Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming service that hoists the careers of many a streamer, has launched what it is calling “the best way to experience the 2019 Overwatch League season.” The Overwatch League All-Access Pass is a single purchase Twitch members can make, that will remove ads, provide a “command center” of unique features, and provide several other bonuses for Overwatch League fans.
You can pick up an Overwatch League All-Access Pass for $14.99 right now, and Twitch Prime members who are active will also receive a 500 Bit bonus with their purchase. The marquee feature here is the command center, which gives viewers control over their Overwatch League viewing experience. Viewers will be able to choose between player POV on demand, able to swap at will. An “overhead map” is also available.
Pass-owners will get a few bonuses, such as a discount on Overwatch League merchandise, and 200 Overwatch League tokens they can use in-game towards League-themed Hero skins. They will also be able to choose a set of three team emotes for Twitch chat. The Pass also includes two exclusive chat badges, for further flexing opportunities.
Additional features include ad-free viewing when watching official Overwatch League channels, a Passholder-only chat channel, and Q & A sessions with professional players.
This year’s season of the Overwatch League is right around the corner. Things get started on February 14, 2019. While everything will be streamed, some matches will also be broadcast via ESPN/Disney XD/ABC including opening week matchups Hangzhou Spark vs Shanghai Dragons, Houston Outlaws vs Boston Uprising, and Philadelphia Fusion vs Atlanta Reign.
Blizzard has kicked off Overwatch’s annual Lunar New Year event that will last from January 25 – February 18, 2019. As is always the case with Overwatch events, this Year of the Pig event will feature new collectibles including legendary skins for Reaper, Reinhardt, Zenyatta, Tracer, Torbjörn, and Hanzo, along with epic skins for Orisa and Brigitte. In addition to the skins, a festive Capture-the-Flag version of Busan will be available in the Arcade and both Ayutthaya and Lijang Tower return as previously Lunar New Year-themed maps. Check out the Year of the Pig video and collectibles below.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oD-V8fy0Tg&w=560&h=315] In other news:
The Year of the Pig is upon us, and so is the Overwatch Lunar New Year event. Technically starting on February 5th, 2019, the Year of the Pig features an earth element this year, and the lucky colors yellow, gray, brown, and gold. You can see these colors highlighted in many of the event skins Blizzard designed for the Year of the Pig event.
In this Play of the Fortnight, we’re giving an Overwatch Lunar New Year Event guide, letting you know all the skins and achievement unlocks you need to get before the event ends.
When is the Lunar New Year event?
The Overwatch Lunar New Year event already began on Thursday, January 24th. As usual, the event lasts three weeks (just over that, in fact) and will end on Monday, February 18th. This means the event will run throughout the real life Lunar New Year celebrations, which are on Tuesday, February 5th, and give players some additional time to get their unlocks.
Festive Capture the Flag
First appearing in the Year of the Rooster event, Capture the Flag has been a relatively popular Arcade game mode. This year, Blizzard has added a festive twist with the Capture the Flag: Busan map. Players can access this by simply queuing up from the Arcade menu for the duration of the event.
On top of that, Season 2 of Competitive Capture the Flag has started. Players can earn an icon, spray, and competitive points. They can also climb the ranks as in regular competitive.
Lunar New Year Achievements
Players can unlock two exclusive sprays through achievements in the Lunar New Year event. The first of these achievements, “Delivery Interruption”, is unlocked when players kill an enemy flag carrier. Unsurprisingly, it awards a spray called “Interrupted Delivery.” Capturing a flag earns the next achievement, “Captured”, and awards a flag spray.
Unfortunately, there is a bug with these achievements. Blizzard accidentally added the achievements before the event began, and players who unlocked them in regular Capture the Flag weren’t given any rewards. Now that the rewards have been added to the game, those players weren’t given them retroactively. Blizzard will likely fix this soon, but there’s been no update so far.
Exclusive Overwatch Lunar New Year event skins
This year, Blizzard added six Legendary event skins. Five of these skins are named after famous Chinese generals: Huang Zhong (Hanzo), Lu Bu (Reaper), Guan Yu (Reinhardt), Zhang Fei (Torbjorn), and Zhuge Liang (Zenyatta). The sixth legendary skin is Hong Gildong (Tracer), named after a hero from a Korean novel, who has often been compared to Robin Hood for his exploits of stealing from the rich and corrupt.
Blizzard also added two new Epic skins: General Brigitte, and Sanye Orisa. Both of these are a lot more detailed than previous Epic skins have been, and it’s lovely seeing Orisa getting some attention.
