Overwatch got a much needed boost with the introduction of role queuing, but as the months have rolled on there's a problem. If you're Australian, the game is slowly becoming completely unplayable.
It's an issue Blizzard saw coming. "If you say you're DPS, it takes like 30 minutes. I don't think that's what people are expecting right now," game director Jeff Kaplan told Kotaku last year, before the current role queuing system was enabled. "I don't think that's what people are expecting right now."
Mostly, the system works. But in smaller regions, particularly countries like Australia, the queue times are quickly becoming brutal. It's not so bad if you're a tank - queue times are generally two or three minutes max - but if you've got a full stack of six players, or even three or four spread across multiple roles, it's not uncommon to cop a 10 minute wait.
The queue times are approaching Metro Trains' definition of "on time", but what's really ruining the experience is what happens when you get connected. Increasingly over the last week, players have been redirected to Asian or even American servers, both in quick play and competitive modes, without warning. Prominent Australian Overwatch players, like former ORDER support main Jarrod "Frogger" Meredith," have been running into the issue, but American players have been getting matched onto Australian servers as well.
i really wish i could play overwatch on normal ping
its so shit playing 150 ping every game and i feel like i have so much more potential if i had good ping
— Frogger ???? (@FroggerOW) December 9, 2019
Overwatch is so dead im getting into south american server... 160 ping is FUN pic.twitter.com/69isbgXv1g
— Free Thinker Matt (@PuzzlingOW) December 7, 2019
If it makes you feel any better nobody in overwatch is having fun either because we all keep getting put on 300 ping servers pic.twitter.com/VHMsZ3HYAQ
— Star K (@Star_Koce) December 6, 2019
Lag is never something anyone wants to play with, especially when Blizzard has plenty of servers in Australia to play one. It makes some characters, particularly hitscan or snipers, much harder to play, if not completely unplayable. It's an especially rough experience if you've waited an aeon with friends to get into the game in the first place, only to find yourself immediately at a disadvantage.
It all highlights why the rework to Overwatch's skirmish mode is so essential. From today, players will be able to play deathmatch, hit up the practice range, or custom games while queuing. The update will include the long awaited nerfs to shields, tweaks designed to lower "the overall amount time players spend damaging barriers".
But the tweaks are really only papering over the bigger problem: players are waiting way, way longer than they should. And it's not a problem that can be solved with things to fiddle with in between matches, like a training range. It's a problem caused by a lack of players, and a lack of flexibility in bringing those players together.
Systems like role locking make sense globally, but small regions like Australia are disproportionately hurt by the change. It creates a vicious cycle as well: if more players aren't brought into the fold, and queue times don't improve, eventually players will tire of the experience. Overwatch's biggest hook is giving you a competitive shooter in short, bite-sized chunks that fit into your life. The more those chunks grow with queue times and unsatisfactory experiences, the quicker people will leave.