When you’re watching live sports, sometimes the action is happening so quickly that it can be easy to miss a crucial moment.
That’s where highlight reels come in, to help focus your attention on something incredible you may have missed the first time around.
The same thing happens in the popular online multiplayer shooter “Overwatch.”
Every match in the 6v6 competitive shooter ends by highlighting a particularly amazing play from a single player; sometimes, it will focus on an offensive character getting a string of several kills in rapid succession, but it might focus on a player preventing an enemy from causing a lot of harm, too.
This highlight reel is called the “Play of the Game,” and every player in the match watches this play after the match ends as a way to celebrate someone’s skills. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of being singled out for your performance during a tough match.
Wait, play of the what now? Please explain.
If you’ve never seen one of these highlights, here’s a Play of the Game that shows someone playing as the character Soldier: 76, killing nearly the entire opposing team in a short amount of time:
And here’s a collection of highlights for the character Mercy, who has a powerful ability that can resurrect her fallen teammates and shift the tide of battle:
Got it. So who decides who deserves Play of the Game?
The answer, as it turns out, is pretty complicated.
“There’s no simple formula. There’s a complicated formula with lots of exceptions [laughs],” said Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan in an interview with Game Informer. “Mostly what’s going on is the game tracks an internal score for each player at each second of the game, and it looks for windows where player scores spike tremendously.”
Depending on your character’s role — whether they’re good at attacking other players or defending allies — these scores will be calculated slightly differently.
Additionally, Kaplan said scores are weighted more heavily if the action’s taking place near an important match objective, like a base or capture point.
“There’s weighting and multipliers going on depending on what the match status is,” he said.
Kaplan doesn’t think the formula is perfect, however. The Play of the Game will sometimes focus on the wrong character by accident.
“The great example is the one that everybody laughs at when Torbjörn’s turrets get Play of the Game and he’s off hammering a wall, or even worse when he’s just lying there dead,” said Kaplan.
One of the clips Kaplan is referring to is one that shows the character Torbjörn dead on the ground while all sorts of action is happening around him. This character can build defensive turrets that persist even after he dies, so the game was recognising that these turrets were racking up a ton of kills, but the camera stayed focused on his dead body rather than on the action itself.
The stagnant camera mixed with the triumphant victory music is, as you might expect, hilarious.
“That’s an obvious one where we want to do some camera work to feature what actually caused the Play of the Game to happen,” said Kaplan. “We think we have a lot of ideas on that front and we want to evolve the camera work.”
While it’s probably better for the integrity of Overwatch to focus on actually spectacular moments, I can’t help but be a little sad that the unintentionally hilarious Plays of the Game might be going away.
So, now that you know how Play of the Game is calculated, will you change your tactics to try to make the highlight reel focus on you? If you do, just remember that the most important aspect of “Overwatch” is teamwork. Don’t be a selfish Sally.
Or, worse yet, don’t be a Cersei Lannister.