How Overwatch Picks Play of the Game Moments
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Blizzard's multiplayer shooter Overwatch launched last week, and since then players have been going wild with memes featuring the post-match Play of the Game mechanic. We recently spoke to the game's lead software engineer, Rowan Hamilton, who discussed how it originated and how the mechanic is being tweaked.
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GameSpot: What was the idea behind introducing the Play of the Game mechanic?
Hamilton: There's lots of cool moments that happen throughout the game. And when you're playing with friends, something cool happens and you'll scream "Oh my god, this is… did you see what I just did?!" and half the time it'll be like, "No man, I'm over here, killing this guy, I have no idea what you just did."
So the idea then was to capture those moments which slipped by. We wanted to make it a really cool social moment at the end of the game, where it's not just your team but the other team seeing this epic thing--well, hopefully epic thing--that happened during the game and you can all chat about it and bond over how cool that Mercy res was.
While it's a great thing to have, I also feel like it sometimes places a lot of emphasis on the damage-dealing heroes of the game, and sidelines the support or even defensive characters. Is this something Blizzard is looking to address?
Yeah. It's feedback we get a lot. From a technical standpoint, it's a really hard problem to have a computer figure out what is cool. They're not very smart. They take some numbers in, they put some numbers out. It's hard to figure out what is cool there. We constantly look at Play of the Game, and we've got a whole bunch of data on Play of the Games are actually happening out there in the wild, and we can kind of see patterns about this character getting a lot of PoTG for these killstreaks, they're getting a lot of damage, or they're getting a Play of the Game for that.
We also have a lot of cool systems internally where we can play with the algorithm that determines Play of the Game and play the same game back again, and be like, "Okay if I tweak these numbers, what's going to be the Play of the Game that gets picked this time?" So it might've been Widowmaker getting three snipes, but I change the weighting on some other aspect that we take as important, and it could all of a sudden its Mercy resurrecting everyone on the point two second before the match ended. It's going to be an ongoing process, and hopefully we continue to improve it.
So it currently does consider supportive acts, like Mercy casting resurrection?
Yeah. There's a lot of different variables. I'm not intimately familiar with the system so I can't speak to all of them, but there's obvious stuff like damage and kills. There's stuff like healing, I think at point when we were tweaking it Zenyatta would almost always get Play of the Game every time he popped his ultimate, because he would just do this massive amount of healing and the algorithm would almost always freak out, but it was just Zenyatta just sitting there floating.
So a lot of support actions do come into it, we've added some stuff recently, such as determining how hard a shot was to hit based on how fast the target was moving, how far away the target was moving. So a snipe of someone half a screen away who was just chilling out and waiting to be headshot won't be weighted as heavily as a Tracer zipping across, barely in sight that you manage to pick off. We're constantly looking at different things we can add to that.
Now that the game has launched, what are you keeping the closest eye on?
We're really busy at the moment working on competitive ranked. It's something that we feel is really important to the game. So we're pushing really hard to get that out there, and see how the players react to that. On the technical side, we're keeping an eye on what the performance of the game is like out there in the wild. It seems pretty stable at the moment.
Obviously, one of the things that's really hard to test internally is how the matchmaking algorithm going to work when there's not thirty people playing the game anymore. How does it perform when it's trying to make somewhat reasonable teams of six versus six. So that's definitely another thing that we're watching pretty closely.