Blizzard announced a few days ago that they’d be adding new social features to Overwatch. In an upcoming patch, players will be able to use a Looking For Group feature. There will also be a new Endorsements system implemented in patch 1.25.
In this Play of the Fortnight, we’re going to talk about the upcoming features, and what ways these could impact the Overwatch experience.
Rewarding Players for Positive Behavior
“We often talk about ways to punish players,” Jeff Kaplan said in the latest Developer Update video. “I think, more often than not, players are behaving in an awesome way in Overwatch, and we just don’t recognize them enough.”
We talked about positive reinforcement in Overwatch before, in an article on Fixing Toxicity in Overwatch. There are theories that people continue negative behavior after a punishment when they think they can get away with it. Positive reinforcement is shown to work, as players will want to receive the rewards or prestige associated with it.
For this system to work, there needs to be a reason for players to commend their teammates (or opponents), and a reason for players to want to gain those endorsements.
Overwatch Endorsement System
Enter the Overwatch Endorsement system! Kaplan confirmed that players will be able to endorse their teammates or players on the enemy team. There will be a small reward for endorsing another player — this seems to be in the form of experience towards your overall level. Players who receive an Endorsement also receive XP towards their Endorsement Level (EL) as well as XP towards their overall level. There will also be periodic rewards for players who reach a certain EL during a reward period.
Endorsements can be for Good Sportsmanship, Good Teammate, and Shot Caller. To prevent players from farming Endorsements, you can only give a limited amount per match. Hopefully this will limit the amount of spam we see in chat, with people asking to be endorsed. It’s also worth noting that your EL will decay over time. This means players can’t just get to a high EL and sit there, then behave however they want. They will also lose their EL if they are silenced or banned in game.
The Endorsement system will be public; players can see each other’s Endorsement Level and awards. You’ll be able to see that you’re playing with a “Good Teammate”, for example. It will tie in directly with the Looking For Group feature, which we’ll talk about shortly.
There are three Endorsement types, as mentioned above: Good Sportsmanship, Good Teammate, and Shot Caller. Good Sportsmanship is for rewarding players who have been positive, perhaps congratulating the opposing team on good plays or nice shots. This one will be particularly good for endorsing the opposing team.
Good Teammate is a bit more self-explanatory. This one is restricted. Players can endorse their own team, but not the opposing team, with the Good Teammate Endorsement. This might be used when players are encouraging and positive within team chat. Perhaps you have someone on your team who swapped roles to support a good team dynamic.
The final way players can be endorsed is the Shot Caller option. Shot Callers are players who lead the team without being aggressive or rude. They might give out tactics and encourage their team to do certain things.
Looking For Group
This one is a big change, and one we’ve been hoping for. The Overwatch Looking For Group feature has a lot of different systems in play. For example, players can set up a group searching for specific roles. Kaplan explained, “You can even force the people playing those roles to only be able to play those roles.” There are options to have it more open, but you can restrict it as far as you want.
Group leaders can also specifically look only for players with voice communication, or only specific Endorsement Levels. This is an interesting tactic, and we wonder how it will pan out.
The Looking For Group system does not include any matchmaking: anyone who meets the requirements will be able to join. It’s unclear how this will work for Competitive, as players are restricted to who they can queue up with based on their rank. At the moment there doesn’t appear to be a way to restrict to only Platinum players, for example. Matchmaking, as always, begins after the group queues up.
Privacy Settings for Profiles
Another change that could end up being quite major is the profile privacy settings. Player profiles will be friends-only by default, and players can choose to change it to public or completely private. This was mentioned only very briefly in the Developer Update video, but could stand to be a very big change.
While it’s true that players have often used another player’s profile as ammunition to harass another player, this feature is quite important. In Competitive, for example, it’s helpful to see what heroes your teammates play most often. That person playing Hanzo? Maybe they’re really good at Hanzo and play him often. On the other hand, the person playing Reinhardt because they were last pick and you needed a tank might not actually know how to play him. Communication will solve a lot of these issues, but the profile was a useful tool, and having players able to block others from seeing their profile is going to have an impact.
Other Changes Coming in Patch 1.25
Overwatch Patch 1.25 is a pretty big patch. Aside from the new social feature, we also have changes to the hero roles. Offense and Defense heroes will now be collapsed into one group: Damage. This is another feature that ties in with the Looking For Group system. It could cause some issues, with players picking heroes that really excel more on a defensive map when they’re attacking. We’ll have to see how it works with the new LFG system.
There’s a lot of hero changes, but the biggest one is the Symmetra rework. Symmetra will now be a damage hero and not a support. Her weapon will no longer auto lock-on to targets, and will behave more like a regular beam weapon. To compensate, it has an increased range and increased damage overall (though a slower damage ramp-up than before). She now fires her turrets like projectiles, meaning they can be attached to walls much further away. Players can now use her teleporter to move short distances, instead of from spawn, as the entrance will be placed at her location. Things like Junkrat’s RIP-Tire can teleport through it now, as well. Her ultimate is now a huge barrier that can be rotated before being shot out.
Blizzard also changed the Horizon map significantly to balance it out. The changes are there to improve gameplay and give players additional options. Point A was a little weighted in favor of the attackers, whereas Point B had some problems with defenders being able to quickly heal up without any risk to themselves. The changes hopefully balance these two issues.
The social features are a very welcome change, and we hope they’ll make a big improvement. We want to see more positivity and less toxic behavior, and hopefully, the Endorsement system will encourage this. Looking For Group is also a long-awaited feature, and will perhaps bring a lot more harmony to team compositions.
There are some changes that may end up having some interesting side effects, such as the profile privacy changes, and the new all-encompassing Damage role. However, we’ll need to wait and see based on some testing.
The new changes are live on the PTR already, and you can read the full patch notes here. What are your thoughts on the upcoming social features?Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, First Person Shooter, FPS, Overwatch, Patch Notes, Play of the Fortnight, Shooter