It’s been a long break. After a successful closed beta, Overwatch has been offline since December 10th for upgrades, and those lucky enough to be playing have been chomping on the bit to get their hands on it again ever since.
This extended break has also given players time to step back and think about the game from a different angle. Overwatch is, by most accounts, a great title so far. But what could make it better? Which mechanics could be re-tooled to create a more enjoyable, engaging, or competitive experience? We've rounded up some thoughts from around the early Overwatch community; take a look at what we found.
One of the things that makes Overwatch unique it its hero abilities. Each hero has two or three regular abilities, and some of the most unique abilities in the game contain crowd control. For example, Roadhog’s Chain Hook, McCree’s Flashbang, and Mei's Endothermic Blaster all put enemies in a helpless state, giving allies and the original attacker a massive advantage.
That by itself is great. However, as anyone who's been stunlocked in any game can attest to, it's just not very fun to lose control of your hero for five seconds or more as you watch your health bar slip away. Tactical Koala, a dedicated Overwatch streamer, sees a potential solution to this particular issue: diminishing returns on crwod control abilities. "Some DR might be necessary in the case of the exact same ability being used over and over; like, 2 Meis for example, freezing the same person one right after another to leave enemies stunned for a huge period of time," he said.
But Koala also realizes that a system such as that would need some nuance. "Stacking everything together would be a bad idea. Nobody wants someone who may have been stunned by a McCree completely ignoring a Junkrat trap because of diminishing returns."
Overwatch approaches Ultimate abilities in a different manner than most competitive games that sport them, such as MOBAs. Instead of being on a long cooldown, Ultimates are charged by doing: dealing damage, taking damage, and healing allies all help built Ultimate meter. This allows for highlight reel plays that can include multiple Ultimates from the same player. A Tracer that’s doing great damage and staying alive in a prolonged firefight may find herself with two or three Pulse Bombs to play with.
Because taking damage is a part of the equation, however, things can get a little tricky. FPS professional Sabian ‘clampOK’ Hayblum has competed in Doom, Quake, and was considered for a time to be amongst the best 1v1 duelists in the world. His concern is that the Ultimate system puts certain playstyles at a disadvantage. “Right now if you damage a player but don't get a kill on them, you've essentially given them free Ultimate meter,” he said. “For high level competitive play, it makes spam-based characters like Junkrat a non-option, as you may unintentionally end up giving the opposing team more benefit by hitting them with your shots.”
The opposite logic could potentially be applied to Roadhog. Part of his role is soaking up damage and healing it all back with his self-heal, Take a Breather. But that also means that his opponents are getting huge chunks of Ultimate meter, whether he dies or not.
Overwatch is arguably the first FPS games with a traditional Tank class. Designed to protect their teammates and draw fire, these big-bodied heroes anchor their teams. Outside of Bastion’s personal barrier, they’re the only class with access to barriers. While these shields come in all shapes and sizes, what they do share in common is that they block nearly all damage and ability effects, including Ultimate meter gain.
On a balanced team that sports a tank or two and a cast of well-rounded characters, barriers are a great addition - otherwise squishy targets can stay with their tanks, dishing out damage and finding new cover from otherwise dangerous areas of a map. But when teams lose that balance and start to skew towards tank-heavy compositions, barriers can start to cause problems.
One need only to look back at one of the several competitive events that went on in beta. At the FishStix Invitational, many teams pulled out three or even four tanks at important push points, something FishStix noted as "remarkably effective." Bringing this tactic to its logical end, having two or three Reinhardts blocking damage leaves little recourse for the enemy team outside of Symmetra's Photon Projector and Winston's Tesla Cannon. Even diving in with more mobile characters would be a dangerous gamble if behind those barriers were close-range specialists such as Roadhog and Reaper.
What is the solution to this issue? Perhaps barriers are changed to decay over time. Maybe their ability to take damage goes down some. But potentially, this is an issue that doesn't need fixing just yet. Even with fierce competition between pros, Overwatch's meta is still in its earliest stages. What appears to be an issue now may quickly become a thing of the past when a countering tactic is found. That's the nature of competitive gaming - and while obvious imbalance is never fun, neither is watching a developer over-react to issues by patching them too quickly.
At last report, Overwatch is set to return in 'mid-to-late January.' That time shouldn't be far off. Over the past month and change that Overwatch has been gone, several thoughts on gameplay such as the above points have been tossed around amongst the community. But one thought has been nearly universal.
Nobody can wait to get their hands on it again.
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