Why not giving the power to the players with subtle changes?

20:00, 17 May 2020

With speculation ramping up about how Overwatch 2 will simply be a single-player expansion with added cosmetics, what if we instead changed the game, but not by all that much? While we know we’re getting some new heroes with the game and we are seeing another game mode added in Push, why not tinker around and expand on a system that is already in the game? In the spirit of “less is more” and “keep it simple, stupid” why don’t we reach into the vault and revisit the idea of adding EX Moves to Overwatch with its coming sequel?

First, let’s ask the question; what in the world is an “EX Move?”

Common in fighting games like Street Fighter, an EX Move is just a slightly augmented ability either in damage, utility or in some other positive benefit. Sometimes properties like projectile speed or strength are changed, but in general, the base ability remains intact in a way but is different enough to help the player overcome a task. However, these moves come at a cost, and in Overwatch’s case, they’d cost a set amount of ultimate charge. 

As an example, how might the game look if you gave Tracer the ability to spend 25% ultimate charge to have her next Blink move vertically? What if for 25% ultimate charge Zarya’s next Projected Barrier gave her target a small movement speed boost?

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The idea of EX Moves is simply the vehicle for a deeper gameplay experience, while also attempting to keep the true novel additions to the game at a minimum. That’s where the beauty lies. We’re simply taking systems that already exist and tie them together. We’re not adding new abilities that need art and sound design. Instead, we take pre-established abilities, alter their performance, and give the players a choice; you can use this augmented skill now or save your charge to use your ultimate later. The choice is yours.

Adding more subtle options to the game gives players more control over their experience with the game and Overwatch can do this all the while expanding on the idea of ultimate charge, bringing more depth to the economy of the game would be a welcome change, but would also require some serious balancing. Ideally, you don’t want Overwatch in a state where a certain hero’s EX Move is so much better than their ultimate, that they never use one or the other. 

One large problem competitively is the impact of the first fight and the general idea of “snowballing” in Overwatch. There are gaps in the game that one team is at such a deficit in terms of ultimate economy that it becomes incredibly difficult to win key fights. If we give the players a way to spend this resource to either continue to roll ahead or perhaps catch up, the game could feel more dynamic and could shift more focus back on the individual skill of certain roles and heroes. 

EX Moves also give Blizzard a new way to balance their heroes. Having more avenues to shift power around could make certain heroes feel less oppressive while still retaining their usefulness.

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This also gives Blizzard the opportunity to add some dynamic gameplay elements to heroes that feel more stagnant and left behind. Take for example a hero like Soldier: 76. When you look at his kit compared to someone like Echo’s, you can tell who was designed at the start of the game and who was released a few months ago. The modern finish on Echo’s gameplay makes for a superfluid and fun experience, whereas Soldier: 76 feels like a relic of the past. Well-chosen EX moves could give him a chance to be pushed back into the limelight without a rework of his entire kit. In a similar vein, certain tanks like Reinhardt or Winston lack interaction when compared to their more recent counter-parts like Orisa and Sigma. If Blizzard were to add something that allowed themselves some design space to give these older heroes a much-needed face-lift, it would do everyone some good. And let’s face it, who doesn’t like some need ideas and abilities to toy around with?

This makes perfect sense to add with Overwatch 2 due to the fact that the talent tree system is already being implemented with the single-player side of the game. Why not just lift part of the idea and migrate it over the multiplayer side of things? The idea of EX Moves being added to Overwatch isn’t without its flaws.

For a game that is so fast-paced and which has so much going on, it seems counter-intuitive to “add” more to the game. However, I’d argue that the idea doesn’t add so much as it iterates. It does add more depth with the expanded economy system, which is a fair criticism. At the end of the day, this not only gives players novel ideas and “toys” to play around with, while also allowing their imagination to run wild on new possible EX Moves that could be created via the Workshop, but it gives the players more individual impact on the game. 

Also, just adding the extra function of how EX Moves would work, in terms of controls, is a strange problem to solve. Usually, in fighting games, where the concept is lifted from, the player is forced to make a distinct input to tell the game that you’re going to perform an EX Move. A game that ports the idea to the PC and applies it to a different genre is a MOBA called “Battlerite” which solves this input problem by tieing the EX Moves to modifiers like “shift” or “alt.” While I believe you could do something similar for Overwatch, this could be viewed as excessive or jarring, which I do sympathize with.

At the end of the day, EX Moves aims to enhance the overall Overwatch experience and give players more control over the game. Overwatch 2’s single-player talent system opens the possibility of a similar, but a watered-down version of the system to be implemented into the multiplayer side of the game. And with that, possible seasonal changes to these subtle EX Moves adds increased novelty while also not ruining the core gameplay that people have come to know and love. 

One key EX Move could be the difference-maker in your promotion to Grandmaster or winning an Overwatch League title. Shifting the power away from the team and back into the individual’s hands does everyone some good.
 

Images via Blizzard Entertainment

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