How to get started in the Overwatch Workshop
Blizzard’s unveiling of the Overwatch Workshop in the Public Test Region has gone down an absolute treat with fans. The ability to create your very own unique mode in a game you love has long been a favourite with gaming communities, with player modifications often bringing more to the experience than could ever be expected. It also gives fans the chance to customise their game to suit their personal requirements, something that brings with it a hell of a lot of longevity to a single game. It seems only natural that games whose primary goal is to become timeless and quintessential to the gaming landscape should facilitate such freedoms.
It’s surprising, then, that Blizzard have taken so long to bring this kind of functionality to its flagship FPS. Thankfully, the wait is over. My personal favourite is the one that references Skyrim’s infamous ‘sneak’ mechanic, literally making you invisible to enemies when you crouch, just as you essentially can’t be seen by Skyrim’s guards when crouching. Still, there’s not a shortage of articles telling you all about the best pop-culture references created in the workshop, from Katamari balls to Portal guns, so I won’t repeat all that here.
The one thing about the Workshop: it’s not exactly approachable. As someone who’s never done any programming, that is one daunting screen. With all sorts of fancy computery words filling the menus, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s why I got in touch with a couple of the people who made some of the most eyecatching mods yet and asked them where on earth I should begin.
The first person I approached went by the name jTiKey on Reddit. They had made a frankly hilarious mod wherein you play a normal game of Overwatch, but when you get a kill and teabag the enemy, you’re killed and launched a thousand feet high. Honestly, the perfect solution to a lot of Overwatch’s griefing problems is right there.
‘I’m working as a web developer for four years now, so I knew I could reuse those skills to play around with a game I love. It's a lot of fun to be able to control things you could not do before by just playing the game normally. Sharing it with others is the best part. I created few rooms … with modifications to launch the tea offender into space, and people would laugh their ass off’.
Clearly the community aspect of the Overwatch Workshop is a massive part of why people love it so much, so how can you, oh humble non-developer, become a part of that creative side? It’ll take some time, to be sure. If you have that time on your hands, jTiKey recommends checking out CodeAcademy, which is absolutely worth it both for your silly Overwatch ideas and for a future as a tech wizard. However, I don’t have that kind of time. It’s exam season. I asked if there was another way. Turns out there is.
‘When starting out, I suggest looking into the premade modes by the devs. They did a good job explaining what each RULE does. Then get some codes from players and see what and how they managed to do things. Modify it, see how things change in-game.’
Go on to the subreddit r/Overwatch or r/OverwatchCustomGames to find players sharing their creations. Spot something you like and import it into the game. I messed around with that Skyrim sneak mod mentioned earlier, and ended up reversing the visibility from when the player is crouched to when they are upright, leading to mass confusion for the whole lobby. There’s a long way to go, but it was fun to just mess around with that kind of thing.
Another Reddit user created the game Super Hot in Overwatch, wherein one player has the power to stop time and must use that advantage to overcome a whole team of enemies. Armanatz, the designer of this custom mode, was surprised at the relative simplicity of it all.
‘Really, the complexity isn't much and if you look at the Workshop script, it really only has a few rules and that's what I am glad about the Workshop’, Armanatz said about their mod. The main piece of advice they had for newbies? Again, it was to go find someone’s creation and fiddle around with it. ‘The best advice I can give is don't be afraid of copying someone else's work and modifying it for your needs. The best way to learn is to have an example of how someone else did it and then work your way from there.’
Although the first adopters of the Overwatch Workshop are going to be those of us with experience in software developing, I get the feeling that in time, more fans will be able to give it a go with this advice. ‘The simplest way to do something is usually the right way. Don't over complicate things or over think things’, suggests Armanatz. And honestly, that’s probably the best way to go about it. There are folks in the community who’d be happy to help, and a lot of the programming stuff in the Workshop is universal throughout disciplines, so if you Google a problem, you’ll probably find an answer.
Basically, just have a go. Overwatch is ripe for creativity, and you can really make something cool happen if you put your mind to it. jTiKey put it best.
‘When you give people a sandbox, they gonna always find something new to create. Custom modes died down because they were very limited. Now the player base can always come up with something new.
This is the best thing the Overwatch devs have added to the game.’