What can Splatoon Learn from Overwatch?

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Splatoon was the breakout shooting game of 2015, and wound up as one of the best games released all year. With its unique objectives, colorful atmosphere, and funky-fresh attitude, the game completely reimagined what a shooting game could look like, opening a ton of eyes in the process.

However, for all its awesomeness, the game had some glaring flaws when it launched, most notably an overly-simplistic online lobby setup and a general lack of game modes. While Nintendo did a laudable job of patching these holes with free updates, even now there remains a lingering sense that the game could be made even better.

Enter Overwatch, arguably the Splatoon of 2016 (both are shooting games that came out in May, became smash summertime hits, and were/are well-positioned to claim some year-end hardware during the award season). Where once the cool kids hung out and talked about Inklings and save-scumming, they now hang out talking about ultimate skills and how much they hate Bastion. (Seriously, the dude gets so much flak that even Alex Rodriguez feels sorry for him.)

Given that Splatoon 2 is almost inevitable, what could Nintendo take from Blizzard’s new behemoth to improve their inky shooter? Here are some possibilities:

  • Building Teams for Turf Wars. Let’s start with the obvious one. Overwatch, like most other FPS games, allows you to form groups of up to 6 players to take on the world in the game’s various modes. Splatoon belatedly added squadding as an option for Ranked Battles, but it’s time to extend Twin, Tri, and Quad squads down to Turf Wars.
  • Declaring a “Player of the Game.” Having a single “Play of the Game” doesn’t make sense for Splatoon, since these are usually earned in Overwatch through well-placed alts that kill multiple enemies, something that Splatoon’s special weapons are not terribly effective at doing. (Some of them have the potential for mass mayhem, such as the Kraken and Inkzooka, but they tend to be used tactically against a single, specific opponent.)

    Instead, Splatoon could anoint a Player of the Game based on their overall performance in a Single Match. While the winner of this award wouldn’t be much of a mystery in Turf Wars (Spoiler: It’s either the squid with 2000 points or 8 splats), but Ranked Battle calculation could be a lot more interesting: Who inked the most turf within the splat zones? Who spent the most time on the tower? Who carried the Rainmaker the farthest? Without a single play to key on, the PotG winner would just be announced via a static screen displaying the pertinent statistics.

    Winners could receive a small point/money bonus (say, 200p), and players over Level 20 could gain an extra experience point or two. Overall, it would be a nice way to reward players for their Splatoon prowess.

  • Offering a variety of PC types. While Splatoon focuses on gear and weapon customization to trick out your standard Inkling, Overwatch offers a smorgasbord of unique characters with quirky and fun personalities, albeit ones with static weapon choices. The natural question is: Why can’t we have both?

    Splatoon could do an awful lot by offering a few variations on their generic Inklings (and indeed, some superfans on FimFiction have already brainstormed some neat ideas). Adding different types of Inklings, each with a stat set, on top of the existing gear and weapon options would add some fun options for new players while giving power users more opportunities to tune their Inklings to their play style.

    (Of course, we haven’t even touched on the idea of making Octolings or other existing characters playable. Callie and Marie, anyone?)

  • Match Stage Selection. Oh wait, Overwatch doesn’t have the either. (Or does it? Such is the danger of discussing a game you’ve only ever seen on livestreams…)

Of course, in some ways what Splatoon should not learn from Overwatch is as important as what it should. I would personally recommend that Splatoon avoid the following:

  • Increasing the map size. Overwatch maps are massive compared to Splatoon arenas, which works well when the objective is concentrated in a certain area (secure a certain spot, move an object along a static path). Larger maps, would sap the fun out of some Splatoon modes:
    • In a Turf War, players could conceivably all go their own way inking every corner and crevice of the map, and never actually engage the opposing team. This could be countered, however, by increasing the number of players on each team.
    • In Rainmaker, a team with the lead can effectively play keep-away with the Rainmaker on the current maps. Imagine how frustrating it would be if the maps were even bigger!
  • Adding any sort of chat capability. Limiting team communication to “C’mon!” and “Booyah!” was a polarizing issue, but I believe Nintendo made the right call, especially given the company’s stance on shielding younger players from the horrors of the Internet.
  • Loot boxes. The gear purchasing/ordering system is fine as is. (Although I wish Spike would just freaking fill in the $%&@ gear sub-abilities the way I want him to…)

Let’s be clear: Splatoon is an excellent game as it stands right now, probably the best that the Wii U has to offer (you’re darn right I went there, Smash Bros fans). With a little inspiration from its most recent competition, Nintendo could take their newest IP to a whole new level, and make a whole lot of gamers happy in the process.