Hello everyone… and happy 2024!!!
We're at the start of the new year, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about our view of 2024.
This Director's Take will be one part of a series where we frame up the year according to a set of values we’re using to develop the game. These values translate into goals and specific additions and changes to the game. There’s a lot of different things coming up this year that I want to share, so think of this as the first in a series of topics to cover.
One of the biggest values of the team is to improve Overwatch's individual and team focused gameplay to meet the needs of our core audience. When I look at the future of Overwatch, a year or two out, I don't see the exact same game that we're playing now, but with a few more heroes and maps added to it. The game should always evolve with new systems and features that serve our players. Some of these features could live just outside of a match, such as a map voting system. Some of these could be larger systems that define the way players interact with the game, such as our Competitive System. And some of these changes could be within a match itself - modifications to the moment-to-moment gameplay. This last part is what I'd like to talk about today. Additional Director's Takes will look at the other parts of the game that I mentioned, such as our Competitive System, hero balance, and economy. I'd also like to take some time to talk about future events and limited-time game modes, as well as larger systems that have the possibility of coming to the game.
So, let's get into Overwatch gameplay. Starting with the obvious, Overwatch is a team-based, hero-based, multiplayer competitive shooter. Heroes, maps and game modes are all designed to require teams to work together in order to successfully win a match. When a team works together - each player using their hero to their fullest potential while relying on each other to execute a strategy - the game feels magical. There’s really no other FPS like it. However, when this isn't happening and players are all working on their own, the game is far from magical and can become frustrating. The reliance on teammates can simultaneously be one of the best and worst attributes of our game.
We want to improve this. We want to improve this by looking at the game through the lens of teamwork, and make it easier for players to be part of the team while also lessening some of the pain when it's not happening. In fact, a lot of our goals for improving the core game stem from looking at Overwatch as a whole, improving the parts of the game that are working and finding fixes for the parts that negatively affect the experience.
We've already implemented some features to align with this. The Ping system and the newer Spawn Together system both encourage team play. For those who don't know, the Spawn Together system adjusts individual players’ respawn times so they respawn with teammates more often. This system will get a tuning pass in Season 9 to make the effect more prominent. But we’re talking about other features that will make it easier for players to work together as a team. Party Frames is one of these - these are the on-screen player health indicators that we use for our PvE events. Other possible features such as backfill improvements, changes to our scoreboard, and ways to mitigate spawn camping also align with this. To show the extent of our discussions, even an ally-only mini-map feature was discussed. Some of these systems are under discussion and some are in development. I don’t think a mini-map has a high likelihood of shipping, but I do think that Party Frames are likely.
It’s our hope that staying closer to your teammates and having more information on what they're doing will help encourage team play, but what happens when your team is not working well together? We' definitely want to make this a little less frustrating. We've talked about the new Competitive system coming to Season 9, but there’s a massive set of gameplay and balance changes coming to that season, as well. Many of those changes are aimed at reducing damage spikes in combat. I won’t get into all of it here (we're working on a standalone post to be published closer to the start of that season), but for the sake of the current discussion, I'd like to talk about one aspect of it. In Season 9, both Tank and Damage heroes will get a modified, tuned-down version of the Support self-healing passive. This should give non-Support players more options in terms of sustaining themselves. It should also take some of the pressure off Support players to keep everyone alive since individual players now have more control of their own health pool. In Overwatch, there is a constant tug of war between the power of a team and the power of an individual hero or player. A change like this shifts that balance a bit. This is something that we are constantly evaluating. We still want Overwatch to be defined by team strategy and mechanics, but we feel this can be pulled back a bit now and possibly more in the future.
We're also actively looking for new ways of improving the core gameplay experience. This weekend, we launched our first Quickplay: Hacked event, where we modified the rules in our Quick Play queues. This first iteration is called Quicker Play, and it changes many of the Quick Play mode’s rules to make matches… Quicker. Payloads and Capture times are faster, respawn times are quicker, and matches are shorter. This particular experiment is designed to look at how these changes affect player psychology. For instance, if a player spends less time waiting to respawn, will getting eliminated by an opponent be less frustrating? If matches are shorter, will each loss have the same sting that it currently does? There are also other out-of-game benefits that could come from this event, such as quicker matchmaking and quicker challenge completion. Based on the reception to these changes, the team might use the feedback toward improving the game. That’s what these Quickplay: Hacked events are designed to do – quicken the feedback loop and allow for swifter implementation of improvements into the game. In fact, we have one more coming later in Season 8. You can learn more about Quickplay: Hacked here.
That's it for this week. We'll be back in a few more to talk about additional ways we're looking at improving Overwatch over the course of 2024. Thanks for reading (and watching!), and we'll see you in-game!