Photo: Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment
With COVID-19 forcing many of us into quarantine, lots of people are scouring the internet looking for entertainment. Sports fans have really been left out in the lurch with the NHL, MLB, NBA, Golf, MLS, and NASCAR all on hiatus during the lockdown. In the absence of traditional sports, many people are finding esports for the first time. To help welcome the uninitiated, we’ll be running a series of primers to get you ready to watch. This time we’re diving into the esports scene for Overwatch League.
Overwatch is developed by Activision Blizzard and is one of the fastest-growing esports in the world. They were the first esport to build their league using a geo-located franchise model like traditional sports. Based on how the game plays and similarity in the flow and tempo of the game, if you like basketball if you may some enjoyment in esports and specifically the Overwatch League.
How is the game played?
Overwatch is a six verse six first-person shooter team game. Each player controls a hero, a character with unique abilities that allow them to do anything from the teleport, to heal or freeze opponents in their tracks. Unlike most other first-person shooter games, the main objective isn’t just to get kills on the other teams. It’s even possible that a team with more kills could lose if they’re not working toward their objective.
So what is the objective? That would depend on the map type. Every map has a specific objective that the attacking team much meet within a certain amount of time. Of course, it’s up to the defending team to stop them. Once the objective has been completed, or not, the defending team then has a chance to either complete it or do so in a faster time. Whoever has the better time wins the map. In the Overwatch League teams play first to three in a map series.
What are the map types?
Overwatch League can seem very complicated, more esports do. Here is a quick breakdown of the basic objective map types in Overwatch. There are four map types in Overwatch that determine what the objective is. They are Escort, Assault, Hybrid, and Control.
Escort maps consist of escorting a payload from the start of the map through two checkpoints and finishing the map at the third. If one member of the attacking team is on the payload, it moves. When no one from the attacking team is on it, it will very slowly start to move back. If the payload is contested by the attacking and defending team, it will not move.
Assault maps have two points that must be captured in order. If at least a member of the attacking team is on the point with no defenders present a percentage meter will begin to fill from 0% to 100%. When it reaches full the first point is captured, but if a defender is on the point the meter will not fill. If both teams capture point A and B, they repeat the round with however much time was left on their clock until one is the winner.
Hybrid is a mix of Assault and Escort. The first point of the map is captured like in the Assault map type, which then unlocks a payload. The Payload must then be escorted to the end of the map. Finally, there is Control which is best described as King of Hill. When a team controls the point a progress meter will fill toward 100%. The first team to reach 100% wins the round and the first to win two rounds takes the maps.
How long are matches?
A typical Overwatch League broadcast will last anywhere from an hour to two hours depending on how quickly the games progress. A clean sweep, when one team beats another three maps to zero, can be very quick and usually last an hour. But if the game goes to a map five after both teams have won two maps each to decide the winner, those can be upwards of 2 hours long. This does include mid-match breakdown by the analyst desk and caster commentary between rounds and map.
A weekend of Overwatch will keep the most die-hard fans entertained all day long. If you’re just looking to watch your favorite team, however, you’d only need to dedicate one or two matches a weekend to watch.
Where to watch?
Matches are broadcast every weekend on the Overwatch League’s YouTube Channel. You can find a full schedule of all matches at the official Overwatch League Website. Due to the international of the league, matches happen during all hours of the days. If you’re only looking to watch your favorite team the time commitment is pretty minimal. Whenever you miss a match, there will always be videos on demand put up after the matches.
Find yourself a fan of the Overwatch League? Subscribe to the CheckpointXP Channel on YouTube so you never miss an episode of the OWLs Nest, with Robbie Landis and Jake Lyon. You can also find it in podcast form on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you find your podcasts.