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Would hero preferences improve Overwatch matchmaking? Blizzard doesn’t think so

If you’ve ever played a match in Overwatch, be it in Quick Play, Competitive, or Arcade, you’d have undoubtedly found yourself in a situation were your preferred hero has already been picked. It’s actually a key component of the Overwatch experience — to miss out on playing the one hero you love to play as — and it can be the cause of frustration when that one teammate has a lower rank, or less time with that particular hero.

As such, many in the Overwatch community have been pushing the game’s developer, Blizzard, to implement somewhat of a hero preference queue, where players can select their preferred hero, and you’re then entered into a match locked to either that hero, or the class of that hero.

Further, the system would work to prioritise players with more experience with the chosen hero, so that less experienced players don’t get that hero over someone that can obviously perform at a higher skill level.

The problem with this — as has often be suggested within the Overwatch community — is that it will only further encourage one-trick heroes: if a player selects Torbjorn as their desired hero, then obviously this isn’t going to be an ideal choice on attack, feeding into the at-time toxic nature of matchmaking and hero selection before a match.

Such an issue could be addressed by allowing players to select a hero and class, so that a match is then divided up based on those elections, taking experience and performance into account.

The Overwatch meta has changed many times over the years, often adopting a 3-2-1 profile (3 tanks, 2 support, 1 DPS, or 3 DPS, 2 support, 1 tank), when, clearly, the ideal combination would be a 2-2-2 situation. Any seasoned Overwatch player would know just how rare that is.

The idea behind the hero preference system was put to Overwatch game director, Jeff Kaplan, recently over on the forums. Always one to take on fan and community feedback, Kaplan detailed that the development team has thought of the system, its pros and cons, and how it might be implemented. 

Ultimately, however, it would force to significant a compromise upon more balanced players, that it may not be a viable solution for any of the game’s queue woes.

“It’s actually one we’ve debated on the team,” Kaplan explained. “One concern we have is anytime we – the OW team – make assumptions about what you want to do without giving you some agency in the situation.

“Our concern is, we believe there are a number of players who want to or like to play different roles but because they are thinking of ‘the good of the team’, they flex to needed roles. A player like this, under your design suggestion, is going to end up always having to play tank or support.

“We really want to avoid design solutions that further reinforce players being forced to play roles they don’t intend to.”

Kaplan then used his own play styles as example to demonstrate why he and the team think it’s not the best idea moving forward.

“To use myself as an example, by your suggestion, I am a ‘tank main’ because most of my play time is on tanks. But I really love playing healers and damage heroes as well. I would be worried if the game just assumed I should be playing tank all the time, because I did it so much previously (mostly to be a good teammate, not because that’s what I wanted to do).”

“That seems like a fairly rational approach to the suggestion, as good as the idea sounds. As a flexer myself, one who prefers tank and support over DPS, I’d hate to be constantly tied to tank because the Supply slot has already been fielded, or vice-versa.

In an ideal world, everyone can flex and play what the team needs, and with time it does appear as though the community is improving in this area. However, given the game’s already been out for a number of years, we may never reach a point of optimal team-based hero selection.

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Tuesday 5th of March 2019

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