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The way we watch Overwatch may be changing again. Blizzard stuffed a new feature into a recent test server patch, one that gives clear visual cues on hero status effects to spectators.
There’s no argument that Overwatch players and fans aren’t familiar with the game—but despite that, the game is considered hard to watch. At its fewest, Overwatch has six different heroes on screen. And if every player should choose a unique hero, there’ll be 12. The nature of a diverse cast of characters means that there’s a lot of information going on at once, spread across Overwatch’s sprawling maps.
Visually, Overwatch is a colorful game. Each ability has its own visual cues, too—a hero that’s been “slept” is splayed out on the floor with ubiquitous “ZZZs” floating overheard. Heroes frozen in ice turn blue and stop moving. In professional matches, it’s up to the commentators and observing crews to determine how this information is communicated, despite the two—more often than not—having no communication between each other. The new spectator information added in Overwatch’s recent PTR patch could improve the experience for both caster and observer. And that improves Overwatch esports for us, too.
Observers determine where the camera is pointed and commentators read the game from there. An observer might be looking at one moment while a major play is happening off screen—say, a Genji player is slept just has he starts his ultimate. With this new spectator feature, found by Overwatch players and posted to Reddit, casters aren’t reliant on an observer’s movement.
“Been saying this should be included since the beginning,” Overwatch caster Wolf Schröder tweeted yesterday. “This makes spectating way easier and for me, selfishly, casting, much less reliant on observers.”
Jack Wright, an Overwatch Contenders Europe caster, agreed—smaller details will no longer slip through the cracks, and casters will be able to see the full effect of a single player’s ability. “Now I can finally see extremely quickly how many people were anti-naded,” he wrote. “Awesome changes.”
The Overwatch player who found the spectator adjustment also noted a few more features uncovered in the recent PTR patch. Melee kills are now shown on the kill feed, noting when a hero has punched another to death. Blizzard also added a few more gameplay options for spectators, like using a “simple” third-person camera for spectating or enabling voice lines during the observed game.
The changes have been on the Overwatch test server for a few weeks now, so they could go live as soon as this week—but that remains unconfirmed.
Some fans think these features are a lead-in to the Overwatch League Viewer, an extension of Blizzard’s Overwatch World Cup Viewer. The Overwatch World Cup viewer let players take control of the spectator experience during the Overwatch World Cup in November. The feature, once live, will drastically change the way we watch competitive Overwatch.
Blizzard hasn’t said when the feature will go live, but many expected it to return before the start of Overwatch League on Feb. 14.