How Competitive Skill Rating Works (Season 8)

Competitive Discussion
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How do I maximize my Skill Rating?

In order:
1) Win games
2) If diamond or above, play a minimum of 4.67 games per week (starting one week after placements).
3) If platinum or below, perform well, statistics-wise, with the chosen hero.

In my last game, my Skill Rating went up/down by X. Why did this happen?

The details of Skill Rating (SR) movement in a match depends on whether a player wins or loses, the Match-making-rating (MMR) mismatch between the two teams, the mismatch between the player’s SR and MMR, whether a player is new, the player’s statistical performance, the player’s position on the ladder, and possible bugs. Add it all together and it is nearly impossible to determine why a player’s SR has a specific movement in a particular match. Sometimes over the course of twenty to one hundred matches it can be seen that one particular cause is dominant, but that often depends on careful data collection and some guesswork.

Introduction

The SR system is confusing, and a good overview does not appear to be available. The official overview (1) is incomplete and does not answer a number of common player questions and concerns. This information below is gathered from sporadic blue posts and developer update videos, and salted with my own experience and experiments, various forum threads, and watching streams. Note that since Blizzard does not give exact algorithms, I do have to fill in some gaps, or leave some items unknown. I will edit this post as information becomes available, or the SR system changes.

Ranks

< 500 Bronze, SR not listed
500-1499 Bronze
1500-1999 Silver
2000-2499 Gold
2500-2999 Platinum
3000-3499 Diamond
3500-3999 Master
4000-5000 Grandmaster
Top 500 players in region.

For season 3, the rank distribution was Bronze: 6%, Silver: 22%, Gold: 34%, Platinum: 23%, Diamond: 10%, Master: 3%, Grandmaster <1%. (3) Third-party sites such as masteroverwatch.com do not give reliable distributions because players have to actually log in to those sites for it to count the data. This skews those sites heavily toward higher ranked players.

As a player gains SR, he will be promoted to the next tier when appropriate. He will drop out of each tier as he loses rank. However, there is some loss protection for Diamond and below. After a loss (but not a win), the game will check to see what a player’s current tier and skill rating are. If his skill rating has not exceeded the minimum for his current tier for the past five games, he will be demoted (16). For Master and Grandmaster, a player will be demoted immediately if his skill rating is not high enough. Competitive point rewards are based on the highest rank achieved during the season (16). Ranks and SR are wiped each season (but not MMR, see below).

The top 500 leaderboard becomes available two weeks after season start. To be eligible, a player must have played at least 50 games that season, all from one region. However, there were several past seasons where the 50 game restriction was not enforced. For example, there was a player who finished in top 500 with only 17 games (Season 6, Americas, rank 498, in-game leaderboard). This appears to have been a bug that was silently created and fixed. The top 500 spray and icon are not awarded unless a player is in top 500 at the end of the season (18).

Matchmaking

Matchmaking is based on hidden match-making-rating (MMR), not SR (3, 21, 25, 40). Competitive MMR is separate from the MMR of other modes (37). If a player has never played competitive, his initial competitive MMR is likely around 2500 (38, 39). For new players, MMR and SR are more volatile (35). So even though everyone starts around 2500, after 10 placement matches, there is a wide variation in initial placements. New account volatility rapidly decreases with every game played, but is still visible after initial placements are complete. There is indirect evidence (see the “Season Transitions” section, below) that average MMR movement for established accounts is 18.7. For active and established accounts, typical SR movement is 20-30.

With the exception of diamond+ players who have decayed (see below), MMR and SR are closely linked (22). The SR/MMR convergence is implemented by having each match pull SR in the direction of MMR. That is, if SR is lower than MMR, a player will win more SR than MMR on a win, and lose less SR than MMR on a loss. When I refer to an SR buff, this is how the buff is implemented (14).

The game uses MMR to determine whether a match is fair, and attempts to match teams such that the game is fair (each team has a 50% chance of winning). Upon victory, the winners receive a bump up in SR and MMR, and the losers get bumped down. At times (off peak-hours or very high/low rated players), finding a fair match will be impossible in a reasonable amount of time, and the match maker will match teams based on a best fit. However, note that if only very imbalanced matches are available (the infamous Brazilian six stack playing at 3 AM), then no match will be made and queue times will become extreme to infinite (3). The tuning for what is very imbalanced is a number that is not published and can change with time. In the middle ground, top (or bottom) players will have a longer, but not infinite queue, to attempt to find a better match (15).

If the match making algorithm determined before the game that it was not fair, the higher ranked team will receive less SR/MMR on a win, and lose more SR/MMR on a loss. The lower ranked team will receive more SR/MMR on a win, and lose less SR/MMR on a loss (2). This is standard for Elo (rating system from chess) type systems. Draws cause no change in SR and have an unknown effect on MMR.

