With Overwatch League back for season 2, a new competitive season and a new hero currently live on the public test region, it’s a good time to be an Overwatch fan.
However for someone like myself, jumping back in at full force after being inspired by the pros, it brings back the desire for a mode that has been long-requested: unranked competitive.
Aside from the arcade, Overwatch has two primary modes, quick play and competitive. Quick play is designed to be just that, quick. In these matches, your team only plays offense or defense and, aside from earning slightly more experience towards a loot box, there’s not much at stake.
Competitive matches are far longer, with both teams getting the chance to play offense and defense, and it uses a separate matchmaking system from quick play. Also, winning or losing matches will make you climb or fall in the competitive rankings. Especially for an average player like myself, those rankings are hard-fought.
These two modes are fine for what they are, but the experience of playing them is so drastically different that it feels like a middle ground is needed. This discrepancy is most annoying when trying to learn to play a new character the right way.
For many players, quick play matches are so chaotic and unorganized that the learning potential for new characters is negligible, while competitive matches are so intense that you have little incentive to stray from your best character. In other words, it’s easy to get stuck.
If a Mercy main wants to pick up Sombra, they aren’t going to try her out in competitive since their rank would suffer from the lack of practice and they will also drag down all of their teammates’ rank as well. Okay, then they can just try Sombra out in quick play, right?
Well, anyone who has played a fair amount of Overwatch will know this just doesn’t work as hoped, and there are several reasons for this.
First off, players generally don’t care as much. While players leaving, ignoring the objective or trolling happens sometimes on competitive, it’s common in quick play. Teamwork is essential in Overwatch, but getting a team to work together at all is a tall order in quick play, and getting players who use mics is even harder.
The other big problem with quick play is that the matches are too short. While competitive matches give you the chance to read your opponent’s play style and adapt when the sides flip, quick play matches are over before you get into this kind of rhythm, and the next match is often with new players entirely.
This is why we need a mode that meets in the middle of these two modes. A mode that is branded as competitive, uses competitive rules, does matchmaking by SR and has good benefits for those who play it but doesn’t have quite the pressure of a true competitive match.
Of course, the biggest worry about a mode like this would be that it would become quick play 2.0, suffering from the same problems because of the lack of a ranking. There are a few avenues Blizzard could explore to keep this from happening.
The most obvious way to incentivize players to try in an unranked mode is to offer competitive points for wins. The amounts can be small, and it might require a restructuring of how competitive points work altogether, but this seems like an essential part of making unranked competitive work.
Unranked competitive should also enforce leaving penalties on both unranked and ranked modes. If leaving an unranked match too many times could ban a player from all competitive matches, they should be less likely to bail.
Another potential problem is poor matchmaking from splitting up the player base. However, other games like Dota 2 and even Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm implement unranked systems that are generally well received, and Heroes of the Storm has a much smaller player base than Overwatch.
It’s worth noting that a mode like this has been done before, sort of. In between competitive seasons players can play with the same rules but no worry about SR. However, since this was the only competitive mode during those times and it lasted such a short amount of time, it doesn’t really work how we want it.
Also, Blizzard recently announced that from now on competitive seasons will start as soon as the previous one ends, so this off time is a thing of the past. If they ran the mode they used during the off times alongside normal competitive, it could actually serve as the alternative that people like myself want.
This mode would likely need lots of tweaking and adjusting. Blizzard might even consider taking the long-discussed step of mandating a two DPS, two tank and two healer comp in this mode, which should be fine since the mode would primarily be used to test characters for use in competitive.
While it may not be perfect, an unranked mode than runs alongside the competitive season with longer matches is bound to foster a slightly more competitive crowd and therefore a better overall experience. In other words, it can’t be worse than quick play.
Do you want an unranked competitive mode in Overwatch? Do you think it would work? Let us know in the comments. For more on Overwatch, read our articles on why we should chill out about the GOATS meta and when you can expect Baptise to go live.