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The Overwatch Problem: The Barren New

by Harvest 5 months ago in product review
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A brief exploration of a hostile landscape in a beloved game.

Overwatch cast at launch, 2016

There’s a glaring problem in Overwatch.

Don’t get me wrong, I put 5 (deeply committed, special interest, tried every angle/mode I could get my hands on) years into this game. I still sit up at night, turning theory over in my head; trying to re-design and improve it, while the clock ticks away into the early morning.

I’ve re-worked heroes, re-designed abilities, re-examined game modes and thought about expansions without a lick of money coming my way.

All that, in spite of quitting, over a year ago.

Overwatch haunts me.

Part of that comes from wanting to play again, but a large part – the largest part – stems from the sabotage that happens in the game from a variety of directions; many of which seem like they have easy fixes.

The amount of players the game has lost over the years just from it’s poor reporting system, very underwhelming censoring options, and toxicity proliferation is not insignificant.

But the biggest problem, is the Barren New:

There is a persistent, negativity in the higher rank player-base, aimed squarely at “lower” ranked players. I put that word in quotations because, it isn’t a specific rank. It is a mentality to view those beneath your own rank as somehow worthy of insult.

There’s an entire sub-set of videos in the competitive community dedicated to making entertainment out of laughing, insulting or demeaning those in low ranks (unranked to GM, Guess my SR, Spectating Low Ranks, 1 GM vs. 6 Bronze, etc.). Many of these videos are among the more popular in views.

But if the game has such wide variety in heroes? Each with their own interactions. Different strategies and compositions. Different values for success and winning, different (subjective) values of fun-

How are beginners meant to learn about any it?

Ult Tracking, Cooldown Management, Community recognized Terms and Glossary (Tempo, The Neutral, Ult Economy, Ability Callouts, Map Location Callouts, “The Meta”-) and on and on. Nevermind role specific terminology, or variant playstyles of specific heroes/maps/game modes. All of these are learned at higher levels of play and only then, from the content creators and channels who specialize in it on various platforms, splintering the knowledge and expertise into dozens of small sources that can be daunting for the new player. How do you tell who has good information? Or who can teach at your learning level? Or even answer your questions?

Meanwhile, the in game resources available for the beginner? Who doesn’t know about any of those content creators? Who is just trying to pick up the Cyborg Ninja Assassin character they saw in a trailer or a cinematic and thought

“Wow that looks cool, I want to try that.”

They get:

- a 5 minute tutorial with Soldier 76 doing bare bones shooter stock footage and a single objective capture moment.

- A set of minor tool-tips for each hero and their abilities (with little to no depth), when you press a button in menu screens.

- An optional “Bot” match system with varied difficulty (if they are so inclined and there are enough other players to play in it).

- Certain hero designs that capture how they should play in their Lore, Looks and External Media.

To go from these minimal (and largely optional) resources to the complex dynamics of an actual Overwatch match (Quick Play and Competitive each have a vast difference of play), is akin to getting lost in a country whose language you don’t speak.

Confusion and mistakes crop up, all at a speed and pace that can raise tempers or ‘Tilt’. Many players might get turned off from this initial introduction and not bother, while many others might try to dig in and put up with a steady stream of condemnation or derision from those who, likewise, might not understand the game themselves.

Or worse, do understand the game but lace their knowledge with petty, simplistic takes on

"Gid Gud"

There is a severe wasteland of resources found in Overwatch that bottlenecks new players from entering the playerbase with a positive/comfortable perspective.

It hurts the game's communities. It hurts the game's development. It hurts the business model and it hurts the player.

Overwatch 2 needs a Comprehensive Tutorial System that players can and should make use of, in order to help them explore the various heroes, maps and available game modes . It has been over half a decade with the current resources available for beginners and, it is my firm belief that, this lack of resources have directly contributed to the decline of Overwatch 1’s

- Playerbase

- Quality of Play

- Community Interaction

- Competitive Integrity


- Business Model.

If Overwatch 2 is going to be successful beyond it’s die-hard Competitive Community (and the toxic “Git Gud” values that gatekeep entrance into the game) it needs to have a robust system in place for teaching new players how to play it.

Whether Blizzard and it’s developers can find the time, resources or will to actually examine this issue remains a mystery.

I suppose we’ll find out come October 4th

product review

About the author


Gamer, Writer, Design Theory and Spec. Fic. Everything else is just noise.

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