What we want from Overwatch in 2018

2017 was a big year for Overwatch. Blizzard's mega-popular multiplayer shooter celebrated its first anniversary, added several new heroes to the roster (including the long-awaited Doomfist), and introduced not only new maps, but new gametypes (one of the things we asked for last year) like Deathmatch and the custom game server browser.

2018 looks to be off to a great start as well. The inaugural season of the Overwatch League is set to kick off next week, and in a recent developer update, game director Jeff Kaplan laid out some of what's on deck for Overwatch in the coming year, including new cosmetics in the base non-event loot boxes, updates to the year's seasonal events, and the new Blizzard-themed map Blizzard World. And, of course, the next hero, which is currently in internal testing.

With all that in mind, here's four things we want to see from Overwatch in 2018:

More non-traditional hero archetypes 

Last year, I asked for new heroes that would shift the meta in interesting ways, and in large part, Blizzard has lived up to expectation. Orisa has proven a viable alternative to Reinhardt as the "anchor-tank" of team compositions, while newcomer Moira is a welcome addition to the healer lineup. As Overwatch enters its second full calendar year, I want to see the hero roster continue to grow with additions that don't retread what we already have. 

When I chatted with Overwatch principal designer Geoff Goodman earlier this year, he said he feels like they have "barely scratched the surface of fun things to try for playable characters." Similarly, in Jeff Kaplan's recent developer update, he described the forthcoming Hero 27 as a "very needed" addition to the Overwatch lineup. 

I'd love to see more non-traditional archetypes explored. Doomfist is a great example—his ability-centric kit is a far cry from the more traditional point-and-shoot of heroes like Soldier: 76 and McCree. Similarly, Moira's balance of targeted area-of-effect healing with an interesting DPS mechanic is a breath of fresh air to support mains everywhere. And while we're at it, where's my Jetpack Cat?

More fleshed-out PvE encounters 

Back in April, I argued that Overwatch's PvE-centric event Uprising was the best case for a campaign yet. But in the months since, we've seen next to nothing on the PvE front, save for an updated version of the relatively scant Junkenstein's Revenge horde mode. 

Overwatch's world is one of the best things about it, but the actual story mostly unfolds in peripheral media like comics, in-universe blog posts, and animated shorts. Kaplan mentioned that the Uprising event would be returning this year for players who didn't get to experience it the first time, but also tweaked in some way to make it fresh. At the least, I hope that means a new mission for us to play through—not just a tweaked version of the King's Row Uprising conflict for us to retread.

Having said that, I do hope the King's Row battle is back as well. In fact, I'd love for an Archives mode to become a permanent fixture in the arcade, letting players delve through multiple bits of Overwatch history via built-out PvE missions.

In-game hero customization 

Overwatch has a ton of awesome skins, and it's no secret that more will be coming with every coming seasonal event. But as my library of cosmetics grows, so too do the number of outfits I'm interested in displaying on my heroes in-game. For example, last year I delved into Heroes of the Storm to unlock the awesome Officer D.Va outfit, but that skin has seen little use for me as I soon swapped over to the equally-awesome Cruiser D.Va skin from the Anniversary event and never switched back.

An easy remedy to this wealth of costumes is to add some sort of in-game character customization options. Blizzard already implemented selection wheels for players to queue up multiple sprays, voice lines, and emotes. Why can't we swap our skins as well?

I'll admit, it probably is a bad idea to let players change their visual look in the middle of a match—the last thing you want is for a teammate to be fiddling with their outfit when they should be moving the payload. But even if mid-match swaps are a bit too much—a visual changeup might throw off opponents a bit, though certainly less than an actual hero swap, which is obviously fine—players should definitely be able to customize their look during the opening setup phase of a match. I know I would put more skins into rotation, and it'd be cool to have the option to coordinate outfits with your teammates.

Address toxicity in a meaningful way 

There's a lot of good in Overwatch, but also a lot of bad. The game has been plagued with toxicity problems since its launch, a problem faced doubly so by marginalized players the game claims to represent

At BlizzCon, principal designer Scott Mercer told us that toxicity is an issue faced across Blizzard. "For us, that's one of our highest priorities, improving those systems," Mercer said. "It's definitely not the kind of thing where there's one silver bullet that will magically address all the toxicity issues. It's something that's going to take time. It's going to take continued vigilance, by not just us on the Overwatch team but across Blizzard. So far it's been that process of reaching out to teams across Blizzard, whether it's our global insights team, our customer service team, the customer support tools team. We've all been trying to work together, really trying to sit down and say 'How can we make our games a better place?'"

2018 is the year to make good on those promises.