With Hero Pools now on the Live Overwatch servers, Blizzard has revealed why a more traditional ranked pick-ban system wouldn’t have been the “right fit” for the character-based shooter.
Season 21 of competitive play brought the first iteration of Hero Pools to the Live game as two Damage heroes, one Tank, and one Support, were all restricted on March 5.
Intending to keep the meta fresh and constantly position new heroes at the top of the ladder, Overwatch devs have expanded on the decision-making process and revealed why a more recognizable pick-ban system might not have worked out.
In a blog post released the same day Hero Pools went live, Principal Game Designer Scott Mercer outlined the process that led to such a system being implemented, and how other pick-ban features in similar titles didn't quite match for Blizzard's game.
“We just didn’t think it was the right fit for Overwatch,” he explained while commenting on the idea of a more traditional pick-ban system.
“We didn’t want to turn the pre-match phase into something where you have to spend five minutes staring at UI and hero portraits and listening to people argue about the heroes they do or don’t want.”
Rather than opting for a similar style of hero banned to that of League of Legends and even fellow ability-heavy shooter Rainbow Six Siege, Blizzard appeared to believe that such a system wouldn’t quite work.
Instead, a four heroes are now rotated out of the competitive queue each week as the Overwatch community gets accustomed to the Hero Pools system.
This feature aims to “provide motion and help shake up the meta, which is what we want,” he added. “So we came up with the idea—I think it’s something that [Overwatch's director Jeff] Kaplan originally pitched—what if we made certain heroes temporarily unavailable?”
Discussing how Hero Pools may be tweaked in the future, Mercer explained that the team is able to be flexible with the new system as opposed to a simple pick-ban system that wouldn’t leave much wiggle room.
“We have a lot of flexibility—if we need to take more or fewer heroes out of rotation, we’re not fixed into one tank, two damage, one healer.”
While rotations are currently set to a weekly cycle, “how often pools change isn’t fixed,” he added. “We want to work with the community to see how things go.”
With the new system having only just been implemented, it’s too early to gauge just how the community will take to the restriction of certain heroes.
For the time being, however, here’s a rundown on every hero removed from competitive play throughout the very first week of Hero Pools.