Overwatch was destined to be an esport, but it’s missing one thing—a truly spectator-friendly way to watch matches. Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch’s lead designer, says improvements to the game’s spectator mode are coming, though. “We want to work on more spectator mode features, in particular for esports,” Kaplan said during a question and answer session with Twitch streamer Fairlight_Excalibur.
Blizzard Entertainment is known for its dedication to the competitive scenes of its games; almost all of its games have seen some sort of competitive following. Overwatch’s frenetic action makes the game particularly exciting to watch, but cleverly-designed maps make it easier for fans to follow along.
Overwatch was destined to be an esport.
As it stands, the spectator mode in Overwatch looks almost exactly like playing the game, except that the spectator is looking on in a third-person view, rather than the usual first-person. There’s not much information on-screen—there’s no way to see who has used their ultimate, how much damage a hero has done, or where the payload is. There’s no mini-map, either—a salient feature that would temper the chaos of figuring out where 12 different players are. Mini-map, we’ve taken you for granted; player positioning is just really hard to follow when the camera attached to one player’s perspective.
Kaplan didn’t give too many details on new spectator features, but it sounds like they’re looking to add some of those important details to the screen. “And when we do more for esports, we want to add a spectator mode that has a lot of statistics for the match so that broadcasters and observers can surface more to the viewers,” Kaplan said. We’re hoping Kaplan and the Blizzard crew are taking cues from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s exhaustive spectator tools. Widgets in the user interface show which weapon a player is using, or how many grenades they have. For Overwatch, a riff on these stats could include cool-down times for a player’s ultimate. More information on a player’s status would be helpful, too. Is Bastion in recon or sentry mode? Do any players have a buff from Zarya’s particle cannon? Who’s getting damaged boosted—or even resurrected—by Mercy?
More information on a player’s status would be helpful.
Overwatch is still young (the youngest esport, even) but if it wants to hold its own on a large scale, it’s got to be watchable. Overwatch’s massive player-base is nice, yes, but it could be bigger (and last longer) if a competitively-inclined audience latches onto the game. The Overwatch Open tournament is coming up quickly. Qualifiers are going on now, and playoffs begin August 26. The grand finals will be broadcast live on TBS, where it’ll likely reach a large—and broad—audience. With a game so new, and its competitive scene even newer, the context an expanded spectator experience can provide will be invaluable to viewers and to casters alike. A confused and overwhelmed audience is unlikely to stick around for too long.
Kaplan didn’t mention when the spectator changes will go live, but it seems like the Overwatch Open would be an ideal place to debut them.