Turn it around and destroy Overwatch, to see what we hold dear.

19:00, 26 Mar 2020

All of us have destroyed something on purpose, oftentimes because of mere curiosity. Every eraser we had in school that we punctured with our pencil and cut up with scissors can attest to it. Our parents were quick to call us out for it, but we learned a lot about the physical properties of our school stationery and keeping care of things by destroying them.

In 1986, businessman, investor and philanthropist Charlie Munger gave a timeless speech to the Harvard school. Following the maxim of German mathematician Carl Gustav Jacobi who advised to “invert, always invert” as a thinking tool to solve problems, Munger adapted a speech by legendary television host Johnny Carson and turned advice on its head.

Aptly called “How to Guarantee a Life of Misery”, his speech suggests advice which will most definitely lead to a dreadful life. In seeing which decisions and strategies would lead to inevitable ruin, we unlock another angle to view problems from which can assist our understanding of the issues we are trying to solve. How does that apply to Overwatch?

It is in the nature of things, as Jacobi knew, that many hard problems are best solved only when they are addressed backward.

Truth be told, I can’t tell you with any certainty what would exactly help Overwatch. I have ideas, sure, but I’m not confident that they would lead to a growing player base and viewership. Destroying Overwatch? Now I’ve got some nefarious deeds in mind but let’s keep it reasonable. Just deleting it from everyone’s hard drive is too far, so instead we will pretend to infiltrate the development office and see how much we can get away with. Let’s destroy Overwatch to expand our understanding of how to help it grow.

Buff the hell out of soul-sucking game mechanics

If one wants to make sure to make Overwatch the least fun it could possibly be, try to sneak in buffs to the least fun game mechanics. Eventually, players will find creative ways to solve, workaround or simply ignore your unfun creation so it’s imperative that you absolutely snuff all attempts at doing so, both on a game balance and incentive level. See that Orisa play- and winrate dropping? Shoot her a quick shield buff. Feel like tanks have too much agency? More bashes, freezes, rocket punches! How about a stasis ability?

Which nefarious deed are you cooking up for a good cause?

Make players choose between fun and winning as much as possible

The beauty of turning it up on dreadful game mechanics? If you’re doing your job well, your players will increasingly see themselves confronted with the decision to either enjoy themselves or win the game and help their teammates have fun. Adding an implied social contract at odds with satisfaction and enjoyment? *finger kiss* What a great way to destroy your game. Turn it up a notch! Enforce more hard synergies between heroes, preferably between one fun and one awful one, so they enter a race at the start of the game to pick the fun hero and the loser feels forced to play the unfun one. Practical example? Guilt-tripping a player to have to play Orisa with an early Roadhog pick is the good stuff, so buff Hog but make sure Orisa remains the only remotely viable pairing.

Now the tricky thing is to make sure that these soft rules permeate to all levels of Overwatch and not just the top half or third. You need to make sure everyone fully understands that this social contract and the metagame situation is in place, so you have to make it perfectly obvious. One way to achieve this is to make it crystal clear by the feedback you are providing via statistics, sound blips and visuals that they’re either selfish pricks having fun or doing really well with numbers going up while not getting dopamine shot inducing feedback from gameplay. 

The other aspect of avoiding vicarious wisdom is the rule for not learning from the best work done before yours. The prescription is to become as non-educated as you reasonably can.

Ignore all the lessons

Blizzard Entertainment has almost three decades worth of experience to look back to. If we want to ruin this game as best we can, we have to make absolutely sure we don’t learn anything from past mistakes or the mistakes that other giants in the industry are making for us. The threat to our campaign of nuking Overwatch from orbit is immense from lessons learned from past mistakes. While it’s hard even from the inverse view to say what Blizzard did wrong with Heroes of the Storm, my hunch is that this game perfectly understood to serve an oversaturated genre with its own version deprived of all the factors that make other team games tolerable. From our terroristic perspective, it was truly genius to make players feel as powerless as possible to individually impact the game significantly and even if they did, giving them poor feedback as to how much they contributed. Anyone in for sharing ultimate charge across any entire team? Increase healing numbers so people really only die when attacked by everyone, making healers inadvertently feel really terrible for letting anyone ever die and become the scapegoat in the process.

With VALORANT coming out, it’s the perfect opportunity to hand the torch of FPS with ability systems over. The current time window is the most crucial to get wrong! Everything we screw up now will be worth its weight in cardboard once we’ve established inferiority over VALORANT. If we get the masses to drain initially, the momentum is on our side. All kinds of content creators will show apathy towards Overwatch, knee-capping free advertisement. Kids will look at the game and turn around because of the attached price tag when none of their idols are playing. Avoid free to play at all cost!

Junkrat, helping out with the greed.

Build up the barrier of entry

Now that we made sure that the spirit is slowly leaving the player base, we have to keep others from getting interested. Sure, we could achieve this by limiting marketing budgets to a minimum, but due to the nature of the internet, if your game looks enticing it will spread through social media channels and will get people to pay attention. When they inevitably encounter footage, the best way to turn them off other than the groans of the content creators they are watching is to make sure the game looks entirely unapproachable. I’m talking wildly complicated kits with additional resources, just an absolute storm of visual clutter and lots of impenetrable systems. Look at the common perception of people who have never played Eve Online and just copy and paste as much as possible.

My third prescription for misery is to go down and stay down when you get your first, second, third severe reverse in the battle of life.

Just don’t try anything with Overwatch 2

At least from my own perception, we are slowly moving towards our heinous endgoal of ruining this game simply by virtue of the novelty craving masses always needing something shiny and new. While the development team did a lot to throw a wrench into our plans with the introduction of the workshop, role lock and the introduction of Echo, those changes came after a period of apathy that greatly went in our favour. By far the biggest threat to our endeavour is the release of Overwatch 2. Just by virtue of selling itself as a sequel, it will get eyes on it. Fortunately, the initial tease looked quite barebones and only a mild upgrade from seasonal event missions. Given the number of people who adore the Overwatch back story and are craving for more, the PvE portions should either avoid moving the story forward as much as possible or it should subtly betray expectations as it snuffs the last glimmers of hope. While we already mentioned that we can’t exactly know what would be best for Overwatch, not taking chances and just sitting on our laurels of 2016 is just marvellous for us.

So is Overwatch dead or dying then?

Now whether or not we could implement these trends before we are found out is highly unlikely simply because the development team would be on to us rather quickly. If for some reason we were able to go through with it, the decline would be swift and that in itself would cause questions and drastic measures. We shouldn't underestimate the love and loyalty fans of Blizzard games have for their respective title, so we keep grinding away slow and steady. The goal is to unsuspectedly creep in the hearts of our player base and spread apathy. Want to assist in sabotaging Overwatch to help it grow? How would you destroy Overwatch and most crucially, what have you learned?

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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