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Blizzard: Improving Overwatch's play of the game is 'a really hard problem'

Killstreaks are boring

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

In the week since Overwatch's release, the game has become renowned for the, shall we say, questionable merits upon which it determines a "play of the game." Overwatch developer Blizzard Entertainment is well aware of players' feedback on the feature, and the studio is working to improve it.

Overwatch uses an algorithm to pick a play of the game that is shown to every player after a match ends. The idea, according to Blizzard, was to capture cool moments that people may have missed because they were away from the action. But so far, the algorithm tends to prioritize killstreaks and other offensive plays over the work of support characters and team players.

"From a technical standpoint, it's a really hard problem to have a computer figure out what is cool," said Rowan Hamilton, lead software engineer on Overwatch, in a recent interview with GameSpot. "They're not very smart."

Hamilton noted that the algorithm factors in "a lot of different variables," including damage, kills, healing and "a lot of support actions." He also said that Blizzard recently added variables such as the difficulty of a shot — sniping a fast-moving character is obviously more impressive than taking down a stationary opponent.

"It's going to be an ongoing process, and hopefully we continue to improve it," Hamilton told GameSpot. Blizzard's top priorities for Overwatch at the moment, however, are implementing competitive ranked play, maintaining stability of game performance, and ensuring that the matchmaking algorithm produces fair teams.

For more on Overwatch, read our review.

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