Overwatch

Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan reveals potential hero pool rework

by Michael Gwilliam
Blizzard Entertainment

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Hero pools are entering their third week of Overwatch’s competitive ranked mode and while Game Director Jeff Kaplan views them as a success, there could still be some major changes in the works.

As it stands, every week, four heroes are out of rotation and cannot be picked by anyone on either team. Thus far, each week has been different and no two heroes have been banned two weeks in a row.

The end result is causing players needing to think outside the box with how they approach forming their team compositions. That said, the pools could have a negative effect on players who choose to one-trick only one character - something Kaplan discussed in an interview with PCGamesN.

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Hero pools can enable characters who are normally countered.

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“We’re in total wait and see mode on hero pools. So far the early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for Overwatch League – the fans love it,” the Vice President of Blizzard said.

“They’re seeing all this hero diversity they’ve never seen before so that’s been great. For players, they’re experiencing it for the first time right now so I don’t think any of us have lived with it long enough to know.”

In the Overwatch League, the bans are different, with the top played heroes each week having the chance to be placed into the pool based on a draw. Additionally, unlike in ladder play, the league always has two DPS heroes out of rotation and never more than one tank or support.

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Hero pools can radically change the gameplay experience.

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Due to how the meta can stagnate, pools are designed to keep things fresh and prevent one super-powerful team composition from dominating week after week. But what about in ladder?

“So what we’re really talking about would be the Mercy main who only plays competitive Overwatch and is not willing to do anything else for a week,” he said. “It’s easy to blow that off and go, ‘you can’t go play mystery heroes? Or can you just play Moira or Baptiste for a week?’ It’s easy to dismiss it but I think that the feedback is valid and real.”

According to Jeff, the team is still going full-steam ahead with hero pools, but they’re considering several changes that would completely change how they function.

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With main tanks out of rotation, the game opens up.

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“I’ll give you an example of some tweaks and changes we’ve explored. We’re not necessarily pulling the trigger on these, these are just like brainstorm ideas but if that Mercy main issue is real, and I think it is, maybe hero pools should be daily,” he revealed.

Daily hero pools would keep the meta in an even stranger position with players having only 24 hours to figure out what the best team is. That said, Kaplan admitted that such a radical change would have its own set of challenges.

“That causes other problems, it really makes it hard for any meta to solidify but is that Mercy main okay, that for a couple hours at night, they can’t play Mercy? Another idea is maybe hero pools only apply to a certain skill rating, like Masters and above, because the reality is, the meta only really, truly exists at around that level.”

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Hero pools could be a negative experience for one-tricks.

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It would certainly be interesting if hero pools only started emerging in the higher ELOs of play, but as Jeff concluded, it’s still too early to say for sure about what direction the team should go.

Only time will tell what exactly the future holds for Overwatch’s newest core competitive element, but it's clear developers will be working on it for some time to come.