Capture the Rooster, Overwatch’s new Capture the Flag style mode for the Chinese New Year seasonal event, is kind of broken. Most of the games I play end up in one of two ways: 1) A draw, as both teams hunker down with Symmetra turrets, a Junkrat trap, a Widowmaker venom vine and a Torbjorn turret around/on the flag, resulting in both sides not being able to score; or 2) Complete annihilation by one side as their Tracer/Sombra/Winston uses their ability to zip/teleport/leap in, capture the flag and then zip/teleport/leap all the way back to their base to score. It’s frustrating as hell. But that – and so much more – may be all about to change… if you want it to.
In a new Developer Update video, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan details some of the new changes they are making to the Public Test Realm that will allow players to create Custom Games like never before. Now you will have the ability to tweak everything from win conditions to hero selection and hero abilities. So if you want, you can play a Capture the Rooster game where capturing the flag is instantaneous rather than a delayed effort, but you can make it so that if any hero uses a movement ability – like Sombra’s teleport – while carrying the flag, it will be instantly dropped. Or maybe you don’t want Tracers in your game at all? Well, you can do that now.
And this is not just restricted to Capture the Rooster. Any game mode the game has can now be tweaked and prodded until you have a Custom Game that matches exactly what you wanted. This can be as granular a setting as changing Pharah’s rocket speed so that it’s practically a hit scan, or – as in one cool example Kaplan mentioned – dropping the cooldown on Widowmaker’s grapple right down so that she can “Spider-Man” her way through a level. He even suggested creating a custom “Boss Mode”, where one team consists of normal heroes, but the other team is only made up of one Roadhog who now possesses an exponentially larger health pool and lower cooldowns.
Basically anything you want to do, you can now do it. But how do you find these awesome new Custom Games that other people have created? Well, that’s where the new Overwatch server browser comes in. In the last few years, most online games have defaulted to server-side matchmaking to automatically pair players up with teammates or opponents of similar skill or ranking. Besides for the people you invite into a game, you have no control over who you’re playing with/against.
But as Kaplan points out, old school gamers like myself grew up on multiplayer shooters having server browsers – a list of public custom games in your region that you can sort by mode, maps or custom game details exactly like what the new update will allow – that allowed for more choice in the game you wanted to play. So if you only want to do payload matches on Dorado using just Mercy but only with players from Africa, you can now either filter using the in-browser settings, or use a new text input box to enter those keywords and the server browser will find matches for you that meet up with your criteria.
This new server browser feature grew out of all the custom game options they were introducing, as Kaplan explains:
“We recognize that the majority of our players like to play the game through Quick Play and Competitive. And then a lot of our players engage with the Arcade as well, and the different modes that are running in the Arcade. But there are a lot of times where players want to try different things, and play the game in different ways, and it’s not really viable for us to put up a matchmaking system where we can feed everybody into everybody’s different possible custom game.
So for that reason we need to give you a reason to look at the different custom games that are out there and decide for yourself, ‘Do I want to partake in it or not?'”
On top of all these new changes to Custom Games and the addition of a server browser, Kaplan has also now confirmed that the Capture the Rooster game mode will, in fact, become a permanent fixture in the Arcade, even after the Chinese New Year seasonal event has ended. On top of three existing maps used for Capture the Rooster, they will be adding nine additional maps, which are conversions of existing Control Point maps, into the Capture the Rooster rotation.
And the Overwatch team will be closely watching how players use these new custom game mode options to play Capture the Rooster as well as all the other modes. If they notice a trend in Capture the Rooster always being played by a lot of players with a certain setting on or off, they will start to look if that same setup can rather be introduced as the default mode for everybody.
It’s all rather interesting stuff, and could make for one of the best channels of explaining to Kaplan and the rest of the Overwatch development team exactly what we as players would like to see in a particular game mode. My only concern is that Kaplan does explain that players will now also be able to gain XP and earning loot boxes from these custom games. While I think it’s cool that all the work you put into a these games won’t just be for nothing, it does unfortunately open the door for players creating custom games purely for the intention of artificially bumping their stats. However, at this point my trust in Kaplan and co is sky-high so I’m certain they’ve thought about these ramifications.
These changes are now live in the Overwatch PTR but will probably be tweaked as feedback is received.
PS. Am I the only one that wants Jeff Kaplan’s Overwatch jacket so damn bad?