Last month we touched on the prospect of a forced role queue being introduced to Overwatch‘s competitive play. While the consensus was pretty mixed, with an even spread across the yes-no votes for the move, Blizzard has been pretty emphatic in its dismissal of it. That might change, however, if the studio’s to listen to the game’s vocal Overwatch League players.
No doubt that if you’ve ever played a match in Overwatch, you’d have found yourself stuck in a bad team composition: rather than fill and pick a hero that’s required, players will often one-trick and pick DPS, or heroes they’re familiar with, even if it means stacking the team with roles already filled.
In Quick Play this is of course less of an issue, because you’re not being actively punished for losing (aside from gaining less XP), and it’s an arena that encourages experimentation and fun. In Competitive Play, however, players have the flexibility to choose whoever they want, and a shortsighted and/or individualistic approach to team composition can quickly lead to one role being over-filled.
Given this predicament, many within the Overwatch community pushed for Blizzard to introduce somewhat of a hero preference queue, where players select a preferred hero, and they are then put into a match locked to that hero, or that class of hero. This means that players will be matched into a team that has an even spread.
There would be technical challenges here, as a vast majority of players prefer DPS roles, and so you may be waiting a while for a match in that role. That said, it might encourage people to flex more often, and try different tank and support heroes.
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 idea behind the hero preference system was put to Overwatch game director, Jeff Kaplan, recently over on the Battle.net 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.
Pro players have now weighed in, with Dallas Fuel’s Timo ‘Taimou’ Kettunen tweeting out support for role queues. It sets off a pretty active discussion on Twitter, and it may ignite interest in the concept.
“I think we might actually need the 2-2-2 force to balance the game.. I am a different man now,” Kettunen tweeted.
“Let’s do it,” responded André “iddqd” Dahlström.
A host of other pro Overwatch League players got involved as well, and so it’s definitely led to some sort of active discussion about the change.
This certainly presents challenges, however. For one, there is a disconnect currently between what pro Overwatch players think is needed to improve the experience, and how the game is actually played at lower elos. The game is constantly patched, nerfed and buffed to reflect the demands and opinions of pro and high-ranked players, but players in Platinum and below often find themselves having to adapt their play style far more, given the changes weren’t necessary at that level.
The meta shifts more often and in more unique and interesting ways in Gold than it does in Platinum, for example, because the community doesn’t have the skill range to as effectively counter players to a high degree. This means more heroes are more viable under more conditions, because it’s easier to play a hero, than it is to counter a hero. Symmetra, for example, was completely unviable at higher ranks with her old kit, because she was far too easy to counter. At lower ranks, however, she was unstoppable, because no one knew how to counter her.
Instead of feeding into this and trying to shape the game to ensure lower ranks found ways to deal with her, she was reworked to make her playable at higher ranks. In the process, it raised the skill ceiling to play her, making her unviable at lower ranks.
The same logic can be applied with the role queue idea. It may work at higher levels, however a team of one-trick DPS heroes in Gold, probably has more chance of a victory, than a similarly composed team in Diamond. Forcing those lower ranked players into roles they can’t play will certainly encourage them to learn heroes at a different pace, but it’s still the solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist at lower ranks.
What are your thoughts on the idea of role queues in Overwatch? Sound off in the comments below!