Of course, the skins aren’t the only unlocks players can earn. We have two new emotes: one for Ana, and another for Soldier-76, the latter of which features a Rattle Drum. Players can also pick up six new victory poses, mostly featuring fireworks, but also Lucio’s excellent Drumming pose, which pairs nicely with his Drumming highlight intro, also added in this event.
Blizzard also added ten new voicelines, for Ashe, Brigitte, Hanzo, Junkrat, McCree, Winston, and Wrecking Ball. And finally, there’s six new non-achievement sprays to unlock. There’s plenty to pick up in the Lunar New Year loot boxes over the next three weeks, so make sure not to miss out.
What’s Up Next?
Blizzard doesn’t host an Easter event for Overwatch, but we do have an event around the same time. Originally called Uprising, the Archives event is due to run around April. Archives, assuming it keeps its name, brings with it a PvE brawl that so far has changed slightly each year, and always highlights an event in the Overwatch roster’s past.
There’s a lot of heroes who haven’t received any skins in a long time. D.Va is a great example: she’s only had four event skins in total, spanning three events. Redditor Foxy_Jr posted a detailed recap of the event skins, which gives us a bit of an idea of which heroes may be selected for the upcoming events.
The Overwatch Lunar New Year event is a beautiful nod to a real life seasonal celebration. The skins have been tied to historical or legendary figures. As has become tradition from Blizzard, a lot of care has been put into their designs.
Some of the biggest draws for any Overwatch seasonal event are the exclusive skins you can get. These skins are only available during the duration of the event and tend to be some of the most elaborate looks in the game. The Lunar New Year event, which celebrates the Chinese holiday of the same name, is no different. We had already gotten a glimpse at how some of the heroes are celebrating this year, but now, on the eve of the event’s kickoff, more looks were revealed.
While the Overwatch Twitter account has generally been the home to skin reveals, a couple of new outfits were revealed, of all places, on the Korean YouTube channel.
To start, the Overwatch Twitter account revealed Zenyatta is getting a new skin, known as “Zhuge Liang.” See it in action here:
Embrace the Year of the Pig as ZHUGE LIANG ZENYATTA!
However, the reveals don’t end there. A video posted on the Korean Overwatch YouTube channel also reveals three previously-unseen skins. The video is exclusive to the Korean channel and, as of right now, none of the skins have appeared on the Twitter page. But fans should be excited to see the new looks Tracer, Orisa, and Brigitte are getting for the 2019 event.
Tracer got plenty of skins during Overwatch’s infancy, but Blizzard recently cooled off on giving her new looks as of late. Orisa, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten very many new skins, so fans should be pleased that she’s getting one that’s pretty fearsome-looking. This is also only Brigitte’s third skin, after previously getting new looks for the 2018 Summer games and Overwatch’s 2nd anniversary.
The 2019 Overwatch Lunar New Year event will kick off on January 24, 2019 and last until February 18th.
Players have been able to backfill in non-competitive Overwatch matches since the Dawn of Time. Or, you know, at least since the game launched or thereabouts. There’s been a lot of back and forth on why backfilling is not possible in competitive, and whether or not it should exist at all. Either way, we need to talk about the issue of Overwatch backfill.
In this Play of the Fortnight, we’ll discuss how Overwatch backfill affects players, why it’s important, how it could be improved and more.
Backfill might help hold a match together
The primary reason for backfill in a non-competitive match is to stop the match completely falling apart as soon as one person leaves. If one person left and was never replaced, their team would likely follow suit, and eventually the winning team would either finish out the (very dissatisfying) match, or they’d leave as well. Unsurprisingly, most players don’t enjoy completely stomping an empty team. It’s not fun.
Player A gets mad and leaves. Player B joins, and if it’s early enough in the match, maybe they can help turn things around for their new teammates. Then again, perhaps not, but at least it’s better and less demoralizing than being down a player and knowing you’re more than likely going to lose.
However, backfill feels really bad for the backfiller
The player filling in for the leaver generally has a pretty awful experience, though. You’re more often than not joining a losing game. Sometimes, you’re joining it with only 30 seconds to go before the match ends. Regardless of whether you’re rewarded for very little effort, it doesn’t feel good to join a match and barely get to leave spawn before it’s over. Even a free victory after a backfill feels hollow.
The rewards are also pretty lackluster considering you’re effectively bailing a team out of almost certain doom. Or at least, almost certain loss, which is practically the same thing to most players.
Even so, backfilling is a necessary evil
It may feel like a bad experience, but backfilling serves a really important purpose. It’s not just about saving the one match that had rage quitters and disconnects in it. In fact, more important than that is what comes after that terrible, good-for-nothing, no good game. With rage quitters and leavers, players who do remain in the match have to wait for people to rejoin, or simply get dumped back out to requeue themselves.
