Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan has revealed that Blizzard once tried out a role-restricted mode, but abandoned it as it “wasn’t fun.”
Players have long requested some form of “role queue” to ensure that teams have a balanced selection of roles. As it stands, there’s nothing in either quick play or ranked competitive mode stopping all six players from locking in DPS heroes, for instance, resulting in a composition that is highly unlikely to be successful.
Blizzard have always been resistant to the idea of restricting roles, however, as it goes against the core principle of hero flexibility that Overwatch is designed around.
It seems Blizzard did once explore the idea of having a more restricted mode, however. Game director Jeff Kaplan took to the forums to reveal that they once tested a “4-1-1” mode that would have required there to be one tank and one healer on each team, while the rest of the squad would be DPS.
The idea presumably stemmed from the observation that, while Blizzard want to leave freedom for creative compositions, at least one tank and healer is required in almost any viable line-up. Apparently the mode was “not fun”, however, as Blizzard realized that it placed too much pressure on the lone tank and healer.
“We actually tried a mode we called “411” because it limited comps to 1 tank, 1 healer and the rest DPS.
It was not fun and we didn’t enjoy it. The way the game is tuned, the importance it placed on the lone tank or lone support was too significant. Also, we’ve all evolved as players since 2016 and we’re much better these days at melting the tank or melting the healer than we used to be. Once your lone tank or healer died, it felt like you were forced to completely regroup with no chance of pulling out a win.
It was a good experiment for us to try and led to a lot of good discussion. But yeah, wasn’t fun…”
This realization doesn’t necessarily rule out the most commonly-requested feature, however – that Blizzard implement a role queue which requires two tanks, two DPS, and two healers for each team, a distribution that would in most cases guarantee a viable composition.
Recently, Jeff Kaplan actually revealed that this is a feature he himself would quite like to see implemented, not only to enforce balanced compositions but also to ensure that players in each role actually want to be playing that role, having queued specifically for it.