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Upcoming Competitive Play Changes for Season 8

Blizzard has heard your call Overwatch players! In a blog post on Blizzard's forums, Scott Mercer, their Principal designer, announces the upcoming changes for competitive play in Season 8. They are revamping competitive way by removing performance based SR and limiting the SR variance for teams.
Beginning January, matchmaking will limit the maximum SR difference between the highest and lowest ranked SR player. Players who were in the outer limits of SR, were more often than not, matched with players out of their skill level. Qualities of these games were terrible and rewarded the better team and punished the weaker team heavily. New matchmaker will still allow you to group with other players according to their current SR limits and their skill tier.
Taken from the blog:
• If you have a higher than 50% chance to win a match, you gain less for a win and lose more for a defeat. Conversely, if you were an underdog in a match than you gain more SR when you win and lose less SR when defeated.
• New players experience both higher gains and higher losses than players who have completed a lot of matches.
• You gain less SR for a win than you lose for a defeat as you more closely approach the system’s mathematical upper limit 5000 SR. (So at very high SRs you do need a greater than 50% win rate to keep your SR stable.)
 
The Overwatch community has been pushing for Blizzard to implement this change for a while now and they finally listened. Overall, this is a great change and will have a positive impact for players who strive to play as a team and follow the meta. Players will start to see fairer matches and enjoy their games much more. What do you guys think of the changes that Blizzard is moving forward with? I know I'm not the only one excited.
 
If you wanted to check out the blog post, you can visit it here:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759648155#post-1

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Likes and Dislikes of OWL

Written by Maddy Myers, Eric Van Allen, and Nathan Grayson
Blizzard’s Overwatch League is maybe the most ambitious American esports league ever, and its preseason wrapped up this weekend. The Compete staff, with an assist from our one blogparent that we’re still on speaking terms with, breaks down what went well last weekend and what can be improved for the regular season. The real matches begin January 10.
 
I’m less skeptical than I was!
 
Many mediocre Overwatch broadcasts made me extremely ready to hate the Overwatch League. The preseason wasn’t perfect, but I’m much more excited for the regular season that I was a week ago.
 
The presentation and production, especially having teams that exist specifically for the League, really sucked me in. With names, cities, and colors—not givens in esports!—each team both on-stage and in-game looked like an organized unit rather than a smattering of players.
 
In-game skins with team colors for home and away is one of the best ideas I’ve seen yet for competitive broadcasts. The replays did a great job of breaking down intense action or highlighting specific moments, and the studio looked professional as hell.
 
The biggest question that remains for me is how Overwatch League will pull in the dreaded non-endemic audience, not just players of other competitive games but non-gamers, period. If Blizzard wants to pull in the apocryphal moms, it still has some wrinkles that it needs to fix. The spectator view can still get confusing at times, especially when it focuses on one person’s perspective for too long. Certain maps are easy to understand, but others don’t provide good viewpoints for the action. And the overall responsiveness of the production crew to hop to different observers or cameras when the action is happening is a little too slow.
 
Personally, I’m anticipating the regular season more eagerly than I thought I’d be. But the league has a ways to go before it’s a product that pulls in the average sports fan to fire up a stream and watch competitive Overwatch on any given Friday.
 
-Eric Van Allen
 
I’m more skeptical than I was!
 
At the Overwatch World Cup finals last November, I got to see Overwatch’s new spectator modes in action. The team colors, the bird’s-eye view mode, and the instant replays all made Overwatch matches easier to follow, and the wild energy in the stadium helped, too. As I walked out of the World Cup finals, high on the cheers of the crowd, I thought, “Maybe Overwatch League has a chance after all.”
 
After watching the preseason, though, I’m back down to Earth. Commentating and producing live sports is hard, but the Overwatch announcers and producers seemed to struggle to focus on the right characters. Instant replays helped fill in the gaps, but I found myself longing for much, much more of the bird’s-eye view than I got.
 
