A technical guide to improvement



Overwatch is a complicated game and there’s a lot more to it than flying head shots, or holding down the mouse button as Bastion. You’ll need tactics, guts, grit, and determination to rise to the stars and compete against the best – but that’s not what I’m here to help you with- No no, good sir! (or madam), for there is more than a butt-load of gameplay guides already sweeping the internet, and a lot of those will likely do a much better job at keeping up with the meta than I could ever hope to.

We will instead take a look at what makes it all run behind the scenes, and how you can improve your game drastically with a few magic* tweaks. No longer will you be impeding your own progress towards improving in Overwatch, because you’re grounded by the technical side of the game. We’ll also touch on a few subjects that people tend to avoid or ignore in their traditional “How to improve your l33t skillz” guides- such as audio and GPU properties.

*Disclaimer: Magic isn’t real, sorry.


If you appreciate the guide and would like to see more chapters ASAP, write: “++ @Ferrius#0764” in the HND discord in Mercy’s channel!

Example: “++ @Ferrius#0764 Your guide really helped me!”


Chapter 1

– Audio –

When you shoot or strike an enemy in Overwatch you need a confirmation of that hit landing, and a really satisfying feeling when landing a critical. Something that just sounds delicious, right? This was the challenge facing the game designers, and sound designer – Paul Lackey. ‘What sounds truly satisfying?’ he wondered one evening, as he grabbed a cold beer and twisted off the cap. The gratification he linked with that sound kick-started an idea. Overwatch’s hit notification is actually a reversed playback of the sound a beer bottle emits, when the cap is twisted off- the low “psst” that we’ve all grown up to enjoy. Just how awesome is that?

Overwatch uses its audio design to channel a ton of information to its players, allowing them to learn and gain a better perception in the game and grow to react instinctively to said information. They’ve truly done all their homework and delivered a system that provides every detail of the extensive gameplay. Honestly, the audio design from Blizzard deserves more attention than it gets.

Especially, the audio mix that Blizzard employs works like a charm. Audio plays a huge part of improving your skill as it directly ties to situational awareness – “Bu-but Ferrius…” I hear you ask. “Wasn’t the whole point of this guide to talk about the technical side of things? How does this tie into that?” Well, my little noobling friend- first… Check out the video below. This video I’ve shamelessly snipped out of Eurogamer’s video on sound design from the OW beta, perfectly demonstrates just how well carefully mixed the audio is for our favorite shooter. The first part of the clip is without the “Clear Audio Mix” that Blizzard employs in the game, and the second part is with said audio mix enabled… Give it a listen.



This “Audiomix” is NOT to be confused with Dolby Atmos. What you just heard is the standard game being played without “Atmos” enabled. Blizzard has praised Atmos to be the god of the stereo headset experience, but I myself have found it to be a horrible setback in learning situational awareness. It almost completely shreds any fine-tuning the sound engineers at Blizzard have worked on day and night before release, for the average gamer with a 2.0 stereo headset.


What is Dolby Atmos doing in Overwatch, and why should I care?

In the real world, how do we know where sounds are coming from? Your ears do a number of tricks to achieve this. Maybe the most interesting is how sound will reflect on your ear cartilage while it funnels toward your ear drum. Sounds coming from a different location will definitely sound different, and we subconsciously use that to pinpoint sound sources. The way Dolby Atmos tries to achieve this experience in 2.0 stereo, by sorting all sounds by origin in a virtual 3D space. This in theory should be the perfect setup for a gamer, because a system like that could tie in and calculate directly from location sources within the game- their trajectory as well as their complexity.

Truth is however, the sound designers throughout the years have nearly perfected the 2.0 experience working with conventional audio mixes- and I don’t personally feel that Dolby have achieved anything groundbreaking. With Atmos enabled, all it does is muffle the game environment and making it a lot more “booming”. That’s my own humble opinion- however audio is probably the only thing I’ll touch upon in this guide that is 100% preference. You might find that Atmos works for you… Or you might agree with me, that it’s a booming pile of omnic waste.


