Developer Update | Evolving Overwatch Esports | Overwatch

Greetings, everyone! I’m Jeff from the Overwatch team. We’re here to talk about esports today. So, esports is incredibly important to the Overwatch development team.

When Overwatch was first released, we were so impressed with how many people in the community sort of grabbed on to Overwatch and decided that they wanted it to be the next great esport. And, throughout the year, we were developing things like the Overwatch World Cup and Overwatch League. We’ve also introduced things like Overwatch Contenders, which is sort of our up-and-coming league, to show all the great talent coming into Overwatch esports. But, we realized that there’s a lot of challenges with Overwatch and esports in general.

And probably the top thing that we hear on the development team is that sometimes watching Overwatch esports can be very challenging to follow the action and know what’s going on. So, for the past few months the Overwatch team has been extremely dedicated to working on a number of features to improve the viewing experience for all of us, so that when we’re watching things like Overwatch World Cup or the upcoming Overwatch League, it’s an amazing, great experience. And today, I want to walk you through some of the things that we’ve been doing. Now, when I mention a lot of these features, they’re gonna sound really cool but it’s important to understand who they’re targeted at. Besides the Overwatch development team working on esports we have a lot of dedicated folks who are working tirelessly to make the esport great.

Obviously, there are people like team owners and players, you guys know about them. But, there’s entire broadcast crews who are working to make Overwatch the most viewable experience possible. And, many of the tools that I’m about to talk about are really targeted at making their jobs better so we can all enjoy watching even more. So, the first thing that we’re adding to Overwatch esports, and you will see it premiered at the Overwatch World Cup at BlizzCon November 3 & 4, is the concept of team uniforms. So, all teams that qualified for the Overwatch World Cup in the finals at BlizzCon will have a team uniform that are both home and away colored. The home team is always in the darker, more saturated colors and the away team will always have a lighter color palette.

Overall, we call this system not only the “team uniform” system but “team color paletting,” that we’re doing. And, what I mean by that, is besides the teams each having a distinct uniform, so they’re not always going to be the red team and the the blue team anymore, is that we are doing things with the visual effects. So, things like heroes’ tracers when they’re shooting their guns or when explosions are happening, all of those things will adopt the home or away team color of that particular team. We’re also completely updating the entire user interface or heads-up display to incorporate these team colors, as well.

We want to make it super obvious that you know which team you’re watching and which player you’re watching at all times. So, we think both the team uniforms and the team paletting will really help with that player and team identification. Plus, the teams are just going to look awesome in their great uniforms, as well. Other things that are coming to help the broadcast: For our observers and broadcasters we are introducing a top-down interactive map for them that lets them see all of the action at once and know where everybody on either team is at all times. It also gives them an indication of what there are ultimate status is, whether or not they’re stunned or frozen or rooted in place. They can see all of this information.

It basically, for them, is presented as a 2D overlay over the 3D map. So, they can literally see things like Tracer’s Blinking effects at the same time, underneath this 2D overlay. We think it’s extremely cool technology. We’ve had our observers and casters out here to work with it and they say that it makes their job a lot easier to sort of relay information to you guys and make for a better broadcast. We’re also curious to see if some of our broadcast partners even show this interactive top-down map at times during the broadcasts, as well, because we think it looks pretty cool.

So, that feature is coming. Now, speaking of the observers, these are basically the camera people who are framing the action for esports. There are some other features that we put in place to make life easier for them.

One is something that we call our “third-person smart camera.” So, now when you observe the game in third-person mode there is a smart camera that will automatically follow the action and smooth out the camera so it’s not quite as jerky as if a human being was moving it. We think this makes for a much better viewing experience in third-person. We know that third-person spectating can oftentimes be controversial and we want to make it as good as possible and as smooth as possible. And, the cool part about the smart camera is that it knows where the action is at all times and is smartly following that action.

So, we think that will help the observers a lot. The other thing that we added for our observers that we think is a really great feature is the ability for them at any point to, through the Kill Feed with a special broadcaster interface, go in and select a replay of any moment from the Kill Feed, replay that moment with complete time scaling and re-positioning of cameras at all times. We’re hoping that how the surfaces to us as viewers at home is that we get these really cool instant replay moments framed up in awesome cinematic ways. So, we’re really looking forward to that feature, as well.

Now, when you run an esports tournament on this website, there’s a lot of administration that goes on that can oftentimes be the cause of errors in the broadcast. There can be human errors in setting up teams, just getting 12 players into a lobby can often be a cause for human error, you put somebody on the wrong team. So we’ve made a complete automated tournament interface for our people running tournaments to be able to set everything up ahead of time to try to minimize the amount of human error we’re currently seeing in esport productions. We think that’ll be great.

And we’ve done other things to help in that direction, as well. For example: Now, starting at the Overwatch World Cup, if a player in an esports tournament disconnects, the game will automatically pause and not have to wait for an official to press the button. It will happen right away.

And we’ve done many things like this to sort of preserve the integrity of the competitive state of the game. In fact, the server has a much better idea now of what the competitive game state is at any moment. So, if there are hiccups and technical challenges, or if a player leaves for whatever reason, we’re hoping that we can, more often than not, just resume from the current competitive state and not have to do things like replay matches. Of course, there’s always going to be cause for occasionally having to restart matches, but we’re trying to minimize and mitigate those things as much as possible. There’s a lot more in terms of esport features that are being worked on. It’s something that we’re extremely dedicated to.

It’s important that people recognize that this isn’t the final step. This isn’t the moment where we say: “Hey. Here are all the things that we’re working on and we’re done.” In fact, we’re looking at Overwatch World Cup as one major milestone on our long journey to continuously improving the esports watching experience. Beyond the Overwatch World Cup, we’ll be looking towards the Overwatch League and making that as viewable and as watchable as possible. I think you’re really gonna love—you’ve already started to see some of the Overwatch League team uniforms.

I think when you see the rest of them, and all of them together, you’ll realize how cool that system is going to be. I hope that you end up being a player like me who, at one time, didn’t know a lot about esports or wasn’t particularly interested in esports, but over time grew to be a huge fan of it, because I was such a fan of all these games that we’re playing that feature esports. It welcomes more people to our family and I think it’s extremely important for the entire game ecosystem for there to be a highly competitive space for our top players to really prove out who’s best at Overwatch.

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