Blizzard enforcing preset map pool across tournament spectrum

ESL's Overwatch IEM Gyeonggi Invitational originally had an illegal map draft.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard-supported Overwatch tournaments will not be allowed to use a map drafting system, a press release from ESL suggested.

Two rulings from the IEM Season 11 rulebook “incorrectly stipulated an Overwatch map pool and map selection process that wasn’t in compliance with Blizzard’s tournament specifications,” according to the statement. Because of that, the Overwatch IEM Gyeonggi Invitational will not have a preset map pool, featuring nine of Overwatch‘s 13 maps—Hanamura, Volskaya, Gibraltar, Route 66, Lijiang, Ilios, Numbani, Hollywood, and Eichenwalde.

The announcement came just days after professional players spoke out in anger regarding a preset map pool for MLG’s upcoming Las Vegas–based Overwatch tournament. During this time, teams participating in Next Generation Esports’ Overwatch Winter Premiere, which began Dec. 10, were reportedly told one day in advance about a preset map pool, according to Luminosity Gaming support player Vytis “Mineral” Lasaitis. “If map draft isn’t used, map pools for major tournaments need to be set in stone weeks in advance,” he added. “Unfair to teams otherwise.”

Blizzard is not inherently against a map drafting system, it seems. The developer just wants to guarantee variety in chosen maps. Overwatch EU program manager Jan M. Jahnke explained on Twitter why the system is undesirable: “Stale meta, different heroes for different maps, viewer experience,” he wrote.

Jahnke did, howeer, agree that there should be some player choice. But until Blizzard can come up with a choice-based plan that ensures map variety, it sounds like present maps will prevail, at least at Blizzard supported events.

Last week, professional Overwatch players sent a petition to Blizzard and MLG, asking for a map drafting system to be set in place for MLG Vegas. The request was denied, but the map pool was revised to include three less maps. For some players, like Misfits’ Jonathan “Reinforce” Larsson, this was fine: Teams no longer have to spend time practicing those three maps, and can now focus on the other 10. For others, like Cloud9’s Lucas “Mendokusaii” Håkansson, the change hindered team practice.

“All the teams start practicing those specific maps, and now, one day before practice days end, they change the map pool completely,” Mendokusaii said on Reddit.

NGE’s Overwatch Winter Premiere has already begun, and with MLG Vegas and IEM Gyeonggi just days away, there’s not much that can be done to placate professionals for 2016. There’s hope for 2017, though—taking Jahnke’s tweets into consideration, the developer appears to be listening to the community.