You are not given every day the chance to pick the brain of Erik “DoA” Lonnquist, half of the famous casting duo and one of the most accomplished casters. When, especially, he invites you to on twitter, that’s your sign to go.
As a caster he has a very different perspective from mine, an analyst that sees things from the outside, and this is the first area of his mind I want to explore regarding Overwatch. How he envisions the game to be played, what he considers as the core elements and what type of competition he would prefer to see. His answer takes me a bit by surprise.
“I think the core elements are the great platform for game types that’s been created with Overwatch. In my opinion we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of viable game modes for competitive play and the way the game has been constructed gives me the expectation that we’ll enjoy a fresh and changing esport over the coming years. I’m ready for 6v6 Lockout to go into tournaments tomorrow!”
He sees Overwatch more like a ball with which two teams can play a variety of games and that eventually there will be other game modes down the line that will maybe replace the existing ones. He’s not a big fan of Control himself, he admits, although he acknowledges that going from Hybrid to 6v6 Lockout is a dramatic change. But there is merit to what he says and I feel also that maybe we still need to keep thinking out of the box, rather than setting in stone what is now considered professional play. Other esports have undergone this process and I express to him my belief that 6v6 Lockout could have its own tournaments, promoting a very different kind of competition, targeting a different audience that enjoys to play and has fallen in love with the same heroes. He enthusiastically agrees with it.
“I’d love that! I’ve been saying we need it for a while now. A straight-up Deathmatch with lots of different heroes would be easy to enjoy and pretty refreshing!”
However, whether this will be implemented in the future remains to be seen and the task at hand currently is casting the coming Overwatch League, so I turn my attention to it. I am curious to know what aspect of the game he focuses on during his preparation. Are stats, maybe, part of it? As someone who enjoys working on this problematic area of the game, I had to ask.
“I personally don’t focus too much on stats right now since everything is so contextual and it remains hard to tell which stats are really relevant. A lot of times I’ll find a stat that looks interesting and then go “but wait, in this setting the stat is totally negated”. Some basic things like meaningful damage/healing per 10 is a useful base stat, but again you run into trouble because different heroes have different lines that determine “good damage” numbers in different compositions.”
What he says is not unexpected. It is the harsh reality everyone attempting to work with stats in Overwatch faces. There are so many factors in play at any given time, that is very hard to derive proper meaning and one should always be very careful when even trying to contextualize the stats. For a caster, the whole process is definitely time-consuming and has to also focus his attention on other things too.
“I find it a lot more interesting to examine how teams move around a map and how they coordinate different heroes and abilities. My brain works much better when I’m analysing something in 3-dimentional space than when I’m thinking about numbers anyway. […]I love looking at positioning. As a Zen main it’s pretty important!”
Since he enjoys breaking down the fights and the engagements, I ask him whether the developers should try to not disrupt their flow by having mechanisms like Resurrection in game. For me, professional Overwatch in its current form is all about setting up your fights by properly utilizing your Ultimates, baiting Ultimates from your opponents, getting unanswered picks and making sure that the better positioning and the better target prioritization are rewarded. He confesses that as time passes, he becomes more convinced that it shouldn’t exist in the game and makes casting a lot more rigid, killing hype.
“Even in its current form you’re like “Wow great flanking! That’s a huge pick… oh wait… they’re rezzed.” I get it from a lore stand point, but I don’t like it as a game mechanic.”
Either her Resurrection should have some kind of triggering mechanism, some kind of buff that is placed on a hero and is activated upon his death, bringing him back to life with may be less than full health or give Mercy a skill that replenishes fully the health of heroes but can’t bring them back to life. These are the two approaches DoA thinks could help the pace of the fights. For me, the fundamental problem of Mercy’s is her passive nature. I don’t think that she fits well in a game like Overwatch, while I believe that the newly introduced Support, Moira, is a great addition to the game and Support players can shine with her. I ask him what he thinks of her.
“I love Moira. She’s so much fun to play and watch. I’m totally against her nerf to R Click on the PTR right now. People love to cry OP immediately, but we really need more time for her to truly be played competitively before any judgments are made. Solo queue and PUGs aren’t the same as tournament matches.”
Talking about tournament matches, apart from the Overwatch League preseason matches that are about to take place soon, the Nexus Cup matches will also provide some nice insight on this new hero and I feel like Overwatch League teams will take a look at them, as well. Especially for the League, with the bigger rosters, I am interested to see if the addition of new heroes, that are unique and have different mechanism, will make players on the different roles to further specialize. Right now some them have overlapping hero pools, but in the future it could be the case of almost every player having very specific heroes he’s good at and therefore there won’t be any true “substitutes”. I share this thought of mine with him.
“I think it depends on the objectives of the teams themselves. You could approach it that way and have people swapping in and out between maps, but I think the real benefit of a full 12 man roster is the ability to run in-house scrims and develop more things in secret. That worked wonderfully for League of Legends teams in Korea until Riot took away their ability to do it. I’m surprised we aren’t seeing more teams take the advantage of filling all 12 slots.”
We both agree that the reasoning behind this move was probably to leave some spots open to get some up and coming talent during the season, or afterwards. The contracts’ duration is quite restricting.
At this point the serious part of the interview is over, but I had a few more questions I had to ask him which derived from his personality and wits on the broadcast. His love for Zenyatta is no secret and he always goes ham when a Support frags out. If he had the choice to have a voice line in-game his for Zenyatta, what would it be, I ask him. He laughs before responding.
“I’ve never thought about that. I guess my gut reaction would be to have him say “So bloodthirsty” or something like that after a 3 or 4k.”
And if you are wondering what his ideal map, or game-mode actually, would like, here’s the answer:
“My grand vision would be a map where you rush to pick up an objective and then have one of your team use it in a way that works towards completing a map objective while your teammates protect you. For example teams rush to grab some sort of power source and then move it to a different part of the map and use it to power up the automated defenses in the facility you’re fighting in or something. Little bit of ball, little bit of KotH and a little bit of protect the VIP. I just love object-based game modes.”
I thank DoA for his precious time and wish he has a blast casting in the Overwatch League!
Images are courtesy of Erik Lonnquist.