Overwatch public enemy number one, Bastion, was changed on Tuesday this week. The robot was supposed to become less of a glass cannon, losing some ranged accuracy and therefore damage in exchange for manoeuvrability and survivability. But now people are having a hard time killing Bastion at all.
These Bastion changes were tested by players on the Public Test Realm, which means Blizzard must have been confident before going live. So it’s weird – and mightily refreshing – to see game director Jeff Kaplan hold his hands up days later and admit Bastion feels “too powerful right now”.
“I want to share my personal opinion on Bastion (which is dangerous because I know I am a spokesperson for the game),” he wrote on the Overwatch forum. “Over the past few nights I’ve played with, as and against Bastion. My perception is that he is a little too powerful right now.
“In particular, in one match I was playing Bastion and the enemy Tracer was trying to hunt me down. The Tracer player was clearly a better player than I am – a very skilled individual. I relied heavily on my self-heal and the Tracer could not finish me off. But I was able to kill Tracer in Recon mode almost through attrition. This part felt wrong to me.”
There are fors and againsts, he said, but ultimately, “I don’t think he’s perfect yet.” So Blizzard has made some changes to Bastion on the PTR, reducing Ironclad protection from 35 per cent to 20.
Kaplan then talked a bit more broadly about emotions running high in online communities when changes are made and metas – trends based around who are the strong characters at any one time – are inevitably altered.
“I’ve been playing online games since they existed and now working on them for almost 15 years,” said Kaplan. “One of the things I’ve learned about online communities is that change – any change – can cause a lot of anxiety. Back when I was working on World of Warcraft, I used to say that if we mailed 500 gold to every player, the community would find some way to be upset about it… because change is bad.”
Consider who says what a meta is. Is it statistically which heroes are played most, or which heroes the Overwatch pros play most? Kaplan remembers when people were trashing Mercy’s usefulness at the top end but actually she was the fifth most played Overwatch hero overall in Competitive Play. “So often the perception of what the meta is does not match what the actual meta is,” he said.
He also questioned whether each hero should be picked the same amount. “I’m not sure this is entirely realistic,” he said, “nor do I think the game is necessarily better if this is the case. It might be and I would love to be wrong about that.”
That’s why Blizzard has multiple maps and modes, to mix strategies up. “The more the community pushes us to eliminate maps or modes, the more the hero meta will stagnate. I totally agree that when the meta is too defined (ie. people only play XYZ heroes) the game is less fun, so we need to watch for trends and adjust as need.”
He added: “Balance changes can be very difficult to make when emotions run so high in the community. There is outrage if a hero does not get played a lot (like with Bastion or Symmetra).
“We make changes to make those heroes more viable which means they will get played more. The result is, people need to adjust to playing against Symmetra and Bastion more… and they are more powerful. We cannot just magically make Bastion get picked more so the stats look pretty and not make changes to make him more viable at the same time.”
Food for thought, and nice to see the leader of a game as popular as Overwatch talking relatively openly with the community.
Overwatch yesterday welcomed a new hero, Orisa, into the mix. It’s a tank-class hero that looks a bit like a robotic centaur. Watch us play Orisa as we try to get to grips with what she can do.