If you’ve been active on any Overwatch message boards like I have, chances are you have read the words “power creep” more than once. A majority of these discussions never receive a developer response. In a rare show, Overwatch developer Josh Noh responded to a post titled “Please Nerf Power Creep instead of Nerfing Defense/Support.”
What is Power Creep in Overwatch?
Let’s rewind a bit, and ask a question. What is power creep and why do people say it exists in Overwatch? What primarily leads to power creep are post-release updates for a game. Specifically, updates that attempt to balance or change the game by buffing certain heroes, weapons, or mechanics. However, power creep is not that simple. In games with abilities such as League of Legends or Overwatch, power creep can also be introduced through new abilities.
Let’s look at a direct example: Baptiste. A new hero released last spring, he is a healer with grenades, and an ability called Immortality Field. When placed on the ground, this field protects anyone inside from dying until it is destroyed. I love playing Junkrat, and many of my Riptires have been thwarted by a Baptiste using this ability. When playing the Rat, I need to make sure that the “lamp” is destroyed before deploying my ultimate. As you can see, Baptiste is a new additional that very actively counters an existing Overwatch variable.
Other Sources of Power Creep
Another source of power creep is the increased healing done by newer heroes. At launch, the only hero who could heal multiple targets at once was Lucio, who currently heals 16 HPS (health-per-second) to everyone within range. This remained the same until the release of Moira, whose healing spray could hit multiple allies at a rate of 65 HPS.
More obvious examples used in favor of the Overwatch power creep argument are direct buffs to damage heroes. McCree’s fire-rate for his Peacekeeper revolver since release had a recovery time of 0.5 seconds per shot. McCree’s recovery time was buffed to 0.42 seconds, increasing damage dealt over time. Reaper’s lifesteal has been increased since launch to 40% of the damage he deals. Our favorite (or despised) ice-queen Mei has received an often complained about buff in the form of group freezing. Instead of her endothermic-blaster freezing a single opponent, it can freeze multiple targets at once.
Many of these examples have led to a feeling that older heroes such as Genji and Soldier 76 – who don’t get such buffs – are weak and outdated. In my experience playing these heroes, it really does feel that way. In scrim environments, my friends and I can force these heroes and still win. However. playing these heroes in a ranked competitive game rarely receives encouragement from teammates. This feeling appears prominently shared in many internet discussions of Overwatch.
What do the developers think?
Back to Josh Noh and his comments! He stated that he and his team don’t feel they are “currently anywhere close to (dangerous power creep) with the live game,” citing the high winrates of Genji and Soldier 76 in Grandmaster. The community disagreed with this, feeling strongly that heroes such as Soldier and Genji are weaker than a waterlogged saltine.
All your Overwatch pain in 1 video
the #6 DPS is in a great spot and is a very fun and rewarding character compared to the other very HIGH SKILL HEROES IN THE GAME! 🙂 pic.twitter.com/0j8QPaCWTh
— Sammy D (@SamitoFPS) January 10, 2020
I had a few issues with his initial comment. For one, he was basing it off of the hero winrates in Grandmaster. I want to point out that players don’t have the statistics developers have. Overbuff is a commonly used public stats site, however we can only see players with public profiles who have logged into the website. That being the case, limiting the winrate to Grandmaster players will initially skew the data. Grandmasters need to maintain a high winrate to remain in that rank.
The other issue I have is isolating winrate as a condition. Based on what I see on Overbuff, both Genji and Soldier have high winrates. Looking at Overbuff, these heroes are only picked in a small percentage of games. Players using these heroes could fall into at least one of these categories. They could be extremely proficient at these heroes, enough to maintain a high winrate. Or, what I personally believe, is that they play these heroes when winning is easily obtainable. I can start a game on Genji, switch if it isn’t working, and maintain a statistically high winrate.
Initial response does not equal inaction
Josh Noh’s initial comment was received poorly, but there were more comments later in the day. He recognized that there was an issue using winrate as the only statistic. He also stated that they “don’t balance solely off of stats anyway.” I believe this is a reasonable response to the feedback given to the developer’s comment. I also believe transparency is crucial in game development. Josh Noh has done us a service by giving us an insight into their jobs.
It appears that the community is being heard behind the scenes. The latest PTR update includes nerfs for Baptiste’s Immortality Field and Mei’s Endothermic Blaster, among others.