On Clones

Let’s talk about Overwatch for a second.

A lot of the Overwatch reactions that I have been reading on blogs basically revolves around the “TF2 clone” observation. And it’s true: Overwatch does kinda sorta maybe look like TF2 when you squint at it. But I get the feeling from many of the posts that “being a clone” is somehow being considered a value judgment against the game.

Which is a little weird considering WoW was a clone of EQ, LoL was a clone of DotA, and so on. In other words, being a clone of something has very little to do with the merit of the final product. Unless the gameplay was directly cut and paste from the source material, it’s entirely possible for one or two (or more) key tweaks to change the overall feeling of a game. And if you don’t believe that, you haven’t been playing MMOs for very long.

As for myself, I remain mostly ambivalent towards Overwatch. I have played a grand total of about an hour of TF2, which was long enough for me to realize I have little interest in diving into seven years of accumulated competitive minutia; learning the maps, the weapons, the classes, and strategies of each while playing against hardened veterans isn’t exactly my idea of fun. Even if it were a total TF2 clone, Overwatch acts as a rather convenient “reset” of sorts that levels the playing field between vets and newbs, at least for a time. So in that sense, I am interested in playing it and seeing if it’s fun.

At the same time, my experience with Titanfall is giving me pause about the 6v6 format. I have long stated that Titanfall is an amazing game, but the smaller team size means a lot of pressure is put on the skill level of your best and worst players. In other words, a big fish on the enemy team can crowd out the pond. Which is the way things are “suppose to be,” but I’m not particularly inclined to play games in which I spend the majority of the time on the respawn screen. I much prefer larger games like Battlefield and PlanetSide in that gaming gods can rule some minor fiefdom (typically the air game) while everyone else is pounding the ground and having fun.

I don’t necessarily need to win to have fun playing something, but do 6v6 maps give the necessary space to have fun? Typically not, in my experience. We’ll see.

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Posted on November 10, 2014, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’ve never liked FPS games. I’m not a twitch gamer, I tend to die mere moments after spawning. Blizzard has said they want to appeal to the non-twitch players, so I’ll give it a shot, at least in Beta, and see what happens. If it’s not F2P, I don’t see myself spending $60 on it.

    As far as the cry of “clone” isn’t that what Blizzard does best? They take an existing genre and put some much-needed polish on it. I remember reading about the WoW features compared to EQ prior to launch and thinking “I can fly to destinations? I don’t have to corpse run totally unarmed? This is going to be awesome!” They took out what people hated about MMOs at the time. Maybe they’ll take out what I hate about FPS.

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    • You know, Blizzard has stated that Overwatch will have more than just “putting crosshairs over targets,” but most of the hands-on impressions I’ve read have talked about dying pretty quick. So I’m wondering if Blizzard thinks that the support classes will be enough to entice non-FPS gamers into the fold.

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  2. I agree about the 6v6 aspect being worrying. Titanfall kinda got away with it only because it flooded the maps with AI creeps as cannon fodder so that weaker players could still score some kills and not feel like they’re wasting their time entirely.

    So basically unless the matchmaking is absolutely perfect (never happened before) or the skill ceiling is really low (in which case most people who play multiplayer FPS are going to hate it) it’s still going to be frustrating experience.

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  3. I don’t get what impetus was behind the creation of Overwatch.

    After spending the better part of a decade watching loads of MMOs fail in large part due to people being too rooted in WoW by the inertia of sunk costs and social contacts for them to comfortably move on to another, extremely similar, game. It seems bizarre for Blizzard to take this step.

    At least with Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm they’re offering something far more accessible than the vast majority of the already established games in their respective genres. But, unlike Dota2, LoL, and M:tG Online, TF2 is already an exceptionally casual friendly game and I don’t see how Blizzard intends to meaningfully differentiate their product this time.

    The whole thing feels weird.

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