Will Overwatch’s New Social Features be Enough to Revitalize the Game?

For many an Overwatch player, playing in the competitive game mode often feels like rolling a pair of dice. Especially if you are playing in solo queue. It’s not uncommon to find yourself on a team full of DPS players or that the entire enemy team is Mercy mains. That is the sad reality of Overwatch. Player skill does not determine the outcome of most matches, they are won or lost at the hero select screen.

In the current live version of the game, there is no way to play balanced teams. Not unless you are playing in a six stack. The funny thing is, playing in a stack larger than 3 players punishes your entire group. Putting them up against players of higher skill. To make matters worse, the game, despite being to be a team game, rewards players who play only one hero. It’s highly frustrating, to say the least.

But those days seem to be coming to an end.  We are going to get the ability to create custom groups, new options to hide our profile, and the ability to endorse players who value the idea of teamwork.

Very soon, players in the live server will have the ability to create custom groups for every game mode.  The leader can assign roles for other players to fill in the group. Players who compile with the roles can choose to be tank, damage, support, or a combination of any of the three. That’s right. The attack and defense categories are now one category. The leader of the group has the option to enforce roles, meaning that players can’t change from their designated role after the match starts. Hopefully keeping everyone honest about the role they want to play on the team.

Moving on to player options, players now have the option to hide their player profile from being seen by other players. To get a better idea of the impact of this feature, let us consider the following: let’s say that I have a lot of playing time on tanks ranked. But there are times when I want to switch it up and play some DPS. I select a DPS character, and at that exact instant, another player demands that I play a tank character on the basis that I have a lot of playing time on tanks. He is very likely to throw the match if I refuse him. This kind of forced role select feeds into the hands of toxic players. And I’m glad that we are going the way of role select based on preference.

A new endorsement system allows teammates to commend players who truly commit to the ideals of a team. They can commend 3 other players per match in 3 categories ranging from: shot caller, good teammate, and sportsmanship. Sportsmanship, I believe, is the only commendation you can to give to an opposing player. Players can endorse a specific player every 12 hours, so the system isn’t truly exploitable.

Receiving endorsement levels raises the profile of a team-oriented player. In theory, making him more of an asset on a team. Different colored rings show the level of endorsement of a player. Other players can see what kind of endorsements that player has by looking at the ring around their endorsement level. The levels do degrade in time, encouraging players to keep doing good by the community. There are also minor rewards given to players giving and receiving endorsement. By all accounts, players who have a high endorsement level have the potential to receive free loot boxes and/or discounts on skins.

And the dev team’s not done with the social aspect yet. According to the dev team, more social features are on the way this late summer to early fall. This, along with the hero changes coming to the game, may finally bring some new life to the game.

Only time will tell if the changes are enough to bring the game back to the good graces of the community at large. I certainly hope it does. If the growing number of players playing on the PTR is any indication, it is looking good for the immediate future of the game.

Managing Editor