Jul 26 2016 - 10:00 pm

Ana buffed, McCree changes in small Overwatch balance patch

Just one week after the release of Overwatch’s first new hero, and she’s already receiving buffs
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

Just one week after the release of Overwatch’s first new hero, and she’s already receiving buffs.

Blizzard pushed a small balance patch earlier today. It contains a couple changes to Ana, the new sniper medic, and McCree, who received large buffs in last week’s update.

Ana’s Biotic Rifle now features 10 shots per clip and her rate of fire has increased by 20 percent. That should give her a little more oomph, allowing her to output healing numbers more on par with her fellow supports while making her that much more dangerous to the enemy team. While Ana features a kit filled with extremely powerful abilities, the playerbase at large has struggled to leverage them to success. In the pro scene, Ana has seen plenty of play, especially on offense, where her Nano Boost ultimate is the ultimate weapon to push a checkpoint, but this change could make her a bit more stable. 

In addition, a bug that allowed players affected by her Sleep Dart to recover instantly has been fixed, meaning the Dart will keep a hit target out of the fight for at least 0.5s.

The change to McCree, though, are a bit more puzzling. The gunslinging cowboy became a monster after the July 19 update massively reduced the damage falloff on his pistol, allowing him to snipe foes from almost every reasonable range on Overwatch’s slate of maps. That, combined with Zenyatta buffs which brought him and his powerful Discord Orb into play, has made the game a nightmare for classes like Pharah, who can’t survive without getting picked off instantly by McCree’s laser pistol. McCree needed some changes, as after nerfs to his Fan the Hammer, he was absent from the metagame in favor of the more versatile Soldier: 76. But the July 19 patch made him an unstoppable monster at many levels of play.

Blizzard likely aimed to change that with an update this week, but many pro players fear its response may end up as a buff to the cowboy overall.

McCree’s damage falloff range was decreased by 10 meters, meaning that his pistol damage now starts falling off closer than after the July 19 patch, but he still has more range than he did at Overwatch’s release.

In exchange, the cowboy got a handful of buffs. His alternate fire, Fan the Hammer, now unloads his clip 15 percent faster, and the recovery time on his Flashbang was reduced from 0.5 seconds to 0.35 seconds.

During the beta, McCree was a monster with his full damage Fan the Hammer, even killing beefy tanks with a single click of his mouse. Blizzard heavily nerfed the damage on it, leading to the optimal play usually being to land a headshot with his primary fire instead of using Fan the Hammer at all.

It makes sense, then, that the alternate fire received a buff considering it was suboptimal to use it in almost every situation. But the changes, allowing McCree to fire sooner after landing a flashbang and allowing him to empty his clip faster, means he should now be able to get 5 and sometimes 6 shots off on a stunned target, which spells immediate death for characters like Tracer and Genji.

So overall, the changes feel like a buff at first glance to what is currently the most powerful carry character in the game. McCree will still deal full damage with his pistol during most fights in Overwatch, and he’s now much more dangerous in close quarters, especially against non-tank heroes.

It’s possible the changes won’t play out as many players expect, and it will certainly at least decrease the chances of a random headshot and discord orb one shotting players from across the map. But for now, it looks like it’s high noon all the time.

Jan 17 2017 - 8:56 pm

Wolf Schröder and StarCraft’s Overwatch exodus

The South Korean caster discusses Overwatch’s rise.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Screengrab via OGN Global/YouTube

At nine supply, you’re to put down your first pylon. A protoss gateway—what you need to actually make units besides probes—comes at 12. Keep making probes, too: When you hit 14 supply, that’s when you drop the assimilator. Wolf Schröder has followed this progression a thousand times as a StarCraft 2 caster for South Korea's biggest broadcast and league. A one-versus-one game of base management and army building, StarCraft 2 is much different than developer Blizzard Entertainment’s new six-on-six shooter, Overwatch. But now Schröder is one of many who made their names in StarCraft and are now flocking to the new esports title.

In October, the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA) pulled its investment in the game, ceasing support for its sponsored teams and ending the StarCraft Proleague. There just wasn't much StarCraft 2 left in South Korea—or anywhere in the world. With Overwatch on the up and up, many of those former StarCraft 2 professionals are flocking to Blizzard’s new game, despite their distinct differences.

“There are tons of other StarCraft 2 pros rumored to be playing Overwatch, trying to go pro” - Schröder

Schröder’s been a fixture in Korean StarCraft 2 since the game’s start. A professional career as a StarCraft 2 player was not in the cards—he never made it to the top of competitive play—but Schröder’s proclivity for game information led him to a casting gig at the highest level: South Korea’s Global StarCraft 2 League. An international caster living in South Korea, Schröder’s knowledge of the international StarCraft 2 scene was unparalleled. Schröder rode the rise and fall of StarCraft 2 in Korea, but is now looking to make his name elsewhere: Overwatch.

“It’s definitely sad to have to leave StarCraft 2 behind, but since I was already interested in Overwatch, the move makes sense,” Schröder said.

And he’s not the only one. Personalities, players, and organizations are investing major time, energy, and money into Blizzard’s growing Overwatch esports team. With that sort of investment, Overwatch’s growth is inevitable, Schröder said. South Korean cable television channel OnGameNet is the first big organization to capitalize on Overwatch’s popularity, sparking the OGN Overwatch APEX tournament in October to showcase the South Korean scene—and four invited international teams—with a consistent tournament schedule.

