Overwatch

Jeff Kaplan outlines Hero Pools, experimental mode coming to Overwatch

by Brad Norton

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Overwatch Lead Designer Jeff Kaplan is finally back in front of the camera for the first developer update video in months as he outlined innovative new features set to be implemented in February with Patch 1.45.

After six months without a developer update from the Overwatch team and much speculation as to when the next video would be released, Kaplan addressed the community on January 29 with an overview of what to expect in the upcoming 1.45 update.

Set to release in early February, patch 1.45 looks to shake up the state of Overwatch with brand new modes, features, and more. Additionally, Kaplan also expressed how balancing updates will be issued more frequently moving forward as to constantly keep the competitive experience fresh.

Overwatch 2 heroes running
Blizzard
Blizzard is looking to implement some major changes ahead of Overwatch 2's release.

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Starting out the discussion, Kaplan touched on Blizzard’s current philosophy in regard to balancing the game. Often waiting months between minor tweaks and even longer for major overhauls, he explained how that approach would soon be a thing of the past. 

Looking to implement balance updates more frequently, the developers will also be making more significant adjustments moving forward that intentionally seek to offset the meta. 

The brand new ‘Experimental Card’ feature was revealed as one such way that Blizzard will be testing new forms of balancing without having long periods of silence. This card will allow them to test major changes to the game that may or may not reach the standard modes.

Different to the current Public Test Region, the Experimental Card will be accessible on the Live server, meaning that the console community can also help test potential balance changes. Additionally, players will also continue to earn experience and loot boxes while playing in this new mode.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbEagP5ebzY

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Another huge addition outlined in the developer update is the new system referred to as ‘Hero Pools.’ Beginning with Season 21 of competitive play, Hero Pools will shake up the playing field each and every week by disabling select heroes.

The exact pool of heroes that will be banned is to be determined by the design-time each time around. Currently set to feature a weekly adjustment, the developers appear open to testing different intervals from daily to each and every match.

While the Overwatch community has recently been divided on the concept of a hero banning system, this new function will allow players to experience a form of gameplay that has long been requested, with certain heroes simply unavailable throughout a given match. At least for competitive play, as Hero Pools will not be present throughout quickplay and arcade modes.

Notably, however, it was made clear that while Hero Pools is being tested throughout Season 21, Blizzard will be open to feedback on the feature and potentially even remove it altogether if it does not perform well.

Overwatch heroes displaying skins
Blizzard
With 31 heroes currently in the game, it will be fascinating to see how many heroes are disabled each week.

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How will Hero Pools affect the Overwatch League?

As announced by the league, starting March 7, one tank, support, and two damage heroes will be unavailable for selection during matches each weekend.

The heroes that are not in the pool cannot be unavailable for two weeks in a row and only heroes that are played regularly will be pulled from the pool. Each team will be made aware of which heroes cannot be used one week in advance.

Additionally, Hero Pools will not be used for the mid-season tournament or playoffs.

Blizzard Entertainment
The Overwatch League will have Hero Pools too.

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Kaplan also briefly touched on improvements to Overwatch’s anti-cheat efforts and indicated that Workshop quality of life updates are also on the way.

While no date is set in stone for the release of patch 1.45, the Overwatch community can expect to see these new features in effect in early February.

Additional reporting by Dexerto writer Michael Gwilliam