Overwatch is, at the very least, a MOBA-like game. This means that it has some features that are similar to the ones in Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends, and Dota 2. Except they’re a lot better in Overwatch.
I’ve been playing Overwatch for a little over a week now, and I fully expect the game to evolve and change from where it is today. It’s still in closed beta, and only has a single game mode and type of matchmaking available. It’s also extremely well polished, however, so it already boasts a number of impressive features that a game like League could learn a lot from.
Bear in mind that, more strictly speaking, Overwatch is considered a “team-based shooter.” Some of the stuff I like in the game might sound less novel and exciting than it does to seasoned shooter fans, therefore. But that doesn’t make it any less of a cool thing to consider adding to a game like League of Legends—the most popular competitive game in the world by a large margin. Here are the best MOBA-friendly features I’ve seen in Overwatch so far:
Before jumping into a match, Overwatch presents you with a title screen that shows you and your five teammates with icons of the heroes you all have chosen to play as. But the game doesn’t just show you your tentative team composition. It also warns you if that team comp is looking a little funny in one way or another. These warnings come in the form of team tips, as you can see on the right side of the screen in the image above.
You might not have a tank, or a support character. If there aren’t enough offensive units, it’ll say that your team could use more damage. Obviously these tips aren’t strict rules you have to follow. But they’ve helped me a lot whenever I’ve jumped into a match, seen that I only have a few moments before it has to start, and have to quickly assess my team and figure out what they need the most.
It would be great if Heroes of the Storm or League of Legends had these sorts of helpful messages pop up on-screen—especially when a team is filling out their character picks in order for a ranked game. Given how easily arguments start in super competitive MOBAs, having an objective third-party source to say something like, “Hey, you could use some more CC” would be super valuable.
Every match of Overwatch I’ve played so far has ended the same way. You can see some examples in the video above. First, while still in the heat of the moment, the game goes into slow-mo before stopping completely and telling you whether you’ve won or lost. Immediately after that, everyone is shown the same “play of the game”—a highlight of a particularly impressive moment in the match that just ended. A Widowmaker player, for example, might have had some incredible string of headshots.
These sorts of match highlights are standard fare for online shooters and sports games—even silly ones like Rocket League. They don’t really exist in the major MOBAs, however. Their absence is all the more glaring once you consider that Dota HOTS and League’s pro games always have some sort of replay/recap system to pinpoint awesome moments.
Anyways, after leaving the play of the “play of the game,” Overwatch brings you over to an end-game screen. This isn’t a score screen, mind you. Instead, there are four cards in a row in the center of the screen. These are commendations. All the players are invited to click on one of the commendations as a virtual pat on the back, or recognition that: Hey, this player did a good job. Here’s a sample one I chose mostly because it shows me getting two of the four commendations in a match:
Notice how each of the commendations is for one specific thing—not just for a player’s performance. So in this case I can see I was being commended for having the best kill streak and kill participation (i.e., I helped with the most kills), while the enemy Reinhardt is being commended for the amount of damage he blocked. That’s a tank-specific commendation. Healers like the dude I was playing as often get commended for how much healing they did over the course of the game as well.
The important thing about this system is that the game commends choice players whether or not the players choose to add their own feedback. This means that the game is already establishing and reinforcing a sense of good sportmanship and mutual recognition. And so far, that’s been my experience with the “play of the game” and commendation system. Even if I’m frothing at the mouth at the end of a game where I was headshotted by Widowmaker every damn time I peeked my head out of my base, I’ll still commend that player if they have some really impressive stats to their name. It’s a way for everyone to acknowledge something awesome that one of their fellow players did.
And if you’re the one being commended? Well, once you get to five commendations, the game’s announcer says: “EPIC!” I’ve only had that happen once so far, but it felt absolutely fucking amazing.
Dota 2 and League of Legends both have small features that allow you to commend your teammates and opponents, though they both work the same exact way as reporting someone. Neither of these features are presented by default the way they are in Overwatch, which means they often go unused or, in League’s case, practically forgotten. And as for HOTS doesn’t give players any way to praise their opponents, let alone communicate with them.
Much like Overwatch’s kill-cam feature, its “play of the game” and commendation systems offer players a helpful and instantaneous form of feedback by which they can learn from their mistakes (and successes). But just as importantly, they offer players chances to actually be nice to one another. And that’s something every MOBA can stand to have more of.