Some big changes are coming to Overwatch in its second season of competitive play. First on the list, as Game Director Jeff Kaplan explains in the new Developer Update video, is Skill Ratings, which will be expanded from the current 1-100 scale to 1-5000, a change he said will make it easier for players to see and understand their fluctuations up and down the scale. At the same time, Blizzard doesn’t want the Skill Rating to be the primary focus, and so it’s also adding seven tiers to the system, based on Skill Ratings, to give players a more generalized breakdown of where they rank.
“What we want to do with the new system is try to focus you more on, ‘I’m a gold player, I’m on average playing at a Gold skill level’,” Kaplans says in the video. “Sometimes my skill rating goes up or down, but I generally think of myself as a Gold player. Or when I see a Silver player, or a Platinum player above me, I have a general idea of what their skill level is, or how they should be playing the game.”
For all but the top two ranks—Master and Grand Master—tiers cannot be lost once achieved, so if you make it to the Gold level you’ll remain in that tier for the remainder of the season even if your actual Skill Rating slips below the necessary threshold. Blizzard is, however, introducing Skill Rating decay for the top three tiers: Players in the Diamond, Master, and Grand Master tiers must play competitive mode at least one every seven days, or they’ll lose 50 Skill Rating points every 24 hours until they do.
Blizzard is also getting “way more aggressive” with how closely players have to be rated in order to group. Once the 1-5000 Skill Rating system goes live on the PTR, players will have to be within 500 SR points of each other. “If it’s too aggressive we’ll loosen up on it a little bit,” Kaplan says. “But you have to realize what we’re fighting with here: The desire for people to play with their friends versus the unfairness of widely disparate Skill Ratings grouping with one another. It’s a tricky place for us to get to in terms of balance.”
Game modes and formats are also being changed up in some major ways. Competitive point rewards are going up by a factor of ten, but the cost of Golden Gun skins are increasing by the same amount. The coin toss and sudden death are being dropped, so ties will be possible, although the expectation is that they’ll be very rare; both teams will get points in the event of a tie, but not as much as they’d earn for a win.
“We know that ties are not entirely satisfying for players,” Kaplan explains, “but what we’ve learned over the months and months of iteration on competitive mode is that sudden death is not satisfying for players. It always feels like one team kind of got the bum end of the deal. So we want to make sure that we have ties instead of sudden death, but ties are very, very rare.”
The second season of Overwatch doesn’t have a hard start date yet, but the first season comes to a close at 5pm PT on August 17. Season two will presumably get underway not too terribly long after, probably around the end of August.