Overwatch Cut Early Progression Systems Because They Were ‘Total Failures’

Overwatch Cut Early Progression Systems Because They Were ‘Total Failures’

The Overwatch beta might be shutting down for the holidays, but in the latest developer update game director Jeff Kaplan revealed some of the lessons the team has learned — and why traditional progression systems haven’t worked so far.

The Overwatch beta is going down and won’t be playable until January next year. That’s a lengthy break, and a lot of fans have been lobbying Blizzard to add more reward and progression systems to the game in the downtime.

In the latest developer update, however, game director Jeff Kaplan revealed that traditional progression and reward systems have been nothing short of a total failure in Overwatch. Not only did they result in people deliberately playing sub-optimal heroes and compromising their team’s success — because they were on the verge of levelling up — but early builds of the game featuring progression systems (like loadouts) proved to be highly confusing for players.

Kaplan also touches on an interesting point about the maximum amount of knowledge a player has to have going into the game. It echoes a question I put to Kaplan and Geoff Goodman earlier this year when they admitted that they didn’t have a solution for stopping or dealing with hero/ability creep, for lack of a better term.

The solution seems to be to focus on cosmetic rewards, including the sprays that the internet was able to datamine from the beta builds of Overwatch. Blizzard will introduce a new progression model when the Overwatch beta returns, but Kaplan said it won’t be built around focusing on a single character.

“Your motivation for playing Overwatch should be that it’s a fun multiplayer shooter,” the director said. “We’re going to use the time between now and the end of January to explore a bunch of stuff internally again, because we’ll learn a lot very quickly trying ideas out in the game, seeing how they come to fruition, and if we feel really good about them we’ll bring the beta back up and introduce the system to you guys.”

It’s interesting that despite initially targeting mid-January, Kaplan specifically referenced the end of January. He also mentioned that the beta could be delayed to February if they didn’t feel good about the progression system, but for now late January seems a much more likely return for Blizzard’s inaugural FPS than the middle of the month.


  • Progression in multi-player only systems is a fool’s errand anyway.

    Sure, let’s take the most experienced and skilled players who would have an advantage over newer players on an equal footing, and give them a bunch of unlocks for even MORE advantage, thus making the game hostile if not impenetrable to newcomers, sealing its fate as having to cater to a gradually-shrinking crowd of devotees who got in on the ground floor.

    Terrible, terrible, terrible idea.

    • But you can always equalise the playing field again by selling level/unlock boosters for real money. That way everyone wins.

  • Honestly the best thing they could have decided. Those people arguing for progression systems have clearly no idea what they’re asking for.

  • Bit disappointing that they have a “lets spend heaps of time throwing shit at a wall and seeing what sticks” approach to game design, rather than sticking to the design that they had.

    Why progress a character when you’ve got so many characters to choose from already, if you like the gorilla better than the walking tin can, just pick the gorilla in your next game..

    How about instead of progressing a character to reward time spent in game, you do stuff like:
    add a minimap (or more information in the minimap, I haven’t played the beta, so don’t know whats there)
    visible footprints
    longer range to hear sound from

    basically make the UI better, not the character.

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