Overwatch principal designer Geoff Goodman explains Widowmaker nerf


The first Overwatch patch arrived and brought with it nerfs to McCree and Widowmaker. While the cowboy six-shooter’s changes were easy to understand, there were questions about both whether Widowmaker’s nerfs were enough, and why one of them targetted her ability to quick scope. Geoff Goodman, the man in charge of hero balance in the game, entered the forums today to explain.

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It comes down to a question of philosophy with character tricks, he explains in a thread talking about how clunky the sniper feels now. “Making sure the game feels responsive and smooth is very important to us. Wherever we can, we make sure that the game responds to player input asap. However, the one situation where we have to step in and possibly slow things down is when an ‘animation canceling’ trick is discovered and allows players to significantly increase a characters power.”

Goodman goes on to say that it’s problematic for two reasons – one, players now have to learn what is often a quite specific trick to optimise the character, and two it becomes part of the balance. Blizzard would need to keep it in mind when the character’s numbers are changed, so anyone who doesn’t know how to do it will feel significantly underpowered.

“To speak to Widow’s scope canceling trick specifically, when I first saw it it seemed fine. The idea was that you are slowing down your fire rate slightly to gain a little more situational awareness and a small movement bump between shots, that is fine as a trade off. But the problem came about once I looked into it a bit more and realized that the recovery time (the time between shots) is 0.5 seconds, so as long as you scoped back in within 0.5 seconds of your last shot, it didn’t ‘cost’ you anything. That, in turn, means the *correct* way to play her is to always scope out and back in within 0.5s of every shot, otherwise you are playing a weaker Widowmaker.”

That’s when they decided to nerf it. Goodman explains that they did try ways which would maintain her quick-scoping ability without it being necessarily superior, but all of them felt even worse than the slight reduction in her movement capabilities. In a follow-up answer, he says that they’re looking into a similar problem with a Genji ‘combo’ that does a lot of burst damage due to animation cancelling.