In addition to Elo type effects for high rated players (in which they gain less SR/MMR because there are no fair matches available), there is an extra SR debuff for high ranked players to prevent them from getting to the SR limit of 5000. The concern here is that players would start to pile up at the limit of 5000 and break the leaderboard (35).

In addition to MMR, the match maker attempts to match on ping and group size (32) and to make matches reasonably quickly. (Jeff also mentions quarantining new players from the general population, but based on a reroll experiment I did I believe that that effect is entirely gone by the time a player is finished with his career competitive placements).

If the match-maker says most games are fair, then why are there so many stomps?

There are many reasons:

1) Overwatch, as a game, has a tendency to snowball. The winner of the first fight has an ultimate advantage that has a tendency to last the round. Losing teams tend to tilt and start playing poorly, which can continue in the same round and carry into the next round.

2) Random variables are random. Maybe a cat walked on a keyboard or someone fat fingered an ult (7). Maybe someone who has 99% up-time for their internet had their 1% failure that day. Maybe one team has all dps mains, and the other team is well balanced. MMR and predicted win percentage only has validity over many matches, not each individual match.

3) Not every player tries hard every match. Sometimes this is subtle, like playing with a beer or two too many. Sometimes it is less subtle, like practicing a hero a player is not good at, regardless of team comp or map.

4) Some players actively break the system, by either hard throwing, that is intentionally losing (as opposed to soft throwing as in item 3), playing on someone else's account to boost it, or other similar actions. These actions are bannable and should be reported when seen. Blizzard has promised to take stronger actions against this sort of thing (17). However, soft throwers and hard throwers can be difficult to distinguish, and Blizzard has to error on the side of caution to avoid banning the wrong people, so it will always be a problem. The in-game report UI, as well as a key blue post (36), give guidelines on what behavior is or is not bannable.

5) New accounts in general have less data and will have a less accurate MMR. There is no required minimum number of games to play, so new accounts can stay “new” for a very long time.

6) MMR itself is only approximate. See the section on “How Accurate is SR”, below and realize that MMR generally will have the same issues as SR, with respect to accuracy, except it is harder to measure what is going on with MMR.

Okay, stomps are going to happen, but why are there so many win/loss streaks and large SR/MMR movements? Shouldn’t a player’s SR/MMR be fairly stable once he gets to the proper rank?

Win probability changes slowly with rank because there are so many random factors in each individual match. Unfortunately, it follows from this that frequent and long streaks will occur, and a player’s rank will oscillate widely. Essentially, a player will tend to bounce between the range of where he is nearly guaranteed to win and where he is nearly guaranteed to lose. The range varies from player to player, but +/- 250 SR/MMR is common and +/- 500 is possible. This problem can be analyzed in depth, mathematically (34).

If MMR are SR are so similar, why have both? Isn’t that unnecessarily confusing? Can’t we handle the problem of rank camping (see below) some other way?

In a word, yes. Here I’m going to engage in editorializing and reading between the lines of the blue posts. See this as my informed, but unverified, opinion. The real purpose of MMR is to provide Blizzard’s absolute best estimate of each player’s ability. However, since it is invisible to the players, Blizzard can change how it is calculated at any time and can have movements or changes that feel bad (23). The "unnecessary" placement matches for established players also give Blizzard an extra opportunity to mess with MMR and make it harder for the players to see what is going on. SR, on the other hand, is player facing, and subject to player psychology. Aside from players' tendency to over-react to every little thing, blizzard uses SR to influence player behavior (SR buff at the beginning of the season (now removed), SR penalty for leaving, SR penalty for being inactive) and to coddle players’ tender egos (23).

The good news is that as Blizzard is getting more confidence in the system, goofiness like this is slowly getting removed. Streak bonuses were removed. The knock down / build up in SR at the beginning of the season was removed. Performance modifiers are being dialed down. There may be some day in the future when Blizzard has enough confidence in MMR to make it public, and to abolish SR. I propose that we deal with the problem of rank camping by having tier decay (top 500 -> grandmaster -> master -> diamond) but not SR/MMR decay.

High win percentage debuff / Low win percentage buff

As mentioned, SR is pulled in the direction of MMR (22). There is evidence (29) that this leads to an unfortunate and unintended side effect: If SR is well above MMR because a player has won many more games than he’s lost, less SR than MMR will be gained on a win, and more SR than MMR will be lost on a loss. This is an SR debuff. At high win percentage, a player can gain up to 6 SR less on a win than he loses on a loss (29). The effect is expected to reverse at low win percentage (SR would be buffed). The effect goes away once a player’s win percentage gets near 50%. That is, the player’s MMR is not ruined for life.

