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Overwatch Ladder Frustration Comes from Ease of Counter Play

 

‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast

Yesterday, Seagull released a video talking about the frustrations of playing on the Overwatch solo queue. It’s a good video that goes over a lot of core problems as to why Overwatch is an inconsistent ladder experience where you can get awful or good games at random. He draws it down to two points. The first being that the game has evolved to such a point where strategic compositions have harder counters and makes it feel more like rock, paper, scissors. This in turn means an individual player has less actionable freedom to win the game on their own. Third, the power of the ultimates in a solo queue setting make it the single most important factor above anything else.

What I essentially think the problem comes down to is the ease of counter play. Counters or asymmetrical play are all parts of good game design. You want to be able to give the players the ability to find their own ways to beat opposing heroes or strategies. However if that counter play is incredibly easy to execute, then there is no joy in playing the game. In the case of Overwatch, single ability actions can destroy the opponent or vice-versa.

This reminds me of certain metas in SC2, the most prominent of which was the bl/infestor meta. From 2011-2012, the SC2 unit, the infestor had an ability called fungal. It was an instant cast aoe spell that did a large amount of damage and froze the army in place. There was no counter play and the level of execution was incredibly easy, both in terms of getting to the unit and in terms of playing the unit.

Now we’ll take a good example of how a counter can be implemented from SC2. In early 2011, Kyrix had come up with 2 base ling/baneling busts. To counter this, MarineKing decided to split up his marines so that the aoe damage from the banelings were nullified. The execution from both sides was vastly different. Kyrix had to a-move while MKP had to click and split up all of the individual and groups of marines. However it creates an exciting dynamic both in terms of play and in terms of entertainment. Even the Zerg player who is executing the rush can acknowledge that the player who beat him had to reach a higher level of skill in order to do so.

In the case of Seagull’s video he uses two examples to explain this difference in Overwatch. The Pharah vs hitscan heroes where there is a level of counterplay that is based on skill or tactics that the individual player can use. The other he talks about is the Bridgitte meta where even if you are a far superior player with Tracer, the Bridgitte player doesn’t need a high level of skill to easily counter you.

That is currently the entire problem with Overwatch solo queue as the level of execution on counter play is far too easy to get to. When it is that easy for both sides to do it, then what happens is that solo queue players have to rely on team play and strategy to do well in games and in the current ladder, that’s a crapshoot. Perhaps the problem is that the game has become too much of a team game in the ladder experience. While people may blame their teams in other games for doing badly on the ladder, there is a level of individualism that allows single players to carry their ladder games in League of Legends, Dota2, or CS:GO.

If someone was to ask me what the solution would be, I’d probably increase the level of execution it takes to do the hard counters and try to increase the level of individual potential, even on non DPS heroes.

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