Changes Overwatch Needs

The (early) verdict is in: most everyone loves Overwatch. It’s currently at 94 Metacritic.

OverwatchScore

That’s… really high.

Part of me wants to reject that score right out of hand. 94? Overwatch is currently tied with Skyrim, Mass Effect 2, and Bioshock Infinite, while being  a full point higher than Witcher 3 and Minecraft. Indeed, the nagging feeling I have currently is that Overwatch is almost exactly a Bioshock Infinite situation: a very pretty game everyone loves despite it being terrible.

Well… maybe not quite. Overwatch is actually really fun to play. Until it isn’t. I’ve come up with a few small changes that would make the experience a bit better for me and anyone.

1) Fix the disconnects

Overwatch drops a lot more games than it really has any reason to. While to an extent you can possibly blame it on Day 1 release issues, the disconnects have been appearing en masse since the Beta. One minute you’re playing, next minute it’s asking you to sign back into Overwatch, including entering your Authenticator. Which is weird, considering that I haven’t actually had to sign into a Blizzard game since getting the new Battle.net launcher.

OverwatchDisconnect

Guess I didn’t want to play anyway.

The injury to the insult is that being disconnected in this fashion drops you from the match entirely. In a group? Not anymore. There is essentially no way back into the match you just dropped from, even if you were disconnected for less than a minute. Since Overwatch matches can last less than five minutes, I suppose it’s not too terrible a loss, but it’s still annoying as hell.

2) Indicate Role Willingness

One of the more awkward moments of an Overwatch match is the beginning, during character selection, when everyone waits to see what everyone else picks. Except for those Hanzo/Tracer players, who just don’t give a damn. Meanwhile, I wait down the clock, seeing if anyone else is going to pick a Tank or Healer character, so I can best support my (PUG) team. I don’t mind either role, but if someone else takes them, I’m picking Mei or Junkrat so I can enjoy myself.

But that’s the rub. If there is someone else who actually cares about winning, we end up running out the clock together. I’m comfortable in any role, but maybe they only want to play a tank or DPS and not a healer. If I pull the trigger on tank, they are essentially going to give up and go DPS. Or we can go double-tank and just lose with no healer. I could perhaps switch once they pick something, but if we’re on Defense, there won’t be much time to get set up before the match begins.

All of this can be resolved by a WoW-esque role-check before the team is even formed. “Queue as Offence/Defense characters.” “Queue as Tank/Offense.” “Queue as All.” Perhaps show a little emblem beneath our names on the character select screen. While it is possible to, you know, just type this all out in the convenient team chat text box, I don’t feel like it should be necessary. Plus, this would set Overwatch up in the future to have better matchmaking (creating teams with at least two people who indicate a willingness to be tank/heals) or even just filling teams out.

3) Team Shuffling

It needs to happen. Or if it already does, it needs to be more apparent. I understand that the current two-map setup would make it weird – attacking on a Payload (etc) map follows defending on the same with the other team – but there is currently very little reason to keep playing with a shitty team. In fact, if you experience a blow-out, there is no reason to stay, period. Dropping out “works” for you as an individual, but that solution just ends up forcing both teams to break apart if enough people do.

The downsides are legitimate. Two evenly matched teams might want to keep facing each other in various rematches, for example. But how likely are you to face evenly matched teams in PUGs? I’m not advocating shuffling people who queue in groups, obviously. The other downside is making it a bit more difficult to get to know/friend-request a particularly skillful teammate. Here too though, I feel like shuffling doesn’t really change that, assuming you can get to know people in 7-minute matches in the first place.

4) Current objective timers in Death Cam mode

Why in god’s name would any designer feel like it’s useful or necessary to include historical objective timers in your post-death replay? I know you can disable Death Cam altogether, but my point is that the objective timer should be, you know, the actual timer at all, er, times.

I should not have to choose between no Death Cam and Current Objective timer. Seeing yourself getting sniped at the last possible second is already frustrating, without knowing whether someone else saved the day after your death until you’re already back in the game.

5) Bastion maximum bullet count in Sentry mode reduced.