The World Cup and league both struggled with a problem that has plagued Overwatch’s competitive scene from day one: minimal acknowledgement of healer characters and their unique ability to turn a match around. Commentators almost never mention healer-related highlights, but they’re integral to the game.
Now that almost every team has a Mercy player, including pro teams, her resurrection skills have become central to Overwatch strategy. Her ability to heal an entire team in seconds is on par with a good Widowmaker’s ability to take down a whole team with a series of well-placed headshots, but commentators tend to only focus on the latter. In the Overwatch booth, killing people is impressive; saving your teammates isn’t.
 
This does the game a disservice. Those healers and their skills are what make Overwatch different from esports without fantastical resurrection mechanics, like Counter-Strike or Call of Duty. In these other esports scenes, a sniper getting a ton of kills in a row would be a clincher. But in Overwatch, that’s just not always the case. The spacing, timing, and meter-gauging of the healers matters just as much as Widowmaker’s perch.
 
Overwatch doesn’t fit into the Counter-Strike mold. The whole point of this game is that each character class has their own role to play. It’s up to the video editors and commentators to find ways to illustrate that to audiences, even if those audiences are used to watching other team shooters where that’s not the case.
 
It’s still confusing why Blizzard picked Overwatch to go all-in on. The competitive scene is still fairly new and poorly watched. The huge cast of characters and diversity of maps and tactics—the heart of the game—make mainstream appeal unlikely. The way to turn that tide isn’t to just sand off Overwatch’s edges and trying to make it look like just another team shooter with cool killstreaks.
 
This is a weird and messy game that requires production and commentating that meet the complexities required to explain how a match was won. Easier said than done, and the World Cup didn’t nail this problem, either. But the camera at the World Cup seemed more evenly split between different character roles and highlights, and the league would be wise to continue on that trajectory. It hasn’t so far.
 
-Maddy Myers
 
I bleed orange now
 
I’ve been keeping up with pro Overwatch since before Overwatch League was even announced, and I mostly really enjoyed the preseason. It felt like a far, far more polished version of the sport I’ve been watching for months, though there were still a few hiccups. I watched more than half the matches, and I really enjoyed the burgeoning rivalries between teams like Dallas Fuel and Houston Outlaws, LA Gladiators and LA Valiant, and Seoul Dynasty and New York Excel Spreadsheets.
 
Teams were clearly still feeling things out. But that led to some fun compositions and weird plays, like the occasional Torbjorn sighting, or Seoul’s Ryujehong playing as Moira and killing everyone within a 30-mile radius of the moon.
 
I wasn’t sold on the city-based structure of the league at first, but cheering along with a hometown crowd at a bar ruled. I plan on going back in January, despite the added difficulty of keeping up with an already hard-to-follow game in a loud, crowded space. When you’re physically in a location that feels like part of Your City, gasping and whooping with a crowd of people who are similarly invested, it’s easier to understand the appeal. I hope this type of thing develops in more cities, and SF Shock/Shaq for life.
 
I’m gonna beat the very dead horse McCree rode in on, though, and add that Overwatch is still difficult to follow, even in its best moments. It feels like you have to retrain your brain every time you tune in if you want to be able to pick up on details, as well as overarching narratives of each match. The best-case scenario here is that my Overwatch-viewing brain atrophied between the World Cup and OWL preseason, and once the league is running regularly, following matches will feel more natural.
 
By the end of the preseason, I certainly was able to make better sense of the chaos than I was at the beginning. That bodes well! I’m not totally convinced that Overwatch will ever cross over and become the mainstream esports sensation Blizzard wants, but we’ll find out soon.
 
-Nathan Grayson
 
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Watching OWL at your local bar

Written by Nathan Grayson
To all you Overwatch fans who love watching competitive e-sports and loves consuming alcoholic beverages (don’t tell my mom), you can now do both at your local bar. A San Francisco Bar called Brewcade, played a couple preseason matches to celebrate the official beginning of the Overwatch League. Having competitive e-sports at a showing is by no means new. But the way Blizzard is approaching Overwatch as a multi-million dollar league is. Yes, that is not a typo. Professional gamers have been receiving paychecks for their skills in various genres for years now. Just like any sports, varying levels of skills will impact how much you bring in.
 
