director Jeff Kaplan hosted a new developer update from the Blizzard team today that addressed many of the balance and meta grievances within the competitive Overwatch community. Blizzard says it will commit to more regular balance updates and will implement a Hero Pool system, not a hero ban.Talks of introducing a hero ban in Overwatch have been happening within the competitive community for some time. The idea originates from MOBAs where before a match, each team can choose a hero to “ban” from the match.
While there have been arguments from both sides about whether or not Overwatch should also have a hero ban system, Kaplan has gone ahead and introduced a new solution: Hero Pools.
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Each week during Season 21, Blizzard will implement a new Hero Pools system where a few heroes will be disabled from Competitive Play for a given week. Each week a new pool of heroes will be temporarily disabled.
Kaplan said that the Hero Pools system is a test for Season 21 and “may not persist” past the season. The cadence of hero pools rotation could also change during the experiment. Furthermore, the disabled heroes aren’t going to be chosen by an algorithm and instead by the design team.
The goal is to shake up the meta every week and promote hero diversity. The system will only be available in Competitive Play and not Arcade or Quick Play. Blizzard said the Overwatch League will implement a version of the Hero Pool as well.
The Hero Pool isn’t the only system Blizzard is testing to shake up the meta. Kaplan said that aside from the weekly Hero Pool rotation and more rapid balance updates, Overwatch will start up an Experimental Card.
This is a new Card on the Play screen that will allow Blizzard to test major changes before Blizzard devs decide (or not) to implement them in the standard game modes. The Experimental Card is different from the PTR and is not meant to test bugs. Instead, it’s to experiment with balance updates, game modes, and rule changes that Blizzard wants to test.
The Experimental Card is a live version of Overwatch and will be available to PC and console players, and players can progress and unlock loot boxes from playing.Kaplan is clear that Blizzard wants to shake up the meta and create big changes to how players compete. But these changes are also experimental, and some of the changes may or may not stick.
Either way, Overwatch competitive fans should expect a lot more changes coming to the game soon, and it will hopefully keep the meta fresh. Overwatch previously tried to vitalize the meta by introducing a 2-2-2 role lock, though it’s not enough to keep the meta from stagnating.
Meanwhile, Blizzard is also working on Overwatch 2, read IGN’s Overwatch 2 preview from Blizzcon.
Matt Kim is a reporter for IGN. You can reach him on Twitter.
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