Overwatch getting Hero Pools, Experimental Card, and more frequent updates

By Stephany Nunneley, Thursday, 30 January 2020 19:51 GMT

Blizzard has promised more frequent updates to Overwatch in the coming year, and the studio also plans to introduce an Experimental Card and Hero Pools.

All of this was outlined in the latest Overwatch developer video by games director Jeff Kaplan.

First off, Hero Pools are coming to competitive play with the start of Season 21. How this will work is instead of a team banning particular heroes from a match, the pool will disable a few heroes a week. Kaplan and the team believe this will help diversify matches and the hero banned for the week will be chosen by the developers (thanks, Polygon).

Another change coming to the game is an Experimental Card which will allow the development team to test upcoming changes and balances in-game. Experimental will allow all players, regardless of whether they are on PC or not, to try any upcoming changes. It will work similarly to the current PTR.

If you play Overwatch, you’ll definitely want to give the developer update a watch, but here’s the gist provided by Blizzard:

Balance Philosophy Update

  • The team is looking to implement more frequent and impactful balance updates with the intention to deliberately change the meta.
  • Additionally, with more impactful changes planned, the team is open to the idea of reverting changes when necessary.
  • There have been a lot of requests recently for the game to undergo more rapid change to keep the game fresh, so this is our attempt to fulfill this request
  • See the next point for our first iteration of this process…

Experimental Card

  • The team will be introducing a new main card to the Play screen known as Experimental Card. This card will allow us to test major changes to the game that may or may not reach the standard game modes
  • Because the Experimental Card is in the live version of the game, this mode will now allow console players to participate in experimental content testing
  • Players will still be able to progress and unlock Loot Boxes when playing in the Experimental Card, offering even more incentive for testing unreleased content
  • Unlike the PTR, the Experimental Card is not for bug testing. Instead, it will be used to experiment with balance updates, game modes, or changes to rules that we are investigating internally. While some of these features will reach live, the content within this game mode is not guaranteed to be released.

Hero Pools

  • During Season 21, we will be implementing a new system called Hero Pools, where a few heroes will be disabled from Competitive Play for a given week. Each week will feature a new pool of heroes.
  • We’re trying Hero Pools for Season 21, and depending on how it performs, it may not persist past that season. We are also going to keep a close eye on this system to see if the hero pool rotation cadence should be changed (e.g. weekly, daily, by match).
  • The selection of heroes will be curated by the design team, rather than random assortment chosen by the algorithm
  • This will only affect the Competitive Play and will not be seen in the Arcade or Quick Play.
  • The goal of this system is to allow the meta to change weekly and see more hero diversity in matches.
  • Expect more information on how this affects the Overwatch League via blog soon.

Other updates

  • This update will be beefing up our anti-cheat efforts. Please continue to send over any reports and any information you have on the subject to aid in our ongoing efforts to improve our anti-cheat systems
  • Workshop quality of life updates

This will be implemented with Overwatch Patch 1.45 in early February.

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