At the end of each match in Overwatch, players are treated to a quick highlight featuring one combatant’s efforts over a short period. This is called the Play of the Game, it it’ll roll a few seconds of footage meant to show off one of the coolest moments during the game.
Only, the choice is made by a computer. And computers, my friends, don’t really understand what’s cool. That means we typically wind up with some incredibly lame Plays of the Game.
We’ll watch as a Junkrat uses his ultimate to blow up, maybe, two people and it’ll be dubbed the Play of the Game. Even better, a Torbjörn will be featured as he’s walking off in a random direction while his turret, offscreen, racks up three kills at once.
These moments aren’t cool, but the computer doesn’t know any better. Blizzard knows, though, and they’re working on it.
Gamespot caught up with Lead Software Engineer Rowan Hamilton specifically about this whole thing. Here he is, in length.
From a technical standpoint, it’s a really hard problem to have a computer figure out what is cool. 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.
Right, so they know.
Ultimately, it’s impossible for a computer, regardless of how good the algorithms are, to perfectly pick each game’s best moment. Blizzard understands this, but they also understand that they need the system to get better.
For now, have a few laughs and rest easy knowing it’s being addressed.