Last month Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch’s game director, popped onto the Blizzard forums to drop some opinions on balance and meta shifts. In this post, Kaplan expressed that he did not believe in shifting the meta through balance changes unless they were necessary. Basically, he and the team don’t intend on re-balancing the game just to switch up the meta of play, preferring that players find new strategies on their own.
This idea certainly has merit, as player inflicted metas are often fairly unique and interesting. However, this promises that Overwatch will continue to update infrequently. As an Overwatch and a League of Legends player, I find myself constantly frustrated by the lack of changes in Overwatch. I understand that MOBAs have far more characters than Overwatch, but a monthly patch that buffs/nerfs Roadhog alongside a handful of other changes doesn’t cut it for me. I want a reason to come back every few weeks, and Overwatch doesn’t offer that.
So lets talk about it.
Overwatch is a game that promotes fast, strategic play. The game is almost universally loved because it looks great and feels even better. Everything about Overwatch is a success in one way or another.
Aside from the opening months, when it was all I wanted to play, Overwatch has pulled me back in several times. Certainly I show up to buy loot boxes every time there is an event, but I have also been known to hit the ground running when the new ranked season starts. It is an exciting new time, I feel like I have a new goal and things have inevitably changed in the last couple months since I have played.
But at some point, I always manage to hit a roadblock. A few weeks into my regular Overwatch obsession, I just get bored. The same characters have been played in every match and it is inevitably my ninth match in two days on the same damn map. I don’t have anything to look forward to, so I just stop playing and come back again in a few months. This is frustrating. If I was 10 days into a hardcore Overwatch jam session and got bored, it would be nice to know that a patch was coming soon. Something, anything to break up the tedium of the meta.
By the time that patch comes, I have moved on to something else. Weeks, even months later, Blizzard will announce something interesting, or I will find out that a new patch is coming through work. That reignites the fire and makes me want to jump back in. But each time, it gets a little harder.
I have been feeling that Overwatch itch again recently. Even though I don’t play offensive heroes (I could never do Zenyatta like that), I am excited to see how Doomfist has reshaped the game in a live setting. But at the same time, I know that I will just jump in for a few days, get bored, and leave until the Halloween event. Then I will come back and do the same thing around the holidays.
It would be fine if this is how I wanted to experience Overwatch, but it isn’t. I want to play more than I do, honest, but the balance philosophy is too slow for me. I have been playing League of Legends for over five years, taking very rare and short-lived breaks (funnily enough, these always seem to correspond to World of Warcraft expansion launches). League keeps me coming back because it is always evolving. Even if Riot hasn’t added a new champ or a new system in months, a patch comes out every two weeks all the same.
I know that Kaplan addressed this in his piece and I know that he said that he doesn’t believe in this model for Overwatch. I disagree. Watching players discover their own way to twist the meta is fascinating, but it isn’t worth the weeks it takes to build. The player base takes time to develop these things and it really requires that the game get get stale first. That staleness promotes people to either stop playing (like me) or find a new way to win. The ingenuity of some folks in the Overwatch community is admirable, but I don’t want to wait for them to figure something new out.
There are a thousand games in the gaming landscape right now, and each vies for control of the players time. Despite already playing League, WoW, PUBG, the new Diablo III season AND a cavalcade of single player games, I still want Overwatch in my life. Because it is beautiful. Because it is fun. Because it is special. But when all my friends have moved on, and I have people that I like playing games with telling me to check out Final Fantasy XIV or some other such game, it is hard to convince them that Overwatch should be our new obsession.
Each time you come back to a game and leave with a stale taste in your mouth, it makes it that much harder to come back. I am passionate about Overwatch and when I play it, I play hard. But as the game continues to stagnate, and the developers themselves show very little interest in spicing things up in a meaningful way, it makes me fear for the day that I leave and forget to come back.