Overwatch has been around for two years, now, and the game has seen its fair share of growing pains. New characters and maps have been added. Existing characters have been heavily reworked. The Overwatch League launched and continues to go strong. And yet the community still has many misgivings about the game. Rightfully so, honestly. There’s a lot about the game that could indeed be improved.
Blizzard has been listening to its community on a lot of these problems. But one issue that’s loomed over the game for ages has been the non-intuitive matchmaking system. Players have long harped on just how difficult it is to have a particularly welcoming game experience when most of the time they’re at the mercy of the matchmaker and whatever teammates the game gives them. This was the impetus behind the new social features, announced in the latest Developer Update from Jeff Kaplan.
It’s been a long time coming, but the game finally has some new social features that should, in theory, make the overall experience much more enjoyable to serious players. The first thing to talk about is the new honor system. It allows players to reward good behavior in-game by giving other players “endorsements.” This may seem superficial, but it can actually impact your standing for a much more significant system discussed later. Endorsements come with a number of conditions and rules to prevent the system from being easily abused. For example, players can only endorse three players per game, and can only endorse an individual player every 12 hours. So there’s no spamming the system to repeatedly endorse friends. The endorsement level decays, meaning that in order to maintain this level, players must consistently maintain the behavior that got them there in the first place.
At last, Overwatch has a system that revolves less around punishing bad behavior and more around rewarding good behavior. This feature’s more positive aspect is certainly one welcome in the game. The next and most important feature is the new “Looking for Group” system. The first thing to not is that this is not a matchmaking system. It’s a Group-Find. It allows players to browse for groups to potentially join or create groups for others to join. This feature comes with numerous criteria that players can use to determine who they want to play with. An option exists to require voice chat for a group. The system also comes with a role-selection feature. For those who don’t quite understand this, it functions the same way as the Overwatch League, more or less. Players choose what role they prefer to play, between Tank, Support, and Damage.
Yes, Damage. Not “Defense” and not “Attack.” Finally, those two arbitrary categories are gone. Blizzard merged the two into one massive “Damage/DPS” category. Of course, players also have the option to select “All Roles,” making them a “Flex.” Blizzard delivered on the pleas of the fans, who’ve been wanting a Role-Select feature. Many of the games biggest problems come down to the lack of that feature. In ranked play, most games are lost at the Hero-Selection Screen. When a player doesn’t get to play the hero or role they want, it can (and usually does) lead to negativity. This generally leads to toxicity, which leads to tilt. Tilt leads to losses and losses lead to carried over negativity in subsequent games.
This new system allows players to play what they wish and also possibly put together groups of players who are going to be better at working together. Will it save the game overnight? Not likely. Obviously one of the biggest caveats is that players have to use the endorsement system to get the max value out of the “Looking for Group” feature. Realistically it’s likely many players will just be negligent about doing so. Maybe it’d be a good idea for players to only be able to request teammates with the same Endorsement level as themselves. But it’s just a thought. Either way, these features are a big deal for the game and it’ll be quite the change when it goes live. In the meantime, the features are available for testing on the Overwatch PTR.