Jun 23, 2016
The feedback we’ve been seeing from those of you helping us test our upcoming patch on the PTR has been amazing. Thank you so much for your efforts!
Now that we’ve had some time to read through and really process your posts, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know some changes we plan to make based on that feedback.
Feedback We’re Hearing
+ You like seeing your Skill Rating.
+ You like the strong leaver penalty.
+ You like the Assault map changes.
+ You like that premade groups are called out in the UI.
- You don’t like the coin flip.
- You don’t like Sudden Death.
Regarding those last two points, even though we feel like tuning the attacker vs. defender advantage in Sudden Death is achievable—and we’re really close right now—the community perception is that one side always has a clear advantage on Assault, Escort, and Hybrid maps, and (as a result) you feel the coin flip mechanic is unfair. The balance is the easy part for us, but the perception issues are much more challenging. Challenging and important.
In this situation, we feel like we can compromise and make changes that can improve most players’ experience in Competitive Play. So, in the short term, we’ve got some tweaks coming that will help balance out attack/defend win rates in Sudden Death. In the long term, we’re actually looking to remove the coin flip and Sudden Death from the game altogether.
Current State of Sudden Death
If you’ve been following our Developer Updates on Competitive Play, one of the things we talked about was our desire to greatly reduce the chances of a match resulting in a tie or Sudden Death. Back in beta, under the old system, we were seeing Sudden Death happen about 35% of the time. It felt too frequent and we didn’t like it. So, we changed our scoring systems and our game formats for Assault, Hybrid, and Escort as a result.
- So far, our results for Assault are much more in line with what we expected. On the PTR right now, the Assault maps (Temple of Anubis, Hanamura, and Volskaya Industries) are only going to Sudden Death about 9% of the time. This is really good news. The “time bank” system we created for Assault Maps results in drastically fewer ties. And this is what we were hoping to achieve.
- The Escort maps (Dorado, Watchpoint: Gibraltar and Route 66) are better than the 35% we saw in beta, but still aren’t where we want them to be. We’re seeing Sudden Death rates of anywhere on the PTR from about 16-18%.
- And when it comes to the Hybrid Maps (Numbani, King's Row, and Hollywood), the rates for Sudden Death on the PTR are hovering around 20-29%.
We feel like both the Escort and Hybrid maps are still resulting in Sudden Death too often.
Changes We’re Looking at Making in the Short-Term
Based on this data and your feedback, here are a few changes we’re looking to make immediately to Competitive Play:
- Initial match time for Assault, Escort, and Hybrid maps will be reduced from 5 minutes to 4 minutes
- Sudden Death Timer will be reduced from 2m00s to 1m45s
These adjustments should make Competitive Play games a little shorter, giving you the opportunity play more of them. They’re also fairly quick to implement, since they don’t require a lot of additional work to the core of the system. As a result, you’ll see these go live with Competitive Play and our Summer season (assuming we like what we see on the PTR).
Changes We’re Looking at Making in the Long-Term
In addition to the above, and because we’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the new Assault map format, we’re going to try to apply the same “time bank” system to Escort and Hybrid maps.
What this means is that, if both teams push the payload all the way to the end of the map with time leftover, you’ll go into a second round on the same map. We’ll remember how much time was on the clock for each team, and then you’ll have that amount of time to push the payload as far as possible. At the end of this second round, we’ll also look at how far your team pushed the payload vs. how far the enemy team pushed their payload. Push it farther than the other team and you win.
The only ties that you’ll encounter in the “time bank” system are if a) neither team pushes the payload at all (an exceedingly rare edge case!), b) neither team manages to “capture” the payload (this is limited to Hybrid maps), or c) both teams manage to push their payloads all the way to end of the map in overtime. If we’re seeing ties happen less than 9% of the time in Assault right now, we should see even fewer Hybrids and Escorts resulting in a tie using this format.
So, getting back to that Sudden Death mechanic…
We’ve wrestled with this feature a lot. Our first version of Sudden Death in the beta felt very balanced to us. In that version, we resolved ties by going to a single point on a randomly selected Control map (Ilios, Lijiang Tower, and Nepal). Even though we thought this was a really fair way to resolve ties, we still received a ton of negative feedback on the format from beta participants. What we found was that people didn’t like playing on a different map and they didn’t like that it was a different game mode. So, we tried to come up with a Sudden Death mechanic that would play out on each map that was balanced and not too time intensive for players (i.e. the format you’re playing on the PTR right now).
I think the Sudden Death format we have now is very good, and is actually much more balanced (and I’m looking at real stats here) than players are exaggerating it to be. However, it’s clear that players, at least the vocal ones, are largely not pleased with any form of coin flip or any form of asymmetrical resolution to the maps. We’re very open to changing and tweaking this system, but we’re also realizing that Sudden Death mechanics, in whatever format we might use, all have problems and we may be in a situation where we won’t be able to please the majority of our competitive players.
With that in mind, we’re looking at a variety of different, longer-term solutions that involve removing the coin flip and Sudden Death completely. For example, right now we’re exploring ways to allow for matches that would otherwise result in Sudden Death to instead resolve in a draw where neither team wins or loses. In that situation, our goal would be to make sure the match still felt rewarding for both teams, and that players could walk away feeling like it was time well invested. It’s important to remember that the removal of Sudden Death/the addition of draws would accompany the format changes to Escort and Hybrid maps, which means that draws should be VERY rare overall.
We think both of these updates would make a big difference and address a lot of the feedback we’re hearing.
So, What’s Next?
This brings me to a difficult decision we have to make.
The extent of the updates we mentioned above are non-trivial. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to remove the coin flip and change the format again in Escort and Hybrid maps, which means that they’re not something we do can overnight. In fact, they’re not something we can realistically do until our Fall season. While we think they’re good changes to make, we don’t feel that holding back Competitive Play until the Fall is the right thing for the game right now. Instead, our goal is to release Competitive Play in our next content patch and kick-off our Summer season with the current ruleset.
There’s a few reasons for this: We want players to be able to work towards Competitive Play rewards sooner rather than later. We’ve also gotten a ton of positive feedback from people who are playing and enjoying the system right now on the PTR. And, perhaps most importantly, we feel like starting the Summer season will allow us to learn a lot about what works in Competitive Play and what doesn’t—even more than we have from the PTR. I’ve mentioned previously that I believe Competitive Play is the type of system that will require a few seasons before we reach the place where we want to be. We need to run the system through its paces, in the live game environment, so that we can see how the community as a whole uses and reacts to it. By getting the system out there sooner, we can start making meaningful improvements sooner too.
Speaking of improvements, while major changes to Competitive Play likely won’t be coming for a few months, we’re looking to get the Escort/Hybrid map changes and draw functionality on the PTR in the near future. Right now, if all goes well, we think we’ll be able to have those changes ready for testing sometime in late July.
Hopefully this all makes sense! We’re always listening to your feedback and, as a result, we’ll continually iterate on Competitive Play. Each season will get better, and we’ll hope you’ll stick with us for that journey.