Screenshot of Doomfist's weapon from Overwatch

Overwatch has a variety of very unique and interesting heroes, but not all of them are equally as viable across all tiers of gameplay. Heroes such as Junkrat are incredibly powerful in the lower ranks, but quickly lose effectiveness as you climb higher. On the flip side, hero combinations such as Winston + D.Va + Tracer + Genji are perfectly fine for the vast majority of the playerbase, but when it comes to tournaments and high-level games they are so powerful they have essentially made half of the roster unusable. Such are the balance problems currently plaguing Overwatch, but unfortunately there is no easy answer.

If you're wondering why this is so, or how exactly Overwatch developers choose to balance their game, you'll find a very detailed answer in one of the most recent posts from Jeff Kaplan himself. I would fully recommend you give the entire thing a read as it gives some great insight into the minds of the Overwatch team, but if you're just interested in the highlights allow me to share a couple of key quotes, though don't expect this to be super-short either as there is a lot to cover:

"Even though I am the Game Director and a spokesperson for OW, I don’t make decisions in a vacuum and I am only one part of a very awesome team. Not everyone on my team agrees with me and we have different opinions on the state of game and balance overall. We do have a lot of alignment, but we talk things through – a lot. And we don’t always agree. So I know this will become the “official” response on the subject but I am really offering this from a very strong personal viewpoint first and foremost.

While I believe moving Roadhog away from a 1 shot combo was a necessary thing we had to do, I’m not entirely satisfied with where he’s at right now. I also think we need to do some brainstorming when it comes to Mercy’s resurrect, for example. The ability is extremely powerful in a very unfun way for both Mercy and everyone playing against that Mercy. But it’s not doomsday. These aren’t game breaking issues. They are better fixed slowly and carefully as the overall game is not ruined by them. I’m just using these as examples. 

In the pro scene, it’s true that the teams settle into using a subset of the hero pool. We tend to see high level (let’s just say the top 3rd of all players) competitive slowly catch up to the pro scene with some considerable lag of weeks if not months. The rest of us – the vast majority of us – don’t really play this meta at all but we’re aware of it either through community discussion or because we enjoy watching the pro scene.

We recently added 6v6 Elimination to the Arcade and I think the mode is strong enough to exist in Quick Play and Competitive. That mode is a good example of a mechanical “forcing function” where the game causes shifts to happen in pick rates and team comps. The winning team is forced to play 18 diverse heroes. I would be willing to bet that if that mode was considered competitive, eventually a meta would settle in where 18 heroes were mostly picked and 7 would be rather neglected. Again, I don’t think this is horrible or the end of the world – I think it’s reality.

Looking at the perception of the meta, it’s obvious that “dive” is the predominant strategy. Correction. It is the predominant strategy being used in the professional scene. The majority of Overwatch players play Quick Play as their primary mode. The top 6 picked heroes (over the last month) in Quick Play are Genji, 76, Hanzo, McCree, Mercy and Junkrat. For the statistical majority of Overwatch players who are not pros and don’t play Competitive, this is your meta.

I don’t mean to discount your fatigue with the “dive” meta but I also want us looking at from a realistic standpoint. Dive itself is an interesting comp. It’s fun to play and watch. It features super high skill heroes doing very OW things. Watching top Genji’s and Tracers is fantastic. I don’t think dive comp is bad but I think what players want is to see more comps in addition to dive comp. I too would love for this to happen. But in a non-forced, non-damaging way. I don’t think we should just throw a balance grenade at the heroes to change pick rates. And I don’t think long-term for the game it’s good to start imposing restrictions on you as to what hero you’re allowed or not allowed to play. I think we also need to be careful about demanding drastic change.

Players think that every change we make to hero has the intent of buffing or nerfing that hero. Changes to heroes are usually made to make the game better. That’s what we were trying to do with Roadhog. Our goal wasn’t a nerf – our intent wasn’t a nerf. Our intent was to try to remove a behavior that had become “not ok” with our player base – the one-shot combo. Maybe he needs to be adjusted again? Probably."

I am obviously going to be biased when it comes to this topic as I'm currently in Grandmaster and hero diversity here is almost nonexistent, but I simply cannot agree with the idea that its okay for some heroes to be only played in certain tiers. It is very much so possible to buff competitively weak heroes in such a way that new players and those still learning don't get affected, while those that know how the hero works get more tools to play around with. 

For example, Junkrat is a completely dead pick in high-level play and has been since Overwatch launched. Why not slightly increase the initial projectile speed so that skilled players can start reliably landing direct hits? It would make him much more viable in the higher tiers, while basically doing nothing to prevent his "fire and forget" playstyle from being beginner-friendly and awesome to mess around with. Besides, buffing Junkrat in such a way would be akin to adding a brand new hero into competitive play, and that is always a good thing as it opens up new strategies and potential counter-plays.

While I don't know if their thoughts on how balance should be handled will ever change, at least we know that poor ol' Roadhog will be getting buffs at some point in the future. His hook and one-shot combo may have been annoying to deal with, but I really do miss seeing the big guy around, especially with all these Winstons terrorizing healers.

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