Rank Decay

To prevent rank camping, for players ranked 3000 SR or higher, their rank will decay 25 SR per day if they do not play. Each game a player plays increases his buffer by 36 hours, to a maximum of one week (20). Each day a player’s decay buffer decreases by 24 hours. If it hits zero, decay starts. To determine how many games must be played per week to avoid decay, we can calculate (1 game / 36 hours) * (168 hours / week) = 4.67 games / week. This is slightly lower than the 5 games per week that was originally reported (15). To see if decay is imminent look on the right hand side of the information screen of the competitive play card. After returning from decay, the player will have a substantial SR buff (gain more SR from wins than he loses from loses) until he is back where he was (3). While decayed, a player’s MMR (and hence matchmaking) does not change (3). The decay clock doesn’t start until the player does his placement matches.

Performance Modifier

In platinum and below, SR/MMR gains are adjusted up or down based on the performance of the player. This is a minor factor (2). This is done based on a numerical comparison of measureable quantities such as elims, deaths, assists, damage blocks, ults cast, etc. between a given player and other players of that hero at that MMR (8). Generally it is assumed that the measured stats are those visible to the player, but that has never been confirmed by Blizzard. Most of the details of this implementation are fuzzy and not published (probably to reduce exploits). This performance measure is correlated but not identical to “on fire” calculations. “On fire” compares a player to his teammates, while SR/MMR bonuses compare a player to other players that are not in the current match, but in a similar skill bracket, and playing the same hero (8). The effect of the performance modifier is generally small, but there are plausible reports of it causing people to have to maintain a 55%+ win rate to maintain their SR (11).

This is the most controversial (among many controversies) part of the SR system. There are two camps, those who don’t want their SR/MMR to be so heavily influenced by those in their group, and those who worry that having a performance based system will cause people to not play the objectives / win conditions and instead go stat hunting. In addition to people who go stat hunting, people can unintentionally be at the wrong rank because their good / bad play is not reflected in their stats. In the early days, these groups were roughly equal, but lately those advocating for no performance modifier are more numerous.

Starting in season 8 (January 2018), the performance modifier was removed for diamond and above (35). Blizzard has started to realize that having a motivation other than winning causes all sorts of non-ideal behavior and effects. The immediate forum response has been to request this change for lower tiers as well (at least whatever tier the poster happens to be in). However performance modifiers do help move new players where they belong much faster than an Elo type system, so I propose that the performance modifier be removed for Bronze to Platinum players after a sufficient number of competitive games has been played. Blizzard can use their data to determine how long it takes for people for their rank to stabilize, which would be a good place for a cutoff.

Season Transitions

Players’ 10 placement matches will start with Blizzard’s best estimate of each player’s MMR for matchmaking purposes. A player’s initial SR will generally be close to his previous season ending SR, with a relatively ordinary adjustment based on 10 placement matches. However, occasionally a player will have a large and inexplicable movement (24) in either direction.

My best guess is that Blizzard is using the cover of placements to tweak their MMR algorithm. In addition, they likely reanalyze the entire previous season and place people again. This allows them (for example) to throw out games (for all players except the hard carry) where a person was later determined to be horribly misplaced and winning all their matches. It allows them to take into account stats with a full season worth of data, even though various heroes were tweaked during the season. Basically, Blizzard can use data from well after a match to determine who really should have won that match or what performance modifiers were appropriate.

I suspect (without proof) that unexplained variation is larger for accounts with few competitive games in recent history.

Without an official statement from Blizzard, or some method for reverse engineering what they are doing, it is difficult to be sure. It is also difficult to know how much data is included in this rebasing of MMR. Based on my experience (but not statistically significant data or blue posts), a player’s starting MMR depends on approximately one season or maybe 100-200 games of data.

Because of reasonably high quality data for seasons 6, 7, and 8 (24), it is possible to derive a formula: (New Season Starting SR) = (-180 +/- 24) + (1.006 +/- .007) * (Previous season Ending SR) + (37.3 +/- 2.6) * (Placement Wins). New Season Starting SR has a standard error of 181 SR (24), which implies an unexplained range of roughly 1000 SR.

I have several anecdotes (but not enough to call it data) that decay does not persist through season transitions. That is, if a player decays from 4000 to 3000 before the season break, he will place around 4000 after the season break.

Prior to season 6 (September 2017), players’ SR would be bumped down below their MMR at the beginning of the season, and they would earn it back with an SR buff over the course of 50 matches. This felt bad and was removed (15).

As an aside, it is possible from this data to derive the typical movement in MMR. It is safe to assume that the average SR of the entire community matches the average MMR of the entire community at the end of the season. It is also likely that the SR matches MMR exactly after placements. In theory, decayed players would mess with this, but they are not common in the data and decay likely persists through season breaks so would not affect the analysis here. Overall, during placements, movement of SR and MMR is the same. With each additional win (as opposed to a loss), a player gains 37.3 SR / MMR. This effectively means that a player will win 18.7 MMR on a win, and lose 18.7 MMR on a loss. This typical MMR movement likely continues for the whole season, not just placements, while SR movement is more typically 20 - 30. This matches our evidence from elsewhere (how SR buffs work, high win percentage debuff) that MMR moves slower than SR.

How Accurate is SR?

