Overwatch pro explains how devs made ranked play “hollow and unrewarding”

Scott Robertson
Robert Paul / Blizzard Ent.

Former Overwatch League pro and caster for next season Jake ‘JAKE’ Lyon explained how Blizzard and the Overwatch team’s goals for the game have resulted in an atmosphere in ranked play that’s devoid of competitive balance and satisfaction.

While much of the discussion about Overwatch in the early stages of 2020 has revolved around the future of the Overwatch League, much has been said and talked about regarding the state of the meta and competitive balance in the game proper.

According to a popular former player making his way to the OWL desk this upcoming season, the current balance in the game results in a ranked atmosphere that creates shallow and unrewarding victories, especially for those with professional aspirations.

On January 9, a collection of clips of pro players showing off off-meta heroes like Soldier 76 began making their rounds online, including highlights from pros like Daniel ‘Dafran’ Francesca and even JAKE himself.

These clips came just as Overwatch developer Josh Noh clarified his controversial comments on balance and the risk of “power creep,” in which he also referenced Soldier 76 when discussing how Blizzard looks at heroes when addressing balance.

But JAKE alleges that the problems with balance caused by the developers have caused ranked play to become a source of disconnection between the developers and the players.. 

JAKE says that certain heroes are perceived as “unplayable” by pro players because they can be easily countered by consistent teamplay, but claims that teamplay isn’t at all that consistent in ranked gameplay.

Thus, wins with characters like Soldier 76 and other one-trick off-meta heroes are “hollow and not rewarding,” according to Jake, because “you know that it will not work when you come to the true test of your ability in team play.”

He would go on to say that when he plays with these kind of characters, he’s “hoping for low average rating matches” so he can take advantage of the lack of proper teamplay, and render the match “unrecognizable relative to what they have practiced.”

But he clarifies that any player with pro aspirations wouldn’t ever want to practice this way, with “strategies that are ultimately weak in a coordinated environment,” and that “the only way to achieve balance in that organized, competitive environment is to balance for it specifically.”

Many readers credited JAKE with being so articulate with his take, and it will be interesting to see how the developers respond to issues of balance and power creep heading into 2020.

It will also be interesting to see if, and to what degree, JAKE will be critical of in-game issues while on the desk in Overwatch League. Season 3 of OWL begins in February.