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It's all about the little things - Overwatch

by Donald Kooiker on 11/03/16 04:07:00 pm

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 
 

#2 - Overwatch

Hi, my name is Donald and I play Overwatch. I’ve probably played at least one game a day since launch. Why I like it so much is a much bigger story but for now I would like to look at the little things. And I like to keep things positive; I get very tired of everyone pointing out flaws all the time. I think we can also learn from the good things, not only the bad and the ugly.

Chatterbox

Chat overlay

Everybody knows what it’s like to type something mildly funny in chat only to be rudely interrupted by a loading screen or end game screen! I don’t know how they did it in Overwatch, but it’s amazing. Almost nothing cancels the chat or even the current sentence you we’re typing. You can press tab anytime to switch chat channel as well, very handy if you just typed “someone swap to mccree, they have phara” in all chat and need to swap quickly to team chat. It feels like chat is always running as some sort of overlay.

I guess even something as basic and simple as typing messages in a multiplayer game can be improved if you try.

Physics!

Human instinct in Tabletop Simulator

We all love physics! This can be proven by loading up a game of board game simulator. I guarantee the first thing a new player will do is grab whatever is on the table on throw it in a random direction. I also guarantee the second thing they will want to try is to flip the table… I don’t know why. I think people; mostly men (as I was taught in Game Develop school) just want to destroy stuff. Maybe even more so if there are no real consequences.

Anyway, physics are great. They create fun scenarios, cool scenarios and just scenarios. In Overwatch they are added just for that, they are never in the way and gameplay and game mechanics never depend on them.

Physics!
More physics!
More balls and more physics!

No mini-map?! But…wait…what…how…

Okay this isn’t really all that small, as a matter of fact its huge, but I think many people experienced the same thing as me when starting up Overwatch for the first time. Where the hell is the mini-map… or even, where is a map of the level I’m playing?! I actually tried several standard buttons hoping to bring one up like tab or m. Nothing worked.
But then how am I supposed to know where to go, how am I supposed to know where the enemy is, or my teammates. But, after playing for a short time I realized how strange mini-maps actually are. It’s almost a completely separate skill to be able to focus on two screens at once, which is essentially what you are doing. I believe the first and biggest skill gap is created by people that can/will look at the minimap, and the ones that don’t. I’m not saying mini-maps should be banned, I’m just saying you can create shooters without them.
I for one am not a fan of having to force my eyes to the corner of my screen every 10 seconds to focus on something with a completely different context/perspective.

Just follow the lines

Of course you can’t remove something without adding something or something. It’s like the first rule of alchemy… Well in Overwatch’s case they worked on good UI and very smart Augmented Reality Interface. Lines lead to the objectives; all you have to do is follow them. As for your teammates, you can see them through walls, which helps. And for enemies, you aren’t supposed to see them anyway but you are able to figure out where they are using your senses, no, not the eyes. No, not the taste buds either. The ears! You can hear enemy’s...

Footsteps!

Every character has unique footsteps, and its genius. When you are covering a tunnel as Symetra and you hear this heavy metal chain coming towards you, you might want to run. But if you hear high heels, you might want to charge in.
I remember a very old interview with the one and only Quake Pro Player….F…Fatality? Well HE said that in FPS’s, good audio is more important than good graphics.

And did you know you can hear the enemy footsteps much louder than your teammates?
(Actual loading tip in the game)

Less ammo for the hate guns

Nearly every online game I’ve played I’ve been attacked for my bad stats, bad k/d/a and bad whatever. In my opinion these statistics should be personal, for me to learn from. In other games (looking at you LoL) it’s just free arguments for players to point out. Like, “why is this 0-4-4 Swain talking?” isn’t really a strong argument, also the stats don’t show the full picture anyway.

Overwatch solves that problem by removing public stats and giving medals, medals that only you can see. Sure you can still decipher some information of others, but not much. Also, there are only 3 medals and they are served as a reward. If you have no medals you are stimulated to play better and try and get one.

I can’t stress enough how great this is. It’s a whole new world out there!

Levels from the universe

Screenshot from the game and the animated short "Recall"
Screenshot from the game and the animated short "Dragons"

I love this one. It’s such a good example of how to build a world, which is essentially what video games are. Everything should be connected to make a believable world. Characters should share the same space. It’s so cool to walk in the same scene from your favorite movies or shorts.

