Good communication is an integral part of any team sport, but none more so than in eSports, particularly the game of Overwatch. As the University of Utah’s Overwatch team prepares for their first match of the season next week, coach Joe Johnson said improving team communication is key.
“It’s just communication. The mechanics are there,” said Johnson when asked what his team needs to improve on as they begin to play in the Tespa Collegiate Overwatch tournament. “It takes time playing with your teammates, learning to trust them. It’s really important to have good communication to be able to rotate to the right area effectively. That just comes with time.”
In Overwatch, there are 25 unique playable characters whose abilities range from swinging a massive hammer and shooting arrows to healing teammates and shooting icicle shards. With two teams of six different characters, there is an almost unlimited number of scenarios a team might face in a given game. Because of this, Overwatch teams need to be able to communicate effectively and constantly throughout the entirety of each match, calling out locations of enemy players or coordinating complementary abilities with teammates.
To improve their team communication, the U’s Overwatch team meets every Thursday night to review footage of their previous scrimmages and games. The eight members of the team gather around a huge monitor where Johnson plays the film, pausing it every few seconds to break down what the team did right and wrong.
“You guys don’t really help each other in fights,” Johnson told the team. “Someone will call out a target and someone else will call out a target, each one will go their separate ways expecting the other person to help you and then you’ll both die. Those are the only reasons you guys are losing these fights. They’re not better than you mechanically.”
Cian Smyth, who plays the flex-support role for the team, agrees that communication is the number one thing they need to work on. “The individual skill is there. It’s a lot of new players and a lot of new players who haven’t played in a competitive environment before… when you’re playing with an actual team, there’s a lot more communication that needs to be done,” he said.
Smyth, a sophomore studying computer science with an emphasis on entertainment arts and engineering, was on the Overwatch team sponsored by the U’s Crimson Gaming Club last year. Since the team is now sponsored by the EAE department, the players will be held to higher standards than they were last year.
“VOD (film) reviews and practice are more rigorous and more scheduled,” said Smyth. “Obviously playing for Crimson Gaming, it was still a club thing. But playing under the University’s banner, with a scholarship, it’s a lot different. It’s not like, oh yeah I’m going to go out to dinner and miss practice.”
The team feels confident that they can do well in the tournament if they can quickly learn to play as a unit. If not, they’ll be at a big disadvantage.
“We’re going to be competing against some other collegiate teams that have been together for a few years so we’ve got a long way to go,” said Johnson.