Its High Time for Blizzard to Introduce Role Lock in Competitive Overwatch

May 23, 2019 | 0 | 1348| |

Overwatch is a very diverse game and hero switching is one of the key features in the game. Players can switch characters every time they are in their spawn, making it a constant tug of war between the two teams. As one team picks a strong hero composition, the opponent can have a chance to counter it with their own changes to the lineup. Meanwhile, the Payload / Control Percentage keeps moving ahead allowing the team in control to further secure their advantage. However, there were many problems that surfaced due to this unique approach to competitive gaming in Overwatch.  

A recent HaloOfThoughts report by Arran ‘Halo’ Brown states that the Overwatch League has stepped in to veto Role Queues implementation at the highest level. This decision is definitely unexpected since it has the widespread support of all in the community. However, the developers have confirmed that they are working on Role Queue and it is not as simple as it sounds ( on Reddit).

What Changes Will Come Under Role Lock in Overwatch?

There are three categories of Heroes in Overwatch: Tank, Damage and Support. The ideal team composition should comprise of two heroes from each category. However, over the course of multiple patch updates, we have seen teams use different and often out of the ordinary strategies in their games. It is not uncommon to see the Bastion and Orisa meta on certain Payload maps from time to time. The meta changes with each update and slight changes to one hero can have repercussions across the hero pool.

A role lock would essentially force players to play specific roles. If Role Lock were present in the game, users would need to queue for specific roles before searching for a match. There are many problems that arise from such a role-lock for matchmaking but there are also a high number of advantages.

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Longer Queue Times

Queue times are already quite high at higher ranks in Overwtach. An Image of Queue times in Overwatch.
Role Lock will ensure longer queue times in Overwatch. Image Credit: Blizzard Forums

With Role locks, there are bound to be much longer queue times for the average gamer. Since the vast Majority will want to play either Tank or Damage roles, the queue times for these roles will be significantly higher than that for supports. This problem becomes especially acute at higher ranks. Due to the smaller player pool, as we climb up the ranks, the queue times for popular roles at these ranks would be significantly higher.

At the lower ranks, this would probably not be such a big problem. Since the player base increases massively as one goes to the lower ranks, the impact on queue times will be negligible. However, Blizzard recently introduced rules which disallow more than two players queueing up in ranks above Grand Masters. The already limited player base will find it even more difficult to find a match at odd hours with restrictions to party size and roles.

Restrictions on Creative Compositions

An image of a Nanoboosted Reinhardt near the Payload
Restrictions breed Creativity

Overwatch compositions can be very diverse due to the variety of heroes. While certain heroes are classified as support, they can lend a heavy focus on damage. Zenyatta is one such hero, which amplifies the damage that your opponents take. However, he does not have many escape mechanisms, especially if the opponent decides to target him. At the same time, a hero like Mercy will boost your damage output significantly while also maintaining a healing aspect when required. Zenyatta players can solo kill certain heroes with their alternate fire. Season 1 saw JJonak become the MVP of multiple matches due to his alternate fire kills. He would often receive damage boosts from his co-support player, Ark.

The opening kill could often turn the tide of the team fight, often securing New York Excelsior the advantage for the next few seconds. This would be enough to take control of the objective and possibly even win the map at times.

Creative team compositions such as the Bastion composition, or even multiple hitscan heroes in the game are fun to watch. There have been stages in Overwatch League when certain hero compositions can turn out to be extremely overpowered. The multiple hitscan meta, the dive meta, the Tank meta all have focussed on certain aspects of the game.

Role Queue will definitely limit the creativity when it comes to the hero compositions. We have seen teams run 6 tanks in the past as well as five DPS and one support. There are obvious exceptions since there are many heroes within a particular hero type. 

Restrictions on Creative compositions is a balance between seeing cheesy lineups versus having stability in the lineup. This problem is especially prominent at lower ranks in public matchmaking.

There Will Be No Role Lock for Stage 3

The Overwatch League Stage. Boston uprising vs NYXL
Stage 3 starts on June 6th and will continue till July 7th

There are a total of twenty teams in Season 2 of the Overwatch League. They include teams from across the globe with the majority coming from North America. In terms of investors, the Overwatch league already has several traditional sports franchises included as investors in the League. Many of these franchises have a lot of experience when it comes to developing a league from scratch. They have a lot of experience when it comes to building your fanbase, sale of merchandise and other revenue sources. With constant communication with Blizzard, the Overwatch League has grown tremendously over the past few years.

The Stage 2 Finals saw record viewership, even as the viewership numbers were declining through the Stage. All the teams wanted Blizzard to implement a 2-2-2 role lock according to Halo’s report. However, Overwatch League used their veto powers to ensure that there is no role lock within the game, at least for this Season.

The Developers Are Already Working on Implementing Role Lock Within the Game

It seems everyone from the fans, the players and the teams wants to ensure a role-lock within the game. However, Overwatch League’s decision to veto any such move does raise some questions. Why would Blizzard not want a Role Lock in their game, especially since everyone else seems to want such an action? The Overwatch League is not against Role Lock. In fact, Jeff Kaplan did talk about Role queue in an interview posted on Unit Lost – Great British Gaming.

He mentions that implementing role queue will take months of work from the developers. Jeff confirms that the Blizzard team is already working on implementing a role queue for the game. However, implementing role lock is not as simple as simply putting players in different pools and allowing them to choose their roles. As Jeff said in the interview if they would implement the current code as it is, the wait time for certain damage characters would be in excess of 20 minutes.

Professional Players Feel a Role Lock Would Make Overwatch Experience More Consistent

In a recent video posted by Akshon Esports, they ask multiple professional players their opinion on a role lock within the game. However, they do feel like the game would have a more stable experience than at present. There is a high chance that pub matches see five support mains in one team. Check out this video by Overwatch League Caster MonteCristo

Of course, the experience at the higher ranks is very different from the ones at the lower ranks. At higher ranks, there is almost always a semblance towards a decent composition. At lower ranks, players are less prone to play heroes based on the team’s need. They prefer to play heroes that they are comfortable with. This is the rank at which the 2-2-2 enforcement can have a significant impact and ensure a consistent experience for most players. The player base has a larger concentration at lower ranks and a role queue would be a significant quality of life improvement for the majority of the Overwatch player base.

Why Did the Overwatch League Veto Role Lock Within OWL?

Overwatch League, if they did veto the role lock within OWL obviously did it as it is not implementable in its present state. We do not know the state of progress when it comes to the Role Lock for Blizzard, however, since the developers are already working on an update, we should expect Role Lock in the future.

The main objective of the proposed role lock was to ensure a change in the meta. The current meta-features a 3-3 composition and has become quite stale. It is the common consensus amongst the players that the meta needs a change. However, the quickest way to implement such a change, apart from a patch update would have been the implementation of a role queue.

It would also serve as a great study case for the developers to see how such a feature would work. However, their decision not to implement it in Stage 3 is a disappointment as viewers will continue to see the same meta ( which is getting boring by now) in the Overwatch League.

How would you feel about the implementation of a Role Lock feature within the game? Do you think Overwatch will change significantly if there was a Role Lock feature in the game? Since Overwatch is more like a Chess game, where you are constantly trying to counter your opponents game, will role lock significantly lower your chances of countering the opponent? Let us know in comments below.


The author

Esports journalist. An esports fan, former wannabe pro and occasional angry young man. You can find him trying to climb the Dota 2 MMR or just chilling in Rocket League. Or maybe building an entire city in Cities: Skylines. The current mood is always a surprise.

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