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Columns: The New Eichenwalde Map & Changes to Competitive Play in September

By Michael Bitton on August 17, 2016

The New Eichenwalde Map & Changes to Competitive Play in September

September is shaping up to be an interesting month for Overwatch. Blizzard recently released a new developer update video in which game director Jeff Kaplan outlined significant changes coming to competitive play in season two.  Blizzard also unveiled Eichenwalde, the game’s first post-launch map, heading into this year’s Gamescom.  We’ve also seen some new datamined information show up in the wild, alluding to the possibility of an Overwatch free trial, among other things.

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As far as competitive play goes, Blizzard’s announced changes should go a long way in easing ladder anxiety. The current system has been fraught with controversy and angst, and Kaplan himself has expressed regret over going with the 1-100 percentile-based MMR system that is currently live. The new system coming in season two will combine the exposed MMR that is currently found on live servers with the familiar league based system found in many other games. In season two, MMR will instead span a range from 1-5000 instead of 1-100 which will at a basic level at least help ease people’s feelings about their skill rating. Since much of the problem right now centers on players feeling that their 50 or 60 rating is poor, when as Kaplan explains, having a rating of 60 puts you in the top 6% of all players right now. Since most of us associate the 1-100 scale with say, school grades, it’s easy to see how players might look at their 50 or 60 rating and think they’re not actually that great at the game.

This new range will be split across seven tiers (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, and Grand Master).  This should put less focus on your specific skill rating and more on which tier you fall into. Additionally, once you’ve made it into a new tier, you won’t be able to drop back out (with the exception of Master and Grand Master tiers). Personally, I’m not a fan of that little safety net; I feel the expanded range and tiers should suffice, but it’s not a huge deal.  Players that are in Diamond or higher will also be subject to rating decay (-50 rating/24 hours) after being inactive in competitive play for one week, though you can’t drop below Diamond this way.

Blizzard is also looking to address the disparity in skill rating amongst premade groups in competitive play. The intention is to allow friends to play with each other in competitive, but some limits do need to be put in place to keep things on an even keel. The current plan is to limit players to within a 500 skill point rating disparity, though Kaplan concedes that this may be tweaked tighter or looser depending on how it all plays out. I’m a huge fan of these changes in particular since getting carried by friends is a huge peeve of mine, so kudos to Blizzard for trying to find a middle ground.

In terms of new content, the aforementioned Eichenwalde map looks incredibly compelling. Set in Germany, the castle village of Eichenwalde was the site of one of the most famous battles of the Omnic Crisis. Eichenwalde is also the origin of Overwatch’s Bastion, who will be featured in his own animated short Gamescom sometime this week. The map design puts an emphasis on verticality, which should hopefully spice things up. It also puts an interesting twist on Overwatch’s hybrid maps in that you’re escorting the payload first and then capturing a point. This is actually represented in a really neat way, too. The payload is actually a battering ram that attacking players will need to escort to the castle doors in order to breach the castle itself and capture it.  I’m really eager to get some playtime with the map next month.

Overwatch's New Map, Eichenwalde, coming in September

What’s your take on all the changes and content coming to Overwatch in September? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.