During the OGN APEX Season 3 finals one of Overwatch’s long-running bugbears reared its ugly head and stepped back into the limelight. In this clip of the second Lijiang Tower tiebreaker game, ryujehong successfully lands his Sleep Dart on Rascal’s Genji who was casting Dragonblade. However, Dragonblade was not yet fully cast, allowing Rascal to retain his ultimate charge which his later used to win the fight as tobi had already committed his Sound Barrier before Rascal hit the snooze button.

This play drew the attention of many, including MonteCristo who sent out the following Tweet:

Should ryujehong have been more disciplined by not using Sleep Dart early, or was this simply a fault of the game’s design?

Before getting into that, let’s take a quick trip back in time. In the Sep 1, 2016 patch, it stated that “Ultimates that consume the ultimate meter when activated will now drain the meter more quickly (.25 second instead of 1 second)”. The topic of slow ultimate draining has been raised a couple of times since the release of the game. This change was probably made to address that. While this somewhat mitigated the issue of many heroes retaining their ultimate charge from dying shortly after using their ultimates, it still left two major issues unsolved. Should the ultimate meter drain instantly rather than over 0.25 second? Should the ultimate meter drain once the ultimate is used rather than when the ultimate is fully cast?

Addressing the first one is much more straightforward. Yes, ultimates should drain immediately instead of over 0.25 second. Throwable ultimates such as Graviton Surge are instantly drained once used. Disrupting other ultimates such as Rocket Barrage within that 0.25s window introduces a completely unknown factor of how much ultimate is retained. This is akin to throwing in a random chance into the game, and is one that might have a huge impact on how the game would flow from that point on as it involves an ultimate with an unknown charge. No one can reliably estimate the ultimate charge conserved. Retaining ultimate charge after using it is nothing short of luck, and this is an unnecessary factor that should be removed from the game regardless of how rare the occurrence is. There is no need to have a distinction between typical ultimates and those that already drain instantly. Making this change would improve consistency in game play, and remove an unwanted luck factor.

The question of whether draining the ultimate should begin during the casting animation of after it is a less straightforward one. Should the vulnerability of casting ultimates be a factor for ultimate drain? For example, casting Dragonblade disables all of Genji’s ability and leaves him only with basic movements and his passive abilities. This leaves him much more vulnerable to attacks, and shutting down a Genji casting his ultimate is considerably easier than usual as one does not have to worry about Deflect and Swift Strike, nor need to dodge his Shurikens. Another slow casting ultimate is Bastion’s Configuration: Tank, which also leaves it fully exposed during transformation. Draining ultimates immediately during casting incorporates the long cast times as a disadvantage for some ultimates. Effectively, it’s somewhat of a nerf to slow casting ultimates while having a smaller impact of faster casting ones.

If all ultimates immediately drain on the button press, it changes the dynamics as to how ultimates are used and adds an additional layer of risk. Taking Reinhardt for example, if both Reinhardts use Earthshatter at about the same time, the one who lands it successfully gains an ever bigger advantage than before, assuming that the earlier Earthshatter stuns and prevents the second one from being used, effectively denying one and draining both ultimates. Using a Reinhardt Earthshatter to stop a Reaper Death Blossom becomes much riskier as failure to stun the Reaper before dying will rob Reinhardt of his wasted ultimate. Whereas if you were to do that in the current game, you wouldn’t be punished if you were to die while dropping Earthshatter. Casting Genji’s Dragonblade will probably take a more conservative approach and heavily discourage the aggressive casting style utilized occasionally. Perhaps we’ll see more Zarya barriers in play for riskier ultimates with such a change.

While most of us can agree that ultimates should drain immediately after pressing ‘Q’, I think there may be room for exceptions. For the basis of this argument, Sound Barrier will be used as the main example as it is also has a relatively slow casting animation and is prone to being shut down. However, the most important part of Sound Barrier is that it’s primarily a defensive ultimate. Sound Barrier can be used offensively, and even some teams favour using it in that manner, but generally it is only interrupted when used defensively. In a Graviton Surge + Pulse Bomb combo, a timely Sound Barrier may be used to significantly mitigate the damage. However, timing the Sound Barrier is tricky to say the least, especially when latency is factored in for online play. The error of margin for using Sound Barrier in such a manner is very small. If the ultimate drains during the cast, Sound Barrier is heavily disincentivised to be used against such a combo. Lucio would also need to be much more conservative with his positioning against a Genji’s Dragonblade and other strong offensive ultimates. Zenyatta on the other hand, with a similar defensive ultimate, can afford to position more aggressively when he has his ultimate. This change would make Lucio’s ultimate a less desirable defensive ultimate. That isn’t to say that Lucio should necessarily retain full ultimate charge when shutdown during casting though. A Dragonblading Genji and what not should be rewarded for swiftly denying a Sound Barrier. Perhaps Lucio can be given the old McCree treatment for his ultimate where only 50% is consumed during casting and the remaining drained when activated. If they want to keep the strengths of such ultimates relatively the same before pushing the change globally, they could also try other tweaks such as decreasing casting duration. These are just some plausible methods, but I think there should be some consideration made for defensive ultimates, especially if they have a long cast time.

Yes, all ultimates should drain instantly instead of over 0.25s. It is much more intuitive and removes an unnecessary random variable in the game. Most ultimates should be changed to drain the charge once used rather than after the casting animation. This would increase the risk factor of several ultimates, but also make the game feel fairer and less punishing when you do shutdown an ultimate quickly. However, some consideration should be made for defensive ultimates, mainly Sound Barrier as other related ultimates are not affected by shutdowns; changing how they work (including future defensive ultimates) will affect the heroes’ play patterns and could lead to awkward dilemmas on whether to use the ultimate or not. Ultimately, these changes are welcomed, and many people would rather see these changes pushed into the game. If some ultimates are then deemed to be undesirable, they can then be further tweaked on a case-by-case basis.

So, should ryujehong have been punished for his “trigger happy” Sleep Dart? It seems like an awkward game design where you do get punished for shutting down an easier to hit but prime target. This has been a topic raised multiple times ever since the release of the game, and these are just my thoughts on the matter; I would like to hear your comments as well.