Vlad

What is Overwatch Closed Beta Like?

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We've been playing Overwatch Closed Beta since October the 27th, and we want to share exactly what it's like.

 

Overwatch's Closed Beta has been going strong for 5 days. Invited to the test so far are just a select few of the many Beta opt-ins, together with a rather large number of streamers, YouTubers and other press writers. Some of our staff, myself included, were extremely fortunate to be invited to the test, so I'm taking this opportunity to tell you just what it's like.

 

For reference, I got to play the game at BlizzCon 2014 (briefly), Gamescom 2015 and Road to Blizzcon 2015 (extensively), and I wrote an article about my impressions of the game shortly after Gamescom.

 

Smooth and Stable Experience

 

We had stated time and time again, ever since we first got a chance to play the game in 2014, that it felt very polished, practically ready for release. This has not changed, of course, and in fact, being able to play the game from the comfort of my home, I can say that I am very impressed by how smoothly the Beta client runs.

 

During the many hours of playtime I have put in since October 27th, I have not noticed a single instance of lag, nor have the severs ever gone down. Players occasionally reported the client crashing, but I never experienced this either.

 

Likewise, the feedback provided on the Closed Beta's forums (both the US and EU ones) indicates that most players are happy with the performance they are getting from their computers, so all in all, it seems like Blizzard have done a tremendous job as far as technical aspects are concerned.

 

The lack of a Mac client (or of 32-bit operating system support) has frustrated some, but given the scope of the release, that is hardly something to hold against Blizzard.

 

Lack of Features

 

If you're disappointed because you haven't received an invitation to the Closed Beta, this section should make you feel a bit better.

 

Despite everything I said above about the game being polished and in a very stable state, there are still many, many features missing from the game. In fact, if you've played any other modern (or even not-so-modern) first person shooters, you might find Overwatch to be quite bare-bones.

 

My greatest gripe with the game is the fact that user interface does not do a good job of conveying enough information to you about what is happening in the game at any given time. This makes it very difficult to stay informed, which in turn reduces the amount of teamwork potential.

 

Even in a competitive environment where all 6 members of a team communicate through voice at all times, the current lack of information would mean that these players would have to talk almost non-stop in order to provide one another with the required relevant information.

 

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Overwatch's sleek and minimalistic UI leaves a lot to be desired.

 

 

I wrote a thread about this very topic on the Overwatch Feedback forums, which has had a large number of replies (some agreeing, others disagreeing). I will simply summarise my concerns here.

 

  1. The lack of a mini-map makes it practically impossible to keep track of your teammates positions.
  2. The lack of a kill feed (showing a notification on the screen whenever a player is killed by another player) likewise makes it very difficult to keep track of how many enemies and allies are in the fight, and also makes it difficult to tell which heroes of a given team are alive or dead.
  3. The lack of a player status display (showing which players on a team are dead/alive, and for how long) contributes even further to the general confusion. It is possible to see this information by opening up the scoreboard, but this requires a key-press and takes up the entire screen, which is likely to get you killed in the process.
  4. The lack of a detailed scoreboard (the current one only shows which players are dead/alive, and what hero each player is using) makes it very difficult to evaluate the performance of teammates (and yours by comparison).

 

There are a myriad of other features that players have requested on the Feedback forums.

 

Blizzard have agreed to add an option to permanently skip the (sometimes frustrating) kill-cam that you are shown after you die, and they have likewise indicated support for a way to have Widowmaker's sniper rifle remained zoomed in without you having to hold down the right mouse button.

 

Another feature that would make a great addition is a proper console that allows players to tweak settings in a more customized manner (there is currently no way to reduce mouse sensitivity below 1, which is still too high for some people's liking).

 

Other Problems

 

In addition to the above-mentioned missing or incomplete features, there are some other issues with the game that I would like to see Blizzard address before the game's release.

 

For starters, the game feels too fast. It is possible to have balanced, relatively long games, when the teams are perfectly matched, but not only is this rare, even these games do not often feel long enough. Just when you get to enjoy playing against the opposition, the game ends. How much of an impact this will have depends on the format Blizzard choose to adopt for competitive games (how many maps will be played as a part of a single competitive match?), but as of right now, the games definitely feel too short.

 

Moreover, one-sided games are over much, much too quickly. My shortest game, on Volkskaya Industries, lasted just over 1 minute. We were wiped out while defending the first objective, and we respawned just in time to be killed on top of the second objective and lose the game. Not only is this not fun for the losing side, it makes it a terrible experience for a spectator sport. Obviously, it is unlikely that there would be such a discrepancy in skill between teams facing each other at a high competitive level, but the issue is still a real one. Spectators need to have enough time to get into the game and understand what is happening if they are to enjoy watching it.

