Overwatch head developer Jeff Kaplan recently posted an update for fans curious about the game’s future. Many fans are concerned about Overwatch growing stale amidst the content gap leading up to Overwatch 2. However, a recent post from Jeff Kaplan himself suggests that some crazy changes could be around the corner.
The original post asked Blizzard to move Overwatch’s role queue from 2-2-2 to 1-3-2. Effectively, this would see two tanks dropped in favor of one tank, and three DPS. It may seem like a farfetched request but Blizzard has actually been testing this idea for some time.
So when the idea of trying 3-2-1 came up, we were hesitant because of our poor playtests with 4-1-1. But we did something interesting in December and I am really proud of the team for sticking with it. Internally, for the past two months, we changed the game to be based on 3-2-1 composition.
Jeff Kaplan continues, discussing the difficulties his team had to overcome in order to make this new format work:
First, there is the issue of what players have come to call “off tanks”. if we were to change the distribution of roles from 2-2-2 to 3-2-1 it would require some balance changes. But possibly more than that. Roadhog is a great example. Is the correct thing to do for Roadhog under that design to try to make him more “main tanky” or is the correct thing to do to simply move him to the Damage role and balance him as a damage character?
One of the most exciting extracts from this post is where Jeff describes the experience as feeling closer to “old school Overwatch,” and “like a traditional FPS.” I would love to see Overwatch move back in this direction.
The Problems Jeff Kaplan Has Identified
Whilst this drastic change does have its perks, it’s hard to ignore the potential problems it could cause. For one, it puts enormous stress on the solo-tank player to perform. If they can’t take space on their own then their team is going to struggle to engage properly.
It also begs various balancing problems as it’s likely every current tank would have to be reworked to some degree. Many main tanks currently are designed to rely on off-tanks and vice-versa. Obviously, if this new format was introduced tanks would have to be more self-sufficient. Mind you, this wouldn’t be the first time this shift has happened with Sigma being a very independent hero.
A major point of discussion for Jeff Kaplan was how this change affects teamwork. Simply put, it detracts from Overwatch’s team-based gameplay and makes team fights more carryable and individual. This may sound like a negative but the head developer himself was widely favorable of this shift.
We put so much effort into putting the focus on team victory/defeat rather than individual performance. But in 2020, I feel like the over-emphasis on teamplay (while great for hyper-competitive players and situations such as OWL), causes a lot of psychological pressure for your average player just looking to blow off steam in a video game.
There’s a lot to think about with these changes. I highly encourage you guys to check out the full post since there’s no way I can cover everything here. If you want my opinion though, this would be a fantastic move for Overwatch. It was originally designed to be Blizzard’s FPS, not a first-person MOBA. Let’s get Overwatch back to where it belongs.