Last week, Blizzard revealed their new anniversary update last week and I had positive things to say about it. In particular, I was excited about the competitive FFA mode and wrote the following:
"Equipped with "placement matches, skill rating, and leaderboards" the mode will likely be very popular. One can imagine big streamers and pro players enjoying the mode immensely, as the introduction of a competitive mode has a way of raising the quality of matches significantly."
I was both wrong and right at the same time. Pro players and streamers seem to enjoy the mode a lot, but the majority (or at least a loud portion) of the Overwatch community has hit a brick wall when it comes to trying to enjoy the new game mode.
Here are some quotes from actual Overwatch fans taken from Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.
“In just a few hours It has already become my least favorite iteration of the competitive gamemode thus far."
“Comp FFA Deathmatch is the most infuriating rage inducing thing ever”
"You have either Roadhogs, Moiras, Brigitte, Mcrees or Hanzo running everywhere. It is indeed infuriating. I hate it more than normal deathmatch. "
"I just finished a game where 5/8 players were Moira. I don't even want to finish the damn placements anymore; that was not an enjoyable game in the slightest."
"Competitive FFA is the most frustrating game/mode that I've ever played. "
"Right now the FFA system doesn't reward skilled players unless you are literally god tier and don't miss any shots e.g. iddqd"
That last quote is oddly prophetic -- Iddqd does, in fact, enjoy the game mode, going 10-0 in his placements matches and specifically citing how it is nice to just rely on his own skills for a change:
Kariv of LA Valiant also scored a 10-0 record in placements.
I imagine many OWL pros could achieve this. The nature of competitive FFA pits the responsibility on winning entirely on the individual, rewarding mechanics and the ability to out-maneuver other players above all else. The most common complaint among salty Overwatch players are toxic teammates and imbalanced matchmaking, so competitive FFA should eliminate these immediately, right?
Kill steal feels
Citing Moira, Brigitte, Roadhog and Junkrat as the worst offenders of clear imbalance, many argue that Deathmatch mode was only bearable in Overwatch because it "didn't matter". It was a way to blow off some steam and, if all of your kills were stolen by a frantic Junkrat or you were solo'ed by a stray Moira, at least your rank was untouched.
But the average Overwatch player cares about their rank, arguably more so than other gamers. As a result, the added stress of a competitive environment, placement matches and a rank system have opened up new criticisms for Deathmatch mode. It was easy for most to not care about Deathmatch arcade but, now that it is a competitive mode, some FFA players can't grasp how the mode can ever live up to its competitive name.
Afterall, Deathmatch game modes in all FPS titles come with an ingrained level of chaos and frustration. They are the birthplace for kill steals, camping, and instant deaths due to unfortunate spawn locations -- all things veteran Deathmatch players already expected. It begs the question: what else were critics of the new competitive mode expecting?
It's not Overwatch
Personally, I enjoy competitive FFA in Overwatch. I have always enjoyed Deathmatch mode and the idea of it being competitive, with actual rankings and SR, excites me. I am a solo gamer at heart and I love that Overwatch has finally given me an opportunity to play completely by myself while still enjoying the tension and “upped stakes” of a competitive environment -- one where everyone is trying their hardest to win.
The attraction of playing by myself is big enough to make any balance issues or FFA frustrations seem very small. Considering the overwhelming success of Overwatch is largely attributed to it its teamplay setting and "every hero has a purpose" design goal, I can understand why a lot of people will hate competitive Deathmatch.
And, to those who do hate Deathmatch but can't resist the allure of a new competitive mode, try to remember that Deathmatch is operating on a completely different set of rules, meta, and balance realities than normal 6 vs. 6. Try to enjoy the freedom of choice and experimentation the game mode offers. At worst Deathmatch can serve as a helpful way to hone a player's situational awareness and understanding of individual hero matchups without having to burden teammates.
Warcraft 3 is my one true love and I will challenge anyone to a game of Super Smash Brothers Melee.