David and I recently sat down to discuss Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch's similarities. We don't always see eye to eye but because I've the privileged of publishing this Royal Rumble, I'd have to say I'm the clear winner here (hah!). Without further ado - fight!
David: I think that Overwatch is ultimately going to be the spiritual successor to Team Fortress 2. First, the gameplay is essentially and effectively the same. It's launching with two modes, and payload is a distinctive feature of Team Fortress. The class archetypes are the same in TF2, classes are divided into offense, defense, and support. Just replace scout and pyro with an actual name and it's similar. I can understand how you feel about how more modern games may be closer, since Overwatch has dodging and activated skills - I even played BattleCry at E3 which is pretty much the same game as Overwatch, with less heroes and more melee, but I do think that ultimately Overwatch is going to cannibalize TF2 - even if the playstyle is different, just simply because it's similar enough that they're going to play it and it's going to have that Blizzard polish to really bring the point home.
Lewis: I think it's fair to say that Overwatch will cannibalize Team Fortress 2 - which is absolutely fine - but I already dislike the comparisons between the two products. It's fair that the two are compared because inevitably they are first person shooters that are team based. I think however, any other comparisons are pretty lazy. Team Fortress 2 is unquestionably one of the best team based multiplayer games available but it has always struck me as a game that never really utilises team work in casual hot-join play. Instead it feels more like deathmatch where players play for themselves and if the outcome is a win it's based on individual players and their skill rather than a coordinated effort. In comparison, Overwatchdoes quite a few things differently that should reinforce the need for teamwork but also iterates on a variety of games. The fact there's loads of Heroes to choose from, each with unique purposes and skills makes it much more comparable to Dirty Bomb than it does Team Fortress 2. Even the real-life locations remind me heavily of Dirty Bomb. What will lift Overwatch above the competition isn't just the fact that it's building on a tried and tested template but that it has drawn influences from MOBA's with its number of Heroes. It'll keep the Meta fresh and really mix up team compositions which is Team Fortress 2's biggest flaw.
David: To reply first to the idea that Overwatch is different because it has heroes and so many of them, it's important to remember that TF2 has 9 classes while Overwatch is launching with just 12 heroes. Each hero falls into a "sub-type" which are the same ones that TF2 uses (assault, defense, support). While TF2 classes don't have "skills" they have loadouts, which mimic skills in so much that each weapon has it's own special ability. Instead of adding additional classes, valve adds weapon enhancements that change the playstyle of a class.
The major TF2 comparison comes from the fact that Payload is a TF2 invention and Point Capture & Payload are the two most played maps in TF2. Blizzard has reached in and stolen the two most played map types in TF2, that are unique to TF2, and then made a game around them using what I assume is assets from Titan. It doesn't help that Temple of Anubis in Overwatch looks exactly like TF2's Control Point map "Egypt" including the control point veranda in the center.
The only similarity I don't see between TF2 and Overwatch is that Overwatch won't have a deathmatch mode and probably won't let you play custom maps at launch - everything else seems to me an iteration on TF2. They took in some of the MOBA skill aspects (four skills) which is common in TF2 clones, like BattleCry which melds in Chivalry style combat, Dishonored graphics, Bioshock Infinite grapples, and TF2 gameplay.
I don't see any shame in comparing the two - TF2 is great and it's obvious that it's going to be bigger and greater than TF2- which is scary considering how many people play TF2 and the great hat economy, but I fail to see still how these two are direct opposite.
Lewis: Team Fortress 2 has 9, but the key difference is that the meta of TF2 stems from the weapons that the community creates. The classes will never physically change where as the intention, I'm sure, is that Overwatch will significantly expand their rosta so that instead of the 12 we now see, it might become a large quantity into the 20s and 30s. Instead of the meta revolving around weapons you buy, it'll evolve around the Heroes that Blizzard implement. My issue with Valves approach is that weapons flood the game to the point where it's near impossible to not only identify them all, but also learn their mechanics. Balance has gone totally out of the window. You can identify the class in seconds thanks to Valves brilliantly designed characters but the predictability of what they're wielding goes out the window until you've already taken a shot to the face. It's even worse where the Spy is concerned. I'm hoping it'll be different with Overwatch where it's more about the Heroes utility and purpose as opposed to just the weapon they're using.
As far as further comparisons are concerned, where did we reach the point where we hold Team Fortress 2 up as some sort of original product? Control Point and Capture the Flag have been in multiplayer games well before Team Fortress 2's time (even before Team Fortress 1) and were originally the product of Quake Fortress. In regards to Payload, it's simply a repackaging of Wolfenstein Enemy Territory: Gold Rush. Instead of one escort, there's two. The dynamic and approach might be different, but it's very similar in principal. In regards to the aesthetics, it's also bit of a stretch to compare Temple of Anubis and Egypt. Are we now saying that no game in the future can ever go to Egypt because it'll be copying Team Fortress 2? Considering Counterstrike arrived in Egypt way ahead of Team Fortress, should we not be comparing such desert locations to that? Either way it's so pointless to pull out the most obvious comparables.
What about screenshots such as this and this. There's nothing even remotely close to either of these in Team Fortress 2. When combined with the fact there's no outright Deathmatch mode (a bloody good thing) I think Overwatch stands out on its own.
