Competitive multiplayer games have two major problems. One is that they often struggle to survive, their servers becoming ghost towns just a few weeks or months after they release. The other is that when games do survive, those towns are often bustling with arseholes.
Overwatch is no exception, so I’m pleased to see that Blizzard have plans to roll out an endorsement system that encourages players to get along with each other. They’re also introducing a ‘looking for group’ feature that lets you specify what roles and attitudes you want from your teammates, and they’ve introduced everyone playing on the PTR servers to Symmetra’s fancy new abilities.
All of the news comes from the latest dev video with creative director Jeff Kaplan, so do feel free to listen to his wonderfully earnest voice explain everything in detail rather than just read my summary.
Kaplan covers the new endorsement system first, which will let you praise fellow players for showing good sportsmanship, or being good teammates or shot callers. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in other games – I’m most familiar with Dota 2‘s take on the same idea – but it’s still a very welcome addition. Your endorsements are displayed on your profile and you’ll be ‘rewarded periodically’ for maintaining a high-endorsement level, but they all get wiped if you get silenced or suspended after being reported. These sort of systems don’t magically turn every cussing loudmouth into an upstanding citizen, but they can nudge them in the right direction.
The ‘looking for group’ system could also help on that front, by letting you find players with a similar mindset to your own in the first place. The system lets you set up a group and advertise it in a list, where you can name it however you like and establish parameters like ‘everyone must be on voice’ or ‘we must have a balanced team composition’. Kaplan talks about using it to find other people that are serious about ranking up, but it should work for finding more casual players too.
I used to use my mic far more when playing with strangers in multiplayer games, both to chat and strategize – but I’ve been worn down by how often that leads to engaging with people who just aren’t worth engaging. I really like the idea of setting up a group that’s specifically looking for friendly talkative people, both when I’m playing by myself and when I want to round out a gaggle of friends I’ve already made.
They’re also collapsing the Offence and Defence hero categories into the same ‘Damage’ role. It’s another change I can get behind – as Kaplan says, those labels were always fairly arbitrary. What he doesn’t mention is that those labels were colouring a lot of players’ perceptions about when it was appropriate to pick certain heroes. Genji can do wonders on defence against the right enemy team composition, and hopefully now I’ll get a little less abuse when I try to insist that’s the case.
All of those changes will land with the next update, along with the Symmetra rework and a couple of tweaks to the Horizon New Colony map.
You can check out Symmetra’s new abilities on the PTR servers right now if you like though, which I’m tempted to do despite never normally bothering with test-client shenanigans. The rework has slapped rockets onto her turrets, transformed her teleporter ultimate into a regular ability and made Photon Barrier an ult that project a barrier which is ‘infinite in size’. That’s just scratching the surface of everything that’s new with her, so it’d be fair to treat her like an entirely new hero.