On the forums there are generally two factions with respect to SR, those who think that SR is essentially luck and a meaningless value, and those who believe that SR is essentially correct. Neither of these factions have the correct approach. The correct question is to ask how accurate is SR? Clearly top 500 players are better than bottom 500 (see any bronze to GM series or watch low bronze play vs top play), so SR is not completely random, but how accurate is it really? For this discussion, I am assuming that we are talking about a player that plays to win every game, doesn’t share his account, and has played at least 100 competitive games.

There are number of ways to approach this question. One is to start a completely new account, and then play 100 games on the new account and see how it performs compared to the old one. This shows that SR can vary by 1000 SR in extreme cases, and 500 in normal cases (27). There is some evidence that reroll experiments show less variance at higher ranks (28) likely because there are less random variables, such as smurfs, throwers, and inconsistent play.

Another experiment we can do is look at how SR changes between seasons. Even though SR is generally about where it was from the previous season, there is roughly a 1000 SR range (in extreme cases) that cannot be explained by previous season ending and placements record (see previous section). Regardless of where this comes from, this implies that SR is not particularly accurate.

Next, any player can see how his SR changes during a season. A range of 500 is completely normal here.

In addition, if an account needs a 55% win rate to maintain SR (11), and if win % changes slowly with rank, then it is expected that this will be an additional source of significant error in SR.

If a player gets noticeably better, it can take a long time to get to the correct rank. If a player maintains a 55% win rate, he will only go up approximately 220 SR/MMR every 100 games. Because there are twelve players in a match, one player's contribution (and ability to carry the match) is limited unless he is playing at a vastly different skill level, so a 55% win rate for a player that is moderately under placed is to be expected.

Put this all together, and we can state that an active and motivated player’s SR is only accurate to +/- 250 SR in normal circumstances and +/- 500 SR in extreme cases. Of course, new players or players that actively break the system can be off by much more.

MMR/SR Reset

Periodically, there are calls on the forums for all MMR/SR information to be wiped and to start over. The justification here is that because the system has had many flaws, and that MMR/SR takes a very large number of games to move, and that people are misplaced by 250 to 500 SR (see previous section), that it would be good to wipe everything and start over. The chief problem with this is that before the wipe, the typical error is +/- 250 SR, with +/- 500 SR in extreme cases. Immediately after the wipe, the typical error would be +/- 2500, as everyone would have the same rating. Top 500 would be playing against bottom 500. This would cause matchmaking and rating quality to fall through the floor until a sufficient number of games are played. And because many people do not play a huge number of games, or play inconsistently, this inaccuracy would persist for months. And at the end of that, the accuracy would be similar to what it was before the reset, because the underlying system has not changed. My reasoning against a reset is similar to that given by Scott (12).

Popular Myths

Forced 50/50

There is an old and persistent conspiracy theory that Blizzard’s algorithms force players to have a 50% win rate by nefarious means (if a player gets many wins in a row, very poor players are put on his team to make him lose). This has been contradicted by Blizzard (7), is contradicted by people’s ability to climb (13), and would be a horrible and difficult-to-implement design. The truth is much simpler. If a player wins more than he loses, his SR/MMR goes up. As it rises, he is placed against stronger opponents (and with stronger allies), which increases the chance that he will lose (7). Once in equilibrium, the average person he faces (and is allied with) is at his skill level, and the only way to go up is to become a better player. The win/loss patterns and streaks are fully consistent (in the mathematical sense) with the system as Blizzard describes it, and are not consistent with a system in which Blizzard forces wins and losses (34).

MMR is determined by statistical performance

The idea here is that a player’s MMR is really a summary of their statistical performance, and that because SR chases MMR (14), a player’s SR is basically determined by their statistical performance. If this were true, statistical performance would be, by far, the most important contribution to SR. This is contradicted by Blizzard (2) and by most players having a win percentage of about 50% (if statistical performance was weighted very heavily, stat-chasers would have much lower win percentage at a given SR than team-players, for example).

Matchmaking pushes a 50% win percentage using broken criteria

It varies what this broken criteria is. Recent win percentage is popular. For example, a 75% win percentage player would be matched with a 25% win percentage player (on the same team). Another popular one is that a high stats player would be matched with a low stats player. The theories typically have a few things in common:

1) Blizzard has never confirmed (and sometimes has denied) them.
2) They would lead to obviously broken matchmaking.
3) Their proponents never have solid data backing them up.
4) They usually are not compatible with Blizzard statements, “All the system does when it comes to matching on skill is attempt to match you with people of a similar number” (32), and “We use MMR for matchmaking, not SR” (25).

The supposed support for these theories are that Blizzard has indicated that they desire and are happy with a 50% win percentage (32). However, there are many ways of accomplishing a 50% win percentage, and much better ways than the theories these forum writers ascribe to. Specifically, a 50% win percentage can be accomplished using a procedure similar to that which Blizzard describes (7): As a player wins matches, he is placed with and against stronger players. As he loses matches, he is placed with and against weaker players. With time, his win rate will converge to 50%, with some random oscillation around 50%. If he gets better (compared to the rest of the community), his win percentage will go up a bit until he finds his new level.

