How is the Overwatch Server Browser Doing?

Image Copyright | ©2017 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
Image Copyright | ©2017 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

On Tuesday, the latest patch for Overwatch was released, and it was a big one. It included the server browser, Custom Game changes, the Bastion overhaul, and several other tweaks and changes.  You can find plenty of rage on the internet about the Bastion changes, but I’d like to talk about the server browser and how it has played out so far.

In one of the most ambitious updates to the game to date, the server browser – and specifically the custom game changes that go along with it – has a huge amount of potential. And the good news is, it’s working very well from the technical side of things. You can swiftly find a huge list of games and get connected without issue. There are a monumental number of options that you can adjust in the custom games, and they all seem to be functioning properly. In practice, though, I feel that the real benefits from the custom game options are going to be more apparent several months from now.

Right now, a lot of people are ecstatic over the idea of being able to tweak Overwatch to their taste, and it makes sense, it’s a new feature and everyone wants to jump in. Because of this, you see a lot of “500%” servers, where everything that can be turned up is cranked up to 500%. Movement speed. Projectile speed. Cooldown speed. It’s a complete overdose of Overwatch injected straight into your heart. And frankly, it’s boring. Sure, a few minutes of running at super speed is a bit of a laugh, but truthfully no one can get anything done and it’s a chaotic mess that breaks the game entirely. This could be considered a good thing – being able to break the game in different ways might lead to entirely new and interesting experiences. But as it is, I find the more, more, more servers to be shallow and stale.

The other major problem that I see with the custom games is something that you might only notice if you’ve come from older FPS’s that used server browsers. I’ll use TF2 as an example, as I’ve played that quite a lot. For some time, if I wanted to join a TF2 server it would likely be a server that only played the map “2fort”. The game is structured in such a way that I could join a server, regardless of how long the map had been going, and I could stay on that server playing Capture the Flag indefinitely. The map may occasionally restart to reset the scores, but the action and ability to play the game was always there. Many of the custom servers in Overwatch, however, end up either sitting in the lobby or in a pre-match “waiting for players” limbo. And yes, the server creator does have the option of starting the match at any time, but the shorter game modes found in Overwatch are almost over too quickly for this to be effective. So, you spend a lot of time not actually playing with whatever custom settings the server creator has thrown together.

While I consider this a problem, I imagine that it will be sorted out over the coming months. Hopefully Blizzard will consider making it more obvious how people can get together on a server and play without having to stress over short time limits, team composition, and otherwise getting all of the stars to align. I’d love to be able to settle in on a server for an hour or so, but right now you see so many people constantly joining and leaving servers – possibly because nothing is happening. Oddly enough, there is a byproduct of this that is possibly the best part about the server browser. Because of all of the down time, people are starting to interact with each other like never before. I’ve spoken to more people, in more depth, and for longer periods of time in the past few days than I ever have before on Overwatch. Other people are doing the same, and it’s great. The positive effects that this will have on the community are already emerging.

With all this being said, when the circumstances are right, you can find some very entertaining servers. You see a lot of “boss mode” servers where one team is a single person with a super-buffed hero, against an opposing team of regular heroes. A lot of people are also playing “Zombies” where it’s usually something like a single survivor – often Soldier 76, versus a few other heroes that are only allowed to use melee attacks. People are even playing Hide and Seek. I even played on a server earlier that was just all Mei’s. It was a-mei-zing.

The server browser and custom games: not yet perfect, but a boat load of potential. You may now resume talking about the new Bastion meta [cue Bastion ultimate noise].