Overwatch has proven to be one of the most difficult games to balance, with its wild cast of 32 unique heroes. In a recent interview, the developers have explained why perfect balance may not be possible – or even their goal.
One of the things that makes Overwatch fun is how each hero plays so differently from one another. The kit Reinhardt has at his disposal is wildly different than that of the standard FPS character Soldier 76. Balancing these wildly different heroes can often lead to one being too strong, their counters being too weak, and all sorts of other crazy situations.
As such, the game often finds itself in stagnant metas, especially when certain hero combinations become too strong – as was the case with GOATS back before role-queue and forced 2-2-2 was introduced.
While some players want the game to be fully balanced with each and every hero being viable, Lead Designer Geoff Goodman and developer Josh Noh have commented on why that won’t ever be the case with Overwatch.
“A perfectly balanced game doesn’t mean it will be fun. Design something fun and then balance it, it’s often more difficult the other way around,” Noh explained when asked about his personal design philosophy.
The idea of a balanced game not being fun is certainly an interesting concept, especially when factoring in all the different levels of play in the game. What’s balanced for lower ranks may be overpowered at higher ones and vice versa.
“Perception of balance can be more impactful on the state of a game than the ‘true’ numerical balance. This is especially true in competitive team games as social pressure is a significant factor. Be aware of your own biases when analyzing things. Put the gameplay and player experience first,” he added.
Goodman seemed to agree with Noh’s statement, but noted, “the only thing I’d add is that the fantasy of a design is important to reinforce, as well as the gameplay. This is especially true of heroes, where there is a ton of personality and character that the gameplay should also reflect.”
He then described how each hero plays uniquely with Tracer feeling fast, Widowmaker slow and Junkrat as “pure chaos.”
So, it would seem like the heroes themselves and their personalities are what keep Overwatch from being fully balanced. It’s going to be interesting to see how this philosophy continues with Overwatch 2 and a mobile game in development, plus all the heroes coming with the sequel.