Many games make the mistake of using a beta release as merely a marketing technique to hype up a game and get people interested in it. However, despite popular opinion, the purpose of alpha and beta releases are to test bugs, server stress, and adjust balance before the game is actually released (as well as a ton of other tests that can’t be ran on internal servers). Thankfully, Blizzard has done well to utilize their dedicated and outspoken player base with active forums for bug reports, and relatively quick changes to major imbalances. If you’re not currently in the beta, don’t feel left out, me and D.Va have got your back!
In late 2015, Overwatch rolled out a beta weekend that unleashed hundreds of beta invites to a wider audience, outside the Blizzard Friends & Family and influencers group. As a previous QA tester, of course I only saw this as a stress test for the servers and warned my friends that it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows. I was partially correct; within the first day of the beta weekend, servers were having major issues. However, after a few hours of downtime, the first waves of beta players were rolling in. As gamers we all get frustrated with authentication issues and not being able to log in at launch, but I think this particular beta weekend gave Blizzard the first real vision of what some of their demographic would bring.
After Blizzard’s holiday break when beta returned in February, I started forming significant opinions of the heroes and maps. I’ve played every hero at least once, of course being drawn to particular mechanics that identify with my personal play style and changes depending on the map and team composition. I find my addiction partially due to the the unique character mechanics and skill kits; the clean, modern visuals of the game; and quality music and audio that makes you feel truly engrossed in the universe of Overwatch.
The mid-February patch was a sigh of relief to the majority of players due to a few major gameplay imbalances. Before this patch, anyone who wasn’t already playing them had a strong hatred towards Torbjorn and Bastion, two of the turret-based heroes (Torbjorn spawns and has the ability to heal/maintain a turret, while Bastion actually transforms into a stationary turret). They were particularly difficult to battle against in narrow passageways and couldn’t be out damaged by even the tank classes. Both heroes’ long-range damage was out of control. On top of everything, Bastion had a 600 armor increase when transforming into his ultimate, which turned him into a mobile tank that does massive damage to enemies. Needless to say, change was necessary in these two heroes and players were given this relief. This is the perfect example of how things are supposed to break and be imbalanced in beta — so they can be fixed before the game launches.
Overwatch has a bright future, and I doubt this will be the last time I write about it. I’m eager to see what sort of things change before the game launches, since there are still a few months left for things to really break. Bring it on!