The Overwatch league’s main difference among its peers is the added city-based structure you see in today’s sports team. People were skeptical at first, but from the small sample size, it seems to be working. Giving fans something to care for, are giving them more of reason to cheer. However, the million-dollar question is, how do you get people who aren’t already into Overwatch to care? As soon as SF Shock were done playing, nobody really cared for the game after, Seoul vs Shanghai, even though Seoul is possibly the best team in the league.
While watching Overwatch on the big screen with a whole bunch of other fans is fun, the learning curve to actually understand what is going on is quite high. For someone being introduced to Overwatch for the first time, it can be quite confusing. A whole bunch of things just flying around and blowing things up without being able to hear any commentary doesn’t make for good first time viewing experience. The whole process itself is a learning experience, but figuring out how to appease new and existing fans is the goal.
E-sports are in the early phases of growth. There is still so much more for e-sports, that what Blizzard is doing, is awesome for e-sports as a whole. This will help build knowledge for future leagues in the future. Infrastructure for e-sports team is still young and only now are we hearing e-sports in national media. The journey will be a long one but very rewarding and I love that a well-known company such as Blizzard is willing to try something unheard of in this realm.

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Overwatch Winter Wonderland

It’s that time of year: Overwatch’s seasonal event for the holidays, Winter Wonderland, returns Dec. 12 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, developer Blizzard Entertainment announced today.
 
As usual, the event will offer a number of seasonally appropriate legendary skins, although Blizzard isn’t revealing them just yet. In a developer update video, which you can watch above, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan did confirm that at least three heroes will receive holiday-themed skins.
 
“A long-awaited Hanzo skin that you’ve seen before in one of our comics is coming to life,” said Kaplan. He added that holiday skins are also on the way for “two of our favorite Junkers” — i.e., Junkrat and Roadhog.
 
The centerpiece of 2017’s Winter Wonderland event is a wild new Arcade mode called Mei’s Yeti Hunt, which Kaplan said was the result of Blizzard wanting to “try something different and fun.” It’s an asymmetrical multiplayer mode: Modeled after a boss fight à la Evolve, it pits five Meis against one “yeti,” Winston. Set on the Nepal map, Mei’s Yeti Hunt does still focus on characters shooting each other — but there’s a twist.
The person playing as Winston has to run around the map picking up meat to build up his ultimate ability, Primal Rage. Everyone playing as Mei tries to find Winston and take him down. But once Winston triggers Primal Rage, the mode flips: It becomes all about the Meis attempting to escape before Winston can kill them. Mei has a new ability that’s specific to this mode, Ice Trap, and she can use it along with her usual Ice Wall to fend off the yeti. If Winston dies, the Meis win; if enough of the Meis die, Winston wins.
 
“I know a lot of you are thinking it sounds kind of silly and kind of ridiculous,” said Kaplan of Mei’s Yeti Hunt. “And, well, I’m here to tell you it absolutely is.” Kaplan added that many of Overwatch’s seasonal brawls are simply designed to be fun, lighthearted and refreshing Arcade exercises that are available for a limited time.
 
In addition to Mei’s Yeti Hunt, this year’s Winter Wonderland update will offer the Mei-focused mode from last year’s event, Mei’s Snowball Offensive. Blizzard has moved that six-on-six gametype to Black Forest, and has given that German map a new holiday makeover. (The snowball fight will also be available in its original setting, Ecopoint: Antarctica.) Last year’s holiday passes for King’s Row and Hanamura are also returning for Winter Wonderland 2017.
 
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Overwatch League Preseason Rankings

Written by Tyler Erzberger
 
After a year of promotional videos, press events and promises, the Overwatch League is ready to kick off with preseason action this week before the regular season begins in early January. This will be the first time fans get to see the Overwatch League franchises in action in their new uniforms. Although just the preseason, this week will set the tone of which teams could be considered favorites entering the inaugural season.
 