Yeah, Bastion is “easy” to counter and we should probably stop complaining about him. Here’s the thing though: when your solution to a stationary enemy killing your team within two seconds is changing your character, something is up. Sure, change characters when the enemy team is turtling up, or picked four tanks, or they all went Hanzo. But if the existence of a single character on the enemy team dictates your own team comp… then maybe you need to admit an issue. Nobody is swapping characters when they notice a Reinhardt or Tracer or Mei on the other team.

Plus, this is a team-based game. Who goes Genji/Windowmaker/etc? You? What if you are the team’s only tank/healer? Maybe your team just deserves to lose then, I guess.

Also, that Kotaku writer actually suggested Reinhardt to block the incoming stream of bullets, as if Bastion couldn’t chew through his entire 2000 HP shield in less than four seconds. The Wiki states Bastion deals 4-15 damage in Sentry mode and spits ~30 rps, but that’s fairly laughable. Assuming it’s correct though, and assuming 15 damage apiece, that means 1800 damage is thrown down in four seconds, shield is broken a second later, and Reinhardt is dead on the floor a second after that.

Meanwhile, Bastion still has another second to put out 80-300 damage before he has to reload.

So, my solution? Reduce Bastion’s maximum ammo size in Sentry mode from 200 to 150. He will still murder everyone as soon as they walk through the door, and skilled players will still be all but untouchable with judicial use of selecting targets and/or frequently moving and/or you know, reloading. But if those damage/rps numbers are correct, Reinhardt can at least provide some coverage versus Bastion solo, at least long enough to throw out a Fire Strike.

6) Increase tick rate to 60 Hz.

Overwatch has a tick rate of 20 Hz by default. If you haven’t ever heard of tick rates in FPS games and/or the importance thereof, this is a good primer. Battlefield 4 had this same situation at release, with it updating at 20 Hz and resulting in an excessive number of headshots around corners. When the tick rate is increased, the game feels even smoother, and you start seeing Death Cam footage that resembles what you actually did right before getting owned.

The head-scratching part of this is the fact that Blizzard already introduced 60 Hz tick rates into Overwatch. In Custom Games. Which is great, I suppose, for the people wanting to run tournaments or something. But there is zero downside to the average player to go to 60 Hz and every possible upside. It just needs to happen.

In any case, that is that.

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Posted on May 26, 2016, in Overwatch and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. 1) I have yet to disconnect once, despite playing a total of 8 hours or so over the past few days. Mind you, I’m on the west coast of US so I’m pretty much on top of Blizzard’s West Coast servers. I’m wondering if the disconnects are something specific to your ISP or location. Still, Blizzard has the weight to throw at those folks to get their problems fixed, so I’d suggest making a post on the forums (or dogpiling on an existing) to get their attention there.

    2) Role willingness is a tricky one, because personally I don’t care what role I play, and sometimes it’s to your best advantage as a team to actually triple up or more on specific roles. Plenty of times when switching to two Reinhardts or two Pharahs allowed us to break a stalemate. Or attacking an area then delivering a payload on the same map can often be made easier by altering your team composition a fair bit. While diversity of roles is generally a good idea, the game very much rewards character switching and role switching to match the current situation.

    3) Team Shuffling, I agree. While I don’t mind the swap from Offense to Defense for a two game match (there’s been a few times where we were great at one side, and terrible at the other), after that I want a new set of people entirely rather than just…shuffling the current team members. I’d like an option that basically auto-kicks myself after that 2 game match.

    4) Agreed entirely. This drives me bananas.

    5) I think the suggestions for Bastion are probably pretty sound (especially reducing his ammo limit). He chews through Reinhardt’s shield pretty fast. Though 4 seconds should be enough for concentrated fire to take Bastion out if the rest of your party is ready/paying attention.

    As to swapping characters, Reinhardt and Tracer do actually dictate some character changing. Junkrat, Pharah, and Tracer are good Reinhardt counters that you’ll want someone to pick up, whereas I’ve yet to personally come up with a good Tracer counter I’m fairly certain some exist. The game is very much about character swapping and character counters; if you’re not swapping your character at least once during a match, I’d argue that either the other team is terrible, or you’re not paying attention. Or you’re running Reinhardt because there’s very few scenarios where having at least on Reinhardt is a terrible idea.