So… If sound settings are 100% preference, how can it help me improve my game?

Situational awareness- or more simply put. Footsteps. They are an enormous guide to the world around you inside Overwatch, and can help you get the jump on opponents. It’s something you should put effort into learning and memorize, and most likely something you tend to not actively practice. Reaper’s heavy boots stomping through corridors, Junkrat’s peglegged “skipping”, as well as Mercy’s high heels… These are all carefully designed to be independent and easily recognizable, so do yourself a favor and learn them.

Truth is that when it comes to audio, it’s all preference. Whatever setup and volume you find gives you the best situational awareness, and allows you to best pinpoint footsteps, voice lines, and other sound queues (such as the timer on Lucio’s ultimate), is the right choice. Here is a video I found be very helpful to get you started with learning the footsteps of different heroes. It is possibly a bit outdated, but gets to the jist of it.


– End of Chapter 1 –


Chapter 2

– Mouse / Sensitivity –

Your mouse and the settings you apply it are extremely important when it comes to getting the maximum potential out of your game(s). To make sure we’re all working from the same plate, we’ll start by making sure we’ve got the standards in place – Windows mouse settings. For 100% mouse accuracy you need to keep the pointer speed set at 6/11, otherwise pixel skipping will occur regularly. There are also other factors that could be causing havoc, such as mouse acceleration or “Enhanced Pointer Precision” as Windows calls it.

For example, say you are using 3/11. Your windows multiplier is 0.25. If you move the mouse by one pixel constantly for 3 counts, 3 * 0.25 = 0.75, and the pointer is not moved at all. You then move another 2 counts, and 2 * 0.25 = 0.5 + the 0.75 from last time = 1.25. Now the pointer moves by 1. This happens because when Windows applies the scaling factor, it can only pass through to the game a whole (integer) number of mouse movement and it holds back or delays a remainder which is added into the next movement.

However, most FPS game developers already realized this a long time ago and gave us the little nifty setting “Raw Input”. Enabling raw input will always overwrite any custom Window’s settings to the standard 1/1 input, and disables any other factors that could be adjusting or causing misbehavior in the communication between your mouse and your game. We’ll be working on adjusting your sensitivity and settings from this neutral stage. (Enabled per standard in Overwatch, patched out in Beta to be on permanently instead of a choice.)


Is an expensive gaming mouse worth the money?

I take it that most- (if not everyone) reading this guide is already using a mouse designed for gaming. Peripherals designed for gaming is a good choice, as “gaming” often goes hand in hand with quality- such as a higher polling rate, dpi choices, macros and a grip designed to sit comfortably during long sessions. It’s also (most likely) accompanied by in-depth customization choices through the driver software. If you’re not currently using a gaming mouse you can skip the block below. A standard plug & play mouse won’t let you adjust the settings we’re about to touch on- such as DPI and polling rates.


What is polling rate?

The polling rate of your mouse is how often your mouse reports back your movements to your computer. If you use a higher polling rate you will have less mouse lag and your movements will be more precise. Most gaming mice have polling rate settings built into the software or a physical switch somewhere on the mouse to adjust it. If your mouse doesn’t have built in polling options you can find guides on the internet to overclock your USB polling rate. The default polling rate for non-gaming mice is 125hz. Most gaming mice have polling rates up to 1000hz which is significantly better. It has no effect on mouse sensitivity settings, but it changes the polling interval from 8ms to 1ms.

Most gamers want to run games with at least 100 fps (10ms per frame displayed) or 60 fps (16.67ms per frame). This means that changing your USB poll rate, could potentially make your mouse inputs display up to 1 frame faster. Many years ago in older computers a higher polling rate could slow down your computer so you would get a lower frame rate, or the operating system could not consistently handle a higher polling rate and you would get inconsistent mouse movements. If you have Windows 7 or newer and at least a two core processor this is no longer the case.


