Competitive play is coming to Overwatch in the near future, but pre-launch testing and feedback are already affecting what the new game mode will ultimately look like.
Blizzard launched a test realm for Overwatch's new competitive mode earlier this week, and the information they've garnered from that is already having an effect. Specifically, the company is taking a hard look at the Sudden Death and Coin Flips in the game, according to a post by Game Director Jeff Kaplan in the game's official forums.
Although the changes made to Assault maps are apparently bearing fruit (Sudden Death is only happening 9% of the time now), the company hasn't had similar success in Escort or Hybrid maps yet. That said, there are changes in the works to address those modes as well.
First, Blizzard is reducing all match time from five minutes to four minutes, and reducing Sudden Death time from two minutes to one minute, 45 seconds. Kaplan says that these changes will "make Competitive Play games a little shorter, giving you the opportunity play more of them." These changes will go live when competitive does.
Down the road, the company plans to implement a "time bank" system for Escort and Hybrid maps. In short, if both teams push the payload to the end of the map, you'll get another chance to push the payload for the amount of time that was left on the clock when you finished pushing the first time around. Whichever team advances the payload the farthest will win. This new system would make ties much less likely.
But that's not all. Blizzard is also considering removing the Sudden Death mechanic entirely, Kaplan wrote. "We're looking at a variety of different, longer-term solutions that involve removing the coin flip and Sudden Death completely." Unfortunately, it sounds like these longer-term solutions would be major updates that would take a good amount of time to implement. Rather than delay the mode further, Blizzard plans to push these changes live in a later season of competitive play.
Kaplan said that the company believes they will learn a lot from the upcoming Summer season of competitive play, and that it may be a few seasons before they get everything just right. "Competitive Play is the type of system that will require a few seasons before we reach the place where we want to be," he wrote.
It's obvious that Blizzard is planning for Overwatch to be around for quite a while, and the extent of these plans for competitive mode just confirms that. You can read Kaplan's entire post here.
Competitive mode appears to be on track to launch around the end of this month.