I bought Overwatch when it was on sale during the 2016 Holidays. In the three months I’ve had it, I’ve rather enjoyed the game. One thing in particular that has baffled me is the mechanic of switching heroes and completely losing your Ultimate charge.
There are 24 heroes currently in the game and more on the way. Each hero has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Some heroes act as hard counters; that is to say, nine out of ten times Hero A will probably beat Hero B. In situations where your hero isn’t working out against the enemy team’s line-up, the smart thing to do is to switch characters.
However, an important mechanic of the game is your Ultimate charge. Each hero can build it up by doing damage, advancing or defending an objective, or simply through time. Some characters will build up their ultimate meter rather quickly and some will take a bit of time; each hero has a different rate for accumulating this charge. Each ultimate also has different purposes; some are offensive, some are defensive, and some are in the middle depending on how they’re used. The very nature of the game requires that you have a good team composition and that you should switch characters if it isn’t working. The fact that your Ultimate charge is reduced to zero when you switch characters in Overwatch provides a pretty hefty disincentive to do so, especially when you have an ultimate good to go (or nearly so).
Let’s put the numbers into a bit of context. The Overwatch Gamepedia wiki shows the magic number that each hero needs to reach to have an Ultimate ready. Assuming that they did the same things, a Bastion (2075 charge required) takes twice as long to build their Ultimate as Symmetra does (1000 charge required). Healers also gain Ultimate charge for healing allies at different rates (depending on the character) in addition to the usual methods. In short, charging up your Ultimate in Overwatch is not a level playing field, and considering how wildly different the Ultimate abilities can be I think that that’s totally fair.
So, what’s the solution? Well, in my eyes completely zeroing out your Ultimate upon changing characters isn’t an ideal scenario. However, I don’t think that you should keep 100% of it either; that would be far too open to abuse. It would probably encourage players to change to a different hero solely to use their ultimate ability and throw off the game’s balance terribly.
I think the best solution for this issue would be to retain 50% of the Ultimate charge in raw points and cap it at no more than 50% of the charge for the character you switch to. For example, according to the table in the Gamepedia page linked above, Ana requires 1650 charge and Sombra requires 1250. If an Ana with full charge switched to Sombra, the number would be halved (1650 / 2 = 825) and then capped at 50% of the charge of the new character (1250 / 2 = 625). Now let’s take the reverse situation: a fully-charged Sombra switching to Ana would keep half of the charge (1250 / 2 = 625) and capped at 50% (1640 / 2 = 825). This would mean that switching from a fully-charged Ana to a Sombra would result in 50% charge, but switching from a fully-charged Sombra to Ana would only net you 38% charge.
I think this change does a good job of accounting for the different Ultimate charge rates in Overwatch while slightly lessening the penalty for changing characters in the middle of the game. As it stands right now, it hurts a good bit to switch (especially if you’re on a character that takes a while to charge up), and in my opinion that probably should be changed.
I’ve spoken about the positives, but what about the negatives? Well, this would increase the net generation (and likely usage) of Ultimate abilities to start overall. This is going to potentially impact balance in a number of ways both small and large. For example, a slightly faster Ultimate from Widowmaker could unmask a stealthed Sombra at a critical moment. A clutch play could be undone because someone switched to a character with a more suitable Ultimate for the situation at hand.
Even so, I think the reduction in charge would mean diminishing returns for people who switch too often. If you changed characters twice, you would have 25% charge or less. Each successive change would reduce the overall amount, so I think that the halving mechanic would encourage players to switch but also prevent them from switching too often for any sort of advantage.
I’m no game designer and my proposed change may bring about unforeseen consequences in terms of game balance. However, I can’t shake the feeling that losing your Ultimate when switching characters just feels so wrong in a game that’s supposed to encourage you to have a good team composition. I think it’s a worthwhile thing to at least consider testing.
Do you think you should keep any of your Ultimate meter when you switch characters in Overwatch? What do you think of my idea for characters to partially retain some Ultimate charge when switching? Do you think this is a good idea, or do you have a more ideal solution? Let us know in the comments below!More About This Game