Overwatch Rulebook

Last Modified: March 6, 2024

These rules are subject to change at the administrator’s discretion. If rules should change, all captains will be notified accordingly. Rules are generally revised and updated around the start of any given season, so please make sure to check back for updates.

The Handbook’s General Rules apply to all CEA games, please read them first! However, any direct contradictions mentioned in this Overwatch-specific rulebook take precedence.

I. Season Structure

CEA Overwatch Spring 2024 Season Calendar
  • February 24: Week 0 (Preseason)
  • March 2: Week 1 (Start of Swiss)
  • March 9: Week 2
  • March 16: Week 3
  • March 23: Week 4
  • March 30: Week 5 (OFF/FLEX WEEK - Easter)
  • April 6: Week 6 (Tentative Start of Group Stage)
  • April 13: Week 7
  • April 20: Week 8
  • April 27: Week 9 (Tentative Start of Double Elimination Playoffs)
  • May 4: Week 10  
  • May 11: Week 11
  • May 18: Week 12 (Tentative Flex Weeks for Double Elimination + Finals)
  • May 25: Designated Off Week (for US Memorial Day)
    • Matches should be concluded no later than June 2nd for Spring 2024 Season


CEA Season Format Overview
  • Pre-Season: One practice match which follows the same rules and weekly structure as the regular season. The pre-season is mandatory so that the CEA and teams can work out logistic kinks before charity prizes are on the line! Read the specific game rules for the weekly schedule.
    • A “Captain’s Meeting” will be held 30 minutes prior to the preseason match for teams/captains that are new to CEA; it will be a brief intro for the season and what to expect.
  • Regular Season: The Regular Season will be a non-elimination Swiss format. This will consist of an approximately 5-Week Swiss format bracket and a 3-week Group Stage. The exact length of each stage will be determined by the number of teams registered.
  • Playoffs: Top teams will compete in a single elimination tournament bracket. Some matches later in the playoffs may be professionally cast.
    • The top 8-16 teams will be included in the play off bracket. The exact number is dependent on the total registration count and the given cutoff date for the end of the season.
  • The Grand Finals may be broadcast live on Twitch with professional commentators. Schedule and rough timing will be announced at the beginning of Playoffs.


Weekly Structure of the League
  • Monday: Matchups for the following weekend are distributed (assuming all previous round match results have been entered).
  • Saturday: All matches are played on Saturday starting at 12pm Pacific (3pm Eastern). The CEA observes US Daylight Saving Time.
    • In the case of either team having a conflict with an Open Division match, the default match time will move to 11am Pacific Time (2 pm Eastern) to accommodate. In the case of either team having an issue with another CEA Game as well, default match time will be moved to 2 pm Pacific Time.
  • Each team plays one match per week with results due by Sunday at 5pm Pacific. Reschedules may be approved if they are later than this time, but are left to the discretion of the game lead. If not enough players on your roster are able to make the default match time, contact the opposing captain as outlined in our ‘Match rescheduling’ section to see if they’re able to accommodate a reschedule.

II. Overwatch Overview

  1. Player Eligibility: All players participating in Overwatch competitions must have an active (Americas) account in good standing displayed on the CEA tournament management platform. Only registered team members playing under their own account are allowed to play for a team.
  2. Team Roster Size: A team consists of 5-12 participants. Rules for qualifications for rostered members can be found in CEA general rules.
    1. After the beginning of Regular Season play (Week 1 matches), a player rostered on a team may not transfer to another roster within the same company for the same game without the Game Lead’s approval.
      1. The main circumstance permitting a transfer would be a team losing players and falling below the minimum team size.
      2. Companies with multiple teams playing the same game may have one player on multiple rosters as outlined in the general rules under "Team Eligibility." Being a floater is not considered transferring.
    2. After Week 5, removing players from the roster does not free up additional spots.
  3. Registration: The Overwatch registration fee will be $200 per team on a regular season. The captain pays this fee during registration on the CEA website.
  4. Game Version: All players must have their game up to date with the latest patch. PC and console players are all allowed given crossplay is functional, otherwise CEA will revert to PC players only.