DPI – “Dots Per Inch”

The best way to adjust your mouse speed is by changing your mouse DPI setting. If your mouse has adjustable DPI settings you typically can adjust them through special software that came with your mouse or through physical buttons on your mouse. In a 2D setting such as the Windows desktop or isometric games a dot translates to one pixel. So DPI is how many pixels your cursor will move for every inch you move your mouse. Switching from a DPI of 400 > 800 is multiplying with a factor of two etc.

“Well then- If DPI is how many times it registers movement per inch- surely a higher DPI will give me an advantage… right?” False.*

*Click here for an in-depth explanation to this statement*

Not only are some DPI options (6000+) ridiculous for the sizes and resolutions of today’s monitors, but many mice actually use sensors not originally designed for those high DPI counts, which negatively affects performance. Check out the full link above if you’re not feeling like taking my word for it.


Your mouse in-game is different from your desktop cursor

Using your mouse to aim in a first person shooter is completely different from using your mouse to move your cursor on the desktop, and games with a 2D perspective such as League of Legends, Heart of the Storm, and Star Craft. When you use your mouse on the desktop, or in a game with an isometric view where you move a mouse cursor and point and click- your cursor’s precision is limited by your monitor’s resolution. When you use your mouse in a first person shooter it turns your view in a 3D space and there is no limit based on your monitor’s resolution. Instead your precision is limited by the game engine’s turning sensitivity precision which typically allows much more precision. This allows you to take advantage of higher DPI settings in a game like Overwatch- however as pointed out previously: A monstrously high DPI yields no advantage… So stick with the 400-2800 range for this next part optimally.

Configuring your sensitivity

The three golden rules of your sensitivity in any competitive FPS:

  1. One full swipe of your mouse should correlate to approximately turning 180 degrees ingame.
  2. Enable Raw Input if available to negate bad factors such as mouse acceleration and angle snapping.
  3. Once you’ve found a setup that works for you, don’t switch it up. Muscle memory is key to success.

People have vastly different setups- some prefer an ordinary mouse pad, others a mat the size of your standard football field. Whatever your preference lies in, there’s no advantage in having your average swipe turning you further than 180 degrees- why would you turn right to look left? Some might find this ridiculously slower than they’re used to- but this has been the standard practice among the highest tier players in CS, Quake, and UT for years.

Go to an empty custom game or practice range, and find two points of reference. Try and practice swiping around to meet your reference points- one directly in front of you, and one behind you. Turn at different speeds, envision different scenarios- and try various angles and reference points. You can even use the non-stationary practice bots if you feel like mixing it up. Keep repeating this process and swap up your sensitivity in small increments, until you feel comfortable or at least somewhat stable with your aim.

Once you’ve found something comfortable, we can proceed to small adjustments regarding how the game visualize and transmit cross hair data. Talking about sensitivities, DPI, and turning circles, we’ll move unto using a universal translation for all out personal settings- cm/360. This will give us an idea regardless of what settings you use, how far you move your mouse to turn a full circle- and offers an easy value to compare with other players, especially regarding what the choices in sensitivity are for higher ranked players.

Average of HND members that reached 65+ in season 1: 23.88 cm/360

Again- I must clarify that everyone has a different setup and that your turning circle might be drastically different than others. Best you can do is try to narrow in on the 180 degree rule, to a point where you can stay comfortable.

The last step of configuring your mouse- is that when all is set and done, there’s still some corrections that we need to do in order to prevent potential pixel skipping. To see a VOD on the details about pixel skipping here is a link to Taimou explaining and showcasing it, or a similar case from the popular fps CS:GO by Kind Old Raven. To the right is a calculator you can use to double check your setup for faults!