    6) There are downsides to running a faster tick rate: a higher bandwidth requirement. I haven’t measured how much bandwidth Blizzard is using for Overwatch, but it makes me wonder if its high enough that 60Hz would become problematic for some internet connections (mind you, those connections could scale back dynamically, but then those people are at a disadvantage), not to mention the bandwidth costs for the server clusters (especially if they’re running 3rd party data centers like AWS as the netcode analysis video noticed).

    Keeping in mind that uploading at 60Hz may be x bytes/second, downloading at 20Hz is x*12/3 bytes per second (12 players, including yourself as your client needs to perform reconciliation). Basically, I wonder if the tick rate currently is basically Blizzard’s modus operandi of working at the lowest common hardware denominator.

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    • I’m hopeful that the tick rate is, as you mention, mostly a concern about bandwidth costs. The tech already exists in-game, after all; Blizzard merely needs to flip the switch.

      That’s a decent point about Role Willingness. Hmm. My experience up to this point has been mainly always having to go tank/heals because no one else would, and hardly anyone actually switches mid-match. Game has only been out for less than a week though, so perhaps it will improve.

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  2. I love the Bastion character. It is indeed an easy mode for the casual play, and works very well to start to learn the game. This is a very good way to learn the map, and for the opponents, to learn how to use their power. And it is really fun for the beginer. This make it a great tutorial for the game.

    At higher level of play, I heard it is easily countered, so not really a competitive issue.

    He is really (a bit like the engineer in TF2) what I like in Overwatch : at casual level, this is not so much a game of precision and reflex skills, but more a strategic one : how to counter the oppoonent position, and how to support my team, without relying on my aim skills. I can understand how it can be very frustrating for a good CS player for exemple – that combine strategic play with aiming skills – but this is what make it a unique game (with TF2). Reihnart is the same : overpowered at casual level of play – except against Bastion – and very fun to learn to play the Tank.

    The remaining issue, is that, if countering one bastion is quite interesting, two or 3 bastion seems nearly unbeatable at my level (= casual player without team coordination.)

    Nevertheless, it seems that Bastion efficiency has been reduced between open Beta and release, I am dying quite more often now as a Bastion, and forced to change position more often.

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    • Ha, yeah, if you want to destroy some PUGs, sit a Reinhardt in front of a deployed Bastion with Mercy providing a damage boost. Played defense on the Egyptian level with that setup, and the enemy team never made it past the front door.

      Counters undoubtedly exist for that, but at a certain point, the skill necessary to pull said counters off is generally too much coordination for a PUG.

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      • My point was more about not coordinated bastion player just sitting on a defense point. One is interesting to kill, two or three is a nightmare. The Reinhardt/Mercy/Bastion combo you proposed are more for organised team and will never appear in PUG.

        Just for the fun, I feel that a (very) good Tracer can killed this combo if it is done by casual player. As a very bad aimer, and my first time with Tracer, I was able to kill a Reihnardt/Bastion combo just by going behind them on a sniper spot- I was using my team as decoy.

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  3. I’m totally with you on everything, although I’m still not sure Bastion is OP. I fucking suck at Bastion in every way. Still, though, I’m pretty sure he isn’t that bad in sentry form, to be honest. I think his tank form is more the problem (I’m fairly sure he one shots any support with it). The death timers thing is so annoying.

    I think they really need to incentivise hero switching more, or just flat out lock people out of certain roles if the match has too many in a PUG – that seems like Blizzard’s kinda shtick as well. It’s getting to the point where me and two mates queuing will have to carry a game as tank/supp/def whilst we have three useless offense heroes (hi 2x genji and a reaper) that were picked first fucking around doing nothing.

    There needs to be some serious rebalancing (although maybe, if they’re balancing around competitive, not as much). They also need to seriously start adding some different playstyles into the game, especially for support. I mean why play anyone other than Lucio? Zenyatta seems to just be unbearably shit in every scenario, Symmetra is very very map dependent, and Mercy is cool but really not my playstyle. It isn’t helped by the fact that Lucio is absurdly strong – the constant AoE healing, the healing boost, the speed boost for some maps is unbelievably strong as well (almost like Symmetra!) and the ult is game winningly good if you time it right.

    Then again all this could be predicated on the fact that I seemingly can’t aim or play offensively in this game at all. Considering I played everything other than Demoman in TF2 this is really quite annoying – I can’t work out what it is, but the shooting in OW is really hard to aim for me.

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