Win Streak Bonus / Loss Streak Penalty

Prior to April, 2017 there was a substantial bonus to SR for winning many games in a row (about 4 or more), scaling all the way up to 150 SR for one win. To keep things balanced, penalties existed if a player lost many games in a row. This was removed because it lead to people who got lucky/unlucky being thrown far from their true rank (9, 10).

Leaver Penalty

Each time a player leaves competitive matches any time before the Victory/Defeat screen, he will receive a 50 SR penalty. It is not known if leaving penalizes players’ MMR. In addition, a leaver will receive increasing automatic bans, with each leave (19):

10 minutes
30 minutes
2 hours
8 hours
24 hours
Season Ban (with a season ban, no rewards are received)

The season ban cannot be reversed. The reason or method of leaving is irrelevant. If a player plays many games without leaving, the leaving penalty resets downward. The rule of thumb is that if the bans are getting into 8 or 24 hours, a season ban is imminent. If a player receives three season bans, a permanent ban is likely (30). The season bans do not need to be consecutive to count toward a permanent ban.

If the player leaves before the game is 30 seconds old, the match is cancelled and no one except the leaver is penalized/rewarded. If a player leaves after the game is 30 seconds old, Players on the leaver’s team get no consideration due to the leaver. That is, they (and the other team) gain and lose SR/MMR as normal. This is to prevent situations where it is the team’s interest for one person to leave and save everyone else from losing SR/MMR (and the winners from gaining SR/MMR) (41, 42).

If a player leaves and rejoins the match (after rebooting / internet comes back, etc.), he will often be able to save himself from getting the penalty, but it is not a sure thing. It is unclear how much of this is policy, and how much of this is bug (43).

Bugs

Because of the complexity of the system, subtle bugs with skill-rating and match-making can be difficult to spot and reproduce by the players. And many player reports are not particularly trustworthy for various reasons. However, there are some outstanding issues which are well-known and verified.

There are a number of reports of a bug that will cause people to have very small gains / large losses in the match after the match with a leaver (26), assuming the bugged player left after the game said it was safe to do so, but before the end of the match. To avoid this, never leave a match, even after the game says it is safe to do so. There are also a number of people who a have reported small gains or large losses without any leavers in the vicinity, so we do not entirely understand what is going on. However, Blizzard has said that there is a fix in the works (33) (or already done?) so we shall see.

There is a rare and serious bug in which players can get incorrectly season banned and lose huge and undeserved amounts of SR. It appears that what happens is a competitive game gets put in a “Waiting for Players” state. And each time the game restarts with new players, everyone loses 50 SR and gets an increasing ban, up to hundreds of SR and a season ban. Blizzard has acknowledged the problem, is working on it, and has promised restoration to affected players (31). However, restoration can be slow and painful. If you ever see “Waiting for Players” during a competitive match, you should exit by any means necessary to stop the bleeding.

Using statistical measures to rate players is particularly prone to subtle bugs (11), which Blizzard and players have been discovering and Blizzard has been (slowly) acknowledging, fixing, and re-implementing since launch.

References

(1) https://playoverwatch.com/en-us/blog/21363037
(2) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20749737390#post-3
(3) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753625906 “If you do decay, it only affects your current displayed skill rating. This decay does not affect the internal matchmaking rating we use, so we can still place you in fair matches.” Unfortunately, the developers have a tendency to be sloppy with their language with respect to SR and MMR, which can lead to contradictory statements. Sometimes it looks like matchmaking is based on SR, and sometimes it looks like matchmaking is based on MMR. I decide in favor of matchmaking being based on MMR, not SR, because master+ players regularly see decayed “diamond” players in their matches. And when someone like Seagull decays down to diamond on stream, he is still placed in grandmaster / top 500 matches.
(4) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753625906#post-5
(5) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753625906#post-14
(6) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753475372
(7) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753625906#post-13
(8) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20754415323
(9) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20754005467
(10) Stevo, a twitch streamer and Symmetra main did a bronze to gm series on twitch after these changes went into effect, and there was no detectable SR bonus, even though he won 51 matches in a row. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/149357127 and following.
(11) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759406493
(12) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvoMLVX_yD4#t=01h01m50s
(13) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758756012
(14) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753625906 “When you do come back and actively play matches, you’ll also typically gain more SR from a win until your displayed skill rating and internal matchmaking have again reached ‘equilibrium’ “.
(15) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jqf0e8zzyCw
(16) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758826275
(17) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758356169
(18) https://playoverwatch.com/en-us/blog/20580588
(19) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20753269323
(20) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758787028
(21) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758686566#post-2
(22) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758686566#post-6
(23) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758686566#post-16
(24) https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kyS5EL9ZK1mQO6dfCuJGYp66-uYVL78VREh_6GBC4kQ/edit?usp=sharing
(25) https://twitter.com/playoverwatch/status/850435344457543680 Note however, that the second sentence, “Also players’ displayed icon …” is no longer valid. Players’ icons now change as a player loses SR.
(26) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759096240
(27) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758807010
(28) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20758807010#post-10
(29) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759236122
(30) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759266236
(31) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759216554?page=8#post-142
(32) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20745504371#post-3
(33) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20757486337#post-5
(34) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759379305
(35) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759648155
(36) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760716149?page=1#post-10
(37) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760837867#post-3
(38) https://www.reddit.com/r/Competitiveoverwatch/comments/7njxeu/question_about_qp_vs_comp_mmr/ds2oy62/
(39) https://www.reddit.com/r/Competitiveoverwatch/comments/7njxeu/question_about_qp_vs_comp_mmr/ds2wz1k/
(40) https://twitter.com/ww/status/867570441182826499
(41) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20745575028#post-3
(42) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20745727098
(43) https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20745636360#post-5

