Everyone has been playing Blizzard’s latest title, Overwatch, but it seems there’s a bit of confusion as to how the hit detection system works. Throughout many of the games I’ve played, I’ve seen gamers ask how was a certain shot was possible because they were hit while behind something that would obscure them from line of sight. Valid questions indeed, and it seems that there needs to be an explanation on how this works and why people are still getting hit when they think they are safe. Puzzled? Well, let us break it down for you and fill you in on what is happening.
Overwatch employs what is called “client-side hit detection”, which is mainly used for first person shooters. What happens here is if you line up a shot and pull the trigger, unless your aim was off, then you will have hit your target regardless of their movement. This type of hit detection is one that favors you and helps avoid issues such as tick rate, latency and minimizes those issues. This is also what allows gamers from all over the world to have an equal footing in the game, despite their ping.
This was one of Blizzard’s main goals and beliefs while designing and coding the netcode for Overwatch.
Another reason why Blizzard may have chosen this style of hit detection is due to the lack of overhead it requires. With server-side hit detection, all the work is done by the server, which also means that they need a pretty beefy server and more of them. It’s also a pretty safe bet to assume that Blizzard is using some sort of Cloud-based product that they can use to quickly spin up new Overwatch servers as their demand increases. This costs a large amount of money. Thus we have client-side hit detection, which has all of the calculations take place on your computer as opposed to the server. This means the server does less work, and Blizzard can just keep deploying new servers with less beefy specs and provide more of them as needed.
There is the little issue of this system also being more susceptible to hacks, which is why most shooters tend to have more aimbot hacks. This would also be why Blizzard had made the statement that they are really serious about cheaters and how they’ll handle them. Sure, the end result is that you’ll also die more often since dodging and getting out of harms way is a bit harder to do with client-side hit detection. That said, it is considered the great equalizer and I feel that what Blizzard has done is justified. This explains why you were able to snip that Tracer, despite the player thinking they got out of the way on time. The main advantage of the system: more of your shots will land on the target unless you’re a really bad aim.
So the next time you wonder how you got hit, despite getting the heck out of the way, now you know.