Overwatch’s Support Problem - Designing Support Roles in Games

Overwatch

We need a healer. I choose Zarya to help absorb damage and protect our weaker players with her barriers. As the only tank hero, I at least hope for some reliable healing. The last two players sit in the character selection screen with clear roles we need filled. Neither pick a healer. One picks Genji and the other pick Solider. I don’t blame them. Healing is boring.

Now the team starts pointing fingers, stating our need for healing before the round clock expires. No one wants to switch and so we lose. Without a balanced team, we stand no chance. The lack of support players continues into the next match because no one wants to fill the role. People play shooters to out-gun opponents, not to help someone else to out-gun the opponent.

These support roles or characters in games handicap players in one-sided fights. No player wants to die, let alone lose a fight favouring the stronger character. Character selection then becomes a game of chicken, where each player waits for someone else to switch. The switching player favours winning over fun, so they, out of necessity, sacrifice fun for the sake of the team. Games shouldn’t force players to play a certain way or sacrifice enjoyment – games don’t need healers.



Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 – The Chore of Dedicated Healers

Mercy in Overwatch and the Medic in Team Fortress 2 play significant, yet boring roles. Mercy’s poor damage output, low health and team reliance brands her as a clear target for the enemy. She depends on teammates for defence, yet her teammates depend on her to stay alive. In Team Fortress 2, the Medic faces a similar problem but to a larger degree.

Quest Design – Expanding on the Fetch Quest Structure

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

“All quests are fetch quests,” my friend said in response to my complaints about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Even within the context of a post-apocalyptic world, Zelda’s NPCs always want something. People need a monster killed or a specific item gathered in exchange for a mystery item. I never gathered bundles of wood or collected fireflies for fun, I helped for the reward. We endure a lot of these trivial activities to enhance our effectiveness for later events. Without the reward, fetch quests feel like chores.

Quest design differs when developers mask the “fetch” aspect of a request. If stripped down the structure, most quests use the ABA formula: start a point A, move to point B, then return to point A. But to label all quests as “fetch quests” misses the larger point, which is the commonality in quest structure. Quests use the same structure of a fetch quest, but smart design branches from the initial goal.

 

Some quests don’t try to hide their “fetch” design

Quests in Breath of the Wild avoid any structural deviation and stay on its initial objective. One side quest revolves around Hudson, a construction worker. He builds Tarrey Town from the ground up, asking you to collect bundles of wood and search for new tenants with names ending in -son. When Hudson needs a shopkeeper, you search for someone who wants to open a store. When you recruit a new Tarrey Town citizen, Hudson then asks for wood bundles. The process repeats until he finishes the town construction.

PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio not Upgrading Consoles as Expected [UPDATE]

[UPDATE: 2017-03-20] PS4 Pro adds "Boost Mode" for older PS4 games

The PlayStation 4 Pro launched with clear benefits for people who owned 4K HDR televisions. For those without a 4K HDR TV, some games still performed better because of Pro developer patches. While titles like Titanfall 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided performed better with Pro patches, the hardware didn’t improve all games. Patch 4.50 for the PS4 Pro adds a “Boost Mode,” which aims to improve performance for all games in the PS4 library.

The Pro’s small hardware upgrade also means a small upgrade in performance. While we won’t see games jump from 30 frames per second (FPS) to 60FPS, we will see steadier, smoother games. Although the Boost Mode tries to take advantage of the CPU and GPU, the PlayStation Blog does not guarantee improvement. Not all titles will work with the Boost Mode.

Review: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - New Sequel, Same Issues

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII revolves around time. With the end of the world approaching, Lightning – the Saviour and servant of God – must save as many souls as possible. In 13 days when the time expires and the old-world ends, a new-world is reborn for the souls. The game encourages time management, yet it often wastes yours. Lightning Returns surrounds a creative battle system with fetch quests and overwritten conversations, which slow an already time restrictive structure. 

Top 5 Games of 2016

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Each year I play an unhealthy amount of familiar and different games. By now, I know what another Battlefield or Gears of War offers, so I avoid them. I acknowledge their quality, but I find more enjoyment from weirder, new games. I don’t hate shooters; it means one game fills the void for the duration of year. Until something knocks Halo 5: Guardians out of my Xbox, I bounce off other multiplayer shooters.

The exploration of new genres leads to unknown, uncomfortable experiences. Experimentation led me to games like Deus Ex and Mirror’s Edge, so finding their sequels on my 2016 list makes sense. My top five of 2016 lists some well known games in an unorthodox order.

2016 brought us Overwatch, Watch_Dogs 2 and other awesome games throughout the year, but you won’t find those games on my list. You’ll find what I played and loved, and games that left me disappointed.

 

Five Favourite Games from 2016

5. Inside

Insidewon’t challenge or confuse you with its puzzles, but it leaves you thinking at the end of it all. Inside’s short journey from, well, the inside, pushes you to escape from the pit of a prisonlike complex. Without any dialogue or direction, the platformer’s familiarity of “move right” provides all the information needed.

Inside

The manipulation of walking, jumping and grabbing brings the depth to exploring the dystopic world. While Inside expands on simple ideas, your character limitations stay the same. As a little boy, dogs hurt, bullets kill and falls paralyze. The controllable character stays vulnerable despite the surrounding conditions worsening closer to the outside. Inside aims for a minimalistic platformer with a predefined ruleset, yet it surprises with every new area until the very end.

 

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