Overwatch: 10/10? Not So Fast!

Posted by Frosthaven |

Upon launching the battle.net launcher, one might see the linked 10/10 review before playing their game. This kind of thing really grinds at me - not because I hate opinion, but because ratings are being used more and more as a marketing tool than an actual rating system. It's also why we here at Fortis have dropped a numeric rating system entirely.

Let me be frank - I really like Overwatch. I haven't had this much fun since the days of Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. This enjoyment does come with a caveat, however. Solo queue sucks.

I recently made a post on the official Overwatch forums of criticisms I have of the game along with potential remedies. All quotes are my own.

Players Refuse To Build Or Switch

hanzo-banner This is a real problem in solo queue. This isn't entirely the game's fault, and was rarely an issue throughout beta. I've noticed a pattern where more and more people are giving up and no longer caring about team composition (if you can't beat'em, join'em).

Though this is more to do with the player base than the game itself, I feel that the game can do more to help out. We already have role warnings on the right side, so what if we added a confirmation for when players select a role that wouldn't solve at least one of the role warnings?

A more involved solution would be to add a group builder (provided a large enough player base to support it dipping into the queue pool). This would allow myself to say "I want x tanks, y offense, and z support". Adding a system like this would take time and require another look at the way the roles are currently defined (I'm looking at you, defense Symmetra).

Some work could also be done in making the concept of character counters and character switching more emphasized throughout the game's culture. Consider revamping or adding a new training level that goes over these mechanics, and add a message to the onCharacterDeath tooltip that says "Sometimes, when you die, it's a good idea to consider changing to a more suitable character for the situation" (wording needs work, but you get the idea). I'd also like to see a character introduction video series where either a knowledgeable Blizzard employee or competitive gamer introduce a character, covering their nuances, some basic tips, and basic counter strategies. While veteran players won't get as much use out of these videos, the common, casual players will. Add them to the news scroller within the Overwatch section of the Battle.net launcher.

Being Thrown Into Losing Games

defeat-banner It is becoming more and more common that I find myself in the last minute of a losing game. Just today, I had several of these in quick succession.

Losing games are already not fun for many players, especially when it's a stomp. While I can have fun in a close match win or lose, I feel that we could still improve this experience. For starters, leaving a game should count that game as a loss for the leaver. We should also educate the person attempting to leave the game of any potential penalties in the leave confirmation box.

One option is to increase the leaver penalty to be more effective, as the players that drop out of games they are losing typically care less about vanity and more about getting into the next winning game. This would be the preferable option.

Another option could be to close a game for back-filling once the objective or timer reach a certain threshold. This means no backup will be coming for the team struggling, but it's a trade-off against the frustrations of not getting into a fresh game.

Dying Behind Cover & The "I HIT DEFLECT" Syndrome

netcode-genji While the netcode changes during beta have had a very positive impact, these situations are still pretty common.

As per your video on netcode, many special rules exist for defensive maneuvers that should override the "favor the shooter" mechanics. Things like Tracer's blink or Genji's deflect should, in most cases, work as expected.

This is most assuredly a situation of the server not acknowledging that your defensive move has gone off before you were killed. It could either be a side effect of the 20tick downstream not being enough for the player to make split-second defensive plays, or something in the special rules for defensive abilities that doesn't quite cover the "favor the shooter" gap.

Personally, I'd like the tick rate to be increased in quick match once you receive enough feedback from custom games. I'd also like to see the "favor the shooter" cap slightly reduced to 100-150ms. As it stands, you have to move your character around predicting the future rather than reacting to what is in front of you - because you never know if your "just in time escape" is going to be enough to cover the current favorable shooter cap. I'm not asking for the cap to be so low that nobody can hit anything without being on LAN, but I do believe for a fast paced shooter we should assume better connections from players (at least for the upcoming ranked mode).

Another thing that can be done to shrink this window of frustration would be to decrease the size of generous hitboxes. This would make shots harder for casual players to hit, but alongside a moderately successful matchmaker it shouldn't be an issue.

Single Player Ratings In Team Based Match Makers Still Suck

elo Match makers help alleviate the problem of finding a group to play with, but they are far from perfect for team games (and they can't be).

Most team game matching systems are an extension of the old chess ELO system named after Arpad Elo. Read more about the ELO rating system's creation here.

This works fantastically for chess, as it's a 1v1 scenario and so the ELO rating of the individual is directly related to their relative skill level given enough games.

When applied to team based games, the ELO rating becomes more accurate the more impact each individual player can make, and less accurate the lower the impact each player can make. In games like League of Legends, where great players have more of an opportunity to carry a team on their shoulders, ELO is a stronger indicator than in games like Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch.

There just isn't any real quantifiable and reproducible way to say player x has y skill level. What could you even use? Some popular suggestions are:

Medals: The problem with medals is that it's easy to get 3-4 gold medals and contribute directly to a loss. I could pick Soldier 76 and rambo the enemy spawn over and over to get massive damage numbers in shorter games, but that's more an indicator of lower skill than higher skill.

Objective Kills: This is the quickest way to ensure that playing a support/healer role hurts your rating even more.

If you are looking for skill assumption accuracy, you'll need to play with a consistent team roster and at that point the skill assumption will be based on the performance of your entire team.

I could go on, but you see my point. Until some magically superior system is built that can somehow quantify the skill level of an individual within the context of random groups, ELO is the best we can hope for.

It might suck, but it's all we've got.

In Closing

Overwatch with a couple of friends is an amazing experience. I dare say it's one of the best to come along in a very long time! Having said that, it's Blizzard's first foray into first person shooters. I'm willing to let them grow their new genre interest over the coming months and years, but there are many rough edges and hard facts that would prevent this title from receiving a perfect score from me anytime soon.

As for our own personal rating of Overwatch, check out our video review.