Overwatch's Reaper staring menacingly at the camera

Overwatch's ranked mode recently entered public testing, and while the majority of its features have received nothing but praise, the Sudden Death mechanic has garnered a fair bit of negative criticism. The issue, as the community sees it, is that each Sudden Death is decided by a "coin flip", rather than through a display of superior skill. The coin flip in this case being whether the matchmaker assigns your team as the attacker or the defender during Sudden Death, mostly because the attackers have a much easier time achieving victory outside of the final capture point.

While its understandable, and expected, to see people complain about changes that seem unfair, its not very often that you see a game's director come out and tackle the complaints head on. However, that is exactly what Jeff Kaplan did, and trough a rather lengthy forum post he explained the team's decisions behind Sudden Death, what works and what doesn't, and what exactly will be changed in the future. Since the whole thing is too big to quote properly, here's a couple of the most relevant and interesting paragraphs:

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.

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). 

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. 

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. 

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.

There really isn't much more to say as Kaplan has literally covered every single complaint, every single point of conversation, and not only given answers to them, but also offered potential solutions that reach many months into the future. After years of having to deal with "the silent Blizzard", these past few weeks have been a breath of fresh air, and I truly hope this is the direction Blizzard takes in the future when it comes to community interaction.

As a final note, mostly because I'm now not sure if this was mentioned at any point in Kaplan's post, the competitive mode is set to arrive later this month, most likely next week!

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