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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      GENERAL UPDATES
      All heroes in the Defense and Offense categories have been merged into a new category: Damage Developer Comments: Since the line between Offense and Defense heroes has become increasingly blurred, we’ve decided to group all those heroes into a single new “Damage” category. We believe that the term more closely matches the role name used in Overwatch League and across most of our community.
      Combat can now be heard 25% further away Changed the name of the Varok spray to Saurfang Added an Inspire Uptime Percentage statistic for Brigitte on the Career Profile Removed some statistics for Symmetra on the Career Profile Added a Scoped Critical Hit Accuracy statistic for Widowmaker on the Career Profile Players must have Blizzard SMS Protect enabled on their account to be eligible for the Top 500 Career Profiles will no longer be public by default (now defaults to Friends Only). An option to make Career Profiles visible has been added under Options > Social > Profile Visibility GAME BROWSER AND CUSTOM GAMES
      Symmetra can now be played in 1v1 duel game modes (e.g. 1v1 Limited Duel and 1v1 Mystery Duel) HERO UPDATES
      Doomfist
      Meteor Strike Bonus movement speed increased from 150% to 200% The Best Defense… Shield gain increased from 30 to 35 for normal abilities Developer Comments:  The increased movement speed on Meteor Strike gives Doomfist new options in how and where to deploy it. His passive is also being increased, allowing him to survive more often when diving into enemies
      Orisa
      Supercharger Ultimate cost reduced by 15% Developer Comments:  Supercharger wasn't getting enough use, considering its impact. This change allows Orisa to user her ultimate more aggressively, knowing that she will be able to generate them more easily. 
      Symmetra
      New Abilities Photon Projector No longer locks onto targets Range increased to 10 meters Damage ramping now takes 2 seconds per damage level instead of 1 second Damage ramp increased from 30/60/120 to 60/120/180 Now generates ammo instead of spending it when hitting a barrier Alternate Fire No longer pierces targets Now explodes on contact Projectile speed increased Charge up speed increased Damage changed to 60 impact / 60 explosive Sentry Turret Turret is now placed like a projectile instead of being set in place Can hold a max of 3, down from 6 Can now deploy a max 3, down from 6 Damage increased Amount of slowing effect increased Teleporter Can now place the exit up to 25 meters away from Symmetra Entrance will automatically be built in front of Symmetra, rather than at her team’s spawn point Lasts 10 seconds Health lowered to 300 More things can teleport through it (e.g. Junkrat’s RIP-Tire) Entrance can be destroyed If either the entrance or exit is destroyed, the other is removed New Ultimate: Photon Barrier Deploys a barrier that is big enough to span and cut through an entire map Orientation can be changed by pressing the ultimate button again Has 5000 health Developer Comments: The goal of these changes is to move Symmetra to her new damage role and make her more flexible and viable across more areas of the game than she was previously. Now that Symmetra is no longer a support hero, she is expected to be able to dish out heavy damage, and these changes allow for her to do so. She should be more powerful and interesting in more team compositions and maps, and she should also be stronger on offense and defense.
      MAP UPDATES
      Horizon Lunar Colony
      Point A Added a staircase on the right when exiting the hydroponics room Removed the door to the lower room on the right Removed the small wall on the catwalk above Point A Added some cover walls to the catwalk area Moved the door next to the staircase that led to Winston’s room The door is now on the side of the wall in the training pit Moved the large health pack to the back of the room Removed some clutter in the upper left computer room Hydroponics Room Switched the positions of the large and small health pack Changed some of the hydroponic plant cover on the right side Point B Defender spawn room exits moved from the front to the sides out of direct line of fire Small rooms added at spawn room exits Additional cover added near the spawn room exits Added a route and larger platform leading to the back right corner Raised the platform to the same height as the attackers’ platform on the opposite side of the point The location of the old defender exit is now an alcove with a small health pack  Both teams can still pass behind the point, but there is now a cut-through in the middle of the wall for better access.  The area above the window overlooking the point is now covered A large platform with cover has been attached to the left side of the catwalk The upper platform for the attackers has been reduced The doorway leading to the platform is slightly smaller Developer Comments: We’ve wanted to make some gameplay improvements to Horizon Lunar Colony for some time now.  The defenders’ spawn room had a problem with its main exit that allowed defenders to quickly duck back inside and regain health while attackers shot at them without doing damage. Since we were already reworking the entire back area, we decided to make some more changes addressing player feedback. The idea behind the rework of Point A was to not only help the defenders a bit, but also provide some gameplay options aside from sitting on the point and trying to hold it for as long as possible. Easier access to high ground, as well as limiting the routes for attackers (or at least allowing for defenders to more easily spot the attackers), will allow more opportunity for counters and create a better gameplay experience. 
      We’ve made a lot of additions and changes to the art throughout the map for you to discover as well.
