Guest post: Succeeding in Overwatch as a New Player

overwatch

Syp is AFK on vacation this week and put out a call for substitute writers! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Justin Lowe, formerly of Darth Hater.

You’ve probably seen it by now. All of the advertisements, Tacobell giveaways, Coca Cola sponsored events, fantastic cinematic shorts, and a bunch of posters of Tracer looking cool on the sides of buses. By now, I don’t need to tell you that MMO fan favorite Blizzard is taking a stab at making a groundbreaking First Person Shooter called Overwatch…the launcher has probably annoyed you enough with that over the last couple weeks if you play any of their games. But maybe, just maybe, you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “I’d like to play this game!” We’ll I’ve got good news for you. I’m here to help your first few hours in the game not seem like an aggressive form of waterboarding!

I hate listicles. I really do. In this case though, this article would be a chore to follow without employing the method. You can’t see me now but I’m scratching my face caving to this. You’ll have to forgive me. After playing more than three thousand matches, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that players make when starting out. Here are the few things you need to do as a new player to make your experience more enjoyable and fruitful.

Learn a hero of each role early on

This might seem like a common piece of advice but you should be learning just a few heroes at first and then branching out. Not every game you get placed into by the matchmaking system will have a free slot available to play the DPS. I realize that in these games everyone loves to play the assassin or DPS roles but it’s better to win and compromise while you’re still learning the game. When you jump into Overwatch the first couple times, it will be daunting. There are just so many heroes with different abilities that separate them from their traditional roles. Like MMOs, there are some that cross-pollinate and are easy to grasp but in most cases, the heroes themselves play vastly unlike one another, even other heroes of the same role type.

There are ways though that you can make this transition easier on yourself. First, you can try the practice range. In the practice range there are bots that you can shoot and are harmless. Your ultimate also charges faster in here so not only can you practice your abilities and aim, but you can also see how to properly setup your ultimate for maximum effectiveness. Next are custom games. As a new player, you can setup AI to play against you in whichever map you want without fear of the AI yelling at you over the mic for being “not gud.” The AI even has its own difficulty setting that you can change to make it harder or easier on yourself as you try out new heroes. And lastly, play public games while choosing the role that is needed the most for your makeup. The right side of the screen on when you select your hero will give you a rough guide of what role is needed at the time.

Listen for ultimate audio queues

Character Ultimates are the strongest weapon a player has to upset the balance of the game. Each ultimate has a distinctive audio que to let you know as the ability is used. This audio denotation of an incoming ultimate also changes based on it being used by the friendly or enemy team. For example, when a Pharra uses her Rocket Barrage ultimate she will yell, “Justice rains from above” to the enemy team. On the friendly team, she will yell, “Rocket Barrage Incoming.” At first it may take some time getting uses to each any every character’s que but once you do, you can employ interesting tactics along with them. You can use your own in concert with your team to help setup a big push even better, or deny an enemy’s ultimate by using a counter like Lucio’s or Zenyatta’s own Ultimates. However, a general rule of thumb is to try to shut the enemy down while they are using it by quickly firing at them when you hear the audio or if you’re the only one around, evade.

Don’t be afraid to double or triple up on heroes

It’s a common misconception that new players have early on that you have to have the “perfect default mix of heroes”, i.e. – two Tanks, two DPS, two Supports. In fact, you may have noticed me kind of contradict myself with one of my statements above. Well, consider this part a more advanced course in the article. To explain this, the default comp usually is something like what I stated above. It’s a comp or mix of heroes that works well together more times than not. But let’s say you want to play more aggressive on a map that traditionally has a first point that, once their team has a lot of time to setup on, becomes extremely hard to take. In those cases, you may want to go classes that are a little more agile and harassy like for instance, two Winstons, a Lucio, a Pharra, two tracers or a tracer and another DPS. What this would do on a map like Hollywood is disrupt the team on the point making it hard to defend. The Winstons drop their bubbles negating a lot of the damage to the DPS, they rush the Supports and back line and typically, the team falls apart.

Ideally this would work for an initially push and help you out on maps that are defensive geared for certain points. If that doesn’t work though, you need to quickly adapt to the situation and find a setup that will work for you, either by going back to your default or change parts of it depending on the heroes  that are presenting problems for your team’s push. Overwatch is a game all about switching at the right time to capitalize on the weaknesses of certain characters against others. This point however is one that will take time to learn and you may need to watch a few competitive games or listen to your teammates.

Don’t group up with anyone for the first 20 levels or so

I know, you want to play with your friends. It’s part of what makes games fun. The social aspect is what got me into MMOs and likely did you as well when you started. However, Blizzard games ever since Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone function a little differently than MMOs but I think I can relay it a bit without being too technical. As you play and build up experience, your profile builds what is called MMR or an ELO rank that is used to place you with other players of similar skill levels so you don’t just get stomped 24/7. When you group with a friend who may have played more than you, it is very likely he/she will bring you into a game of skill of their caliber or higher. It’s kind of like gear score in MMOs. Yes, it sometimes doesn’t matter all that much in the right circumstances but in the wrong ones, it mean a very, very, very, bad time for you or vice versa if the one with more experience happens to be you.