Last edited on 2/13/2018
What good is a write-up on the SR system, when the whole thing is undermined by the handicapping/MMR system:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760857618

Why doesn't Blizzard disclose the skill-metrics of the MMR/handicapping system to players? That is what we've been asking for, not another vague description of the SR system. And why should readers of this forum accept this information from you, second hand? You are not a Blizzard representative, Kaawumba.

Why are the forum moderators afraid to participate in discussion, and why are they asking you to do their work for them? Why doesn't Blizzard publish this kind of information themselves? Is it so that they aren't liable when it turns out to be false?
01/16/2018 06:25 AMPosted by Cuthbert
What good is a write-up on the SR system, when the whole thing is undermined by the handicapping/MMR system:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760857618


The system is not handicapped. I write a specific rebuttal to your thread here: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760857618#post-2

However, perhaps the best argument against your theories is to meditate on this post of yours:

Thread title: To all high-ranked and "professional" players I say...

Body:
11/11/2017 05:13 AMPosted by Cuthbert
You have not earned your standing. You are unproven. You are illegitimate:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759237722

Come at me.


To assert that there is no difference between a top ranked player an a bottom ranked player is an absurdity. It is trivial to see the difference in skill level between top and bottom players by watching youtube videos and twitch streams of play at top versus bottom levels.

01/16/2018 06:25 AMPosted by Cuthbert
Why doesn't Blizzard disclose the skill-metrics of the MMR/handicapping system to players? That is what we've been asking for, not another vague description of the SR system. And why should readers of this forum accept this information from you, second hand? You are not a Blizzard representative, Kaawumba.


Readers are welcome to follow the references in my post. Almost all of these lead to blue posts and data (that is, first-hand, original sources). They are then welcome to read those posts, and compare them to what I wrote to see if my interpretation is correct. This contrasts with your thread, where there is a link to only one blue post, which you misinterpreted. You've written thousands of words of speculation with no basis in blue posts or data.

01/16/2018 06:25 AMPosted by Cuthbert
Why are the forum moderators afraid to participate in discussion, and why are they asking you to do their work for them? Why doesn't Blizzard publish this kind of information themselves? Is it so that they aren't liable when it turns out to be false?


Only Blizzard can answer this. The main post on forum engagement is kinda off-topic with respect to SR/MMR, though it may shed light: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759346970?page=4#post-75
01/16/2018 06:25 AMPosted by Cuthbert
What good is a write-up on the SR system, when the whole thing is undermined by the handicapping/MMR system:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760857618

Why doesn't Blizzard disclose the skill-metrics of the MMR/handicapping system to players? That is what we've been asking for, not another vague description of the SR system. And why should readers of this forum accept this information from you, second hand? You are not a Blizzard representative, Kaawumba.

Why are the forum moderators afraid to participate in discussion, and why are they asking you to do their work for them? Why doesn't Blizzard publish this kind of information themselves? Is it so that they aren't liable when it turns out to be false?


If you're going to peddle your conspiracy theory about "handicapping" then at least keep it in your own threads, where you can continue ignoring post after post debunking all your lies.
01/16/2018 10:17 AMPosted by Arzoo
where you can continue ignoring post after post debunking all your lies.


Half of which are mine!

But this is a great post. Detailed info that's all cited. I'd love Blizzard to make a 5-10 minute official video summarizing this same info for people.
I appreciate the information and find it interesting. Not sure though about what causes the sudden loss streaks followed by a sudden win streak to gain it all back the following week. I am talking about 20 impossible games lost followed by 20 easy games won and end up back to my Season high or higher.

Whenever I get over 70% win rate or higher where I have 40 more wins than losses I do end up on a losing streak regardless if I am at my Season high or not but usually am at that point.

The enemy team is in fact tougher opponents but my team do not seem as tough when the loss streak starts. My team suddenly can't get any elims and dying too much. Then on the win streaks its the opposite. My team are getting elims and not dying much.