      BUG FIXES
      General
      Fixed a bug that prevented loading screens from displaying the game mode Heroes
      Ana Fixed a bug that prevented Ana’s Naptime achievement from being granted when interrupting Moira’s Coalescence Fixed a bug that caused Ana’s Sleep Dart effect to persist on afflicted targets after changing heroes Brigitte Fixed a bug that caused Junkrat’s grenades to damage Brigitte when hitting her barrier Fixed a bug that caused Brigitte’s Rocket Flail to clip into the ground during her Flail highlight intro on King’s Row Fixed a bug that allowed Brigitte to proc Inspire when hitting gondola omnics with her Rocket Flail in Rialto Fixed a bug that allowed Brigitte to proc Inspire by hitting the motorcycle in the Junkertown attacker spawn room Fixed a bug that allowed Brigitte to use Shield Bash while affected by Steel Trap or Graviton Surge Fixed a bug that prevented Brigitte’s Inspire passive from sometimes healing allies out of line of sight Doomfist Fixed a bug that prevented Doomfist’s Rising Uppercut animation from playing when used after hitting something with Rocket Punch Fixed a bug that allowed Doomfist to use Seismic Slam and escape Graviton Surge when within range Fixed a bug that prevented Doomfist’s Rocket Punch, Rising Uppercut, and Seismic Slam from not playing the appropriate sound effect if these abilities were disabled or on cooldown Fixed a bug that prevented enemies struck by Doomfist’s Rocket Punch from taking additional collision damage when hitting Mei’s Cryo-freeze Fixed a bug that caused Doomfist’s failed Seismic Slams to display the wrong UI information Fixed a bug that prevented the HUD messaging for Doomfist’s Meteor Strike to indicate that players can zoom their camera out Fixed a bug that prevented Rocket Punch’s bonus damage from applying if the enemy used an evasive ability at the same time they hit a wall (e.g. Moira’s Fade, Tracer’s Blink, or Reaper’s Wraith Form) Fixed an issue that prevented Doomfist’s Rocket Punch from impacting some walls D.Va Fixed a bug that caused D.Va’s mech to do a standing pose right before detonating Fixed a bug prevented the South Korean flag decal from displaying when she was in her mech Fixed a bug prevented projectiles from hitting D.Va if she stood behind her mech after it detonated Hanzo Fixed a bug that caused Hanzo’s Storm Bow projectiles to sometimes use the sound effect for Storm Arrow Lucio Fixed a bug that prevented Lúcio from using his Sonic Amplifier when waving hello McCree Fixed a bug that prevented McCree’s Flashbang from giving credit for environmental kills Fixed a bug that caused McCree’s Deadeye targeting markers to persist if the target died while it was active Mei Fixed a bug that prevented Mei from receiving environmental kill credit if her targets were frozen Fixed a bug that caused Mei’s projectiles to appear that they weren’t passing through friendly barriers Mercy Fixed a bug that prevented the cooldown on Mercy’s Guardian Angel from being refunded while Valkyrie was active Moira Fixed a bug that prevented Moira’s Biotic Grasp from damaging barriers Fixed a bug that caused Moira’s Biotic Grasp’s beam to disappear when attaching to barriers from certain angles Fixed a bug that prevented players from receiving the Excuse Me achievement when successfully interrupting Moira’s Coalescence Fixed a bug that allowed Moira’s Biotic Grasp to heal targets behind an enemy barrier Orisa Fixed a bug that prevented players from being awarded Orisa’s Halt State achievement Fixed a bug that prevented Orisa’s Fusion Driver from closing if her Halt projectile was affected by Defense Matrix or Deflect immediately after it spawned Pharah Fixed a bug that prevented Pharah from being knocked back by her Concussive Blast in spawn rooms Reaper Fixed a bug with Reaper’s Shadow Step sound effect continuously playing while moving around on breakable terrain in Petra. Reinhardt Fixed a bug that prevented Reinhardt’s Rocket Hammer eliminations from receiving credit in the Kill Feed Fixed a bug that caused Reinhardt’s Barrier Field from not playing the correct sound effect if it was affected by Sombra’s Hack Fixed a bug that caused Reinhardt’s Barrier Field cooldown to cancel an active hammer swing when it became ready to use Symmetra Fixed a bug that allowed Symmetra to place her turrets inside chests and vending machines Tracer Fixed a bug that caused Tracer’s Pulse Bomb to stick on the opposite side of barriers when thrown at a certain angle Fixed a bug that caused Tracer’s animation to pause at the start of her Bomb Spin emote Widowmaker Fixed a bug that caused Widowmaker’s shooting animation to become stuck if she scoped while firing and then jumped Fixed a bug with the grammar in the flavor text for Widowmaker’s Comtesse skin Winston Fixed a bug where placing Winston’s Barrier Projector while going a step upwards would cause it to fall through the floor Maps
      Rialto Fixed a bug where heroes would move left and right on their own while standing in one of the speed boats in the canal Fixed a bug where players were able to apply a spray on the surface of a body of water