If you began Overwatch season two as a high-tier hotshot, only to plummet into silver or bronze as time went on, don't worry: You're not alone. Season two completely overhauled the occasionally loved, often loathed skill rating system, but players still aren't satisfied. Many don't love the feeling of plateauing at a certain skill rating tier and then slowly sliding into an abyss of salty self-loathing. There have also been cries of "ELO hell", the idea that once you're surrounded on all sides by crappy teammates, there's no escaping your low rank.
Season three, Blizzard has announced, begins on December 1. Season two will end on November 24, which means there'll be a much shorter off-season than last time. This time around, Blizzard's not overhauling the system, but they are tweaking it in some pretty big ways.
In a forum post, principal designer Scott Mercer explained that Blizzard has two goals in designing (and re-designing) the skill rating system. These two goals, however, are sorta in conflict with one another. At the start of the season, Blizzard wants people to quickly find fair matches against players of equal skill level, but they also want it to feel like a fresh start. Figuring out where players should start has been a process.
"Another area of Competitive Play we're trying to improve for Season 2 is how we distribute everybody into their Skill Tiers (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc.) based on their SR," Mercer said. "When Season 2 started, we had WAY more players in Gold and Platinum than we initially intended, and way fewer in Bronze and Silver. This was the result of how we calculated your initial SR for Season 2. We tried to partially reset player SR at the start of Season 2, but the results were not as we expected. Instead, below-average players started Season 2 at a higher SR than they should have been given their performance in Season 1. This meant that as they played in Season 2, their SR would often drop to a lower value, which didn't feel great. It also meant that there was a much wider variation of skill in the Gold and Platinum tiers than we wanted. This is something we want to avoid in Season 3."
Ultimately, Blizzard has decided to lean more in the direction of fairness than, er, freshness. Skill rating will be tuned lower at the start, but that will be offset to a degree by higher than normal skill rating gains. But only for a little while.
If you're feeling brave, you can try out Blizzard's new approach to skill rating on the PTR right now.