III. Rules

    1. Game preparations: It is the responsibility of the team Captains to verify game settings prior to match start. Agreements between the teams/players must be made in writing and saved as a screenshot, or else the game lead will have to assume that it did not happen. The match will be played on a standard competitive ruleset based upon the current season, with the below adjustments made. Additionally, selections of interest due to the changes for OW2 are also noted:
    2. Workshop Code:
      1. WSWNG
      2. This code applies all of the following settings except for:
        1. Heroes available
          1. Only heroes released at the time of code creation are usually enabled. You will have to enable any newly released heroes as outlined in “Heroes and Role Lock”(Section III.2).
        2. The Series length
        3. Lobby visibility settings
        4. The correct Maximum Players per team
    3. Series length:
      1. Pre-Season & Season: First-to-3 Wins (Optional Reschedule to First-to-2 with approval)
      2. Playoffs: First-to-3 (No option for First-to-2)
      3. Grand Finals: First-to-4
    4. Visibility: Invite Only (Recommended)
    5. Preset: Competitive
    6. Lobby:
      1. Max Team 1 Players: 5
      2. Max Team 2 Players: 5
      3. Pause Game On Player Disconnect: Yes
      4. Max spectators may be changed following the guidelines provided below and in the CEA General Rules Handbook.
      5. Data Center Preference: Set to "Best Available" by default, but may be adjusted by the team hosting the lobby (see below for hosting rules).
    7. Modes/All:
      1. Kill Cam: Disabled
      2. Skins: Disabled
      3. Limit Roles: 1 Tank, 2 Offense, 2 Support
        1. Players may switch between roles within a map if allowed by the game (such as during a side switch or between control point maps) so long as the 1-2-2 limit is still met.
    8. Maps:
      1. All maps are disabled except for the map that is currently selected to be played.
      2. Teams may only play on event-specific maps (such as Winter/Halloween/Lunar New Year) if BOTH teams agree to do so; however any of the 'default' map versions may be used (Day/Night/Overcast/etc.).
    9. Heroes:
      1. All heroes enabled.
  1. Heroes and Role Lock:
    1. Role Lock (1-2-2) is observed in the CEA tournament. There are no additional requirements locking individual players to a specific role during a series of matches unlike OWL rules; players may only change when the lobby allows doing so during the normal course of play.
    2. All heroes available to be played in the game are allowed to be played in a match
      1. Heroes that are newly released are allowed to be picked, even if not available in ranked matches.
      2. Heroes that are temporarily disabled due to game breaking bugs are not allowed to be selected.
  2. Lobby Hosting:
    1. The team that is on the left side of the bracket will be responsible for setting up the lobby by default. If both teams agree, the lobby host duty can be passed off to another player.
    2. During the playoffs, the higher seed is the default host for the match.
  3. Map Selection:
    1. Map Pool:
      1. All maps are allowed to be picked following these assumptions:
        1. The map is the appropriate type.
        2. The map is not disabled in regular play for gameplay related issues.
      2. The Hosting team gets to pick either the initial control map OR the initial server location in accordance with guidelines set out in 5. Server Location 
      3. For each subsequent map, the losing team of the previous map (or in case of a draw, the team that most recently lost a map as with the regular season rules) may pick one of the three following choices:
        1. Next map (following map pick order)
        2. Starting Side (Attack/Defense)
        3. Server Location (following server selection guidelines below)
      4. After the losing team selects their first choice, the winning team selects their preference for either of the two remaining options. The losing team selects the preference for the final option.
        1. If done correctly this results in the losing side selecting their preference for two of the three options and the winning team picks preference for the final option, in the order of Losing Team > Winning Team > Losing Team
      5. No maps may be repeated from the pool, unless all maps of that type have already been played.
    2. Swiss Stage:
      1. The first weeks of matches (all non-playoff matches) will nominally follow the First-to-3 format.
      2. The team on the left side of the bracket will be responsible for hosting the lobby.
      3. Maps are to be played in the following order for First-to-3 (and First-to-2) format(s):
        1. Control
        2. Hybrid
        3. Flashpoint
        4. Push
        5. Escort
        6. (Loop order from Control as necessary to settle ties)
    3. Playoffs:
      1. In the playoffs, the format will be a First-to-3. For the grand finals match, a First-to-4 will be used.
      2. To determine the host of a playoff match:
        1. In a double elimination format for the Loser’s Bracket, the team that has most recently been knocked out from the winner's side is to be the lobby host.
        2. In the case of a tie on the above rule, the team of the higher seed will be responsible for hosting the lobby.
      3. For the First-to-3 format, map order is:
        1. Control
        2. Hybrid
        3. Flashpoint
        4. Push
        5. Escort
        6. (Loop order from Control as necessary to settle ties)
      4. For the First-to-4 format, the map order is:
        1. Control
        2. Hybrid
        3. Flashpoint
        4. Escort
        5. Push
        6. Control
        7. Escort
  4. Server Selection:
    1. Server selection is part of the Map Loser/Winner selection process so location may change in between maps.
    2. Choosing a server location to intentionally cause ping issues or otherwise grief an opponent will not be tolerated. If teams are suspected of doing so intentionally, please notify the game lead. Action taken may vary, but generally this will lead to loss of server selection for the instigating team.
      1. As most teams are based in North America, this usually means sticking to NA servers, but if a majority of players are in a separate location you may pick accordingly.
    3. If there are any disputes during a match contact the game lead.
  5. Substitute Players: There is no limit to the amount of substitutes used from your roster. Substitutes can only join in between maps. If a player disconnects in the middle of a map and is unable to reconnect, the map must be played out without subbing in a new player to fill the empty spot.
  6. Scheduling/Forfeits: The first game of each round must begin at the specified time. See [General Rules] in the handbook for rescheduling rules and post in the #reschedule-reporting channel on the CEA Discord server if a reschedule is agreed upon.
  7. Disconnects: In the case that a player(s) disconnects, the team is allowed to continue to play the match at a disadvantage.
  8. Re-host: A re-host can only be played with prior Game Lead approval. Please contact the Game Lead via Discord to receive approval. In a re-hosted game each participant must choose the same side as they picked at the start of the original match. Disconnects and lag issues will only qualify for a re-host if the issue occurs within the first 60 seconds of the game. In the event of a game server crash, the Game Lead will determine the next steps.
  9. Streaming:
    1. Streaming is allowed as per the CEA Handbook.
    2. Stream sniping or otherwise using external streams to cheat in game is not permitted. Streams must be on a delay to discourage this, unless both captains agree to allow streams without delay (2~3 minutes is suggested).
  10. Observing:
    1. Building upon the rules stated in the general handbook, we encourage (but do not force) teams to allow team-locked spectators. CEA's community is built upon mutual trust among teams, so we expect teams to act ethically. Additionally, with both consent from both teams, spectators may be allowed to use third person spectating privileges.
    2. There is not an easy way to enforce the restriction of voice communication from any spectators (outside of locating recordings from offending teams). Due to this situation, if either team for any reason prefers to not allow spectators, then both teams must honor this and remove any persons not actively playing in the current round.
    3. Regardless of the observer's perspective, teams are not allowed to communicate with observers while in-game (via text chat, voice chat, or anything else) with the exception of CEA staff, or CEA designated referees. In-game coaching is forbidden, and can result in forfeits of maps. Talking with team members in between maps while waiting for the next round to start is permitted, but do not let this hold up the out-of-game pace.
  11. Optional First-to-2 Details:
    1. If teams wish to invoke this, it must be requested in the same way as a reschedule is requested (getting approval, posting in the appropriate channel, etc.)
    2. The game lead will confirm/approve the change.
    3. Scores are still reported as First-to-3 match using the map using the expected map differential based on score. Samples of this are included below:
      1. A scoreline of 2-0 would become a 3-0
      2. A scoreline of 2-1-# (one or more draws and a loss) becomes 3-2
      3. A scoreline of 2-0-# (one or more draws, but no loss) becomes a 3-1
      4. Any questions regarding scores can be directed to the Overwatch game lead.

