On January 30, Overwatch released their next developer update video. In it, Jeff Kaplan from the Overwatch team had a lot of information on what players can expect in 2020.
The first things he addressed were the balance and the meta. As a constantly evolving game, the amount of tiny tweaks here and there to keep the game “balanced” (and fun) can be challenging. Kaplan talked about how in the past Overwatch developers are a little too slow for the community’s taste to bring about changes to the game.
The developer’s solution to this is a brand-new Experimental Card. Overwatch’s primary cards being Quickplay, Competitive, the Game Browser, etc. Now, players might see a new card available to them. The Experimental Card could be trying many different things such as hero balances, game mode changes, or when the devs want to test some new things out. What this does is move the impact of the players more into the forefront. Instead of before, where the only way to test new things was on the PTR, this allows players on all consoles to provide feedback to the team.
The developers want to test game changes, but most importantly, they want real player reactions to those changes. You can expect the Experimental Card to be live in a few weeks.
Balance and the Meta
Next, Kaplan went on to announce the Overwatch devs new philosophy which is: balance more frequently, more aggressively, and be less concerned with trying something and pulling it back later.
The devs are really looking to shake things up and will specifically be targeting the meta when making changes as opposed to maintaining stability in the game all the time. Overwatch has heard what the community has been begging for since the early days and is listening. Players want the devs to address: faster balancing, targeting the meta, updating more frequently, and above all else, players want to be included in the changes. So, that’s what the devs are going to do going forward.
The next big announcement is hero pools. Just like competitive Overwatch has map pools, they will now be including hero pools to competitive only in Season 21. Hero pools will be a way to make players think creatively on how to play the game with the characters they have. The devs want to keep the meta from stagnating, and they want to encourage more hero diversity and new winning strategies. The hero rotation will only last one week at a time.
Like all things, hero pools will come with its challenges. Jeff assured the fans that it is something that, of course, could be changed if its implementation into the game doesn’t work as well as they’d hope.
The Overwatch League also announced its support and participation in hero pools. They released a blog explaining in depth how they hope hero pools will enrich the Overwatch gameplay.
Jeff went on to address the huge effort being put into anti-cheat. The devs can’t really discuss the details of the action being taken for fear of it being counter-productive but assured players that the next two patches address major anti-cheat. They encourage players to continue to report players they feel are cheating.
Kaplan mentioned a huge workshop update coming. This update will be all about enabling creators to have more power and freedom to create better and more intuitive custom games.
Last but not least, Kaplan wanted to talk about some small quality of life things that will be coming to Overwatch very soon. There are improvements to replays. Players will now be able to pin replays so they won’t disappear with every new patch. Players will also be able to share replays inside Overwatch, which the devs are excited for because it will be a great tool for content creators.
The Career Profile area will also be getting cleaned up. Players will have the ability to sort player icons.
Overwatch’s 21st competitive season starts on March 5. So, be on the lookout for all the big changes to come.