David: To say that community weapons is the only extent of modification is to throw away many of TF2's subsystems that allow you to alter each class in huge ways. Take the Scout, equip the Soda Popper and the scout is a COMPLETELY different class now, as you have to run and jump to build hype in order to pull off Hype Mode. As far as weapons, most classes have 5 to 6 primary weapons, which are the showstopper, and learning them is part of the enjoyment of the game when you're owned in a way you haven't seen yet and go hrm, maybe I'll get that gun. TF2 is a strong enough game it can balance the weapons so that even if you don't know what they do, since it's team based, members of your team can compensate. This has nothing to do with a comparison between the two, because Blizzard is obviously melding in a MOBA based hero system and instead of learning weapons you learn heroes, which by the way, reset the meta each release.
Wolfenstein's Gold Rush is more similar to Payday than it is Payload, because you had to actually move the gold into the tank and then escort the tank along its path that it drove itself, whereas you use classes to build a defense for a mine cart that moves along a fixed path and requires a nearby escort for it to move along. It's a mobile capture point that you can't allow get to the end goal, Wolfenstein just required you to repair the tank and take down barriers. As for the maps, of course there is similarties. Kong King and Rottenburg are the two easiest but you could easily compare several other maps as well. I seriously couldn't see how Blizzard didn't draw inspiration from these maps - again, they can both visit Eygpt but even the map layouts are the same with the control point on the veranda. Overwatch may overshadow TF2 with the massive playerbase that rivals Half Life 2 fans, but I don't think calling it a successor to TF2 is somehow incorrect. They are in the same genre, have the same game mechanics, and like any Blizzard game Overwatch is a massive reconstruction and iteration on the concept, but it's still fundamentally a step up from TF2. You can't just erase the TF2 comparison because of minor differences, when it's obvious that Blizzard wants this comparison.
Lewis: The community weapons in TF2, despite playing for hundreds of hours, were something I never really loved. I'd argue only a handful of them are worthwhile and I still prefer to play vanilla Team Fortress 2 than this sexed up version. Some of the weapons definitely do change classes significantly - the Engineer and its mini disposable turrets was a personal favorite of mine. I think the Meta on delivering Heroes as opposed to guns will be much more difficult compared to Team Fortress 2. You'll have to learn the Hero you're fighting or playing against including all its skills and weapon.
The dynamic between payload and Gold Rush is different but that's only because the mode has been expanded upon. The checkpoints have been replaced with a milestone in Payload and instead of escorting one object there's two, with each team attempting to both stop the opposing team. Payload is an amazing mode and like all the best in the genre it'll be around for a very long time and will continue to be iterated on.
Lastly when it comes to maps, I think it's ridiculous to state Blizzard drew inspiration from what TF2 has to offer. Some of TF2's maps are great, but aesthetically and artistically they're vastly different from Overwatch. Sure there's some recurring themes (Desert, City, Nordic) but they aren't owned by Valve and Valve certainly weren't the first people to theme such maps in this way. In all the years I've played Team Fortress 2 I've never once seen Rottenburg or King Kong in cycle, which shows just how people those maps are.
I simply don't like the word successor when it's used in this industry. It suggests the product before is dead (where TF2 will still be very much alive) and leads others to think said successor did nothing but copy and iterate. That clearly isn't true here. TF2 and Overwatch will share similarities because they're the same genre appealing to the same playerbase. It'd be like complaining that Battlefield and Call of Duty both contain guns. You can't erase the comparisons but we should try to look deeper than simply stating "Oh it has classes" or "Oh look, a desert theme with control points" when much more goes into game design that simply using the basics of the genre. Instead we should be asking how the classes differ, how the weapons differ, how the map design differs and most importantly, what does Overwatch offer players over Team Fortress 2.
Editor in chief's thoughts
I’m going to step in and play devil’s advocate here for a moment, so bear with me. The way I see it, Overwatch comes from a different place entirely that has literally nothing to do with Team Fortress 2. If there is any one game that Overwatch instantly evokes for me it would be Gigantic.
At its core, Gigantic aims to take what’s fun about endgame MMO group play and package that up as a complete experience. It draws heavily from MMO battlegrounds and arena systems, but doesn’t just stop there. It also gives a very polite nod to how per-match leveling mechanics, and expandable rosters have been so successful in MOBAs. Then it also layers in the concept of massive boss fights from more traditional MMO dungeons. At the end of the day, every single aspect of the game feels quite familiar, but wholly unique due to how each of those individual elements combine to create a very engaging and unique experience.
I see that as the exact nexus of Overwatch. It wasn’t a major press event or official PR announcement that alerted gamers to the end of development for Titan. The info quietly slipped into public consciousness, and I feel that was carefully orchestrated given the pending Overwatch reveal at BlizzCon. The idea was no doubt to avoid letting the thunder of a Titan cancellation overshadow what the game ultimately morphed into.
And that game is very much in the same exact spirit of Gigantic. If you strip away the MMO packaging and cut directly to the competitive multiplayer endgame components, Titan was no doubt the game that birthed Overwatch. This repackaging then comes neatly on the tails of the success of Hearthstone and the overwhelmingly positive fan and critical reception of Gigantic.
So I say that’s Overwatch in a nutshell from my perspective.