Overwatch, the MOBA-like team FPS created by Blizzard and pushed hard to become one of the premiere eSports titles in the world with moderate success, has two big reasons holding it back. First, the game’s spectator mode needs to be improved. Second, the game is young, it will take time for the fanbase to catch up to the level of the game. While Blizzard Entertainment can’t really do anything about the latter, they can certainly fix the former. That is exactly what they seem to be trying to do. The problem is that it’s by no means easy to make Overwatch easy to spectate, cast, and broadcast.
The biggest reason why the spectator experience for Overwatch is one of the game’s rare downsides is that OW is hectic. Very very hectic. It has two teams of six players moving through maps, vying for superior position, mostly shown through the first person perspective of one of the players. While teams are charging Ultimates and preparing for a fight, the tempo is manageable, however, a fight can start with the press of a button. Once it does, it’s hard to follow what’s happening, because the fights don’t take place in a frontal manner. People don’t just duke it out. No, good Overwatch teams flank, dive, coordinate their Ultimates in interesting ways. That is cool, but it also makes it hard to follow.
The next thing to bnote is that the viewer experience hugely depends on the professionalism of the event staff. The wonderful people who control what the viewer sees, the casters… They are trying to do a very hard job as well as they possibly can when working at an event. With time, they will figure out how it’s done best; however, for now, it is still evolving.
In other games, like League of Legends, we see the bird’s eye view of the fight. While it can still be hard to follow, it’s definitely easier than it is in Overwatch. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is also show from the first person perspective, however, the game is not as hectic, which makes it easier to follow due to the more realistic nature of that game. In CS:GO, there are no attention grabbing visual effects from futuristic weapons. It’s also easier to kill an enemy.
In Overwatch, spectate mode directors use the third person view ocassionally. The problem was that when they did that, you couldn’t see anyone’s health bars. Apparently, that will change soon. Silently and without much fanfare, Blizzard added Healthbars to the spectate mode’s third person view, to great reaction from former LoL caster Erik “DoA”Lonnquist. Hopefully, with the downside of no way to see how much health everybody has taken care of, we will see more action from the third person perspective. After a fight is over, the broadcasters could show a replay from the point of view of the player who carried the fight, right?