Overwatch as an esport - Part 2: Caring, changes and the sniping cowboy
A game like Overwatch needs changes and balancing to survive, that is pretty certain. In the downtime between the beta and the actual release, me and my Overwatch fanatic brother talked about this. He was scared that Blizzard would not tune the game often enough. I said “don’t worry, this is Blizzard after all” like the fan I am. And so far, it seems that I am right. We’ve had multiple patches with different changes, bug fixes and tuning. And just recently, when Blizzard announced when Season 1 is ending, they added the following: ”Throughout Season 1, we’ve been listening to the community and modifying our plans based on your feedback. We really appreciate hearing your opinions, and can’t thank you enough for taking the time to help us make Overwatch better. ”
Blizzards way of listening
What impresses me the most about Overwatch (and made me almost teary eyed in the beta) is how willing Blizzard is to listen to the community. During the beta period, I know they talked to pro players, they read the forums, and they actually listened to the feedback people gave. Some people may find this a given thing, and it really should be, but in practice it’s not for most cases. That’s why I am happy being a part of the Overwatch community. A passionate and caring staff of game designers makes a great game. So, it is no surprise that the balance patches and updates are regular and the game is always improving.
Early on when the game got released, we did of course receive some of the standard bug fixes and quick balance changes, but that’s not really anything noteworthy. What is, though, is the many changes poor McCree has had to this date. Blizzard probably monitors things closely before changing anything major, and McCree did not get nerfed until June 14th. Before that, the cries of Reddit were heard for quite some time. Stun, fan the hammer, dead. (This gives me nightmares just thinking about it. What I have raged most about in any PVP kind of game is when I am crowd controlled and killed before I even have a chance to do anything. Shudders.) But the update made McCree… Well, bad. People still played him, of course, but he did not at all have the impact on games as he had before.
So, Blizzard released another patch. Along with the release of Ana, the buff of Zenyatta and D.Va, McCree became the best sniper in the game. With barely any damage drop off, and really nice long range damage, Widowmaker got benched when everyone stood halfway across the map farming kills with our beloved cowboy. But then a patch hit on July 26th that changed things a bit yet again. McCree’s fan the hammer had its fire rate increased by 15%, but his damage fall off range was increased. This with the hope of making McCree a little stronger on close range again, as well as making him less… Sniper-y.
Other hero changes
It’s not only McCree that Blizzard (and the community) has had issues with. Zenyatta for example, has endured both buffs and nerfs. The biggest issue with him has been his orbs. Anyone remember the beta? Zenyatta could then place his harmony/discord orb on any target, and they would just not go away. A Genji or a Tracer running across the map with a constant harmony orb on was a real big pain, as was being the recipient of a constant discord orb; thankfully that is a thing of the past. Recently Zenyatta has not really been that good of a choice for competitive though. With his low health pool (and especially when Widowmaker was a big part of the meta) he died way too quickly to be any good. Now though, with a higher health pool and a slightly buffed ultimate since his last buffs, Zenyatta sees much more play, both in competitive and casual.
But Zen is not alone in being played much more after the patch that occurred on July 18th. D.Va received some slight rework to her shield, which was much needed in order for her to even be slightly viable for competitive play. Other than that, she also received a small buff to her ultimate. With the one second shorter explosion delay, D.Va’s ult now actually manages to kill people. (But it was even more fun when this change was new, the quicker explosion surprised so many people!)
So… Uh, how about Widowmaker? Anyone remember her? After the nerf she got on June 13th she has barely seen any competitive play. Since quick scoping is not really a thing anymore, and her body shots doing much less damage, she does not get much playtime. (Although we’ve seen some brave souls even bring her out in tournaments.)
Maps, skins and other fun things
Let’s face it, we do care about things like this. It’s not all about the pew pew and the winning games and trying to prove who's best. This is, especially true in Overwatch in my opinion, since there’s not just skins. There’s sprays, voice lines, emotes and all those other cosmetic and flavor items that makes it just a little (or a lot) more interesting to play the game. Recently (August 2nd) Blizzard released the “Summer Games 2016” update, which included over 100 flavor items that will only be available for a limited time. In this update we can see various Olympics inspired items, like a weight lifting skin for Zarya and football skins for Lúcio.
There were some rumors about a new map alongside this update. This turned out to be the special brawl map for “Lúcioball”. Blizzard has though, talked about how they are working on new maps, so hopefully within the near future we can see some changes to the map pool.
The game is new, and even though we get frequent updates and fresh, fun things to play with, improvements can always be made. One of the things that is still being debated is the spectator client. I brought this up during the first part of this series. A colleague of mine has also talked about this. There have been multiple threads on Reddit and on the official forums, and it is frequently talked about during tournaments. One big thing that is currently hindering tournaments is the lack of a pause button. There have been some really high stakes games lately, with the $300.000 Overwatch Open and the qualifiers for the $100.000 ESL Atlantic Showdown. And, even though your gear is good and you have paid your bills, problems can still happen.
In this video, you can see TSM’s Joemeister disconnect early in their game vs. Cloud 9 on Kings Row. Since there is currently no way of dealing with this, the teams just have to continue playing, hoping their missing player returns. (Which they did in this example, and managed to cap the point with one less player.)
But at the end of the day, there are many voices from the community that want to be heard. What we could do, is to (calmly) give constructive criticism, use the forums that are available to us (as well as Reddit) to try and convey our concerns. For now though, I would just give it some time. The game is still fairly new, and with a competent group of game developers as well as a strong, helpful community, this is only the beginning of great things to come.
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