Progress Report #4: Ending Season 1

Big changes are happening in the Starcraft 2 community, as Season 1 is wrapping up, forever going into the history books. It's been eventful not only for the professional Starcraft scene, but for the enthusiasts and casual fans as well.

Last installment, I was proud to show off my skills in the Curvy Star League Lite 2, in which I faced a mentor of mine, and won my first match in a competitive Starcraft environment. Since then, I haven't been able to play as much as I'd like, but while a few weeks ago I was ranked 54th in my division, I've now raised to 39th. Top 50, baby!

 

You probably notice that my shiny Bronze icon has a bit more oomph to it. You may also notice that my profile no longer shows losses. These things are related, and have some Starcraft 2 players pretty upset at Blizzard, as these are fairly sweeping changes to the perception, and presentation, of 'improvement'.

With the end of Season 1, Blizzard had to think of ways to bring back players, while also rewarding active players that are trying to improve their gameplay, strategies, and gamesense. Thier solution is a mix of two things: Positive reinforcement, and more positive reinforcement. That shouldn't be suprising to too many people, as Blizzard made the best selling anything ever based upon a positive reinforcement model: Hate World of Warcraft all you want, but if there's anything that came from it, it's the fact that Blizzard knows gamer psychology. To that regard, there are two changes, one catered to each playerbase. Milestones are the solution for active players.

Now, you might be asking yourself "What are milestones?" Milestones are seasonal rewards that will be provided to ladder players in all of our StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty leagues. Each league will have four notable milestones. Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Master leagues will have milestones for the top 100, top 50, top 25, and top 8 players in each league division. For Grandmaster, milestones will be awarded to the top 200, top 100, top 50, and top 16 players. These milestones will each have their own unique icon (shown below) representing the league in which the milestone was earned and the actual milestone achievement.

 

Now, you all know how I am, and how much of a thing I have for shiny bullshit. Little gold stars (I'm still blown away that there are literal Gold Stars as rewards, but that's another thing) on my decked-out Bronze Hero icon will make me feel like a boss, even if I make the stark realization that I'm in the worst league in the world. However, you'll be pretty suprised at the fact that some of the more elitist players are excited for this, as they feel that these are literal 'status symbols', and prove dominance over other people in their league. With the leagues and divisions being locked until March 29th, many players are mass-gaming in order to solidify their spot in the Top 8. Me? I'll try my best to get Top 25, as I feel that'll be a great achievement, considering how far I've come.

The second, and much more controversial change, is the lack of a Loss column, period. You can't see your losses. Not on your profile, not on the League Ladder, nowhere. I don't even know how many games I've played anymore, just the amount of wins I have. To say this sparked some 'outrage' would be a massive understatement, as this just doesn't effect me in the Bronze league, it effects everyone up to the Master's League. That's hundreds of thousands of people, essentially 80% of the active playerbase. That's a HUGE change, but oddly enough, I can see both sides of this argument, actually.

[AGAINST]

  • Why would Blizzard take away information from its playerbase, especially one as competitive as the Starcraft community?
  • Why keep the win tally there at all, as without a loss column, the number is somewhat meaningless?
  • Why hinder a metric that can be used for a quick-glance look to base improvement upon? ('Oh, last week I was 10-12, but this week, I'm 27-14')

I mean, you don't hear about someone's color commentary after an NBA game talking about how many Free Throws someone made without the ratio behind it, right? 'Congratulations on your work today, Phil Mickelson! You made the golfball into the hole on every hole!' That's ludicrous, nobody talks like that! Metrics are a way to sense improvement, not only for the player at hand, but for the fanbase as well.


[FOR]

  • This change allows lower-level players, and casual players, to play in a lower stressed environment
  • Constant reward will actually bring back players who were afraid to keep up with the 'metagame'
  • An experienced player can essentially play their off-race, and not be showcased as going on a losing streak while learning new strategies.
  • More players means more data for Blizzard, which (in theory) results in a better balanced game for all leagues and players.
  • Privacy will actually empower tangible, legitamate growth. Focusing on a win/loss ratio is a fool's errand, as TRUE improvement will be known to the player regardless of statistics.

I mean, let's not beat around the bush here: Blizzard's matchmaking system is made to make sure you stay at 50/50 win/loss ratio anyways. Period. Regardless of league. Pro level players even have 50/50 records (plus or minus 5%, of course), so you could in theory take the number of wins, double it, and bam, number of games played. The only league not effected by this change is Masters League, which is the Top 20% of the worldwide playerbase. They'll continue to see win/loss ratios, as at that level, you have nowhere to go but down, and your main goal is to play consistently against the best in the world.

My personal stance on the issue? If you're butthurt about the absense of the 'Loss' column, get to Masters League. It doesn't matter until you get to that point anyways, right? This rewards players of all skill levels to just play the game, and not worry about semantics. Over time, with effort, you'll get better. Much, much better. The result is your promotion to Master's League and tada!, Your win/loss column is back, for all the world to see.

Anyways, this update has been a little longer than usual, but there was quite a bit to talk about! Join me next time as we hop into the fun of Season 2, we find out what my Season 1 rank is, and we see just how much I've actually improved (expect many charts, numbers, scientists, and lab beakers). Until next time!

Oh, here's a picture of Tasteless and Artosis having a bromance moment. CASTING ARCHON, FIGHTTTINNNGGG

 

GLHF, gang! See you next time on Progress Report!