Here's a rundown of how I see the teams going into the preseason round of play.
 
1. Seoul Dynasty
The Dynasty have a core built from the two-time OGN APEX winners Lunatic-Hai, and the team added weapons on the offensive side of the lineup, which should be the fix the club needs following Lunatic-Hai's dismissal by the hands of GC Busan in the most recent APEX season. Watch out for Byung-sun "Fleta" Kim to quickly become one of the more recognizable DPS players in the league. Backed with the strongest tank/support quartet in the league, South Korea's home team has all the makings of a powerhouse coming into the first season of Overwatch League. The move that, in my opinion, puts the Dynasty over the top is scooping up GC Busan's coach, Ho-cheol "Hocury" Lee, the mastermind behind taking down LH in the previous APEX campaign.
 
2. London Spitfire
Speaking of APEX champion GC Busan, London Spitfire is where all the players wound up. The Spitfire is a combination of two of South Korea's best clubs, GC Busan and Kongdoo Panthera, leaving us with a 12-man roster that has so many delicious six-man teams that I'm pretty sure this team is fan fiction gone rogue. How is it fair that a single team has not only Joon-yeong "Profit" Park but Ji-hyuk "Birdring" Kim as well? This team is stacked from top to bottom with talent at all three positions.
 
The only question will be how the Spitfire will get the best out of all their talent. When you have a 12-man team that each has an argument to be a full-time starter, it's going to be up to the coaching staff and management to make sure everyone is happy with the role on the team. If the team can find the right balance, not even the Dynasty have the firepower to stand up to the Spitfire, though this could be a situation where there are just too many five-star cooks in the kitchen, as ludicrous as it sounds.
 
3. New York Excelsior
Oh, look, another all-South Korean team. It's almost like South Korea is far and away the best country at Overwatch or something. The Excelsior will be missing their superstar, Yeon-oh "Fl0w3R" Hwang, for the first season of the league because the DPS player is too young to compete per Overwatch League rules, and though that's a huge hit to the team's title hopes, don't sleep on the New Yorkers. Jong-yeol "Saebyeolbe" Park will be the de facto ace in the absence of Flow3r, and the addition of Hye-sung "Libero" Kim will give the Excelsior a plethora of strategies and compositions with his reputation as one of the most flexible players in all of the professional scene. The key player for Excelsior won't be at the DPS position, though. Rookie support Sung-hyeon "JJoNak" Bang has been one of the South Korea's top online players for some time now, and the success of his transition from his room to the big stage could be the difference between the Excelsior playing in the Overwatch League final or struggling to get into the playoffs.
 
4. Dallas Fuel
The final of the consensus "Elite Four" heading into the inaugural season is Team United Nations, more commonly known as the Dallas Fuel. The Fuel have eight countries represented on the roster, and the core of the group is from Team EnvyUs, the most successful western team in the pre-Overwatch League era. In a game in which South Korea is king, the Fuel are the only team with a legitimate chance to break up the South Korean trio and vie for the league title. When newcomers look at the Fuel roster, their eyes will instantly be drawn to the star-studded international DPS lineup of South Korean ace Hyeon "EFFECT" Hwang, Finnish sharpshooter Timo "Taimou" Kettunen and the most well-known player in all of Overwatch, America's Brandon "Seagull" Larned. Overall, the roster is rock-solid, and the coaching should make this team a top contender. In all honesty, when it comes to the top four teams, you can rearrange them in any order you like.
 
5. Los Angeles Valiant
The Valiant want to create a culture that breeds not only excellence but also doing it with class. In the first season of the Overwatch League, the team is built with the core of the Immortals roster, with additions from the now-defunct Rogue team that was considered one of the better western teams before it failed to make it into the OWL as a unit. As with most of the teams in this section of the ranking, it's hard to place the Valiant with certainty without more statistics and film. At least for now, the battle of Los Angeles in the power rankings goes to the Valiant. We'll see if that changes following the preseason round of competition.
 
