The 2-2-2 role lock has all but been confirmed for Stage 4 of the OWL. It seems that such a major alteration to the structure of the game is not one that would come and go quickly. Instead, it seems to indicate that this will be a lasting change that not only affects the league but also the game of Overwatch itself. But, that begs the question: What could this coming role lock mean for the future of Overwatch? Here are some initial theories and possibilities, based partially on what Blizzard has done in the past.
Following Hearthstone’s “Wild” and “Standard” Model
Long ago, Hearthstone faced a similar change to Overwatch, only in the context of a very different style of game. Hearthstone had several cards that imbalanced the nature of the game, along with several seasons of new cards constantly coming out. In order to balance this, Blizzard implemented “Wild” and “Standard” modes into the game. In Wild, players can use every card from the history of the game, including all-time favorites like Dr. Doom. Standard was converted into the competitive-style of the game, limiting players to cards from only the most recent seasons.
While this would certainly not be apples to apples, Overwatch could take a similar approach. The Standard mode, in this case, would be the 2-2-2 locked ladder. This could go one of a few ways.
Free-to-Choose 2-2-2: Minimal Change and Same SR
One option would have players retaining their same SR in the new 2-2-2 competitive ladder, which would make things feel less shaken up. In this model of minimal change, the game would be locked to 2-2-2 but players could freely pick between the roles in a first come, first serve model.
The obvious downside to this is that players would enter a lobby, insta-lock DPS, and only the players with the fastest trigger fingers could play the coveted damage-dealing heroes. A fitting fate, really.
This option would, however, require the least change to the game and could be, theoretically, quickly implemented. With rumors of Overwatch 2 on the horizon, developers may opt to spend more energy preparing that game with a different competitive system, instead of working on the current iteration. This first option could allow developers to stay busy on making Overwatch 2 something fresh, while still keeping Overwatch at least somewhat in line with what the OWL looks like. A goal that the league and Blizzard have expressed before.
Role Queue: Complete Overhaul and SR Reset
Another option is implementing a role queue, something many have wanted for quite a while now. In this, players would have to, presumably, have their SR reset and would then have three different SR’s corresponding to the three different roles in Overwatch. Otherwise, someone could be a Grandmaster DPS but since they are queued up in a support slot, their SR wouldn’t accurately reflect their skill at that position.
To prevent that from happening players would likely have to do placements on all three roles to get properly set-up. From there, one would choose a role, queue up and have their SR for that role changed as a result of that match (for example, playing as a tank would not affect the players Support SR). This would require a heavy amount of leg work from the developers and would require players to do three times the number of placements to get placed on every role. It would also obviously limit flexibility in-game, which would be both a blessing and a curse in its own right.
No Change Whatsoever: Current Model and Same SR
The final possibility is unlikely but not out of the question. Here, developers would opt to completely focus their attention to Overwatch 2 and leave Overwatch 1 as-is in regards to competitive play and, potentially, in regards to new heroes. This, most players would likely agree, could prove very problematic. But, with anything, there are pros and cons.
The pros are purely in the prospect of Overwatch 2. Less time spent on the current game would, hopefully, mean more time spent on Overwatch 2 and would hopefully mean that the new game would have a plethora of shiny new things. The new game could have a whole new competitive system with role queue and a total SR reset along with upwards of 5-10 new heroes, based on the ones they’ve heavily hinted at so far. In short, the pros for this option are in the future, not the present.
The cons are numerous. Players would, at that point, be playing a competitive game that looks nothing like the OWL games they are watching. This disconnect would go against much of what Blizzard has been aiming to do with the OWL and the game itself, which makes this possibility more farfetched than the others. In addition, the player-base would likely continue to fall and the game would risk getting more and staler than it already is. All in all, this would be most detrimental to people playing the game who are also OWL fans and could cause a serious chasm between the two that would make it harder for new fans to make their way into the league.
Hopeful to Hear More Soon
In the end, this role lock is coming to the OWL in a hurry and, ideally, a decision on the future of the game’s competitive mode needs to be made quickly. If something is not done in the next couple months, there is potential that the season playoffs and Grand Finals are played on a completely different rule set than players at home are experiencing. For the sake of the fans and the casual players at home, here’s to hoping Blizzard addresses this in some way in the very near future.
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