UPDATE 19th July: In a lengthy developer update released on the Overwatch YouTube channel last night, Jeff from the Overwatch Team sat down to explain one of the biggest changes to hit Overwatch since they introduced the hero limit.
The main takeaway from this update is that as of 1st September, a 2-2-2 role queue will be released on all platforms for all game modes - including Quick Play and some Arcade modes. This is a massive change to the way Overwatch is played, but the team know this won't go down well with everyone so they're implementing a new game mode called Quick Play Classic, which will live in the Arcade area and allow players to hop into games without the role queue.
For PC players, role queue is live on the PTR right now, but to make sure the matchmaking works across platforms there'll be a beta competitive season on PC, PS4 and Xbox One from 15th August until 1st September.
Players will now receive a competitive SR based on each individual role, making it possible to be diamond in the tank role and silver as DPS for example, and placement matches will change to reflect this as well - rather than 10 matches to receive an overall rating, you'll have the choice to do five matches for each role. So if there's a particular role you don't want to play, no one can force you into it. There's an incentive to do so however, as players will receive a reward for choosing roles that aren't as popular to keep matchmaking queue times lower, though we don't know yet what the reward will be.
As a result of the forced 2-2-2 role lock, there's also a vast amount of changes coming to the heroes to balance the new game style. If you're interested you can find all of those changes on the PTR patch notes here, but I thought it was worth highlighting my favourite one reddit user u/palidian7 phrased so perfectly.
Through all of this, one of the main concerns from Overwatch fans (including myself) has been the role lock limiting creativity, but Jeff addressed this in the dev update saying he felt like the most creative people work creatively within restraints". He went on to add a weird Shakespeare metaphor that I wasn't totally convinced by, but he seemed confident that if Shakespeare can write under the constraints of a sonnet, then Overwatch players can come up with creative team compositions with the 2-2-2 limitation.
This is a dramatic change that's going to give players a lot more control over their experience, and while Jeff said this isn't to combat any particular meta, I think we can all sleep a little sounder at night knowing GOATS simulator 2019 is cancelled.
ORIGINAL STORY 18th July: If you watched any of the recent stage of Overwatch League, you'll know exactly what the GOATS meta is, and why it's about time that Blizzard did something about it.
For those a little shakey on their pro-level Overwatch, GOATS is (or was) a team composition which consisted of players picking three tank heroes and three healers - typically D.Va, Zarya, Reinhardt, Moira, Lúcio and Brigitte - and named for the Overwatch Contenders team that first used it to storm their way to victory.
It was a stupidly strong combination, so strong in fact that the best way to counter it was just to play GOATS against it. Unfortunately, this led to match after match after match of watching what was pretty much the same thing every time you tuned into an Overwatch League stream. However, thanks to a leak on the official Overwatch League website, the reign of GOATS and its stale gameplay is no more.
A video for what's supposed to be tonight's Watchpoint was leaked yesterday before quickly being taken down, discussing a new announcement for both a 2-2-2 role lock in OWL and a role queue coming to regular competitive play.
Thanks to a few quick reddit users who grabbed screenshots of the rule change before the video was taken down, the new rules for OWL are as follows:
- All compositions will be two DPS, two tanks, and two supports
- Players will not be able to change roles during a map, but they will be able to change hero within their role
- Players will be able to change roles between maps
- Facing the audience players will be seated, two DPS, two tanks, two supports, and if players change roles between a map they'll have to switch seats
So what does this mean for Overwatch? Well, for fans of Overleague League it means our favourite DPS players can return to the characters they play the best, and bring out more frequent and incredible plays like these. As well as this, we'll be able to watch how the score tables turn, to see which teams will come out on top with new compositions after refining their GOATS play for so long.
Though the details weren't discussed in the Watchpoint episode, for regular competitive players it will likely mean that you're able to start queuing for matches as your chosen role, and you can expect an announcement about it at some point today.
The role lock seems like a bit of a cop out for Blizzard not being able to balance their game properly, and it will take away a little of the creativity that often comes from unusual team compositions. I'm not knocking the new ruleset completely though - there's no doubt it'll make Overwatch League exciting to watch again, and make normal competitive play a bit more bearable when your team can't insta-lock three snipers and a Genji.
Stage four of the Overwatch League starts from the 25th July, which is likely the first time we'll see this new 2-2-2 role lock come into practice.