It's been a hectic month in competitive Overwatch. APEX, Contenders North America and Europe and the Pacific Championship have entertained viewers across the world. Meanwhile in China, 1246 secured first place in the Premier Series in a closely contested grand final.
Amidst this flurry of competition, the Overwatch community has been hard at work creating articles, interviews, podcasts and much more. Highlighted below is some of the best content from the past month.
ESPN - by Young Jae Jeon
Whilst they may have fell short in their semifinal match, Afreeca Freecs Blue surprised many this season of APEX with a flawless run through the first two stages of the tournament. Young Jae Jeon chronicles this rise to success after a disappointing performance in APEX Season 2, detailing how roster changes and a reasoned approach to the game resulted in a night and day improvement for AF.Blue.
The team's dominance this season comes after a sorely disappointing performance in the previous season, which it dropped out of after losing four out of five matches. While many problems were on full display, the obvious Achilles' heel was the support duo, and few were surprised when an open tryout to replace them was held as soon as the team was eliminated from APEX. The two recruits to result from the tryout -- Yu "Lucid" Jun-seo and Park "iDK" Ho-jin -- have performed impeccably so far, meshing perfectly alongside the other four and rejuvenating their play as well as their health bars.
Head coach Kim "TaiRong" Tae-yeong, however, is wary of crediting the roster move overmuch for the team's revival. He claims that it is actually only half of why Afreeca Freecs Blue has improved so dramatically.
"We used to suffer from the huge difference in game knowledge that existed between [Jeong "ArHaN" Won-hyup] and the other members," TaiRong said, explaining that even the players who played very well on stage last season, such as Jeong "Recry" Taek-hyun and Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu, had been lacking in this regard. "But we've significantly narrowed the gap via continuous feedback."
Ashkon Esports have continued to put out terrific content on their YouTube channel, providing a regular stream of highlight videos and interviews. Featured below is an interview with EFFECT after EnVyUs' victory against X6, providing insight into how EnVyUs were able to turn their fortunes around and qualify for the next stage of APEX. Similar videos starring Miro, Ryujehong, and Chipshajen also offer quality takes direct from the players.
InvenGlobal - by Kyeongbeom "Its" Kim, Woo Yong "Ready" Hyun
Taimou has been in the spotlight recently after openly revealing his personal struggles as a professional Overwatch player. This is touched on in this interview that also covers subjects such as EnVyUs' performance in APEX so far and Taimou's personal opinions of the current state of the game as a player. This piece is great for getting to know one of Overwatch's most polarizing figures a little better.
Q. Recently on your Twitter, you expressed how you feel about the game. Some fans were even worried that you might retire. Do you feel better now?
Short term, I feel better. I started exercising again and started eating healthy food. It will still be a long process. After the OGN season, I am going to take a long break. I am also unsure if I want to attend Contenders during season 1. For one and a half year, I had no vacation and have been playing all the time. Also with the meta; I didn’t like the triple tank meta or anything else after it. Actually, although mechanical skills were even less prevalent during the triple tank meta, I think the game was actually a lot more fun as the game was all about managing your ultimates. But right now, it’s all about supports just constantly milking their ultimates and people shouting, “Ana Ana Ana!!! Zenyatta Zenyatta! And focusing on those heroes.” It’s really boring. My favorite meta by far, was back when the game was in the beta stage, and right after release. Reinheart and Zarya were really really strong. Back then, if you make a misstep, you didn’t die instantly. You can make an outplay and pull through. However, now, you make one mistake, you immediately die. With McCree, you could’ve made many outplays in lots of situations. But now, D.Va just comes out of nowhere and right-click on your face and you can’t do anything.
Esports Heaven - by RadoN
Renowned equally for his banter and tweeting skills, alongside his proficiency on Lucio, some Overwatch fans may not be aware of winz's history in competitive gaming outside of Overwatch. RadoN's two-part interview provides a neat overview of winz's personal reflections on his career, from his earlier experiences in Unreal Tournament and Quake to his current experiences as a professional Overwatch player for Rogue.
Q. We established you’ve matured, but don’t you get at least a bit fired up from rivalries with other teams? Is it all about doing well yourself nowadays, or is there still a little bit of the younger Winz in there—getting extra satisfaction when you beat someone you have history with and looking to banter with opponents?
