Overwatch introduces Capture the Flag with a Smart Twist

A new “Lunar New Year” event dropped for Overwatch today. Besides having the best event skin yet for Mei Bastion, Blizzard introduced us to a new Capture the Flag Rooster brawl mode. Per usual, you can access it through the Arcade.

Capture the Rooster is probably the closest thing we’ve gotten to a new, full-fledged game mode since launch. Its the standard 6v6 format with normal hero limits, though its currently limited to the Lijiang Tower maps. Jeff Kaplan explains in the video above why we’re only just seeing the game mode emerge now, and does a pretty good job of explaining the new variations on standard CTF rules. To summarize:

  1. There is a small “capture” time associated with picking up the flag.
  2. You cannot take damage while capturing, or the timer will reset
  3. Your flag does not have to be at home base for you to score a point

Those first two points are what I’d like to focus on. CTF is often at its best when you can abuse mobility and maneuverability to its fullest extent. In standard shooters where everyone has a relatively equal playing field, balancing around this is much easier. When you look at Overwatch though, the concern was that characters like Tracer and Winston would dominate the game to the point of rendering most of the cast unplayable. How do we get around this? Why, let’s add a capture timer for picking up the flag! Its such a stupidly simple tweak, why didn’t we think of it before?

Its a simple modification that, frankly, radically changes the landscape of the game mode. I’m sure some will be quick to point out that a “pick-up” time goes against the nature of such a fast-paced game mode, ruining the high-speed antics that the mode often fosters. But after playing several rounds of the mode for myself, I’m fascinated with the ramifications it has for the current Overwatch climate.

overwatch-ctf-flag

 

Overwatch is a game that revolves around team fights. Up to this point, the most meaningful team fights (should) happen around the single objective that both teams are fighting for. As Jeff mentions in the video, “single objective” play seemed to be where Overwatch operated at its best. But what happens when you have two objectives? It means that now, you have two places to dedicate resources to… two places where team fights will revolve around.

Without a pick-up timer, a lone wolf can snatch up the flag and slip out of sight in a heartbeat, especially in a game like Overwatch. A good Tracer could probably carry such a game mode with ease… a gaming concept that this team shooter has fiercely tried to distance itself from. When you introduce the pick-up timer, it means you have to dedicate more resources to getting the enemy flag. In Overwatch, more resources typically means your teammates.

So the big question is this: in a game where full, six-man team fights are the optimal strategy, how do you dedicate resources to both objectives simultaneously? Not enough resources on attack means you’ll struggle to score points, but not enough resources on defense could reopen the door for Tracer and flanker shenanigans to happen. Of course, the flanking Tracer theoretically means your opponent has less resources on defense, so maybe you can capitalize? There is this intriguing back-and-forth balancing act that this modified-CTF mode introduces. In a game where a single man advantage can make or break a team fight, this new mode could invent an entirely new way of playing the game.

Time will tell, I suppose. There aren’t any plans to make this into a competitive mode right now, though it may live on in the arcade if the popularity is there. Who knows how far this new “meta” will come in three weeks’ time?

overwatch-rooster-bastion
Seriously, this is a cool-looking skin.

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