A Look at Last Weeks Action
Last week saw the first few games of the newly created Overwatch League. Overwatch League (OWL) is the new competitive geo-located league for the game Overwatch. Currently there are 12 teams representing ten cities and Florida. The regular season will start on January 10th but there’s a lot about the league we’ve already learned from the preseason. We’ve broken down some of the key takeaways for you to chew on while we countdown the days to January.
The Stage and Arena
For the inaugural season all of the games will take place in the new Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles. The new stage is impressive in size, style, and function. In fact, the entire Blizzard Arena is a wondrous spectacle. Featuring a tunnel from which the players can emerge, a large stage, and plenty of seating for cheering fans. On stage the players sit as teams behind two long desks. Computers and cameras cover the desks allowing for exciting shots of the players as they snipe, fly, and push the payload. The most impressive part of the stage, however, is that the entire thing is covered in screens. The desks and the entire wall behind them are massive screens that can be changed at any time. The screens changed seamlessly throughout the matches. Starting with the team names and colors at the beginning, then switching to shots of the map that made it seem as though you could walk into Dorado or Eichenwalde. Finally, when one team did win the entire stage could proclaim their victory. It’s truly impressive.
The plan is for future seasons of the OWL to take place at home venues for each of the teams. If these arenas look anything like this one, we’re in for a treat.
The Teams are all well Matched
We mentioned previously that the community has been busy trying to gauge the different teams against each other. Preseason rankings appeared for the teams based on everything from the performance of players and teams elsewhere to how good the logos looked. While the lesson from conventional sports leagues is not to judge a team by performance in the preseason, the performances across the league are telling. Upsets abound across all four days of play. Indeed, it seems that the teams that were expected to outpace the rest, the London Spitfire and the Seoul Dynasty, aren’t as far ahead of the pack. Conversely, those predicted to be at the bottom, The San Francisco Shock and the Boston Uprising, performed better than expected.
Again, it’s a mistake to try to make any concrete rankings before the regular season but the teams do seem to be closer to each other than expected. This is a good thing. A healthy league is on in which every match is a competition, rather than only a few. Too large a gap in skill of teams could lead to matches that are no fun to watch.
The Broadcasts have Improved
Spectating in Overwatch has come a long way. The most obvious change has been in the team skins. These skins have been teased since the team name announcements back in November. It was last week in the preseason that we finally got to see them in action. The skins all look great, feature details like the team name on the weapons, and most importantly, are distinctive. At no time did I have any trouble telling which teams was which during the game. At the same time, these uniforms are far more aesthetically pleasing then the red and blue skins seen in other Overwatch events.
Even from the first day to the second there’s noticeable improvement in the broadcasts. The most obvious being the the breaks between matches. These breaks started as a countdown on day one, but by day two had become a highlight reel of exciting replays from the previous match. Using the time to show exciting plays that the main camera didn’t catch is a great use of the broadcast time while the next game gets set.
There’s a combination of little improvements and the production team gaming experience in broadcasting the matches that’s leading to great thiangs. From what we’ve seen so far it looks like the team behind the broadcast is talented, and constantly improving. Both of these bode well for the first season of the OWL.
The Overwatch League starts it’s inaugural season on January 10th. If you haven’t seen the preseason matches make sure you get over to the official site and do so. The OuterHaven will be following the league as the action unfolds so keep it here for more information and insights.