The Game Haus

January 2020 Developer Update: Frequent Balance Changes and Hero Pools

On Thursday, January 30th at 11:00 am PDT, Jeff Kaplan and the Overwatch team released the long-awaited developer update regarding faster balance changes and dominant meta issues. Jeff also discussed some changes in regards to anti-cheat functionality and player profiles.

Hero Pools and Experimental Cards

Players will now be playing with Hero Pools with the start of Season 21 for competitive play. Much like map pools, players will only be able to select from a certain pool of heroes. Hero Pools will rotate after a week to make sure heroes don’t go too long being unplayable. The change aims to constantly keep the meta fresh, and drive the meta into new places by hand-picking heroes to be removed from play.

Overwatch will also introduce a new play mode called “Experimental”. The goal of the new play-mode will be to serve as a “live” PTR for both PC and console players. Experimental is a play-mode that appears infrequently, but allows players to try out the changes developers are testing at the time. It will focus on larger game-play changes and recording player feedback. This is an exciting change as now console players are able to test new ideas much like PC players were able to do on PTR.

Changes to OWL

The new Hero Pools won’t be solely for everyday competitive play. The Overwatch League will also incorporate the new format starting March 7th. OWL will be following the set of rules below per the Overwatch League site

  • The heroes will be randomly selected from a group of eligible heroes based on play-rate data from the previous two weeks of Overwatch League matches—only heroes that are being played regularly can be pulled from the next hero pool.
  • No hero will be unavailable two weeks in a row.
  • Hero Pools will not be used for midseason tournaments, the play-in tournament, playoffs, or Grand Finals. All heroes will be available for those matches.
  • Teams will be informed of each week’s Hero Pool approximately one week in advance of matches. 

OWL will also introduce any patches made mid-season the following weekend of play. The new patch structure for OWL goes along with the new balance philosophy Blizzard aims to take going forward. Though exciting, the Overwatch League also noted that the “patching/update formats could be revised at any point during the season”.


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Featured image courtesy of Blizzard Entertaiment

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