Of course. It’s definitely still there, probably just to a lesser extent though. You don’t completely change, but you become smarter and wiser and you express things with more tact I would say. I can’t be anything else but honest though, and will always express what I think and feel—as seen in this interview, hopefully. [smile]
It can be a source of motivation. I really wish I could have kept my old role and face the new Misfits, just to shut the mouth of one of my former teammate up. [laughs]
It’s a very unlikely scenario, though, as I switched to Lucio and Misfits aren’t good enough to pass group stage nowadays. [shrugs]
Esports Heaven - by Volamel
Chipshajen's top-tier support play for Team EnVyUs has been a consistent and highly regarded presence for what seems like forever. Volamel's feature article on the Swedish player details how Chips was also at the top of the support game in Bloodline Champions and how he transitioned from multiple esports without skipping a beat.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Chipshajen, even in a different game, still has that flair and aptitude for games—just in general. Whether it is Dota 2, Counter Strike, Bloodline Champions or Overwatch, you know exactly what you are getting when you look at the name “Chipshajen.”
Looking at how Bloodline Champions is played, just from a viewer's perspective, we can already see some similarities to Overwatch in a way. In Bloodline Champions, Chipshajen has this steel- like focus that is undeterred from all the colorful particle effects and odd fireball-like projectiles flying past his avatar. The same can be said about Overwatch as well. Chipshajen is known for being a world-class support player.
Winston's Lab - by Barroi
Overwatch is still very much in the experimental stage as an esport. Blizzard only recently introduced the use of four map matches in the group stages TakeOver 2 and Contenders, with mixed feedback from the community. Barroi presents his own argument for the format of tournament play in this article, providing statistical analysis to back the claim that best-of-five control maps introduce unwelcome randomness that undermines the map type.
To sum up what you can deduce from the pictures above: The team that is heavily favoured on one sub-map will in general be favoured by the randomizer instead of the team that is the favourite to win the two other sub-maps. What this means is that you are better off trying to be extremely good on one sub-map instead of just trying to be good on two. While all of this would result in (almost) a 50-50 match-up in Best of 3s, the more specialised team gets 2 out of 3 Bo5 scenarios where they are considered the favourite.
You might want to say that 54% does not seem like too much of a problem, but if you consider that a Bo3 would be (almost) a 50-50 you will have to admit that Bo5s are hurting the competitive integrity of the game (even, if its only by 4%).
Mind Games - Jake
Jake, who currently plays DPS for LG Evil, has continued to show us that he possesses the eloquence of a scholar in his essays hosted on 'Mind Games'. In this essay Jake presents an argument for the use of a simple win/loss skill rating system in matchmaking. The quality of the matchmaking experience will be extremely important for the competitive scene going forward, the majority of the regional Open Divisions already require a minimum SR of 3500 for players.
Incentive alignment is a goal very worth of pursuing. When all players have the same goals, the potential for toxicity is greatly diminished (though certainly not eliminated). I personally find it quite frustrating to queue into Ranked Matchmaking with the goal of winning games, only to find other players do not share the same incentives. At the very top of the Skill Rating system, one should find other players that want to win games, not those that wish to engage in roleplay. This isn’t to say that OTPs can’t be good or impactful to winning games, my argument is rather that OTPs should be judged by their wins and losses rather than by the extent to which they engage in one-tricking. The current system punishes adaptation and experimentation vastly more than it needs to.
There is only one way to guarantee that every player has the same incentive: strip away all of the hidden formulas and percentile adjustments. Only when each player has only one incentive–to win–will incentive alignment truly come about. The only thing that should impact the SR consequences of a win or a loss is the relative skill of each team. Win a hard game and you should clearly be rewarded more than for winning an easy game, vice versa for losses.
Finally, let's take a quick trip down under. Outside of his contributions to Oceanic Overwatch as a caster, BobbyJ hosts the Overwatch Weekly podcast. The podcast regularly features some of the region's most prominent players and community figures. Episode 20 of the Overwatch Weekly is particularly useful for those looking for a recap of the roster changes in the recent Oceanic shuffle, as well as insight from Full Circle caster AVRL on the Pacific Championship.