In our beloved little competitive matchmaking beta, we currently only have access to 6v6 matchmaking. While it doesn’t really look like the much stricter, more organized community competitive leagues, it feels similar. 5CP maps, the odd King of the Hill map, optimal teams including Medics, Demomen, Scouts and Soldiers, 6 players per team (obviously)… You get the point. There’s also plans to have a Highlander matchmaking thingy, but it’s been greyed out since the beginning. But I’m wondering, will Highlander really work?
In terms of getting people to play classes, it can happen. Highlander has been the other staple of community matchmaking for a looooong time, but it’s always been much harder to organize. You need 18 players rather than 12, plus a couple of subs for each team because it’s almost certain people won’t make it to official matches, or even scrims. Competitive Matchmaking won’t be such a hassle because it’ll be on demand – you’ll be queuing up specifically to play Highlander, as will everyone else in the queue. Still, you’ve got to wait for 17 other people to join you.
I don’t think wait times will be that long, but that’s not what I think will be the main problem. Once you’ve got people in the server, you need to get them all playing a class each. Highlander mode automatically make it so once you’re playing a class, you can’t have more of them (although many community competitive configs actually allow 2 of one class, just so people can more easily swap classes), but people often want to change mid-game, and the temptation to ditch a less useful class in exchange for another Soldier or something is often very great. Worse, communication will be at a premium in competitive matchmaking, there’ll be squabbling over who plays what class. Luckily, there is a way to get around this, and that is to get players to pre-select a class before they queue up. That way you can arrange people as their classes and everyone’s got what they want. Of course, you can’t avoid bastards who sign up as one class then switch to another.
Another issue is longer games. Because you’re forced into having one of every class, you can’t adapt as well to new situations outside of switching loadouts, and you’ll always have an Engineer and a Heavy holding the last control point. That’s why Payload maps are more popular, as there’s a place for more classes to shine, rather than the hyper-mobile classes dominating 5CP. KOTH does work in a way, but as many KOTH maps are rather small, there’s simply not enough room for 18 people to fight decently.
But my biggest worry is leavers. It’s annoying enough as it is playing a 6v6 match and having someone leave. It’s only two rounds and they generally finish quite quickly, even if they are back and forth. Imagine the same issue when you’ve got 18 people playing and someone suddenly leaves. On top of arranging classes, on top of the higher player count, longer queue times and naturally longer games, if a player ditches at the last minute to avoid losing their rank, then that’s a lot of time they’re wasting. With the current leaver system, Highlander is doomed to fail.
Then again, the current leaver system will make 6v6 fail too.
Can’t win either way.