I go on a huge win Streak in Solo Que. I have 40 more wins than losses. I am getting four gold and 50% or higher kill participation in matches. I am getting more than 10 ult kills (up to 17) just before the loss streak starts.

Then suddenly from one match to the next it goes from being easy to win to being impossible to win. The enemy team are all onfire and destroying my team. Yes, the enemy team are tougher and more challenging but the players on my team are not at the same skill as they are. The players on my team are dying constantly and not getting more than 3 elims in some cases.

So while the enemy team are made to be tougher to challenge me they are in fact too tough and too skilled for the rest of my team. This results in my carrying again and again with four gold, 10+ ult kills, and over 70% kill participation but my team still losses. Then this continues until I have lost about 20 matches in a row. The players on my team can't seem get more than 3 elims in some cases during my loss streak. It's a team game and if my team are losing that badly then it does seem impossible to win and matches like that can continue until you have lost over 300 SR.

Please explain this.

Then after dropping 400 SR in unwinnable match after unwinnable match where I am obviously not able to carry enough then suddenly I get an easy win followed by another and another. Then I climb back up and regain the 400 SR I lost with a team are performing well and doing work.

It goes from me feeling like I have to carry and still losing to suddenly the players on my team are now really good and they are destroying the enemy without me having to try as hard. From impossible with players who are complaining the enemy are all smurfs to the next match my team saying the enemy is too easy.

However, before I am able to get back to where I was the system sees that I have been on another major win streak and am now back to over 55% win rate then the next match suddenly becomes impossible to win again and it continues until I get back to a 50% win rate. After that its 50/50 if the match is easy or impossible to win.

When I was losing all those matches I was losing exactly 20 SR during the 20 lost matches. Exactly 20 SR loss per loss for 20 matches lost (400 SR lost). If I won a match then I got 26 - 30 for the win which made it easier to climb back to where I was without having to win every single match.
i had 71+% winratio (mercy) before smurfs stomped my team
still lose too many points when you get a loss regardless, makes it not even worth playing, then you win, get minimal points regardless of performance. That is all.
kaawumba vs. Cuthburt, the rivalry continues!
Good point and don't down vote this man you babies.
01/16/2018 06:25 AMPosted by Cuthbert
What good is a write-up on the SR system, when the whole thing is undermined by the handicapping/MMR system:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760857618

Why doesn't Blizzard disclose the skill-metrics of the MMR/handicapping system to players? That is what we've been asking for, not another vague description of the SR system. And why should readers of this forum accept this information from you, second hand? You are not a Blizzard representative, Kaawumba.

Why are the forum moderators afraid to participate in discussion, and why are they asking you to do their work for them? Why doesn't Blizzard publish this kind of information themselves? Is it so that they aren't liable when it turns out to be false?
01/16/2018 12:40 PMPosted by NextLvlNerd
Good point and don't down vote this man you babies.
01/16/2018 06:25 AMPosted by Cuthbert
What good is a write-up on the SR system, when the whole thing is undermined by the handicapping/MMR system:
https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20760857618

Why doesn't Blizzard disclose the skill-metrics of the MMR/handicapping system to players? That is what we've been asking for, not another vague description of the SR system. And why should readers of this forum accept this information from you, second hand? You are not a Blizzard representative, Kaawumba.

Why are the forum moderators afraid to participate in discussion, and why are they asking you to do their work for them? Why doesn't Blizzard publish this kind of information themselves? Is it so that they aren't liable when it turns out to be false?


Im with Cuthbert on this
If IF there were no handicap on the system, then why not come out and either show everyone that there is not, or admit that there is.
You simply cannot come out and just say "no there isnt", that statement alone lets me know that they are hiding something.

Too many coincidences in what Cuthbert is saying and what players are experiencing, simply too many to ignore.
"Snake Oil for sale! 2 for $1, 3 for 2$." - Cuthbert
Fantastic post, please sticky.
No Blizzard representative has responded to my post about MMR/handicapping, or the hundreds of other posts from players who hate the system. I don't want a "rebuttal" from you, Kawumba, I want a response from Blizzard.

Why are Blizzard's forum moderators asking you to be their mouthpiece? Why can't Blizzard publish *complete* information about the Competitive Overwatch matchmaking system, and *do it themselves,* so we don't have to wonder if some ridiculous fanboy like yourself has his facts straight or not?

I'll tell you why - it's because they don't want to be liable for the misinformation you're spewing. They just want their playerbase to persist in the delusion that Competitive Play is worth a damn. You're a tool.
I agree with the many others that this does not explain it as what I experience. I agree you guys, this is wrong explanation, Kaawumba I think is trolling and pretends to collect data but does not, this is my opinion.
This is from Principal Overwatch Designer, Scott Mercer:

------------------------------

Oct 19, 2016
The system does in fact try to place equal sized groups on opposite teams whenever possible. Your report for game 2 where both 3 player groups were on the same team definitely seems like something that shouldn't happen based on the rules we've setup, so I'll look into it further.

