Jeff Kaplan regrets the way his team has incentivized competitive play




Earlier today, transcripts of a Q&A featuring Overwatch Game Director, Jeff Kaplan, were posted on the Overwatch Subreddit. The Subreddit moderators were conducting the Q&A and Kaplan revealed a variety of new information, including his thoughts on preparing for the Overwatch League and a surprising confession of regret regarding incentivizing competitive play.

Ensuring the OWL’s viewer experience

Kaplan mentions how lucky the team is to have veteran casters MonteCristo and DoA available for consultation on how to best implement a broadcast friendly spectator mode. In his typical humble fashion, Kaplan describes how the two are “professionals in a sort of a field that we’re not professionals in”, referring to his team and the reality of Overwatch spectator problem. Kaplan specifically mentions the “team coloring” dilemma and how viewers inherently associate the red team with being “the bad guys.” Experimentation with different colors is currently taking place in order to alleviate this issue.

Kaplan elaborated further on the viewer experience, revealing how important he thinks it is for fans to be able to follow their favorite pro player. He and his team are exploring the value in showcasing match history and statistics with “a particular eye towards eSports”. These type of improvements are vital to the success of OWL, as sustained viewership is only possible when fans have a sense of investment towards the players they are watching.

Kaplan is right to spend time reassuring the public that his team is committed to improving the viewing experience, as the blistering fast gameplay and lack of individual team identity have historically made Overwatch a difficult eSport to watch.

Kaplan’s regret

According to this Q&A, the introduction of cosmetic incentives to playing in Competitive mode was a mistake and Kaplan doesn’t mince words when talking about it:

“I wish we would’ve never added any cosmetic items to Competitive. I think the people playing Competitive should only be there because they really care about playing in Competitive mode, and they want to rise through the tiers – that’s who I think belongs in Competitive.”

Kaplan explains further that it “takes a really special mindset to be in Competitive” and that currently, his team seems players who really “don’t belong there” being forced to grind out games in order to get desirable cosmetics. It is rare for such a public and influential game director to be so vocal about design regrets, which made it even more surprising when Kaplan doubled down on the topic. He added further that, if he could, he would “make everybody forget” and release Overwatch again. Then, he wouldn’t add “any cosmetics rewards” to the competitive system.

You can see the full list of topics from the Q&A on the official Overwatch Reddit, where Kaplan dives into more topics including possible expansions, modding tools, and seasonal events.


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