On January 30, Jeff Kaplan graced us with his presence in a new Overwatch developer update. There have been a lot of rumors as to what the future of Overwatch will be, but Kaplan has finally confirmed some major changes that will be happening in the near future.
The first thing mentioned is what they are calling “experimental cards”. This essentially is a new game mode that will bring faster balance changes and give console players, as well as PC players, the opportunity to test changes to the game. It’s essentially the public test region, or PTR, for all players. However, this differs from the PTR in that this won’t really test bug fixes, but more of game modes, rule changes, and character updates. The other neat thing about this is that any progress you make while playing the experimental card will count towards your progress in leveling and your weekly loot boxes. This feature is estimated to be here in a few weeks.
Another thing regarding hero balancing that Kaplan talked about is that the team will be changing their balance philosophy. They will be making changes to characters more frequently and more aggressively to help shift the meta. This is an interesting concept because Kaplan stated that they can implement changes and then revert them back if they choose to do so.
One thing that has been a huge topic of conversation in the Overwatch community is the concept of hero bans. Kaplan confirmed that they are going to be experimenting with “hero pools” starting in March with the next season of competitive play. This will only apply to competitive mode and what this means is that each week there will be select heroes that will not be available for play. The next week will have different heroes that will not be in the hero pool. Kaplan stated that this is something that the team is going to keep actively working on until they find the best way for this to really work. He said that they could change the hero pool daily or even every match if they want, but they are going to start with the weekly hero pool and go from there. This forces players to use different strategies and not get stuck in one meta for too long.
Now, this brings me to what effect this will have on the Overwatch League. They will be implementing a variation of the weekly hero pools. There was a tweet released yesterday talking about how this might work:
In addition to these major changes, there are a few qualities of life things getting changed within the career profile (sort your player icons FINALLY). Overall, I think these changes are what Overwatch needs to keep things fresh. The constant balance changes and hero pools may not be every player’s cup of tea, but at least we won’t get stuck in that G.O.A.T.S. meta again!