With backfill, you get one awful match that has a bunch of people join halfway through or later. But, assuming they stick around, everybody gets to go into a fresh match next time. The games get to continue seamlessly as if nothing went wrong. In theory, this is the ideal scenario for players. Blizzard wants to keep the downtime between matches low so players don’t get bored waiting around.
The rewards for backfill should be increased
Since backfilling is necessary for a healthy game, and is also a horrible experience at least initially for the filler, the rewards are poor at the moment. We’d love to see Blizzard adding additional rewards for backfilling to prevent the fillers from having a bad experience and also to stop them from immediately leaving when they join a losing game.
Players have suggested a few different things: increased XP rewards to allow faster unlocking of loot boxes, achievements or endorsements, or even separate reward tracks that again allow speedier loot box unlocks. While it’s unlikely Blizzard will go too far down the route of providing loot box rewards, we’d like to see a better nod to the people actively saving matches, not to mention other players’ time.
Allowing players to opt-out of backfill wouldn’t work
Some members of the community have suggested allowing an opt-out of backfill. While this idea sounds nice in theory, even with increased rewards as mentioned above, most players would opt-out. This would mean a few things: backfillers would be fewer and farther between, and worse still the players who didn’t opt out would only ever get put into a backfill.
While it’s nice to think that players would do the right thing and stay opted in, it’s unlikely. Give players a choice, and they’ll choose the easier, less frustrating route. An almost guaranteed loss and an annoying experience for a few measly XP? No thanks, I’ll take a brand new game with an undetermined outcome.
Ultimately, we’d see increases in queue times across the board, and backfillers would be even more upset than before.
Why it wouldn’t be good for comp
We’ve established why backfilling is important, but what about competitive? Surely it’s necessary there, too? Again, this would be great for teams already playing, but incredibly frustrating for the person having to backfill. If this were ever an option, the backfiller would need to lose no SR for a loss, which would make this a somewhat abusable situation. If the backfiller would join a game that was already being lost, without having contributed to the beginning of the match, losing SR would feel like a massive punishment. However, the alternative just doesn’t work.
Also, if backfilling competitive was optional, no one would want to do it. Some players have suggested that if they neither won nor lost SR but got the same XP bonus or better from quickplay, they’d backfill competitive matches for warm-ups, but that’s very easy to say. In reality, most players wouldn’t choose to backfill.
It’s also worth mentioning that competitive matches don’t roll into one another like quickplay. Players have to queue up manually each time. This would mean the backfill isn’t saving the following game, and is potentially just joining for a 30 second stomp. On top of that, it leaves players open to getting stuck in a backfill chain where they don’t get to start a brand new match.
There are other ways backfilling could be improved
Apart from rewards, there are a few different ways backfilling could be improved. At the moment, a backfilling player has no idea what the enemy team comp is, so their first pick is blind. It’s feasible that everyone on the team (including the leaver) knew at that point what the enemy comp is, so it’d be great if a backfiller could see the comp and pick accordingly.
Another change could be giving some amount of ultimate charge to the filler. As ultimate charge is based on a points system and then represented as a percentage, the filler could be given the same number of ultimate charge points that the leaver before them had. This would then translate into a variable percentage based on which hero they choose. This way, the team with the backfill doesn’t necessarily get an instant-ult on their new player, but they also don’t lose the ultimate charge that was being built before the leaver left.
Backfilling is an important service every player provides when they play quickplay or arcade matches. It’s not always pretty, but it helps keep the game ticking along and gives players overall less downtime between matches by preventing them from having to requeue. However, it’s certainly not perfect, and we’d love to see some changes to make backfilling more rewarding.
What kind of changes would you like to see for backfilling? Are you a believer in competitive backfilling?
Today, Blizzard released a new short story expanding the Overwatch lore, and the fanbase is currently abuzz over one particular detail. While the story, written by Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu, is centered on Ana Amari, the character receiving the incidental attention is Soldier 76. As later confirmed outside of the story, Soldier 76 identifies as gay.
The story, titled “Bastet,” is about Ana Amari, one of the other playable heroes in Overwatch. She encounters Soldier 76 (aka Jack Morrison) in Cairo, for the first time after the Overwatch base was destroyed. Reaper (Gabriel Reyes) is also involved. Eventually, as Amari and Morrison talk about the past, the story reveals that Morrison was in a relationship with a character named Vincent.
Shortly after the story came out and this particular detail caught on, Michael Chu confirmed Soldier 76’s identity himself on Twitter. He also noted that “Bastet” follows a previous short story called “Old Soldiers,” recommending fans read that one first.
