Just over a week ago, Overwatch received its first big update with the addition of, but it hasn’t exactly been a smooth launch for Blizzard. While the mode represents a much more serious approach to playing the game, it also has a few kinks that need working out. I caught up with principal designer Scott Mercer to not only talk about the challenges of making 21 heroes play nice in a highly competitive scene, but also discuss the future of Overwatch as both an esport and a more casual shooter.
Scott Mercer, principal designer: Yeah, we’ve already to this competitive mode based on feedback from the [public test realm] from last week. There are times where we try something and we think it’s going to work out and then player perception is different than what we expected or things just didn’t work as intended, and we’re pretty humble about those things. We say, okay, don’t worry we’ll fix it and move on. With the current competitive mode, players really don’t like the sudden death mechanic we have in place. The thought was that the coin flip, while it was a little random, would be balanced so that the chance for the attacker or defender to win would be really close. But it turns out it wasn’t close enough and in some cases wasn’t close. We pulled back from that, decided that, hey, for season two we’re going to remove sudden death and allow for the concept of ties to take place.
One of the big changes for this Competitive Play release was changing the Assault game mode to what we refer to as a ‘time bank’ system. It’s something where our feedback on that was so positive we’re going to take that concept and move it over to what we’re doing for Escort and Hybrid maps. That’s something where we got a bunch of positive feedback and a good idea because someone asked why not do [time banking on other maps]. We were like, oh, why the hell didn’t we think of that?
PCG: With such fundamental changes still being worked out, why did you choose to push forward with Competitive Play now instead of waiting until it was in a place when players were happier with it?
Mercer: We made a decision not to hold off on Competitive Play because we think it’s more important for players start playing the competitive mode so we can get even more feedback. And the players just really wanted this feature, so we just made the decision to go for it. More changes are coming and they’ll continue to come as long as they’re needed.