Video Games

Anticipated ‘Overwatch’ mode has a long way to go

The bomb-lobbing Junkrat is a mainstay in competitive “Overwatch” play.
The bomb-lobbing Junkrat is a mainstay in competitive “Overwatch” play. Blizzard

Winston, we may have a problem.

Earlier this week, Blizzard hit the launch button on the anxiously awaited competitive mode for its breakout hit “Overwatch.” This game is my new obsession, and at least 7 million people agree with me. But the new mode is far from perfect.

In fact, playing through my 10 placements matches was probably the least fun I’ve had in the 80+ hours I’ve spent playing “Overwatch” in the last month.

The new system runs pretty similar to other ranked modes: You play some placement matches, get a ranking, and fight for some period (about three months in “Overwatch”) to climb your way to the top.

Being in the top 100 in a video game ranking used to mean either bragging rights or no prom date, depending on your audience. I am not speaking from experience. I promise. I’m fine. I will never know why Jessica didn’t understand that being the 56th best frozen orb sorceress in “Diablo II” is super sexy, but I am fine.

Anyway, rankings equal big bucks these days. Businesses are looking to be ahead of the curve by sponsoring the best players of the newest hit games. The players can also turn numbers into dollars by flaunting their position on Twitch.

Even if you don’t care about all that, most of us like having a more challenging mode that requires tactical brilliance. That’s why it’s such a shame that the mode is so needlessly bad.

We all love this game, Blizzard. We want to stay. Please fix the following issues, and I promise to put a ring on it.

The scoring

I have no idea what any of this means. Sometimes your team gets three seemingly meaningless points for winning a round. Sometimes it’s two or one.

It appears to correlate to which objective-based mode you are in. The capture-the-point maps use a best-of-five system instead of best-of-three. You can still only play the same three areas. It just shuffles them up.

Why is there scoring? There is no such system in the regular mode, which we have all played and loved for five glorious weeks. If you each win a round, there is a sudden death round. Oh, maybe that’s what they wanted to get rid of? The sudden death?

No, if you tie in competitive play, it goes to a sudden death round. I give up. Just use the regular system.

The people

Blizzard had to know that biting into the “League of Legends” apple would lead to a worm or two.

You swipe a few million players from one of the most toxic gaming communities to ever exist, you are going to bring some of that hate to your space. I found them – all of them – while playing competitive mode this week. Not only was the written chat a stream of blue curse words, but the in-game voice capabilities were savagely abused.

This is a problem for all games – for our society as an online-drive culture, really – so I am not that upset. But Blizzard missed a chance to be truly proactive in curbing horrible online behavior.

I would have installed an automatic banning system related to the chat. Someone says a curse word, in any context, and they’re banned from chat for a day and from playing competitively for an hour. Keep ratcheting up the penalty time from there. We have no good reason to curse in chat. You can say those things in private, third-party chats with your friends. You have no right to free speech in a game space provided by a company, so don’t bother leaving me angry voicemails about this point.

If you leave a game, you’re banned for an hour. No appeal. Your Internet broke? Your mom brought you food? There was a hurricane? Too bad. Leaving a game affects 11 other people. If you foresee any problems, play in the regular mode.

The use of aiming bots or scripts or any other cheating should be a season-long suspension on the first sentence, a year on the second and a lifetime ban on the third.

The leaving

Speaking of leaving, what the heck does this mean: “The remaining players will be given the option to leave without receiving a penalty, but they will receive a loss.”

If someone on your team leaves during a competitive game, this rule comes into play. But it makes no sense. If my win-loss record is the main factor in where I will sit in a ranked ladder, a loss is a penalty.

The balance issues

Competitive mode has shown me that some characters – Junkrat, Reinhardt and Mercy, to name a few – are far too strong. Both teams have at least one of each in pretty much every game. It’s time to adjust them, and each team should get to ban a hero it doesn’t want to deal with. Let me get rid of the Bastions.

The matchmaking

Please, Blizzard – I want him tall, but not too tall. Your matchmaking doesn’t work yet. I was placed with two mean, tragically unskilled players two placement games in a row. One of them left during the second one, leading to the above rants. We were matched against two amazing teams. I want a challenge, but this is a little too brutal.

Rory Appleton: 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics