Overwatch pros share candid opinions on Blizzcon announcements
Blizzcon 2023 unveiled several content updates coming to Overwatch 2, introducing the tank hero Mauga and the non-binary DPS hero Venture, along with a new game mode called "Clash."
While the news of Overwatch League’s demise is still hanging heavy in the air surrounding the scene, Blizzard Entertainment talks of a transition to the type of ecosystem. Rest assured, competitive Overwatch will be played in some capacity and professionals in the industry are looking forward towards the next chapter, considering how the meta, and the game as a whole, could develop with these Blizzcon changes in mind.
We asked four Overwatch professionals from all kinds of roles within the industry to evaluate what Blizzard showed off last weekend.
Mauga receives mixed grades
Mauga's introduction has divided opinions among esports experts. Offtank player Xander "Hawk" Domecq conveyed mixed feelings, expressing anticipation but also disappointment with the hero's abilities.
“We’ve been waiting for Mauga for so long now and he feels kinda lacklustre. Almost like he has leftover abilities from the upcoming hog rework,” Hawk explained, suggesting a disconnect between how long the hero had been teased and therefore worked on, and his eventual kit quality.
According to Hawk, Mauga is “another low-skill ceiling tank as of right now,” adding to the underwhelming qualities you’d expect a professional tank to dislike.
Coach of the Year and Overwatch League season 6 winner, Jordan "Gunba" Graham highlighted concerns in the design of the kit as well, pointing towards a real possibility for his abilities to eventually break the meta.
“Purely from an ability perspective he has a lot of elements that seem like they will be inevitably broken with enough team play including lifesteal, damage reduction, Crowd Control immunity, massive damage potential, temporary health, and an incredible ultimate with many edge cases,” the coach known for his ability to think ahead in the metagame hypothesized.
“My prediction is that he will be broken when there is compositions that cover his weaknesses,” he concluded, explaining that he’s currently vulnerable to Ana’s Biotic Grenades, high damage compositions, and is weak on maps that require verticality.
Gunba expressed concern that the development team might not be in tune with these challenges, but rather focused on the non-gameplay related aspects of Mauga’s character design.
“It felt like there was a heavy focus on his story, origins and character traits when it came to the new hero and not as much focus on his gameplay, why they were adding him to the game and what interesting things you could do with his kit. I worry that it's because they don't think about these things,” the Australian stated.
Former Overwatch League broadcasting talent, coach, and player Jake "JAKE" Lyon approached Mauga with cautious optimism, noting that without seeing the hero in a competitive environment, it would be hard to produce any reliable forecasts. While on the surface JAKE’s and Gunba’s evaluations appear to disagree, they still largely overlap in spotting the weaknesses of the tank heroes kit.
“Mauga looks relatively weak to me due to his large hitbox and lack of defensive utility,” he said, acknowledging that Mauga’s effectiveness would ultimately depend on how he fares in actual competitive play. “He may have a place as a counter or response to certain styles,” he speculated.
Alex "Seeker" Taylor shared a similar sentiment about Mauga's potential need for post-launch adjustments. “I think Mauga will need a small tweak after launch buff/nerf. He feels like his slam is inconsistent, and his overall character isn't very satisfying to play,” Seeker remarked, pointing out specific areas where Mauga might fall short.
An early go at Venture
Venture, a drill-powered Damage hero set to join the cast at a later date and still in development, was also presented at Blizzcon. While the hero was still clearly shown in an incomplete stage including its assets, a rough gameplay loop could be inferred by the footage shown to the public but not enough to forecast any potential they might have in becoming a meta staple.
JAKE was particularly impressed with Venture’s unique movement mechanics. “I’m really excited that the new DPS brings a unique movement mechanic,” he said, highlighting the potential for these mechanics to enrich the game's dynamics.
Seeker, however, noted the limitations in evaluating Venture based on the available footage. “Can't really tell much from watching a gold player point of view on the hero, maybe if someone better was playing I could get a better idea,” he stated, emphasizing the need for more comprehensive gameplay to fully understand Venture’s capabilities.
Gunba expressed a more critical viewpoint, questioning the readiness of Venture’s reveal at Blizzcon. “They looked really unfinished and I wasn't sure why they were showing us this,” he observed, implying that Venture’s toolkit might not have been fully fleshed out.
Speculating on the reasons why Blizzard might still show an unfinished hero, Gunba thought out loud: “I think they were just worried about trying to make Blizzcon as exciting as possible because there is a lot less faith in Blizzcon these days than in the past. Compared to Mauga they appear half finished in terms of toolkit.”
New game mode requires a new map draft solution
The introduction of the new mode, Clash, has led to a range of opinions regarding its strategic depth and potential fit within Overwatch esports.
Jake drew from his experience in competitive Team Fortress 2, cautioning against potential strategic pitfalls like stalemating.
“Similar to Push, if you have a lead it might be optimal to play passively even though you have ultimate or player advantage. It will be important that the maps are not dominated by choke points (like Assault was) to minimize the likelihood of those scenarios,” he advised, underlining the importance of learning from past development mistakes.
Gunba agreed that lessons had to be learned from the issues the mode Assault had: “The new map type seems fine but it's a bit jarring that it's implemented directly after Flashpoint which is a very similar game mode ultimately. I also think oddly enough most of the issues they had with 2CP are also true with this game mode (snowballs and heavy variance in game length) but I can't imagine it will be nearly as bad.”
He also showed himself concerned with all three new game modes being of symmetric design which he believes “heavily reduces the variety in gameplay.”
“I enjoy playing Payload maps more at this point for that reason and because I think more heroes are viable when there is an attacking/defending side.“
Currently, the competitive Overwatch scene works under Blizzard’s competitive rules, mandating a specific order of map archetypes.
With the introduction of Flashpoint, the competitive scene could finally move on from playing the conclusive map type Control twice, leading to an even balance across a best of 5 series.
With six map types in the game, a new solution for the scene must be found. For the Overwatch World Cup, Blizzard decided to group the game modes with fewer individual groups together for the best of three series, working around the map selection question that way.
Jake acknowledged the issue but felt that there were enough viable solutions available, arguing that “there are many permutations of viable solutions. Rotations of map type by tournament, round (of a bracket/group stage), draft, etc. Perhaps you could group the game types that have relatively few maps to make loser map picks more similarly impactful.”
Hawk was intrigued by the idea of an innovative approach to map selection in tournaments. “I think it would be interesting to experiment seeing teams draft some of the map order or what map types get played for each series,” he proposed, foreseeing a dynamic shift in competitive play.
Seeker emphasized the need for a revamped map rotation system in Overwatch esports, given the addition of new modes like Clash and Flashpoint. “I definitely think with the addition of flashpoint the new map type rotation for Overwatch esports is terrible,” he opined, advocating for at least some more agency for teams in their map choices.
“Teams should now be able to choose from two different map types coming into the next map. Although I believe every match should start with KOTH and shouldn’t end with a map type like escort,” Team Canada’s DPS explained.
Leaving on a positive note, Hawk felt his expectations for Blizzcon were overall met and he was especially smitten with changes coming to the competitive ranked queue:
“The new ranked mode addresses issues the majority of the player base had.
“I’m not sure if every issue with the current top 500 will be addressed but it sure is more likely to be addressed once the majority of the player issues are.
“It's an incredible start from the new ranked team and focus on competitive PVP.”