Input your DPI, sensitivity, and FOV which can be found in your graphics menu in-game. Find your matching resolution in the chart, and check its value. If the value for your current setup turns out blue, it means you’ll have little to no pixel skipping. If it’s red, try to decrease your sensitivity and raise your DPI by equal increments. If you raise your DPI from 400 to 800, a sensitivity of 2 should be cut in half to 1. Continue this process until your resolution flashes a blue marker, and you’re all set!



Things to watch out for:

Mouse acceleration

Mouse acceleration was originally used because older mice were not accurate enough to be used without it, but any modern gaming mouse is well beyond capable of delivering an accurate experience. With mouse acceleration disabled, your cursor will move an exact distance for every corresponding movement you make on your mouse pad. This consistency is extremely important for FPS games, as it lets you build up muscle memory- a key factor in regularly landing head and body-shots.

With mouse acceleration enabled however, the distance your mouse travels is no longer the only factor. It will now also take into account at what speed your mouse traveled said distance. This means that you might feel you can be very precise at low speeds. But the moment a tracer pops up next to you, and in a panicked response you try to get your aim on her as fast as humanly possible-… Well, you’ll turn into the Tasmanian devil from Road Runner and any chance of landing a shot on her goes out the window.


Manage your wires

Wires drag and get in the way when you move your mouse and cause inconsistent resistance which leads to inconsistent mouse movements and decreased accuracy. Make sure your mouse cord has enough slack so that it is causing the least amount of resistance possible. One way to reduce the resistance is to use a mouse bungee that holds the mouse cord up in the air in front of the mouse so it doesn’t drag around.

There are only a few wireless mice that are good enough for gaming and they are a lot more expensive than wired mice. They are also typically heavier because of the extra weight from the batteries.



Reflections are bad. The surface you use your mouse on can make a big difference in tracking accuracy and your ability to aim. Even if your mouse works on a surface it may not be tracking perfectly. Avoid reflective or glossy surfaces. Most optical mice often have trouble on reflective surfaces. Laser mice can usually handle them but they don’t track as well as on a matte surface.

Finer detailed surfaces allow for more accurate measurements. The sensor on your mouse works sort of like a camera taking pictures and comparing them to find the distance moved. If there is less detail in the pictures it is harder to tell the difference.

It is important to have a large surface area to use your mouse on. A small mouse pad may be adequate for casual use, but a surface for gaming should be at least 10×10 inches. If the surface is too small your mouse will fall off the end or hit your keyboard and you will be forced to lift it and move it back to the middle, losing valuable time. A smaller area often leads people into using a higher sensitivity than is ideal, which typically reduces mouse accuracy and somewhat negates the whole process we went through above. If you have a small desk you may want to consider using a smaller keyboard to free up more room for your mouse.


Negative acceleration

Negative acceleration is bad and you want to avoid it. Negative acceleration is when you turn farther when you slowly move your mouse. For example, if you move your mouse 6 inches at a medium speed and do a 360 degree turn in the game, then you move your mouse very quickly 6 inches and only turn 180 degrees.

The sensor on the bottom of the mouse measures the distance you move it in snapshot time intervals based on the polling rate. When you move the mouse too far within one of those intervals it can potentially exceed the ability of your mouse to accurately measure the distance it moved. The mouse will send a lower value to the computer than the actual distance it was moved. This is less likely to happen on mice with better sensors. You are also more likely to experience negative acceleration when using your mouse on a poor tracking surface.

Negative acceleration can also be caused by games themselves. Some games limit the maximum distance you can turn in one frame. The only way to get rid of the negative acceleration in these games is to get a higher frame rate. You can sometimes do this by lowering your graphics settings or uncapping your frame rate by turning off v-sync. But we’ll get to that in the next chapter!

All of these things could easily lead to that “My aim doesn’t feel quite right today” scenarios, so make sure your equipment and setup is good!


– End of Chapter 2 –


Chapter 3

– Graphics –



Chapter 4

– Input Lag –