I say this one from experience after playing the closed beta for so long and wanted to bring a friend of mine with me to play…he basically quit the game almost immediately. We kept getting matched up against people like Carnage, Seagull, Joshy, and other very well-known pros. So…just don’t. You’ll thank me for it later.

Wait for your team before launching your Leroy attack of devastation

I get it, we all have that friend of ours that thinks he’s amazing and can kill the team all by himself and more so because he has his ultimate up “RIGHT NOW!” This is what in Overwatch we like to call, “The Fool.” This game, unlike other FPSs, is purely a team game. It requires coordination and constant communication to best your opponents. No matter how good you think you are, you will not consistently 1v6. I don’t care if you’ve don’t it that one time and you think you can do it all the time, just wait for your team to group up before you push. You’ll save everyone, including yourself, a lot of grief and as a bonus, you’ll win more.

The only exception to this is as you’re pushing into the point and you see on the kill feed (an option that displays who was killed by who in the top right) that your team picked (killed) one or two of the enemies, then at that moment, your DPS role players can branch out and flank to collapse on them with the team.

Optimize your display/mouse for low latency/sim rate

This is a hard one to explain, especially with the game not currently out but if I can have you grasp it early on, it will make a huge difference in your performance. Go into a practice range session and press the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+N. This will bring up a chart very similar to one seen back in the old Quake days that will display a lot of numbers and graphs. For the purpose of this explanation we’ll be focusing on one key stat, the SIM rate. The SIM ping or rate controls the amount of time it takes for an action to be displayed on your monitor from either a keyboard press or mouse movement. It may not seem like a lot but the difference can be massive with just a 6-9ms change in the SIM rate. If you’ve ever wondered why your mouse feels delayed with the action presented on the screen, this is what controls it.

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Unfortunately many things control this but I’ll go over each and every one. The monitor’s refresh rate, if you have a 120-144hz monitor, your SIM ping will be lower. That’s not to say that you have to go out and buy one to experience any benefits from the other changes but it’s one of the biggest factors in making your mouse feel more reactive to your movements. Next, one we all love for our easily motion sick players, Vsync. Because the monitor has to delay a frame or two to constantly sync, it creates a 1-2ms delay on its own (usually), even Gsync. Next up, an item that makes the game feel more “smooth”, triple buffering. For the same reasons as Vsync, you can often free up 2ms by disabling it. Particle effects and post processing, these often add a little bit to it as well, not as much as the items mentioned above but are worth turning off.

And the biggie, the game’s render scale/resolution. If you want your game to be as 1:1 with your movement, you’re going to have to either lower your resolution and render scale or have a graphics card beefy enough to power through it. Some of the top snipers in the game currently run 1280×720 with 50% render scale for example. It makes the game look like you’re trying to watch an HD movie over a 56k modem but it’s hard to argue with the results. Try it for yourself sometime. If you get used to it, who knows, maybe you’ll be the next best sniper.

Speaking on other games, generally the golden SIM rate you want is under 8ms as the delay at that point is unnoticeable no matter how much you claim you can…unless you’re a robot, guess there’s that. The first number in the chart next to SIM is your lowest possible rate based on your monitor before post processing, next is after post processing, and the last is your total after Vsync and the rest of the effects you have enabled in the settings. I could write a whole article on the rest but my word count on this article is already pretty big that Syp might strangle me so instead I would refer you to the two YouTube videos I made on the subject if you want to learn more.

My plugs

I have no plugs. If you enjoyed this article and it helped make Overwatch a little less intimidating for one person, that’s thanks enough. If you have any comments or questions about the piece, I would be happy to answer them up until the release of the game on the 24th of May, but after that I will be in the middle of a busy launch tournament schedule with my competitive team so I might be slow to respond after that point for a little.

Thanks and good luck out there!

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3 thoughts on “Guest post: Succeeding in Overwatch as a New Player

  1. Geldarion May 22, 2016 / 11:52 am

    Excellent article, other Justin! While I haven’t played nearly as much, I do think that everything you said is completely spot on.

    Another thing, kinda in the line of thought that your mention of class switching was in, is that people need to get rid of the idea of “a main.” You don’t have a main in this game. For some reason, a bunch of people on the subreddit think they have a main, but in a game that focuses on class switching so much, I think that flies in the face of logic.

    Again, great article, thanks for writing it! See you in game maybe (probably not, your MMR will probably separate us lol).

  2. Justin Lowe May 22, 2016 / 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the kind comment Geldarion. And ya, I probably should have stated somewhere in there that there is no such thing as maining a hero in Overwatch. Kind of pointed that out in a round about way but not as clearly as I probably should have.

  3. Geldarion May 22, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    Definitely wasn’t correcting you, just was wanting to add to the conversation! I think it definitely came across in your article that class-switching is important. Overwatch is such a complex game (though it looks simple at the first glance), that I think you could do 10000 words without repeating yourself and still have things you could talk about!

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