetra changes. Yesterday, Jay Castello wrote a piece arguing that they'll make the game less accessible and less interesting. I disagree about her new abilities not feeling distinctive enough from those of other heroes - but I do agree that removing the auto-aim from her primary fire was a needless change that constitutes Blizzard acquiescing to toxic players.

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