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Overwatch starts using AI to identify the world’s best players


AI is going from beating human gamers to coaching them to finding them … and this is just the beginning.


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In the past couple of years we’ve seen Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) thrash human gamers in everything from chess, Dota and poker, to Go and Starcraft. And in some cases those same AI’s have been trying to identify weaknesses in human gaming strategies and then started coaching E-Sports gamers how to win. And even more oddly we’ve then seen the US military using gamers brainwaves to train robots to be better soldiers – it’s an odd world we live in.


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As for what’s next, well now Blizzard Entertainment has joined forces with IBM to develop a new AI system that ranks the best Overwatch players in the world. The new technique will be used to analyze the performance of competitors in E-Sports championship Overwatch League and create an objective ranking of the most skilled players.

According to an IBM blog post, the Overwatch Power Rankings will be based on upwards of 360 performance metrics including damage per second, healing, weapon accuracy, and so on, with roughly 1.8 million data points collected in any given match.

All this data will be aggregated, organized and then analyzed to determine the correlation between particular in-game actions and the eventual match outcome.


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IBM has also applied machine learning techniques to an existing dataset to determine which statistics best reflect the quality of players. Although all available metrics will contribute to the final rankings, a pool of roughly 30 will have a larger impact on positioning.

For the uninitiated, Overwatch is a first-person shooter that pits two teams against one other across a handful of game modes, such as capture the point and protect the payload. The teams are made up of six different characters, or heroes, each of which has a unique loadout, moveset and play style.

Until now, the fast-paced and chaotic nature of the game, as well as the various disparities between heroes, has made ranking players by performance a challenging task.


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According to Jon Spector, VP of Overwatch Esports at Blizzard, while esports pundits are able to draw on a wealth of knowledge to provide context for viewers, the new system contributes additional color to analysis that would otherwise be impossible.

“We’ve got really talented analysts that follow our players and teams, but there is so much happening in these matches, no human being could possibly observe and evaluate it all,” he said, adding “We needed a way to capture and analyze every move from every player and feed all that insight into a ranking system that was totally objective and reliable.”


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Beyond giving fans something to pick apart, the Power Rankings is also expected to act as a useful resource for players and coaches, who will be able to use the insights to hone their gameplay and tactics.

The first edition of the Overwatch Power Rankings was published last week, the first day of the new season, and will be updated weekly after each new round of fixtures.

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