IV. Technical Issues

  1. The default pause hotkey in Overwatch is shift + ctrl + =. Lobby leaders should commit this to memory.
  2. The Lobby Leader will have the ability to pause the game and must do so at the first fair opportunity once the pause request is seen.
    1. A fair opportunity to pause is defined as a time when there is no teamfight occurring. In the case a pause is requested during a teamfight, teams must disengage before pausing, so that players won’t be interrupted in the middle of a fight.
  3. Team that requested a pause must announce the reason before or immediately after the pause.
  4. Each team is granted a total of 10 minutes pause time during the match.
  5. When resuming the game from pause, both teams need to confirm in chat that they are ready to continue.
  6. If the total pause time of 10 minutes runs out, the game has to be resumed. If one team refuses to resume the game, the opposing team will receive a default win.
  7. Admins hold the right to request teams to pause during the match in case of any other issues, and the time used to pause the match will not count for the team it was requested to.
  8. If both teams agree, you may disable "Pause Game On Player Disconnect" in the Match/Lobby settings. This will remove the immediate pause if the server detects a player disconnecting. Since this can occur in the middle of a fight, it is not recommended to have enabled in playoffs, but has been enabled due to past issues with disconnect. It may be disabled if both captains agree.

V. Contact Info

VI. Appendix

  • Map Pools:
    • Currently all maps available to play are allowed to be picked.
  • Best-of-X vs. First-to-Y Formats:
    • First-to-Y (shortened to FtY) refers to a series where the winner is the team to reach a score of Y points first. This is, in practice, the format that CEA OW has used since 2019.
    • Best-of-X (shortened to BoX) refers to a series where at most X matches will be played, and ends once a team mathematically cannot be outscored by their opponent. This is the more commonly known format in many cases. In some scenarios, since the specified number is the "maximum" number of maps played, draw may result in odd outcomes. While previously rules specified Best-of-X for series, in practice we used First-to-Y equivalents.