The bane of one-trick players is here, but there’s some chance it might not stay forever.
Overwatch’s latest developer update revealed that Blizzard is adding “hero pools,” a feature that will remove a handful of characters from competitive play every week. But if the system doesn’t work, the developer team is open to changing its format and even scrapping it altogether, according to game director Jeff Kaplan. He shared some of his insights on the feature on the Blizzard forums yesterday.
“Also, we’re super open to change with Hero Pools,” he wrote. “If we (the dev team and the community) don’t feel like it’s a positive change during Season 21, then we won’t bring it back in Season 22.”
Kaplan also said that the team is “not viewing this change as dramatic, scary or impactful as the decision to pursue Hero Limits or our decision to implement Role Queue” due to its restricted scope that only affects ranked matches, unlike the previous two examples.
This isn’t the first time Kaplan has evidenced that hero pools are mutable and subject to tweaking based on feedback. It’s the first time the director admitted that the developer team could remove the feature, however.
In the developer update, he said that the team “would be willing to change” hero pools if they don’t think the system is having a positive impact. “We could make the hero pools last longer, we could make the hero pools move faster, we could make the hero pools change every match,” he said. “There’s all sorts of ways that we could adjust on this.”
The new feature will lock heroes out of the regular rotation, rendering them unavailable for play. The changes will affect both ranked play and the Overwatch League. The league will see the removal of one support, one tank, and two DPS heroes each week, but Blizzard is still gauging the dimension of the hero pool in ranked play.
“For the first 5 weeks, we will be trying a range to see what feels right,” Kaplan said. “We’ve architected this system so that we can update the hero pools without the need to patch. So we’ll be monitoring feedback very closely, experimenting a bit with the pool and adapting our strategy as time goes on.”
The introduction of hero pools aims to keep the meta “fluid,” without stagnating, and “really getting to more hero diversity,” according to the developer update. Overwatch’s meta was fairly stagnant over the past year.
The dominance of the infamous triple-tank, triple-support composition known as GOATS made it a must-pick during the first few stages of the Overwatch League in 2019. The introduction of role queue forced teams into picking two of each role and effectively killed GOATS. Its successor was double shields using the newly-released Sigma alongside Orisa. The strategy also turned stale fairly quickly since players felt that they were shooting shields more often than enemies. Blizzard pushed a series of balancing patches to reduce the effectiveness of shields and make certain heroes less oppressive. Hero pools are the latest effort at keeping the meta moving.