Overwatch's Winston looking angry

Overwatch's Competitive Mode only came out a couple of days ago, and while I've met the occasional rage-o-holic the quality of the gameplay has been a massive improvement over Quick Play. Unfortunately, while the actual games are enjoyable, the ranking system behind them is a complete and utter mess.

Its so broken that I'm currently dropping through the ranks despite maintaining a ~65-70% win rate, achieving at least a couple of gold medals each match, and never leaving a single game or suffering from a disconnect. All of this is caused by numerous issues that result in wins giving barely any MMR (matchmaking rating) and losses taking away an absurdly high amount. So where exactly lie the problems, and how could Blizzard go about correcting them?

[This has been fixed] Reconnecting to a game guarantees you a loss, even if you end up winning

Disconnecting from a competitive game is massive burden to your team, but issues outside of your control do occasionally conspire against you and cause your connection to drop for a couple of seconds, enough for Overwatch to declare you as disconnected. These types of disconnects are usually no big deal, and games like Dota 2 and CSGO allow you to simply rejoin and continue on as normal, but Overwatch has a bit more... draconian outlook on these things. 

No matter when you disconnected, or even if you returned within the allotted 1 minute reconnect timer, Overwatch will grant you a loss and a massive rating penalty. In other words, you could load into Overwatch with a bugged UI, reconnect to fix it while everyone is still waiting at spawn for the game to start, continue to lead your team to a glorious victory, only to then still be granted a loss and a massive rating penalty! If there ever was a system that encourages disconnected people to say "fuck it" and not come back to help their team, it would be this one.

So how can this be fixed? Quite simple really. If the disconnected person returns within the allotted 1 minute reconnect timer, the game disregards the disconnect and continues on as normal. People that rage-quit are still adequately punished, but those that care about their team and want to win now have an option to do so. Personally, I would even increase the reconnect timer to 2 minutes because Overwatch might take that long to load on older PCs, but even with the 1 minute timer it would still be OK with this newly proposed system.

[This has been fixed] A game with a leaver awards abysmal rating

No matter at what point in the game a player leaves, every single person in that match will receive less MMR for a victory, but a massive MMR loss for a defeat. So if you're like me and like to duo-queue with a tank & healer combo, you're going to be massively disadvantaged when it comes to climbing the ladder, simply because you will defend a choke-point so well a member of the enemy team will give up and thus ruin your potential winnings.

This alone would be bad, but when you combine it with the issue I mentioned above and players actually leaving in order to spite the enemy team, you've got yourself a matchmaking system where you gain tiny amounts of MMR for wins, but lose entire ranks for losses...

So how can this be fixed? Once again, quite simply. Disregard any leavers when assigning matchmaking rating, because at the end of the day the fact that someone has left should have zero impact on the system. To do anything else would open it to abuse, and that would put the current ranks into question even more than this whole mess.

The Underdog system is unfair

If the matchmaker couldn't find two equally strong teams, it will match a slightly stronger team with a slightly weaker one and adjust the rewards accordingly. Its a perfect system, as long as the emphasis is on "slightly". Unfortunately, Overwatch doesn't know the meaning of the word and matches with a very minuscule difference in rank between the teams will award vastly different amounts of MMR depending on which side won.

If you're the "underdog", even by a couple of measly ranked points, you will lose almost no rating for a loss, but potentially gain an absolute truckload for winning. As you can imagine, the opposite applies to the "favorites" and its such an unfair system that it never ceases to be frustrating. You can have an amazingly balanced match between the two teams, but just because the matchmaker detected a slight difference in skill, the MMR rewards will be completely skewed in one direction, and 6 players are guaranteed to leave irritated.

So how can this be fixed? While I hate to repeat myself, its quite simple really. Adjust the rewards depending on the skill gap, a system that Dota 2 uses to great success. This way the underdogs still have an incentive to prove themselves and potentially earn a massive reward, while the favorites have a decent enough payoff to look forward to. This solution also helps prevents massive MMR swings in either direction, something the system currently has a lot of trouble with, hence why its so difficult to accurately judge a player's skill

[This has been fixed] Sudden Death is a complete coin toss

Due to Blizzard's irrational fear of the stopwatch system it currently doesn't matter whether you push the payload to the end in 10 minutes with Overtime, or in a 3 minute stomp. Instead of awarding the better team, the matchmaker sets up a "fair" sudden death match where one team gets to defend a control point that's literally designed to be captured quickly, and the other team gets to be the winner attacker. While Blizzard's own stats say this sudden death is nearly perfectly balanced, it doesn't change the fact that the odds are heavily stacked against the defenders. Their spawn is so far away that any death is a massive handicap, and they are unable to swap their characters in order to counteract enemy stacks.

For example, if you attack with 5 Winstons and a Lucio you will more likely than not overrun the enemy because they simply couldn't have prepared for such an occasion, and since they have only one point to defend they are going to lose the entire match due to a cheesy and boring strategy that works for exactly 1 minute. Thankfully, Blizzard is well aware of this issue and they are in a full agreement that the current iteration of sudden death sucks the big one. While no changes will be arriving for the next month and a half, its still well worth pointing out these flaws and how exactly they could be fixed.

So how can Blizzard go about fixing this rather complex issue? In my eyes, by using a modified stopwatch system where Team #1 sets the time and Team #2 needs to either beat their time or just progress further. In order to prevent anticlimactic games where one team simply gives up because they don't have a chance to win, I would put the payload into "Overtime" status once the timer runs out, so as long as the players are pushing the game will go on. If Team #2 ends up accomplishing the same thing as the Team #1, then we go into whatever variant of sudden death Blizzard prefers.

And there you have it, these are all of the issues that make the current iteration of Overwatch's Competitive Mode more frustrating than actually fun, but as you can see, its not an impossible problem to handle. Blizzard has been quick to react to the rating bug with Control Point maps, so here's to hoping this batch of issues will be dealt with equally swiftly.