Monday, November 23, 2015

Overwatch Stress Test Beta Impressions

I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Overwatch Stress Test Beta this past weekend. I last played an First Person Shooter well over a decade ago, Unreal Tournament 99. So I didn't expect much from this test. I fully expect that I am in the bottom 20% of Overwatch's audience.

I didn't take any screenshots, so have some Blizzard ones.
My first reaction is that despite how terrible I was, Overwatch was really, really fun. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Overwatch has that "just one more game" draw to it. Matches are fast and frantic.

For the most part, I stuck with Mercy, who is a healer. Mercy is an excellently designed healer. She can heal or buff allies, and her ultimate is a resurrection of all dead allies. She's very well designed for new players, as her ability targeting is quite forgiving and has a decent about of computer assist. On the other hand, she's pretty fragile, and you'll die a lot. Blizzard nailed the aesthetic of a basic healer here. It's even great when, at the end of match, you see a Play of the Game, and it's your teammate and you can see that you healing/buffing them throughout their play.

After playing healer for a bit, I tried out some of the other characters. I'm pretty terrible at aiming, so I wasn't having much luck until I tried Reaper. For some reason, I just clicked with Reaper, and managed to actually get as many kills as deaths in a few games. I even got a couple kill streaks and a Play of the Game (which was basically me charging blindly at a group of people and magically killing several of them somehow).

A Blizzard screenshot of Reaper
There are a lot of heroes, and they all feel different, both to play as and fight against.

There are also some interesting design decisions. I don't know if other modern FPS'es do this, but if time expires, but there are still people fighting on the object, the game goes into overtime and continues until either the objective is cleared or the attackers claim it. It makes for some amazingly tense final seconds of a match, and is just so much fun.

There is no also killboard for the entire group. Instead, at the end of the match, Blizzard feature four people (who can come from either team) who have done quite well based on whatever metrics they capture. For example, people can show up for number of kills, healing done, damage absorbed by tanks, etc. Then everyone can vote for one person to be MVP. Blizzard then shows you personal stats for the match, and compares them to your average play. So there is a bit of feedback there, as it's really nice to show up on a card, and to slowly drag your averages up.

By focusing on the positive plays, Blizzard avoids embarrassing or humiliating lower skill players, but still provides them decent feedback. I hope Blizzard stands strong on this decision, as a lot of better FPS players on Reddit and the like seem to be demanding a killboard.

There's also no progression systems built in. It's very much a throwback to old FPS games of the 1990s where your character was the same in every match and didn't really change or level up. I liked this, as it is a lot easier to drop in and play, and outside of player skill, opposing characters behaved predictably.

Overall, I thought Overwatch was a lot of fun. Of course, I have zero idea what its competition is like, or what the hardcore FPS scene is like. But I'll probably pick up Overwatch when it is released.


  1. I'm pretty excited for this game. It seems like a mix of Team Fortress 2 and games like Dota, both of which I love.

    I think the idea of a more casual FPS is a very good one. Even TF2, which is relatively easy to jump into and play, has a much steeper learning curve than something like LoL. Maybe that's because the core gameplay of an FPS - shooting enemies moving through a 3D space - is already pretty challenging for most people. FPS games could probably become easier and still be a lot of fun.

    By the way, the mechanic you mentioned (attempting to capture an objective prevents the round from ending) is also taken from TF2. Pretty often the attacking team will win right at the end, as they all rush the point. Another mechanic they should steal is the killcam: every time you die, you see a freeze frame of the person who killed you. It's a great way for new players to understand what's killing them and keep from making the same mistakes.

    1. There is a Kill Cam. Basically there's about 8-10s before you respawn, and during that wait the game shows the last few seconds of the opponent's point of view before they kill you. It's pretty good. I learned that my biggest mistake is that I tend to move in straight lines, rather than zig-zagging.

      There's also a Play of the Game at the very end which I found pretty useful as a new player. Seeing someone execute a sequence which leads to multiple kills teaches you a fair bit. Some Play of the Games are boring or obvious, but often they're pretty interesting.