 

I also have somewhat of a problem with the strength of abilities (especially ultimate abilities) compared with the strength of main weapon damage. This is a clear design choice, which I can respect, but it often feels very disappointing to be killed by an opponent's lackluster use of a strong ability, rather than by them exhibiting some great feat of skill.

 

I mentioned ultimate abilities because it is there that the issue is most obvious. Many ultimate abilities in Overwatch are press-to-kill, requiring little to no further input from the player. McCree, Reaper, Soldier: 76, Pharah, and Hanzo are all guilty of this. Mind you, I am not complaining that these abilities are overpowered or that they cannot be countered. They certainly can be dealt with. My complaint is that they are too strong for just how boring and easy to use they are.

 

With regards to ultimate abilities, I mind how quickly it is possible to recharge them, and how having them recharge by doing damage means that in reality, the team that is dominating at a given time will probably recharge their ultimates very quickly and be able to dominate even more. There is also essentially no way of knowing when the ultimate abilities for the enemy team are available, given their dynamic recharge time.

 

Finally, I feel that the game is too strongly centered around good teamplay. This does not look like a problem on the face of it, and I'm sure Blizzard have had a blast testing their game in-house during development. However, in the real world, most people who play the game will be doing so in public games with strangers, where the heavy reliance on team work can prove to be a great frustration.

 

A large number of the game's heroes are only really playable within the framework of a team that is supporting them. Without that support, they simply do not work (an unsupported Bastion, Widowmaker, or Torbjorn is instant dead meat, or, err... dead scrap). On the other end of the spectrum, some heroes (like Tracer, Pharah, or Reaper) are extremely strong in almost all scenarios, and these will probably see a lot of play during disorganized public games.

 

What Is There To Do Right Now?

 

If you aren't playing the Beta, you may be wondering what there is to do in the game. The answer is... not that much.

 

You can play against AI to test heroes and maps or to improve your skill (the AI is surprisingly good).

 

You can create a private game and invite up to 11 other players to face off in an organized setting (but let us face it, with the low number of players that have access to the Beta, we won't be seeing any tournaments just yet).

 

And, of course, you can queue up for public games, where you will be matched with and against random players. This is a somewhat disjointed experience, where you will sometimes be placed into games already in progress, and other times you will be shifted around from one team to another. There isn't really anything to play for (except, of course, to test the game and improve yourself!), and there doesn't seem to be much (if any) of a matchmaking system in place to find opponents of "appropriate skill".

 

Of course, all of my points so far should be taken as constructive criticism. Despite all of this, I still enjoy playing the game and I think it has great potential. I just wish that Blizzard would address these and many other issues that are reported on the Feedback forums, and improve the game.

 

So far, the developers (including Jeff Kaplan himself) have replied to threads on the forums, indicating that they are taking improving the game very seriously, so there is hope that they will give it the required love and care for the remainder of the development process. Only time (and extensive playing!) will tell.

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Really awesome write up Vlad!

 

I've been one of the lucky ones to get a chance to play the game too.  Sadly my uptime has been a little limited with me being away for the weekend but I've managed a few games in so far.

 

As a player of a number of FPS over the years (think old school Doom / Wolfenstein 3D / Quake) and Titanfall more recently my first impressions are positive.

 

I haven't really played too many "recent" games such as CoD or CS:GO and so wanted to try and get a feel for the game for somebody who wouldn't automatically make comparisons with other FPS games that are currently available (on console or PC).  With that said I didn't really have too much expectations either.

 

I have only played Public games so far  (wanting to jump straight in rather than playing against the AI) and the heroes that I have played (mainly Pharah) have been fun.  As Vlad mentions above the current interface feels a bit lacking.  I struggled to get used to seeing when my Ultimate was available and keeping tabs on my other abilities and especially if you are keen on communicating with your team (not that many of my games have got to that stage yet).  Maybe players are "rushing in" a bit more as it is only beta but sometimes the fights are that fast that I struggle to see whats going on (probably just because Im just bad though!)  Games are fast paced and I agree with a lot that Vlad has said regarding one sided games.  There seems to be a problem with snowballing in certain situations and I hope they take feedback on this as no one enjoys games where they feel they getting battered by the other team (even if they are over quickly).

 

I should get plenty of game time over the upcoming weeks and I do plan on streaming a little at some point as well.  But to summarise briefly - its really fun!

 

Hopefully (along with other Blizzard games) it will encourage players who have never previously played a certain type of game to give it a try.

 

So don't fret if you've yet to be invited folks.  It's worth waiting a little longer!

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This honestly worries me. These are such basic features that it leaves me wondering how it is possible for them not to be in the game already. Counter Strike was made by 2 guys and came out with a proper scoreboard and kill feed. After 6 months of beta, we had a proper radar as well and this was 16 years ago.

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