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Overwatch • Mar 01, 2019

Jeff Kaplan explains why Overwatch matchmaking doesn't consider hero preferences

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Jeff Kaplan explains why Overwatch matchmaking doesn't consider hero preferences
Blizzard Entertainment

Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has revealed why the matchmaking system doesn’t consider players’ role or hero preferences when creating matches.

The topic of roles in matchmaking has been a persistent subject of discussion throughout Overwatch’s history.

As it stands right now, matchmaking has no way of taking into account what roles players actually want to play, often leading to scenarios where too many people overlap in the preferences or capabilities to form a viable composition.

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To combat this, players have long requested a role queue – a matchmaking playlist that would allow players to select the role they wanted to play, and then enforce a strict role division – likely a 2-2-2 composition of tanks, healers, and DPS – in order to produce reasonable line-ups.

Blizzard Entertainment
Players have long complained that teams often don't have a viable distribution of roles

In order to avoid restricting players hero options while still increasing the likelihood of a good distribution of roles, a player on the Overwatch forums suggested a “soft role queue” that wouldn’t enforce roles, but would take player history into account and endeavor to create teams with a mixture of roles, while avoiding putting together squads in which all six players have only ever played DPS, for instance.

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The idea would be to address one of the major issues players have with the current matchmaking system, which is that teams often don’t have a distribution of players whose main heroes make up a viable composition, without some of the difficulties that come with implementing a full, strict role queue.

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According to Jeff Kaplan, however, this kind of route is something Blizzard is unlikely to pursue, due to the fact that making judgements about how players actually want to play by looking at what roles they’ve filled in the past isn’t always particularly accurate.

“Thanks for the suggestion! It’s actually one we’ve debated on the team. One concern we have is anytime we – the OW team – make assumptions about what you want to do without giving you some agency in the situation. Our concern is, we believe there are a number of players who want to or like to play different roles but because they are thinking of “the good of the team”, they flex to needed roles. A player like this, under your design suggestion, is going to end up always having to play tank or support. We really want to avoid design solutions that further reinforce players being forced to play roles they don’t intend to.
I hope this explanation makes sense. To use myself as an example, by your suggestion, I am a “tank main” because most of my play time is on tanks. But I really love playing healers and damage heroes as well. I would be worried if the game just assumed I should be playing tank all the time, because I did it so much previously (mostly to be a good teammate, not because that’s what I wanted to do).
Hope that makes sense.”

Fortunately, it does seem that Blizzard are committed to solving the current issues with the matchmaker, and Kaplan even hinted that work on a role queue might have already begun.

How Blizzard ultimately decide to address the problem, and how long it takes for a solution to manifest in-game, remains to be seen. Players can at least be confident, however, that it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the development team.