There is no doubt that Overwatch as an esport has exploded throughout 2016 and going into 2017, but that doesn't mean there aren't current issues and challenges that the game as a whole faces. One of the underlying issues that all games face when an esports following really starts to takes hold is whether or not viewers who do not play the game will ever take notice and become regular viewers. A lot of analysts and esports audience members would probably argue that this is not really an issue we should care about, and in some respect I agree. But at the same time a lot of the issues that games face in acquiring viewers outside the player base when professional events and tournaments begin to make their way onto twitch and other broadcasts, are very much the same as getting the core player base to stick around as regular viewers.
I'm going to try and address some of these issues in Overwatch and I'm sure those of you who are fans of Overwatch esports will agree with some of these while others will probably think I'm a drooling idiot for having even brought up some of these as issues.
Part 1: Colors and Inconsistencies:
This next issue is hopefully where I sell you on the color issues that the game currently faces. When watching a live stream of professional play, red is quite possibly the hardest color to see when the stream is not at a higher than average bitrate. Things like player names in the kill feed or even the payload timer for the red team become impossible to read because the red text doesn't come through very sharp. It also causes problems with player outlines when you are seeing character's through walls. The red color is so faint that its often hard to notice player's locations on some maps. Kings row in particular is a rough map to watch because in general the map is darker and some of the walls and buildings have reddish colors to them already.
My overall recommendation would be to change the entire color scheme when spectating a match. The blue used in its current form does work and honestly doesn't really need to change, but to help get as far away from those new player to viewer expectations previously mentioned I think it should be altered even to a different shade of blue. Things like character outlines, player names and any other use of color to differentiate a team should be shifted to something entirely different from the in game experience. If you watch CS: GO you'll know that they use blue and yellow, which definitely works and if blizzard wants to follow along those lines I think it would making viewing experiences much more consistent. I hate to make any other specific color scheme recommendation like green, or purple, or any other color besides yellow because there isn't much evidence out there as to how certain colors would appear on stream. If anyone knows of any other games that use a different color than red, blue, or yellow let me know because I'd be happy to inspect how it appears.
One of the strangest decisions I can't really wrap my head around was when Blizzard made the switch to the payload progress bar. This hasn't been changed or mentioned anywhere so it appears to be intended. For some reason that I can't track down, the Payload progress bar fills with the color opposite of that of the attacking team. This is something that does translate directly from the current game, where even though you are always blue the progress bar on payload maps fills as red. When viewing an esports match this issue even gets worse when if the blue team is on offense on Dorado the progress bar fills with red. When the round ends and the red team attacks, the bar fills with blue. Seems like an extremely backwards way of displaying the match's progress and can be confusing for even long time viewers. Especially when you tune in a bit late to a match, mid team-fight on Route 66 and you can't tell who is on offense or defense based on everyone's positioning. Again another small hump that needs tidying up to avoid a somewhat confusing viewer experience.
In the above video you can skip to 1:35 to see Immortals vs Luminosity on Watchpoint Gibralter to see an example of this. Luminosity is the first attacking team in blue and the progress bar fills red as they move the payload. And then at 21:45 you can see how the teams switch sides and so does the color scheme of the payload progress bar. It is one of the strangest inconsistencies Overwatch currently has from a viewer's point of view and should really be changed or at least explained as to why this hasn't been changed in several months.
I know everything I have said is fairly critical and somewhat nit picky, but I ensure you I am making these criticisms with the hopes that they could be heard by Blizzard and the community in order to better the overall viewing experience of competitive Overwatch. Hopefully some of these kinks can be ironed out before the launch of the Overwatch League later this year.