6. Florida Mayhem
Coming in at what would be the cutoff for non-playoff teams in the regular season, we have the Florida Mayhem, made up of the Misfits team that got second place in the most recent European Contenders season behind the Finnish club Team Gigantti. On the plus side for the Mayhem, finding synergy shouldn't be an issue. All of these players know how to play together, and individually, the team should be capable of taking games off even the top four in the league. The only possible downside of said synergy comes when you look at the roster; with only six players, this Mayhem starting lineup needs to work. There are no trump cards up the Mayhem's sleeve, and if the team falls behind early in the season, it'll need to wait until the free-agent signing period to shore up its weaknesses. This team is a safe bet to start well but possibly slip as the season goes along.
 
7. Houston Outlaws
For me, the Outlaws might be the team with the highest variance of anyone in the first season of the Overwatch League. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Outlaws in the semifinals and fighting to upset one of the favored teams to make the final, and it equally wouldn't shock me to see the team at the bottom of the table, fighting to stay out of last place. Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin of Team Gigantti fame will be slotted as the team's ace in the DPS position, and from there, the team has a lot of pieces that make you believe that if things click, there could be something special this season in Houston. It'll be up to head coach Tae-yeong "TaiRong" Kim, of the South Korean team that won the first Overwatch World Cup last year, to make sure these pieces of the puzzle come together in time for a strong first impression.
 
8. Los Angeles Gladiators
On paper, the Gladiators are a team with an interesting mix of North American, South Korean, European and even South American talent. Behind the Fuel, this is the most international team on the board, but the Gladiators lack the months of experience the Fuel have. The team will have a backline of supports from Team Gigantti that won EU Contenders a month ago, and it'll be intriguing to see if Lane "Surefour" Roberts can step up as an ace on this team. Like the Outlaws, this is a team that could turn some heads with a playoff appearance or fall to the bottom of the standings and be forced to make changes midseason.
 
9. Shanghai Dragons
This is the definition of a wild-card team. Where the other clubs have players who have played in APEX, Contenders and other international tournaments, Shanghai is made up of players who primarily played in the Chinese domestic league, leaving us with more questions than answers. If the Dragons had signed a majority of the Miraculous Younger roster, the top team in the Chinese region that showed some fight against a few of the better pre-OWL South Korean clubs, there could be something to take away. Instead, no Miraculous Younger players are on the roster, and we're left wondering how good this team could be. A majority of China's performances are against South Korean teams, and even if, let's say, a player of the Dragons got rolled over by a RunAway or GC Busan, is there much to learn from that when a majority of western teams would have been dealt the same result? Preseason is just preseason, but the upcoming set of games should answer some of the questions we have for the Dragons.
 
10. San Francisco Shock
It's never a good thing when your slated ace player can't play for part of the season because he's too young, and that's exactly what is happening with the San Francisco Shock. The Shock went out and got their man in Jay "Sinatraa" Won in the offseason, with a reported $150,000 contract ... and now they'll have to wait until his next birthday to see him play in the orange and grey. Oh, but that's not all: Matthew "super" DeLisi, the team's flex DPS/Tank player, is also underage, turning 18 in late March. With the team hamstrung for the time being, I'm interested to see how well the Shock can do without two of their core members for part of the season and see if they can keep themselves around a playoff position until the pair becomes eligible.
 
11. Boston Uprising
Out of all the franchises, none has gotten more criticism leading up to the preseason than the Uprising. One of the first franchises announced, the team's roster has left many scratching their heads, and with a poor introduction video, it has been misstep after misstep for the Uprising. The good news is that no one will care about the PowerPoint presentation-level introduction video or how many accolades the players have as long as the team performs when the roster plays together. Se-hyeon "Neko" Park, formerly of the NC Foxes, at support, is an overlooked, solid pickup for the team that has nothing to lose.
 
N/A. Philadelphia Fusion
The team announced Monday that it will not be participating in preseason because of "player logistics issues".
 
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