Communication makes or breaks a team's performance in Overwatch, but remains a neglected tool by a huge number of players. It's easy to see why. Other concerns like mechanical skill have more visible, simple to understand consequences. Soldier 76 smashed you in a duel because he's a strafe-demon; Pharah wiped the team because her rockets always find their mark and Lúcio's ledge-boops were just too fierce.
Moments of communication breakdown, where tanks become stranded or ultimates don't stack, are less visible. Often we remember these incidents as failures of skill on our own part, or indications that our enemy is better at stacking, ulting and better at weaving, when the real problem is that the other team was talking and our team wasn't.
In other words, it's time to open up your mic and get chatting with your fellow players. Here we've compiled some simple advice for Overwatch players who want to start talking more with their team. It's by no means exhaustive, but provides an entryway for players who want to improve their communication game.
All praise voice
The number one rule of Overwatch comms is simple: voice chat reigns supreme. Speaking through a mic allows all the specificity of text chat without burdening your busy fingers. There's no replacement for it, and though the experience may sometimes be unpleasant, it's worth auto-joining the voice channel of every game you enter.
If you don't wish to talk, at least consider joining the audio channel and listening to your chirping allies. The more members that enter the voice channel, the more synchronised your assault or defense will be. That said, if your would-be allies tend to spout more negative chatter than positive, Blizzard has built in tools for dealing with trolls, ragers, and other undesirables you may encounter. And of course, the mute button is your friend.
What to say?
It can be intimidating using voice for the first time; it's possible to over and under-share information once you're mic'd up. Saturating the chat with constant updates on every small aspect of your current status or every enemy movement probably isn't helpful. Try to use voice to achieve specific goals, such as the following:
- Deciding where to defend.
- Relay enemy locations, especially those of Widowmaker, McCree, Reaper and Bastion.
- Coordinate your ultimates so they stack.
- Focus down vital targets like Mercy.
- Coordinate a change of hero composition.
- Relay which vital enemy ultimates, like Sound Barrier, are on cooldown.
- Calling out enemies who're dead.
- Encourage team-mates who are going on tilt.
Some of the above should be observed by everyone – there's no excuse for any team member not calling out Widowmaker's location if she's been seen. However, there will usually be one or two members on any team who naturally assume the role of shot-caller, making important decisions about when and how to attack.
If you've got a couple of shot-callers on your team, then try to follow their lead with confidence, making helpful suggestions along the way. Shouting over them, or adding another cook to the mix, will undoubtedly spoil the broth.
Even if your shot-callers are making poor decisions, it's important to try and follow their orders. Splitting up during a vital push is a death sentence for half the team. If you need to interject because things really aren't working, then try politely suggesting a change of strategy. Most teams are willing to shake things up after a couple of failed pushes on the objective.
In the heat of the moment it's easy to lose your cool, and with it, any hope at expressing yourself clearly. Talking is only one half of the battle – it's important that when you speak you're understood by your allies.
For instance, saying "McCree on the left," is useless unless your entire team is grouped up and facing in the same direction. It's a relative term that may just confuse your allies during a teamfight on the capture point. What's left to you, could be right to your Winston, meaning that they'll leap in the wrong direction to intercept a Soldier attacking from the flank.
Try using static features of the world as your points of reference. On Hanamura, for instance, if Solider 76 has made it behind enemy lines and is on the point, try saying, "Soldier on the point," rather than, "Soldier behind us!" But beware maps that have multiple features of the same type. On King's Row there are two chokes on either side of the capture point, therefore shouting, "Bastion by the choke" is unhelpful.
The same goes for requesting changes in team composition. Don't just ask for a tank, ask if any of your team members can play Reinhardt. Players are much more likely to respond to clear requests.
Your buddy, the comms wheel
If you're not willing to fully participate in voice chat, then the comms wheel can provide your team with vital information that will inform decision making. The comms wheel allows players to quickly ping out a small selection of orders and requests at the flick of a wrist. It's nowhere near as flexible or precise as voice chat, but it can make a huge difference when used effectively.
- Every now and then let others know how close your ultimate is to full charge. It will often cause fellow team members to hold theirs for an effective combo.
- Be sure to use 'Acknowledge' to let your team know that you're listening to their chatter or hearing their pings.
- 'Need healing' makes your healers' jobs far easier. It's tricky keeping tabs on all team members at all times, so let them know you're in trouble.
- Be careful when using 'Group up'. It can be a helpful reminder that your team is spread too thin, but unless you're stood in the exact location you want your team to group, it can be confusing.
It goes without saying that at no point should you take out anger or frustration on your team-mates, even if they're not performing well. Bad games happen to the best of us and belittling stragglers will only make their performance deteriorate further.
The best thing you can do is encourage them, offer polite suggestions, and try to relieve the pressure that risks putting them on tilt.
Saying, "come on guys, we can do this," or giving praise for an elimination is infinitely preferable to screaming obscenities and demanding they change hero. Even if you're shot-calling, no one elected you as team leader, and you certainly don't have the right to demand someone else change their hero selection. You can request, or advise, but the choice is theirs, and you're better off shouting positives rather than negatives. Remain humble and friendly, or you risk alienating your team and sabotaging your own efforts.