Blizzard to trial Overwatch competitive hero bans, but with a twist

Posted By   gracer's Avatar gracer   on January 31st, 2020 Report
Overwatch is a game that’s constantly been evolving since its 2016 debut, with Blizzard making changes both big and small. The next big shake up for competitive play, they hope, is a system called Hero Pools, a unique take on the hero bans found in other competitive games. Hero Pools will be in place for the next competitive season, Season 21, which will start in March, and will either be a one-off or could become something more permanent, depending on feedback from players. Note that this change is exclusively for the game’s competitive multiplayer, and so won’t come to affect the Quick Play or Arcade modes. Where other games that feature hero bans integrate this into the pre-match preparation stage, allowing opposing teams to protect and exclude specific characters, or weapons and abilities no a match-by-match basis, narrowing the tactical options, Overwatch Hero Pools don’t put this in the players’ hands. Instead Blizzard will be outright disabling certain heroes each week. They hope that through this, they’ll be able to shuffle the decks in a more meaningful way than a traditional hero ban system. Those tend to allow teams to simply block characters that are seen as too powerful, or selfishly preserve an ability to play as a favourite hero. From Blizzard’s perspective, as explained by Jeff Kaplan, that doesn’t change the meta, creates a more negative culture around certain heroes, and doesn’t actually achieve the game’s MO of fostering team play through playing multiple characters. Oh, and it would make the time between matches even longer. Blizzard have not been afraid to make similarly big changes to the game in the past. Shortly after release they implemented a hero limit so that only one of each character could feature on a team, while the middle of last year saw them add a Role Queue, restricting teams to two tank, two support and two DPS characters. That fed directly into the Overwatch League, cutting of the GOATS meta. Could the Hero Pool also bridge the gap? In addition to this trialled hero system, Blizzard are also planning to make more and more meaningful changes to the game’s balance and ‘meta’ in future. To enable this, they’ll be bringing the systems to trial future changes into all versions of the game using the Experimental Card, where you can try balance updates, game modes and rule changes before they’re added to the core modes. These have previously been limited to the Public Test Realm on PC. That’s quite surprising when you’d expect Blizzard to want to spend less time maintaining the current game so that more of the team could focus on Overwatch 2, which was announced back at BlizzCon. Though this largely expands on the main game, with full cross-play between the two and parity of heroes, balance, maps and technology, they’re adding a major new PvE co-op campaign and building out a whole new game engine, which will surely take a lot of effort. Source: Blizzard via Engadget
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