Overwatch Competitive Play should return towards the end of the month - that's the target - but when it does, don't expect it to be immaculate. It could take a few seasons of iteration before Blizzard has it where it wants it.
"Competitive Play is quite a big effort for us this time around," wrote game director Jeff Kaplan on the Overwatch forum, "almost as much work as the first version. But it's really far along. We're playtesting it multiple times a day. We're also looking into/debating putting up a Public Test Realm for this feature so that we can test it in a larger environment before putting it live.
"Even when it goes live," he added, "I anticipate our first few seasons will require iteration on the feature. We're working very hard to make it awesome at release but there are some things you need to see and feel along with a large population before you can properly sign off on the feature. I anticipate Competitive Play will require a few season's worth of iteration before we're in the place we want to be."
We interviewed Jeff Kaplan and found out more about Competitive Play changes earlier this month.
Kaplan, in his forum post, talked about a number of Overwatch topics. He briefly skirted the sticky issue of server tick rates by saying, "We're putting a lot of effort against our high bandwidth Custom Game option to see if we can explore proliferating that feature further." Getting the feature tested by more people than the tiny percentage playing Custom Games is the current challenge, you see.
Custom Games also sound set to become a bigger part of Overwatch, with Blizzard researching a server browser-type feature so you can find other people's Custom Games. "This is a ton of work so would not be on the immediate horizon," he wrote. "But in our dream world, you could play Custom Games with 11 other people (friends or strangers) with fun rules in play and gain EXP while doing it."
One of my favourite areas of the game, Brawls - particularly Mystery Heroes - he said he feels like "we haven't even fully scratched the surface of yet". "We want to do a lot more with Brawls and there are some seriously awesome ideas from the team as well as the community that we want to get to," he wrote.
The Overwatch team wants to do more with progression, too, and bring in things like random poses or being able to equip more than one spray or voice line. "We also have some pretty cool new content we want to add to the progression system so we're looking forward to getting some of that in eventually," he wrote.
In addition he talked briefly about new maps and heroes, plural, being in development, but said some were "very far along" while others were "prototypes". One map is with the art team now and sounds nearly done, whereas another that was tested "was amazing yet a total disaster at the same time". It used "innovative level design tricks that we hadn't done before" but there were problems with lines of sight that meant ranged characters bossed the action. "So if we can fix the sight lines while not losing the overall vision, that map might turn into something some day," he wrote.
Other areas being looked at are improvements to watching other people play the game, and to Highlights and Play of the Game. On top of that are of course bug fixes and balance changes.
Kaplan didn't cover everything the team is working on and was careful not to promise release dates. But his post remains a more open and frank discussion with the community than many other operators of online games offer. And it's for this reason he said the following:
"I can't stress this enough: some of this stuff might not happen. The reason developers usually don't give insight like this is because if something changes or doesn't happen, players get very angry at us. I would like to change that dynamic but we need to do that together.
"We'll share more information with you guys so long as you understand none of this is a promise and things do change throughout the course of development. So when we see a 'HOW COME WE DIDN'T GET THE HIGHLY PROMISED RANDOM POSE OPTION' rage post 2 years from now, please feel free to quote this paragraph in the reply..."
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