The Problem as it Stands
Overwatch is a dynamic game, it’s best played when there are as many different heroes in the game as possible. A repeat problem is undoubtedly the consistent mirror matches seen in pro play. All the meta comps suffer this burnout, Goats is less fun when you see it 24/7 in the Overwatch League or you have to play it for 8 hours a day in scrims. Due to the nature of Blizzard’s balance there is always a meta comp built around the overturned heroes of the time. Be they: Tracer, Reaper, Mei, Winston, Zenyatta, Brig etc.
There is light however with the addition of Hero Pools to help bring us back to the golden age of early innovation. For this article I will mostly be talking about Pro Play as ladder is a whole other seemingly un-fixable rampant beast.
It is possible to look back at old meta’s with rose tinted glasses and ponder where it all went wrong, but I’m looking further back than that. Hero pools won’t ever recapture that love and excitement every player had learning the game, discovering their favourite hero. What it will offer, if done correctly, is a sense of identity among OWL teams in pro play and remove the idea of a “meta comp”.
If done correctly hero ban’s will lead to oppressive hard counters being zoned out. This leaves match-ups like Mcree vs Reinhardt, which Seagull pointed to almost 2 years ago as skill based and interactive. These micro match-ups where you don’t counter an enemy carry by just existing is what makes OW such fun and highly addicting.
The (ever) Present
Within every meta there are 2 or 3 problematic heroes which nearly everyone has grievances with. Whilst it is possible that a new meta will emerge after a ban, the lengths of the rotations will leave teams needing to be either constantly innovative in figuring out the flavour of the week, or forced to develop their own style and identity. The latter is what I hope for.
The ability to constantly find the meta comp and perfect it in one week seems like a mammoth task. Just impossible, especially when teams will spend valuable training days travelling to homestands. The homestand model helps this, as OWL teams aren’t all packed together scrimming each other constantly. A team going to the Philly homestand won’t likely be scrimming any opponents they play there.
My point is, teams will not be able to scrim everyone all the time. This leaves a lack of information and therefore opportunity to innovate and play to your own team strengths. In Season 1 NYXL made every team they scrimmed better. There was no benefit to scrimming teams they would easily 4-0 they admitted this in their infamous “Stage 4 sandbag”. The Spitfire were often able to scrim in-house, possibly allowing for their Championship push.
Why scrim when you know the meta and can practice mechanics elsewhere?
This is early speculation and a wish BUT if done correctly, hero pools will bring back a flavour long lost. In a meta-less pro scene, we will see teams create unique identities. This will lead to a spike in viewing experience and reduce risk of burnout for our favourite players. I wonder how many pros who retired citing burnout would come back, or would never have left, if hero-pools were in the game from an earlier point?
Follow me on Twitter: JacePT_
Also follow Watchpoint: Lobby for all your Overwatch coverage.
“By the common OWL fan, for the common OWL fan”