compLexity at DreamHack Winter

Photo via compLexity Gaming

"Competitive integrity" is a major buzzword, and one that I hate falling back on because it is frequently misused. Yet, I think it's the most appropriate phrasing in this issue because I feel that Blizzard's lack of a tournament client is hurting the "competitive integrity" of numerous tournaments.

If we're being honest, this is not an issue that bears much meaning to Blizzard in the short term. They don't truly need a tournament client until the Overwatch League is around; as many have aptly described the situation, any events before the Overwatch League fall under the blanket of "preseason."

Tournament clients are standard fare in almost all esport games, yet Overwatch is suspiciously lacking when it comes to many of the features they bring. For one, an issue that many events have already faced is mid-tournament patching. The dev team's persistence in patching on Tuesdays is not a problem in the slightest—consistency is good for the community when it comes to releasing features. However, consider how the first season of APEX played out.

Team EnVyUs demonstrated a somewhat high level during the group stage of APEX, but by no means were they the tournament favorite. Of course, a patch that buffed D.Va was deployed right before the playoffs of APEX, wildly shifting the metagame towards a more tank-heavy playstyle that dominated until mid-January. While they previously seemed to be tournament favorites, Rogue and Lunatic-Hai were promptly knocked out of the quarterfinals in upsets due to a clear inability to adapt to the metagame.

I already know that many will brush this perceived flaw off under the notion that "the best teams will adapt." However, the problem here is that teams qualified for playoffs under previous circumstances on merit. How do we know that the eight teams that qualified for the playoffs would deliver the best competition out of all the teams in the tournament? We have no basis to judge strengths on a future patch, especially when past patches can mean so little.

Allowing for a tournament client that keeps a patch consistent throughout an entire event would benefit the scene immensely, in that it would ensure teams are competing at their highest level and that past results in the tournament bear any sort of meaning in later stages. The dev team can continue patching the game whenever they see fit, but it shouldn't constantly be a detriment to professional players.

An additional issue with the lack of a tournament client is the lack of LAN support in Overwatch. Unfortunately, "offline" events in Overwatch have mostly been misnomers; tournaments such as MLG and DreamHack have simply been glorified online events. Players reported pings in the upper 30s at MLG alone—a tournament with a $100,000 prize pool, no less. When the entire purpose of a LAN is to showcase top level play with the least variability, double-digit ping is just an added asterisk. I won't go as far as to say that the ping affected the outcome of any games, especially when these teams perform online so often in scrims, but in a game as twitchy as Overwatch, low ping is simply a necessity.

Finally, the last problem isn't tournament-specific, but it certainly is most relevant in tournament matches: Overwatch needs a "resume from replay" feature. We've already seen hours wasted due to random glitches that have not yet been addressed. compLexity, for better or worse, has been prone to these types of issues more than any other team, but crashes have often occurred in matches involving other teams and non-Hollywood maps. Replaying maps up to seven times (see compLexity vs Ninjas in Pyjamas at DreamHack Winter) is both unviable and embarrassing, and this is a feature that would resolve the issue in far less time.

When all these features are standard fare in other titles, issues such as crashes, high ping, and inconsistent patching are honestly a bit embarrassing when they're highlighted in Overwatch. I have no doubt that Blizzard will address them by the time we reach the Overwatch League, but they should be ironed out before that period given the current day and age. This developmental period within Overwatch's life is important when it comes to making impressions, and a proper tournament client is a necessity when it comes to ensuring this game can be as competitive as possible.