Aside: First details of Overwatch’s player progression hit as the beta returns.

The wait is over: the Overwatch beta has returned and it came with a roughly 5GB patch that included new maps and game modes. I don’t think I have a beta invite yet, so I’m watching my email inbox hoping that I’ll see a nicely formatted message from Blizzard saying I’ve been invited to the Overwatch beta.

The patch isn’t the only thing being released today, PCGamer published an interview with Overwatch manager Jeff Kaplan about the game’s player progression system. A couple of key bits from his responses:

“As you gain levels—and there are unlimited levels, we don’t have a level cap, you can always gain levels—each time you gain a level, we give you a loot box. Inside the loot box there can be four items that come out of it,” he said. Loot box items are randomized, and each item has a rarity level: common, rare, epic, and so forth. And, he emphasized, they are all purely cosmetic.

Blizzard saw what happened to CS:GO and made the choice to not turn their first competitive FPS into a game that facilitates underage gambling and scams. A smart move from Blizzard. The random drops described as part of the progression system only affect the game in a cosmetic capacity, just as skins do in CS:GO. Unfortunately, as the loot drops are tied to leveling up, the player level mechanic ends up becoming more of a potential style meter more than anything else.

For duplicate item drops, a system is in place that allows players to exchange a duplicate item for credits to, in turn, directly purchase cosmetic unlocks from an internal storefront. The obvious money grab from this style of exchange system is to allow players to buy credits using real-world money. For now, Blizzard remains non-committal about selling credits:

“We haven’t made any philosophical decision of whether or not we will ever [offer credits for purchase], or not do that. I think right now, the biggest question we want to answer, when the beta comes back up next week is, ‘Are the loot boxes fun? Do people like the items?’”

With the beta coming back after a hiatus of nearly two months, I’m not sure if players are going to be able to critique anything for at least the first week (with the exception of Internet cool guy @oPlaiD because he’s pretty smart). I do predict that this beta cycle is when we’ll see Overwatch’s key community figures become integral to the scene, as well as impactful competitions between the game’s first esports teams. There’s plenty to look forward to.

It’s just too bad my account doesn’t have beta access.

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