Overwatch’s Role Queue Has Arrived – Here’s What To Expect:

Posted by Foukwan August 13, 2019 in Esports

Having been the topic of conversation for the majority of the Overwatch community over the last year or so, Blizzard have now implemented the change of enforced Role Lock in Competitive play. Whilst still currently absent from live servers, all players are currently free to experience it on the Public Test Region, alongside the newly announced hero, Sigma. But what do these changes really mean for the future of Competitive play and the Overwatch League? This article will explore the potentialities and effects of these upcoming changes. 

As a starting point, it’s difficult to nail down the exact causation or reasoning behind why the development team has chosen to implement this feature. Historically, Blizzard’s approach to the state of the game and meta has been somewhat laissez-faire. Whilst they had always seen it as their duty to ensure they were producing new content, whether in the form of new heroes, maps or events, they hadn’t really ever seen it as their job to dictate who should be playing what. Frankly, you can understand why; it’s far easier to let the people decide how they want to play the game and find new ways of making it work than interfering from a top down position.

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This stance from the development team was somewhat manageable until the last year or so. Specifically, since Brigitte launched, GOATS has dominated the highest echelons of Competitive Overwatch play almost entirely unopposed. The official start of the Overwatch League notably brought Blizzard to a similar crossroads. With the tournament having a direct and tangible link to the company themselves, it became difficult for the developers to take a backseat role when the talent of the World’s best Overwatch players was being reduced to an inevitable weekly GOATS composition brawl. 

History aside, Blizzard have now certifiably created a system forcing a more traditional 2-2-2 lineup whilst simultaneously, and irrevocably, terminating the future of GOATs reappearing. In terms of Esports, the effects of this will be visible as early as the 25th of July, when Stage 4 of the Overwatch League returns. The reality of the changes will most likely be quite profound, especially given the reliance of many of the teams on GOATS and Deathball compositions. However, given the talent and versatility of the combined player pool, each team should be capable of finding new, or old, routes to achieving success. 

Granted, amidst these changes, criticism has been raised regarding the resulting reduced pool of heroes through which teams can formulate new compositions and strategies. Whilst acknowledging the notion of reduced creativity in the developers blog announcing Role Queue, Game Lead Jeff Kaplan was quick to draw analogies to traditional English Literature; if Shakespeare could create beautiful poetry within the strict confines of sonnets, Overwatch players should be able to work their way around these new regulations. Notably, the success of Shanghai Dragons within Stage 3 of the Overwatch League through the establishment of previously unseen strategies within an unenforced 2-2-2 setup is a clear example of the possibilities that remain readily accessible.

Arguably, one of the more interesting results that have come about from these changes trickles down through the lower tiers of Overwatch. Whilst noting the changes for the Overwatch League and highest order of players is nice, the grand majority of people do not, and will not, play at that level. In fact, Role Queue debatably has a far larger effect on the general player base, rather than those just at the top of the game. Specifically, for those sitting in the average SR bracket of around 2000-2500, games in which uncooperative teammates and general lack of communication that lead to unnecessary losses in the form of 4 or 5 unwavering DPS are all too common. For many players, it’s difficult to immerse themselves in games when subjected to repeatedly unattainable victories due to circumstances beyond their control. By enforcing roles across the whole game, it ensures that all games will be at least salvageable, unlike before. 

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Role Queue is also set to introduce singular class-based MMR ratings, all of which operate independently from each other. Continuing on from the previous advantages to the average Overwatch Player’s overall game experience, this update will only help further develop and reinforce a deeper connection with players to higher levels of Esports and competitive play. By possessing an individual rank for each class, the advantages of Role Queue become twofold. Firstly, by encouraging development via the separation of rank, it encourages deeper specialisation and thus, a greater interest in the mechanics of individual heroes and the nuances of each class. Furthermore, amidst specialisation, the individualistic aspect of the MMR ratings ensures that any attempts to play an unknown or unconfident hero within competitive are not deterred by a fear of losing SR. Both of these effects are heavily advantageous to the growth of Esports at the grassroots level by pushing players to greater heights. 

To conclude, Role Queue is sought to provide the greatest meta shakeup since Competitive play first began. With Blizzard taking their first real stand on the forward direction of the game, it appears as though Overwatch has been quick to quell rumours of the game’s abandonment by developers. In terms of Esports, these changes are a promising move in the right direction. By promoting specialisation and deeper integration and connection between the average player base and their Competitive rankings, general interest in progression is being rewarded. This, alongside growing local Esports tournaments and teams establishing across the country through organisations such as GAME’s Belong, clear MMR ratings create greater levels of clarity in team’s hunts for players with designated and preassigned roles.

Similarly, at the highest tier of Overwatch play, the uniformity of the concept provides an example through which players can look up to and realistically attempt to emulate in average games as both are subject to the same rules. But, most importantly, the new changes are set to bring fun through consistency; something the game has been missing for a long while. Much of the player base’s distancing from the game can be placed in their disappointment with their average interactions with the game. By introducing individual queues and preselection, it ensures that every player is satisfied with their choice before the game has even started. That, arguably, is the greatest success of Role Queue.

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