These are just two examples, there’s more.

And here's a little present for the Blade Runner fans: Rick Deckard's apartment in Unity

Extra effort for a small group

Complete color blind mode

More games are doing this nowadays and that’s cool and thoughtful. It’s super handy for me so I thought I’d mention it.

Character specific UI and controls

Important UI elements are center stage

Many important UI elements are in the middle of the screen. This is by no means new or unique to Overwatch, but it is nice to have character specific UI anyway. And let’s not forget character specific controls as well. I’ve put Tracer’s pulse bomb on shift instead of Q, because I find it easier to hit while moving with wasd.

I just wish you could put your health in the middle as well…oh whoops, gotta keep it positive!

Easy as 1,2,3

I know Reinhardts swing does 75 damage. Not because I looked it up but because I wanted to become an ice cube at the last moment when playing Mei. Smaller numbers are easier to work with and easier to remember. I also know his E does 100, because I got hit by it.
Torbjörn armor packs don’t give more resistance or some hidden stat, they give you extra health. It’s all easy adding and subtracting. This causes quick learning of in-depth mechanics.

UPDATE: As Flynn pointed out in the comments, armor does actually reduce the damage taken... So all the stats are a little more complicated then I had hoped for.

Characters.

Characters have character and make sense. This is obviously not a tiny aspect of a game, but the care and detail they’ve put into each character is.

Mercy is a support, she’s Swiss because she’s a bit of a pacifist and probably because the Swiss flag resembles a health logo. She’s a guardian angel and “wears” a halo. She literally flies to the rescue.
Zarya is a strong Russian woman with a gravity gun, which makes sense (to me) because of communism and space exploration. She fights to defend her people and country, which is why she can give shields. She can soak up damage to defend, much like Russia had to do numerous times in war.
Junkrat is crazy.

Characters also talk to each other or about the environment they’re in. It gives the player all the information and backstory the need about the characters. But let me remind you this is a multiplayer arena game.

Random character select

This is a very small but smart decision. Whenever you enter a game it doesn’t leave the character selection screen open, it gives you a random hero first. This lowers the bar of trying new characters (at least for me) because from time to time when I get a character I don’t really play I think… you know what, why not.

Slooooomooooooo

CLUTCH

Slow-motion when a game ends is also, yep, genius. It lets you wind down from all the frantic action. It lets you look at enemy players as friendly competitors. It also often shows you what could have been… enemy Mei staring you in the face when you were 0.1 second too late to reach the objective zone... It reminds the player that even the smallest things matter; every jump, every shield and of course every Mei wall.

Shooting is never pointless

Did you ever play a shooter where you saw an enemy, far away, but didn’t shoot because he will heal up anyway? I did, it mostly occurs in shooters where it takes a bit more bullets to kill, and have big distances or fast healing. This isn’t the case in Overwatch because here you don’t only shoot to damage, you also shoot to fill your ultimate percentage.

One speed to rule them all

No one left behind

Everyone walks just as fast and for some shooters this might seem normal, but look at how diverse the characters are. You would expect Roadhog to be slower than Reaper, but he isn’t. Movement speed is so important in shooters that it often creates difficulty in balancing and heavily influences the meta game. If everyone has the same speed it’s easier to learn a character and you don't feel so useless when everyone is passing you by.

UPDATE: As Nick pointed out in the comments, not everyone's movement speed is the same. Tracer and Genji are a little bit faster than the rest. But with everyone elses movement speed being the same and the difference being pretty small I think my point still stands! I hope... 

Forced random maps and modes

Sometimes you have to protect people from themselves. That’s exactly what Overwatch does. Maps are random so there are no favorites and no complaining. Looking at other shooters the community often quickly decides what’s good and what isn’t, and sticks with it and then in the end only a few maps survive. As a player you have to be able to perform on all the maps, not just play the same one over and over. As a matter of fact you also need to be good at all the different game modes, the game basically forces you to try new things.

So many details…

Lastly, there are so many tiny details hidden in all the levels; from Blizzard references to other games to jokes or backstories. There are unique pictures, paintings and piñata’s to find and much much more.

A small conclusion

I think the most important aspect is that the developers didn’t treat Overwatch as just a moba shooter. The created a complete game world and added details that you would only find in single player games.They also didn't take anything for granted, and seem to have started from scratch.

If you want to read about some of the little things in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, check it here.


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