We do need to do a better job of not placing players into "unwinnable" matches. When the matchmaker creates a match, it determines the % chance for each team to win based on the match it made. The VAST majority of matches are usually near to 50% (especially if you're a player closer to median skill rating and you're not in a group), but I've definitely seen logs of matches where that's really not the case and my eyebrows raise.

The unfortunate truth is that there is not always a "perfect" match for you, especially at very high (and very low!) skill ratings where there's fewer players of similar skill. Then you throw in the desire to match groups vs. groups, with everybody having low latency, and doing ALL of this as fast as possible even though it’s the 3AM offpeak... it can get tough. We've tried different tunings with regards to wait times, and the improvements were unfortunately modest as we increased the time to wait. Still, this is an area we're always looking to improve and tune better.

Fortunately, when we do put you in a match that we know isn't a 50/50, we adjust your SR gain or loss based on your calculated change of winning. So if you did get placed into a match with only a 20% chance to win and then you lose, you shouldn't lose much SR.

For matchmaking groups, there's actually two separate issues that we try to solve. The first issue is "How do we handle groups formed of players with different MMRs?". With season 2 we prevented players of REALLY disparate Skill Rating from grouping, but there's still some variance we need to handle. Over time we've tested different models to try and see what's best and are now using what tested most accurately. (Hint: it's not simply averaging the MMRs)

The other issue is how do we model the synergistic effects of players being together in a group. As you noted, they have access to voice chat. Now here's where things get interesting. This "massive" advantage actually differs based upon the skill rating of the group members. Based upon the data we've seen groups of low to mid SR players don't see that much improvement to their win %. Higher SR players do see more notable improvements, but it's not as huge as you might think. Still, we do take this into account when we predict the win% for each team. Regardless of how the data looks, we do know there's a perception of a large advantage for groups. That's one of the reasons why we explicitly try to match similar sized groups together.

So then why do points for losses and wins seem so random? Well, the amount of MMR (and SR) you go up or down isn't simply a matter of whether you won or lost, and what was your predicted chance of winning. There's a couple of other things at work. One is the matchmaker's confidence in what your MMR should be. Play a lot of games, it gets more certain. Don't play Overwatch for a while, it gets less certain. You go on a large win or loss streak, it gets less certain. The more certain the matchmaker is about your MMR, the less your MMR will change in either direction based on a win or loss.

As a minor factor, we also do evaluate how well you played the heroes you used in a match. The comparison is largely based on historical data of people playing a specific hero (not medals, not pure damage done), and we've done a lot of work to this system based on the community's feedback. In fact, I've seen some people indicate that they don't think we're doing this anymore. We still are. While it's a minor factor compared to wins/losses (The best way to increase your SR is still to play together and win as a team!), doing so does help us determine your skill more accurately and faster.

So take all that into account, the SR gain/loss after any single match can be a bit more "noisy" that it seems it should, but we're asking it to look at a lot of different factors to do the best job it can creating fair matches for you.

As an aside to all of this...

"Fair" matches doesn't always mean that every Ilios match goes 3-2 and 100-99 on the final point, or each team gets the payload to the end in overtime on Dorado, etc. Sometimes when two evenly matches teams play, the result can be one-sided. It just means that at that single moment in time the enemy team played better. It's not always the matchmaker's, your's, or your team's(!!!) fault that you got stomped.


------------------------------

Read between the lines. The only way for Blizzard to ensure the 'customer experience' that Scott is talking about is by *handicapping* games. There is no ethical way to handicap players games if you don't disclose what you're doing to them in the game's user-interface! I'm here squabbling with you about *how* Blizzard does something they *shouldn't be doing at all.*
01/16/2018 02:28 PMPosted by Cuthbert
No Blizzard representative has responded to my post about MMR/handicapping, or the hundreds of other posts from players who hate the system. I don't want a "rebuttal" from you, Kawumba, I want a response from Blizzard.


Jeff Kaplan all ready said "competitive is not rigged". Basically, I think Blizzard is taking the approach of ignoring the crazies rather than acknowledging them to say they are wrong.

And yes, that's what you are Cuth. You keep ignoring hard video evidence that disproves what you say. You just feed into the desires of frustrated players to have something to blame for their lack of success. Instead of learning how to improve, the learn to blame the system. You're a bad person who hurts players Cuth. All because you refuse to accept that you lose games because of your own play, not a rigged competitive system.

Read between the lines. The only way for Blizzard to ensure the 'customer experience' that Scott is talking about is by *handicapping* games. It only matters *that they do this.* It does not even matter *how they do this.*


Cuthbert, try thinking for just 30 seconds.

If the system thinks you are a "better" player. Why would they balance a match by placing you with "worse" players to average out your team, instead of just putting you into a match with 11 people who are also "better" players?

It makes no sense at all.

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