While it’s been less than two weeks since Blizzard has graced FPS fanatics with their new title, Overwatch, a torrent of balance requests, UI suggestions, and net-code grievances have already made their way to the desk at the developer’s studio. While many angry gamers are begging for a few heroes to get hit with the nerf bat (I’m looking at you McCree), a few elements of the new competitive, team-based FPS are in clear need of revision.
One topic of debate has been scoreboards, or the absence thereof. Despite the fact that many adept FPS players are familiar with groveling for a higher kill to death ratio and win/loss, Blizzard has made the decision to keep stat breakdowns in-game to a minimum. While the developers have decided to include a deconstruction of the player’s performance with each hero on the home screen, stat breakdowns which reveal the unfortunate miscomings and soaring successes of fellow players have been scrapped from in-game ledger. For instance, Overwatch does not display who has done the best or worst in a round until the game is completed. There is no display of kills or deaths; rather, Blizzard has adopted a “play of the game” feature, which displays the best play of a single game, although the quality of these plays is sometimes questionable at best. Overwatch also includes a system of commendations for fellow players based on medals, such as a gold medal for highest damage done, most time on the objective, most healing done, or most consecutive eliminations.
While this is all fine and well, it seems to me that players and their teammates are not given nearly enough information about the areas where they are in need of improvement, and, as a result, players are blindly picking heroes and employing playstyles that sometimes degrade the quality of a game and the structure of a team. This disconnect between player and team creates a rift of communication, and revisions to team composition are often not made when they are needed most. For instance, a team would be unable to identify the necessity of a Widowmaker or Hanzo simply by the medal given to each player. In the current state of the game, the player only knows how well they are doing with respect to the five categories, statistics which are situationally irrelevant to certain heroes. While my experience with Overwatch has been limited to the quick play or casual mode, I believe a much more thorough stat breakdown is needed on a hero by hero basis in the competitive iteration of the game, which is scheduled for sometime this month. A scoreboard breakdown of this type might be much more complicated than the average first person shooter scoreboard, but it also must be simplistic enough to be intelligible in the heat of combat.
This brings about another topic: the division between Overwatch’s competitive and casual modes. As one might assume, this is the first time the fans of the Blizzard franchise have been exposed to a competitive first person shooter. This means that for some time, newer players will be struggling to find a foothold in an unfamiliar genre. It is understandable that Blizzard would be reluctant to blast the shortcomings of those newer players to a community that is frequently scarred by its toxic communities, so I understand the lack of data given in the casual modes. However, this game also has immense competitive potential, and ranked gameplay needs to cater to a critical, skill based audience. So while I think that player-by-player performance breakdowns need to be presented with much more depth, I also think that novice players need to be shielded from some unwarranted criticism. Whether this balance is too idealistic or impossible remains to be seen, and, while the nature of the game seems to be geared towards a competitive, skill based atmosphere, Blizzard needs to revise their game to encourage that climate of play. A thorough, analytic scoreboard within the competitive mode would be a great solution for players who are looking for a cutthroat, skill-based environment, while more casual players will get an appreciation for the game’s cooperative nature in casual mode.
It’s paramount that Blizzard attempt to strike a balance between these two camps, neither of which are mutually exclusive. Although I am uncertain about how this competitive scoreboard might look like, Blizzard might already be contemplating the deployment of a scoreboard, as they’ve previously had a scoreboard in a previous iteration of the game. While a scoreboard might not make or break this triple A title, I think it would be a helpful addition to the competitive mode. We will see how these potential implementations might take shape in the coming weeks.