I’ll start by saying that Overwatch is my favourite game and I love it; I always will. The game itself, however, has been a mess. How it’s survived this long without these changes is beyond me.
As Jeff Kaplan says in his Developer Update here, players are given about 40 seconds to form their team when going into a match. Those players are trusted to form a team of heroes which will work together and make sure all roles are covered (healer, tank, and damage dealer). With this in mind, can a group of players with their own hero preferences be trusted to work well together with people they may not know to create a balanced team? I’ll let you guess…
After three years, the Blizzard developers are finally stepping in and restructuring both casual and ranked game modes to ensure every team has a structured format when going into a match. You simply have to specify which role you’d like to play before you join the queue.
It sounds simple, but this is an absolutely huge game change. It will affect every game mode, every player, every hero, and the way we play the game entirely. This is something players have been crying out for for years, and the team are certainly working hard to deliver the change in the right way.
Why Is This Changing?
Players have been asking for these changes for quite a long time. Some consider the changes to have come much too late, while some question Blizzard’s motivation for making these changes at all. Let’s consider three important groups who benefit from these changes:
- Current players: Players currently playing the game are obviously the most affected. Blizzard hopes to keep them engaged with the game so they’ll continue to play into the future. The structure change is being coupled with a hero release, so there’s plenty going on. Current players are also involved with testing as well.
- Lapsed players: Unpopular game mechanics/heroes and slow developer responses drove a lot of players away. The sheer amount of work going into this game redesign, plus some changes to the controversial heroes in question, is designed to bring these players back.
- Professional organisations: Overwatch is a huge esports title; Blizzard themselves, having created Contenders and Overwatch League tournaments, have a lot invested in their own title, so they want to keep esports interesting to watch.
How Exactly Does the Esports Scene Benefit?
To expand on Overwatch League and Contenders League as mentioned above, these are leagues created by Blizzard to take on the esports giants of CS:GO and DOTA 2, and they certainly have their work cut out against these incredibly popular titles.
Over the past year, Overwatch has been trapped in a loop. Professional teams had found a combination of heroes that worked so strongly they were almost unstoppable (such combinations are called ‘Goats’, after the team that first ran it) and the only chance anyone had to counter this formation of characters was to mirror it.
This led to almost the same formation of heroes being played by almost every team in almost every match for over a year. Blizzard tried their hardest to drop bombs on this formation through hero rebalances and redesigns, but they were never quite successful in breaking the loop.
Over 13 million people tuned in to the beginning of Overwatch League Season 2, and Overwatch League Season 3 is already in the pipeline, so the future of Blizzard’s esports scene could certainly be the key deciding factor when it comes to investing in these changes. Either way, I love playing the game and I love watching Overwatch League, so I’m just grateful these changes are coming at all.
- Mike is the self-proclaimed gaming and esports guru in the ICS-digital office. Well, PC gaming and esports anyway. If you haven’t read his previous blog on the subject of esports, you can check it out here.