HuK | Photo by R1CH (CC BY-SA)

Some former StarCraft 2 folks are looking to fill a void in their profession careers, though not all of them. “I think hardcore StarCraft fans won’t switch over, nor will most of [the game’s] personalities,” Schröder said. “That being said, some personalities have switched.” 

Chris “HuK” Loranger, formerly of Evil Geniuses, is one of them. A former StarCraft 2 pro, HuK is stepping into casting and analysis in Overwatch. Daniel “Fenn3r” Fenner is a former StarCraft 2 player who’s made the switch, too. Though he’s not signed to a professional team, Fenn3r has a big following on Twitch.

“There are tons of other StarCraft 2 pros rumored to be playing Overwatch, trying to go pro,” Schröder said. “KeSPA dropped their sponsorship of StarCraft 2 teams which left quite a few mid-tier pros struggling to figure out what’s next for them. Many seem to be trying to turn to Overwatch.”

Like Kim "MyuNgSik" Myung-Sik, an accomplished StarCraft 2 pro who played for SK Telecom T1, StarCraft 2 pros are likely to see some strain in the switch: MyuNgSik’s Overwatch team, Team First Heroic, has already disbanded, leaving the player a free agent for now.

Schröder sees Overwatch’s success continuing in the wake of StarCraft 2 in South Korea, however. “Part of the reason StarCraft and League of Legends did well in Korea was because of their fanbases live locally,” Schröder said. “A sign that says ‘Haksal I love you’ in the crowd means so much. It means that even though this game is new, fans are coming out in droves.”

It’s aspirational for professional players to see fans supporting them; it’s a driving force in their dedication to the game. “StarCraft and League of Legends started that way too,” Schröder said. “Fans are a motivating factor for any aspiring progamer.”

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

That motivation drives South Korean Overwatch players to practice harder than western teams. “No real shocker there,” Schröder said, “but as others have already pointed out, Korea’s top teams are not as successful as EnVyUs right now.” Whether or not that dominance will last depends on western dedication to Overwatch. Part of that means hiring coaches, Schröder added. And western Overwatch teams have been reluctant to hire coaches, according to Schröder. In Korea, it’s a tradition: “It’s hard to find success without one,” he said.

EnVyUs has taken note of that, hiring former Cloud9 player Kyle “KyKy” Souder as their temporary coach heading into OGN Overwatch APEX Season 2. It’s not something the team felt they needed before, but they’ve likely seen from their Korean colleagues the influence a coach can instill in a team. Though plenty of other western teams have Overwatch coaches, there are plenty who don’t. For Schröder, it stems from a lack of respect for coaches that aren’t as good at Overwatch as the team is. South Korean teams aren’t worried about that.

“Their coaches generally aren’t top ELO players or progamer level,” Schröder said. “But they’re coaches who have the experience to keep a six-man roster motivated, find their strengths and weaknesses.”

Teams that don’t have a coach will start to falter this year, Schröder said. “Maybe it doesn’t show now, but it will absolutely start to show going into 2017.” Raw talent is abundant, but that doesn’t necessarily ensure success. A good coach can harness that talent, guiding players through the complexities of esports in and out of the game.

Raw talent is abundant, but that doesn’t necessarily ensure success

Need for that kind of support will only increase as Overwatch League approaches. But until then, 12 South Korean teams, many of them with coaches, and four western teams, most of them without, are heading into OGN’s Overwatch APEX season two, which began on Jan. 17. Though we won’t be able to pinpoint success in season two directly to Overwatch coaches—or lack thereof—the trends on display are worth a second look.

Schröder hasn’t announced whether he’ll be casting during OGN Overwatch APEX Season 2—Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles and Erik "DoA" Lonnquist have main casting duties there—but he’s promised to put a “big focus” on Overwatch in 2017.

HuK image source

Jan 17 2017 - 6:02 pm

Watch Rick and Morty play Overwatch

Or, at least, some random dude who does a good impression.
Nicole Carpenter
Dot Esports
Images via Cartoon Network, Blizzard Entertainment | Remix by William Copus

So Cartoon Network's Rick and Morty play Overwatch, huh?

Well, not really—it's really just an everyday Overwatch player who does a pretty good impression. Posted by YouTube user Nickel, the video shows a player called Turok, playing Widowmaker, doing the voices.

Rick and Morty is a popular animated sitcom that first aired in 2013. The show follows mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith on their interdimensional adventures and the craziness that ensues—like Rick injecting Morty into a homeless man, or our favorite episode "Get Schwifty" where giant heads converge on Earth and demand to hear a new hit song or they will destroy the planet. Rick and Morty was renewed for a yet-to-be-released third season in 2015.

"If my Widow doesn't work I'll switch to Soldier or something, you know," Rick says. "Don't trip, my Soldier and my Pharah are pretty badass. All these years of Quake, isn't that right Morty?"

Morty responds: "Yeah, you know. Everyone try to have some fun out there."

Though Rick and Morty's team ultimately ended up losing the game, Turok's tactic had a decent affect on the in-game moral. The team stayed pretty positive throughout, keeping excess salt to a minimum.

Next time, though: More burping.