Blizzard has been trying excruciatingly hard to maintain its playerbase in Overwatch. They are bleeding players and they need to fix it. Fixing the competitive system is a good start, however there are certain issues that need to be addressed going forward to return the game to the strong prominence that it was known for. Heroes, maps, and even how often blizzard updates the game should be taken into consideration. It is not time to hit the panic button on this game quite yet, but, there is growing room for concern.
In my last article I covered how the competitive system itself and the effects it is having on the game and the attitude of the players. However, I did not offer many solutions. That’s because one proper solution is very difficult to achieve, and I’m sure that anything I could think of, someone else has, especially Blizzard itself, may have tested out. And while a perfect solution may be impossible for now, we can talk about the steps blizzard can take from here. This can start with a more traditional role que. An idea that i have seen tossed around on different websites is a 1-1-1-3 que, with one dps, one tank, one healer, and three flex. This can cut down on having people flex to positions they don’t know as well or care for. This also leaves room for tweaking, from there it can be shifted to a 1-2-2-1 select, (essentially making it 2-2-2 in most cases) or do the opposite and create a 2-1-1-2 option, it isn’t perfect,and it wont be, but it is a small step to take to find the right place to work from. Also, eliminating skill based SR gain/loss needs to be removed from all levels of play, the system feels unfair and unbalanced and causes more problems than it solves.
However, Competitive isn’t the only aspect of overwatch that needs to be rejuvenated. The heroes added while being fun, well balanced, and viable, have had very low skill ceilings. For example, both new supports, Moira and Brigita respectively, can provide a lot of value for little skill, making them deceivingly strong. While in the right hands each character individually can be awe inspiring, as with any hero in the game, their value maxes out much quicker than some of the characters with high skill ceilings, like a Genji, Widowmaker, or Ana. These characters promote skilled play and can create amazing plays that carry a team to victory. Having easier heroes isn’t a bad thing, quite opposite, it is a good thing. It makes the game more accessible for everyone, however, the ratio between high skill ceilings and low skill ceilings should be kept in ratio, which it was until Brigita was released. Now the easier heroes are becoming the most valuable and you are seeing a more straightforward form of overwatch. Instead of a hero being able to pop off and win a team fight if played well, the new heroes have a heavy reliance on team play, which is extremely difficult when Solo Queing.
The Maps have also dropped off in quality of fun since launch. Horizion Lunar Colony and Blizzard World have mostly been received as flops, Junkertown was a good addition, but the recent releases have been more negative than positive. However, this all looks to change with the addition of Rialto, the new payload map coming to the live servers. There is a lot of verticality and opportunity of advantageous cover for both teams. This map is doing extremely well and the way they introduced it (the first chance to see it is in the retribution event.) If they can continue to make maps like those and keep improving on what they did right in that map then this is the least worrisome topic covered.
The last major topic I wanted to discuss today was how often the development team updates the game. Having weekly updates has made the team more prone to knee jerk reactions, and not letting the changes that they make breathe enough. When the game was first released bastion was by far the strongest in the game. Many people asked if he and Torbjorn could be removed from the game and Jeff Kaplan said no, and that the counters for him were easy to realize once you know how to do it, since then, Bastion has become a total troll pick most levels of competitive play. He is certifiably unviable and has had to be buffed to become more viable. Another case for waiting is Ana when she was released. She was alright at best while people were still figuring her out. Blizzard added buffs to her to make her stronger and she became the must pick of the next couple metas, she was way too strong then, but if blizzard had waited to update her and let people learn her then she might not have needed any touching up.
The point that I am trying to make with this post is to tell the Dev team at Blizzard to relax a little. Maybe updates would be better if they came a little less frequently than a weekly schedule. Allow the PTR to serve a greater purpose than to check to see if the updates don’t completely break the game or make them unbalanced. Leave the PTR for play, if the developers think they are close to fixing something then put it on the PTR. But Small weekly changes have only set a precedent for immediate action on everything, and to ask that of the team is too much.
In conclusion, it might be time for the Overwatch team to slow down and take their time with the updates. Emergency patches can be made, but it feels like a new hero is getting reworked every week and there are major changes being made that aren’t allowed the time to see if they really are as drastic as everyone believes they are. There is an immediate and long term effect that balance changes have a game. And for the past two years they have only had a focus on the short term effects. It is time for Blizzard to not worry about what happened today, and watch what happens over the course of a week or two more, doing big updates monthly will still keep the game feeling fresh while giving players time to explore the previous changes and determine critically, instead of out of pure reaction. This might be a huge change the development team and playerbase need to feel reinvigorated and reinspired about the game we love so much. Because recently everything around overwatch has not felt as inspired as when it launched.