How I would've designed Overwatch 2

posted on 24 Sep 2023 | Games

Okay I’ve been playing the Overwatch 2 anniversary events and considering how many of them are small-group team-vs-team things (Catch the Patchmari, Starwatch). I slept on these the first time through and playing them now I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying them, particularly StarWatch despite some of its dumber ideas (like the AI-controlled Doomfist). This has cemented my previous opinion:

OW2 should’ve been 4v4 (2 DPS, 1 tank, 1 healer) with some kind of fast-respawning mechanic for the healer, and a standard double-team mode (8v8) either in quickplay or the arcade or something

Then the number of heroes and the popularity of the roles reflects the number in play - there are twice as many DPS heroes to choose from, twice as many DPS players, and twice as many on the team.

Obviously they would’ve needed to rework some of the healers to be able to solo-carry the healing, and probably add more Soldier/Sombra-style off-healing abilities for DPS characters (eg: give Reaper a way to share his vampirism), but still: While the 5v5 gameplay is generally unpopular, a lot of competitive players celebrate how every play feels much more impactful at those smaller counts. In 4v4 or 3v3 games like StarWatch or Elimination, it’s even moreso - solo-healing is intense, but at the same time in StarWatch when the healer goes down it’s not as huge of a loss as losing both healers in regular games because of the respawn-in-place mechanic.

Anybody who played Team Fortress 2 knows the huge distinction between intense, competitive small-team 6v6 matches and the low-stress farting-around feel of the huge 12v12 lolgames in pubs that were vastly more popular, because the diffuse responsibility meant you weren’t letting down your whole team if you were breaking in a new character or a new strategy. Transferring that to OW2, it would only make sense to break away from the forced “every game must have the same playercount” thing and embrace offering 8v8 modes for more casual play, and 4v4 modes for more competitive.

To my mind, this was the missed opportunity of the composition rejiggering of OW2.


Fundamentally, I think OW copied some things from TF2 without understanding how they interact with lower player-counts. They copied TF2’s long rollouts and respawn timers, but didn’t realize that this makes death way too costly in a small-team game. In 5v5 at a good level, a single kill can basically end the team-fight. If they want to drop player-count, they need to find a way to fix that. Imho that’s why so many of their “Arcade” modes play with alternate respawning mechanics, like freeze-tag.

Also they wanted big flashy ults without thinking how that interacts with the rest of the game. There’s a reason that most competitive twitch-FPS games don’t have nukes on the serious maps.

If it were up to me? Nerf the ults in general. Either slower build or just lower-power. Although if you go slower-build, you need to come up with a sane way to have the charge carry between rounds, which would be tricky to get right.


Also they should make No Limits and Mystery Heroes 6v6 for old time’s sake.


Finally, on the subject of the story-mode: they keep trying to make PvE happen, when fundamentally Overwatch is designed as a PvP game. Imho, the correct approach is to embrace that - accept the ludonarrative disconnect and make PvP missions that tell the story. Regularly release a short film and a companion PvP mission.

Did the wrong team win for the story? Who cares. Does nobody want to play a character who's critical to the story? Have them appear for a quick scripted scene at the beginning and end.

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