When asked about about the methods used to get better at Overwatch, many professional players like xQc (Team Canada’s main tank) and Sinatraa (SF Shock’s DPS) respond with “I just played the game a lot”.
While “just play the game” doesn’t sound like solid advice, it is undeniably true that in order to improve, one needs to dedication and that translates into hours put into the game. While playing under NRG team, Seagull said in an interview that his daily routine included streaming from 8:20 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and playing in scrims from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., a brutal schedule that not only is unhealthy, it is purely impossible for most players.
While you may not be able brute force your improvement through long training sessions like these professional players, you can increase the efficiency of the time you have to play the game. Let’s go through some methods than can help you get more value out of your Overwatch gaming sessions.
The first step towards fixing a problem is to admit having one. Pinpointing one’s mistakes while playing such a fast-paced game like Overwatch can, however, be rather difficult. With time, small, undetected errors, create bad habits. These are the problems a player needs to identify in order to become a better.
Naturally, the second step is discovering said errors. In order to find them, coaches and professional players alike recommend watching your recorded games as it is an easy way encounter mental traps that not noticeable during gameplay. While getting a professional coach to review them is helpful, there’s some value in taking the time to find those misplays by yourself. This way, rather than just having a list of what to do and what not to do, you’ll understand why a certain move was a good or bad decision. Of course, this takes time, but grants you the knowledge needed to improve your gamesense permanently.
Jayne (Dallas Fuel assistant coach) suggests a method to help you discover in which of the three skill areas in Overwatch (mechanics, positioning and game sense) you need to improve the most. He calls it the “4 Box” method and you can see the detailed explanation here. It is worth noting that the method focuses on minimizing deaths that bring no value to the current objective which coincides with Surefour’s (LA Gladiators’ DPS) philosophy of improvement: “do your job while trying not to die”.
Sometimes, however, we can’t learn every single technique by ourselves, we must turn to someone more experienced. Which bring us to the next topic.
Learning From Others
Seagull went missing in the middle of the Overwatch season. Everyone thought he was just being benched since, at the time, Rascal was filling in for his projectile DPS position. We later found out that he spent all that time (about a month) learning a hero he previously never played: D.Va. When he came out of his hyperbolic time chamber, he caught everyone by surprise when he was, as viewed by many, one of the best D.Va players of the league.
How did he do it? Well, he played a lot of D.Va during that period, of course, but most importantly, he watch VOD’s of other D.Va players. Particularly Bichu (LA Gladiators off-tank). He studied Bishu’s decision making and applied what he learned to his own games on the ranked ladder. He studied the best, trained like the best, and, quite frankly, became one the best proving once again that with time he can play any hero the team needs.
While Seagull’s case came out of necessity, some are inspired to learn a new role. The NYXL star JJonak was inspired by Ryujehong (Seoul Dynasty flex-support): a player that stole the spotlight with his Ana and Zenyatta play in a world where the DPS players get all the attention. Like Seagull studied Bishu, JJonak studied Ryujehong and became so good at it that the NYXL picked him up from the ranked ladder without having any tournament experience.
Not only can we follow JJonak and Seagull’s example, we have better tools to do so. Not only can we watch live streams of professional players we admire, but we also have the World Cup viewer which is will be applied to regular games (/where we can study our own gameplay better) and Overwatch League games. There’s even a lot of material available online: guides, VOD reviews, coach analysis (highly recommend watching Jayne and Aero on twitch) and written content - just like the article you’re reading.
From your study, your game sense will vastly increase. Now you just need to put the theory into practice and it’s in practice that we can work on the last method to become a better player.
When we watch Overwatch League games it’s easy to be filled with awe when we see an amazing headshot but the decisions that led to the opportunity to get that shot often go unnoticed. In this video, coach ioStux explains:
“Aim is simple. A new player knows that hitting the shot is good, not hitting the shot is bad. But he won’t know if a certain position is good or bad, because that’s more complex”.
It’s a hard concept to grasp. Hitting the shots when needed, executing abilities correctly, these are factors that may determine who dies between you and the enemy. There are however, subtle decisions that go beyond mechanical skill. Consider the following example:
Two Widowmakers, A and B, are dueling. Widowmaker A hits her shots 25% of the time while Widowmaker B has superior mechanical skill and hits her shots 50% of the time. However, Widow A is able to get more vision with better positioning, work with the space given by the tanks and is better at predicting enemy movement so that she gets 20 opportunities per minute to get a clear headshot. Widow B only gets 8 opportunities in the same time frame.
In this scenario, Widow A will hit 5 shots per minute and Widow B will hit 4 even though Widow B has much better aim.
If we recognize than even when playing a mechanical skill intensive hero like Widowmaker, gamesense can sometimes triumph over aim, what happens when consider a hero that requires little to no aim? This is where the real value of game sense resides: it is transferable from one hero to another, to another map, another game mode and, sometimes, even to another game entirely!
This doesn’t mean, however, that practicing your aim and other mechanics isn’t worth your time. But when you practice to improve your game sense by playing more games, you will automatically improve your aim. The same cannot be said for aim drills as they do little to improve game sense.
So be advised: if you have limited practice time, consider investing more of it on the steps mentioned above before dedicating yourself to aim training. If you do, however, find yourself improving your gamesense but still lacking on the mechanical skill department, then you can follow some of the pros pre-game habits:
- Most professional players start their sessions with some FFA deathmatch games. If you are focusing on improving with two or three particular heroes, play at a least a match each of them. Just remember not to be over ambitions, focus on a few heroes at a time.
- The following custom games are also popular amongst pros: Ana paintball; Widow, Mccree or Ashe HS only. For the rest of the hero roster, regular deathmatch is good enough for aim training.
- Effect (Dallas Fuel DPS player) and Surefour are known for their Osu sessions before each Overwatch stream. Surefour goes a step further and recommended FPSOsu after winning the Widowmaker 1v1 tournament at the All-Stars show this past August.
- Effect also plays Aim Hero (you can find it on Steam) regularly. Make sure to match the settings to Overwatch otherwise you will not be training your muscle memory properly.
Overall, there are lots of options when it come to aim training. With good time management, you can add a bit of each of these steps to your Overwatch sessions and start improving. Write down a schedule if you have to, and remember to set realistic expectations.
Improving in Overwatch takes dedication. With the right mindset, even a casual quick play game can be a valuable training session.
The key to be a better player is to focus on your role and your overall performance regardless of any mistakes your team mates might be doing. Make your best contribution to the team and try to eliminate your bad habits with some self-evaluation after each game (or even after each team fight). Of course, this is easier said than done, some games are lost despite your best efforts and it’s hard to stay positive and look past that. However, with time you’ll star to value experience above wins. Ironically, this is when you’ll start to climb the ladder and become a better player.
It will not be easy, but once you once you adapt the mindset of a professional player, you will improve and even enjoy this game a lot more.
Keep on grinding.