“We constantly look at Play of the Game” – Blizzard on improving Overwatch’s end-game highlights


Update June 7, 2016: Jeff Kaplan has explained the next steps for improving the Play of the Game feature, which Blizzard will be working on this summer.

A few of the titles in our list of PC’s best FPS games would benefit from a similarly slick feature.

Much consternation has been lodged over the Play of the Game replay feature from fans, and Jeff Kaplan told Eurogamer that Blizzard’s hearing every word.

“We feel like for your standard play of the game, like a Reaper getting a death blossom kill on four people, they look great and they’re really fun to watch,” Kaplan said. “But some of the other ones like the Torbjörn who’s dead and his turret’s killing people, or a Widowmaker getting a really impressive shot from across the map: those aren’t showing great right now.”

Kaplan believes the team can address this problem by working on how to make plays that don’t look as good in first-person look better by creating more cinematic viewpoints – something they’ll be starting to play with this summer.

“We feel like if we can refine how we’re showing play of the games, we’ll actually open the door for us to do more things like our saviour play of the games, where you’re about to be killed and somebody intervenes,” he said. “It’s actually really cool, but it doesn’t show very well because the camera might not be tracking from the best angle. Right now it’s all from first-person.”

Hopefully this’ll result in some Michael Bay-esque clips for our Play of the Game hall of fameand give some supporting characters a portion of the limelight for the Zarya who sets up the black hole for Pharah to dunk rockets into.

Original Story: If you’ve played Overwatch, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed a Play of the Game – one of the shooter’s brilliant post-game highlight clips – where Torbjorn decimates an entire team even though he’s actually dead. While his turrets waste the enemy, all you can do is stare at his corpse and watch the numbers pop up on-screen. When it’s good, it’s really good, but there’s definitely some improvement to be done when it comes to PoTG highlighting the moments that are actually cool.

There has been a lot of chat in the Overwatch community where people have been complaining that the PoTG system is weighted towards offensive characters, especially when they’re taking out a team with a well timed Ultimate. There are many moments when the actions of a support character turn the entire tide of a battle, but instead we get another “It’s high noon” borefest.

In one match I contributed massively in moving the payload with Reinhardt, but did my shield get any PoTG love? Nope, it was all Hanzo giving it, “Ryuu ga waga teki wo kurau!”. This isn’t weighted by Blizzard, however – it’s a technical challenge that they’re constantly iterating on and trying to improve.

“From a technical standpoint, it’s a really hard problem to have a computer figure out what is cool,” explained lead software engineer Rowan Hamilton in a Gamespot interview. “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.”

According to Hamilton, Blizzard have made some of these improvements recently, with the algorithm now taking into account the difficulty of your shots, using player speed and distance to calculate the cool. At one point the system really favoured Zenyatta’s Ultimate, and it would award him PoTG almost every time, so there’s still hope that we won’t have to keep staring at a dead dwarf in future.

Head over to Gamespot to read the full interview.