Overwatch's biggest problem? You, you newb.
Overwatch randos suck, but you won't be stuck with them for long
I'm not good at shooters. I'm not good at Overwatch. But by all that is holy and unholy alike, some of y'all just flat out suck.
Overwatch is the name on everybody's lips this week, and it deserves to be, because it's very good. But the conversations about it are extremely boring, because everyone's going onto Twitter and Facebook to complain about their idiot team mates (or onto Tumblr to share their saucy art, but that's another story). Every gaming interest site is publishing beginner's guides and basic tips because clearly someone hasn't RTFM or indeed the on-screen prompts.
Playing Overwatch with randos is deeply trying. It's not just that they squat determinedly on assault or sniper roles, leaving you and - if you're lucky - maybe one other willing volunteer to try and run tank and support every single match; if that was all it was, it would be bearable. It's that you get into the match and nobody seems to know how to win.
Overwatch has multiple modes and I concede that, in all the excitement, it's easy enough to misunderstand what you're supposed to be doing the first time you play. But after about level four you really ought to have begun to grok that we need to stand by the payload to make it move, or defend the area or whatever it is this time. I should not be struggling not to bite my controller in half as the entire team rushes through the same choke point even though it is still covered in turrets and traps, just like the last four times.
I am an absolute scrub and I am still comfortable calling most of the players I met on my first day absolute rubbish. I bet most of you reading this, being the sort of people to browse core-facing video game websites and therefore well versed in the esoteric arts of "achieving goals" and "following instructions", can say the same.
While the obvious solution to the rando problem problem is to play with friends who understand simple directions and are aware they haven't loaded up Call of Duty 36, or to plug in the mic and communicate well, for those of us on the introvert end of the scale matchmaking with randoms then muting everyone and everything will always be our first instinct. A game that demands everyone turn up in pre-formed teams (or voice chat with strangers) for every activity is a game doomed to failure. Random matchmaking and silent play aren't going anywhere, and all we just have to accept it.
In this first week, Overwatch's biggest problem is the frustration of being matched with players who don't yet speak its language. They don't seem to even understand the goal of each round, let alone why team composition matters and how working together as a team is essential.
Talking about this problem with Pat and Matt during the beta and earlier this week, we wondered how on earth Blizzard could possibly overcome it. Skill takes time to acquire, but basic understanding of the game concepts...? If players aren't able to grok that after a few rounds despite all the visual and audio cues - not to mention the combined screams of everyone on social media - what hope is there?
The answer is: it solves itself. Players who don't get it will stop playing, I guess, but more importantly in the meantime skill-based matchmaking gradually pushes you out of the lowest ranks and into those of people who can find their own arse without a GPS.
Within a few short matches, the points you rack out attempting to take an objective or escort a payload, or those accrued acting in a support or tank role, elevate you into a new tier of players.
This doesn't mean an MLG contract is forthcoming, unfortunately; the gap between reasonable play and the breathtakingly skilled performances we're already seeing on the eSports scene is going to be unbridgeable for most of us. While I consider it a stretch to say Overwatch has the complexity of a MOBA, it definitely rewards study, practice and groups who work together regularly. Pros are gonna pro.
But there's a very happy and very broad middle ground for those who play a little or a lot, but play well enough to have a good, satisfying experience even when they lose - as long as they're grouped together.
Blizzard has promised to re-introduce Competitive Play, Overwatch's ranked play mode, sometime next month, and that's likely to provide stricter skill-based matchmaking, which can only improve things - although you'll want to hit up an LFG group if you're serious about advancing up the ranks.
Nothing will ever be as good as playing with a communicative, focused group, but Overwatch can be fun as a solo player, even if you're mic shy. In my experience, as long as you get a handle on the concepts early on, matchmaking rapidly gets you out of that painful first experience; you'll find your groups broken up regularly as you leave them in the dust.
A few hours of play and you'll be seeing far fewer all-Reaper teams. After that, Overwatch turns into terrific fun, even with people you've never met in your life.