Thanks for all the messages about “Bastet”!
Jack and Vincent were in a romantic relationship many years ago. Both identify as gay.
This marks the second time a playable Overwatch hero has been revealed to have a LGBTQ identity in supplemental lore content. A few years ago, an online comic called “Reflections” did something similar with Tracer, showing the character spending Christmas with her girlfriend. Chu also confirmed Tracer identifies as lesbian via social media.
Overwatch does not feature much of a story in the actual game, and Blizzard’s team has released all kinds of multimedia content over the years in order to engage with the lore-hungry fans. This content has also led to in-game developments, such as skins and even new playable heroes.
Blizzard has been a little quiet lately on the Overwatch front. Fans have been flocking the official forums to voice concerns about the state of the game, especially considering the recent decline in the number of monthly active users across Activision Blizzard titles.
Developer Jeff Kaplan broke his silence this weekend, and told fans that alongside a balance patch, a “cool little surprise” is set to hit Overwatch sometime this week. The post reads:
We worked on a balance patch this week. We’re hoping to put that patch on the PTR next week. The last time I said that, it was late and everyone flipped out. So please, don’t flip out if things slip… they often do.
Also, there’s another cool little surprise coming next week. Excited!
(sorry no details at this time as changes are still in flux… the PTR will get notes when it goes out… no dev update)
Overwatch has been a huge success for Blizzard but it’s certainly showing signs of fatigue. As many users have pointed out, in-game events are often recycled and balancing is an on-going problem. Players feel that some characters and issues (including the game’s messy reporting system) have been neglected.
For its part, Blizzard said back in December 2018 that it’s working on new heroes alongside balancing existing ones, developing new features, and working on “top secret stuff” that the developers are unable to discuss at the moment.
As for the surprise, no hints have been given but we’ll find out soon enough.
Video game channels on Twitch have seen a significant increase in viewership this year compared to 2017, according to statistics compiled by Esports Observer. Unsurprisingly, Fortnite player Tyler “Ninja” Blevins took the lead with over 226 million hours watched between January 1 and December 27.
League of Legends developer Riot Games claimed second position with 99 million hours watched, followed by Canadian player Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, who is known for streaming shooters including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Despite being in its first year, Overwatch League took fourth position with almost 75 million hours watched. Rounding up the top five is World of Warcraft player Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris, with approximately 52 million hours watched.
In comparison, Jaryd “Summit1g” Lazar was the most-watched streamer in 2017 with over 72 million hours watched.
Esports Observer noted that Fortnite made a significant contribution to the aforementioned numbers. At least three streamers in the top ten almost exclusively play Epic’s take on the battle royale genre, and the game shows no sign of slowing down.
The most-watched games on Twitch in 2018 are as follows:
League of Legends
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
World of Warcraft
Grand Theft Auto V
There’s also been a shift in the type of gaming channels viewers prefer watching. Last year, half of the top ten channels were dedicated to esports, and charity marathon channel Games Done Quick made it into the top five. In 2018, only two esports channels – Overwatch League and Riot Games – appeared in the top chart. The remaining top channels all belonged to streaming personalities.
Share your thoughts on these figures with us below.
An idea that has been fired around the Overwatch community for some time is the concept of Blizzard adding an Overwatch role limit. While it would probably only be applied to competitive games, what would a role limit mean for the game and its meta? In this Play of the Fortnight, we discuss potential pros and cons that a role limit could have on the state of Overwatch.
First of all, what’s a role limit?
Proponents of the Overwatch role limit suggest that there’s either a minimum or maximum number of tanks, damage, and healers. Some players want both a minimum and maximum, others want just a limit on a specific role. In an ideal world, a role limit would likely mean there has to be at least one of each role on the team (or at least one tank and one healer). Another suggestion players have proposed is that there’s a minimum of one tank and healer with a maximum of two.
There are various reasons players suggest a role limit. The biggest one for there being a minimum of each role is that frequently tanks and healers are seen as key to the game but also undesirable for many players to actually play. Having a minimum of one per team would mean, in theory, more viable team comps.
However, the request for a maximum number means preventing team comps that players find tough to go up against. For example, a team comp known as “GOATS” has been lamented by the community lately. This comp involves three tanks and three healers, usually Reinhardt, Zarya, D.Va, Lucio, Brigitte, and Moira. The team will charge down the opponents and single out one enemy at a time. A role limit would most likely prevent this kind of comp from flourishing.
What would be the pros of an Overwatch role limit?
Obviously, having a minimum of one tank and one healer on the team would mean having a balanced comp. Most comps have this as their backbone; it’s very rare to see team comps that don’t have at least one tank and one healer.
