Blizzard kicked off their latest Overwatch event last week, celebrating a year since the release of their critically acclaimed, best-selling multiplayer shooter. The Overwatch Anniversary event brought with it great new maps, fantastic new game modes, well-executed tweaks to existing modes and a whole lot of loot. An impressive showing all around really. Well, except if you’re a Reinhardt player.
In my regular Overwatch group we have a guy who is pretty much a Reinhardt specialist. He’s put more hours into playing just that one character than most people I know have put into playing the entire game, and from the moment the Anniversary update went live last week he’s been complaining that something is broken with his favourite hammer-swinging, David Hasselhoff-loving knight.
He wasn’t the only one though, as over the last few days places like the Blizzard forums and Reddit have lit up with complaints from players that all of a sudden it’s become more difficult to kill people with Reinhardt. The root cause of this quickly became apparent: In the past when Reinhardt would swing his hammer against an opponent right in front of him, the hit would register as the hammer was in the centre of the screen. Now, however, the hit was only registering when Reinhardt had complete the entire swing animation and the hammer was basically off-screen already. It’s a difference of half a second or so, but in a competitive shooter where characters like Tracer can blink away in a heartbeat or Genji can dash away at the drop of a dime, that fraction of a second stood between getting a kill and swinging at air.
And it wasn’t just Reinhardt’s hammer swing that was affected though. Further investigation revealed that his charge and flame strike also showed a slight delay between the moves being executed and them actually hitting. The video below from Force Gaming does a fantastic break down of the actual problem.
As you can see in the video, this “bug” appears to be affecting people playing with a high ping above 100ms or so, i.e. us and the rest of the folks not blessed with local Overwatch servers in their country. While no official explanation has been given, what appears to have happened is that Reinhardt’s attacks are now using server-side hit detection.
In a nutshell, previously you would press the button on your controller and Reinhardt would instantly swing and hit the enemy. On the enemy’s screen that attack might have happened a split second later due to lag between your connections, but on your side everything would happen as it should. With server-side hit detection, when you press the button the command goes to the server which then has to first confirm the attack would hit and then send that confirmation back to the client. It’s that delay between button press and confirmation that is causing this problem.
Slightly off topic, but the most recent big seasonal update for Battlefield 1 saw server-side hit detection be introduced there as well, and it has made the game almost unplayable on international servers for us locals. You would empty an entire clip from your gun on enemies with almost no hits registering. We at least have local Battlefield 1 servers to jump into where we don’t feel this delay, but the local servers don’t boast all the game modes and there aren’t as many players which has made for a very frustrating experience.
With Overwatch this change seems to luckily only be relegated to Reinhardt though, and it appears to have happened completely accidentally (hence no mention of changes in the Anniversary update patch notes). Overwatch lead engineer Bill Warnecke has jumped into one of the many threads on the Blizzard forums and responded to complaints from Reinhardt players by saying “Thanks for the report. I don’t believe we intended to change Reinhardt’s hammer. We will dig into this.”
Blizzard have always been very good at testing updates in their Public Test Realm (PTR) servers so that issues like these don’t make it into the final game. However, in those rare cases where something slipped through, they usually fix them very quickly. Let’s hope the same will happen here.
Last Updated: May 29, 2017