Having a maximum of two tanks and two healers would, in theory, prevent arguments between players who try to select roles when they’re already filled. It would also mean no crazy team comps to go up against like GOATS or the former four tank two support meta. There’s still some flexibility in allowing teams to drop one tank or one healer to fill in an extra damage dealer.
However, with all of this said, there seems to be more cons than there are pros to a role limit.
Team comp creativity would disappear
One of the exciting things about Overwatch is being able to come up with weird and wonderful teams. That could be a new way to obliterate the enemy team or just an interesting counter to the meta. It’s fun seeing new comps emerge as patches change the balance between heroes. Dive comp and GOATS are just some examples of the fun combinations players have come up with.
If we have a role limit that effectively strongly encourages a 2-2-2 comp, we would lose out on all of that creativity. There would still be combos between heroes, and a little flexibility with changing out a tank or healer for something with more punch. Ultimately, though, players would be much more restricted.
Would this mean less troll compositions? Probably, but is that worth losing out on all of the interesting ways to build a team? We don’t think so.
Disconnects in hero select would soar
Picture this: a Genji main connects to the game now. Genji is already selected. He considers leaving, but at least he can pick another damage dealer. So he does, and while his team might complain at him, he can ignore them and play what he’s used to.
Now role limits are in place. He joins the game and not only is Genji already selected, but all the damage dealer slots are taken. He now has to tank or heal. What does he do now? It’s not a sure thing that the player would disconnect, but it’s significantly more likely. Players are creatures of habit, and even if they’re not one-trick ponies, they’ll have a role they play almost exclusively. Taking that away from them won’t make them more likely to branch out. It’ll make them disconnect. If they do, we can only hope they do it early enough to cancel the game without wasting anyone’s time.
Couldn’t they make a new queue system to fix this?
Blizzard could certainly add a queuing system similar to the one in League of Legends now. Allowing players to queue up as a specific role means that they know they get what they want. There could always be an additional “flex” role that means players would fill. However, this already somewhat exists in the group finder tool.
Adding another layer seems unnecessary. Queue times would likely go up for damage, while tanks and healers would get queued up right away. Sure, that might encourage more people to play tank and healer in the first place, but it’s still going to make the experience quite unpleasant for at least a large portion of the community.
Our thoughts on a role limit
We don’t think a role limit is the best way to counter issues with team comp in Overwatch. While it’s true that players often don’t pick what’s “needed” and instead lock whoever they want, a role limit would impose too much of a restriction on the creativity most of us have grown to love in Overwatch.
It would, however, be nice to see Blizzard doing more to help prevent the trolling that many players complain about in competitive. Proactively helping the community by providing them with tools that allow them to prevent it in the first place would likely be easier and make more sense than simply banning people for picking the “wrong” hero. Who decides what is a “bad choice”?
We don’t think Blizzard is likely to impose an Overwatch role limit any time soon. Even so, it is certainly something members of the community have requested often. There are a few positives to having a restriction like this in place, but we feel these are significantly outweighed by the negatives. One day we’d like to see more changes to the way queuing works to improve team synergy, but for now there are just some downsides players are always going to be faced with in solo queue.
Do you want to see a role limit in Overwatch? Let us know in the comments below!
One hundred staff members of the Cork, Ireland branch of Blizzard customer service have voluntarily accepted money to leave their jobs. An anonymous Blizzard employee contacted Eurogamer to tell them about this deal. According to the source it has been offered to Cork staff at least five times, and the amount of money they were offering has gone up each time. One source who did take up the offer said that it amounted to a year’s pay.
In a statement to Eurogamer Blizzard said, “The employees who are choosing to leave the company later this month are taking advantage of a voluntary and longstanding program we offer in various locations around the world. This program, which has proven popular in the past, gives eligible staff the option to make the most of incentives while proactively pursuing other career opportunities. No one is required or encouraged to participate in this program, but for those who do, we work hard to make it generous.”
This is in fact already having an impact on the quality of customer service provided to European players. Blizzard English language customer service has tweeted several times over the last few weeks that callback and live chat services would be closed from 4 or 5 PM on certain days.
Some staff who have remained at the Cork office have expressed concern over the future of the office and unsure about the future. But, Blizzard reassured Eurogamer that they have no plans to close the Cork office.
This is all of course just the most recent thing to happen to Blizzard that has been somewhat questionable since Blizzcon when Diablo Immortal was announced. Heroes of the Storm esports were also very suddenly cancelled. Leaks from the main Blizzard office suggest that there has been a cultural shift at Blizzard and money is more of a focus than it ever has been before.