By Josh Ong
It finally happened; Papi Kaplan delivered the goods.
The long awaited and worst kept secret in gaming has finally hit the public test region. After years of competitive turmoil and volatile binary meta-switching between Dive & GOATS compositions, Blizzard has finally taken a stand on implementing changes that fall in line with their vision of the future of Overwatch’s competitive play. The answer: Role Queue. Players now choose a role (tank, DPS, or support) before searching for a game, streamlining the matchmaking process to guarantee a balanced team composition. It’s a major but welcome change that will surely transform the landscape of Overwatch as we know it.
Until today, hero choices in competitive Overwatch were totally unlimited, making team compositions a lottery. For those wanting to climb the SR ladder and escape Platinum ELO hell, it mostly depended on how intent your one-trick Torbjorn, Symmetra, and Bastion teammates were on increasing their favourite hero’s playtime. With compositions like this, you’d probably end up totally steamrolled by the opposition team comprised of a more meta-friendly 2-2-2. That’s two Tanks, two DPS, and two Supports, for those less familiar with the seemingly endless Overwatch jargon.
Most notable about these changes is that they were implemented at the highest level almost immediately. With Stage Four of the Overwatch League’s forced Role Lock already showing its true colours in the form of newly favoured bunker compositions, it shows how the concept is simple and easy to implement. Then again, the R8 Revolver was a simple enough idea to put into play, and we all know how that turned out.
The Overwatch League has seen its ups and downs in recent times. With the recent propositions to bring ‘Home & Away’ games to cities of each team’s namesake, things are set to improve, but it’s still struggling to grasp most of its audience. Nothing says wasted potential like having the best Overwatch players in the world being reduced to a weekly Swedish led, happy-slapping brawlfest. Since Brigitte’s addition to the hero roster, GOATS has reigned king of the meta with almost zero competition. Despite the nerfs and Blizzard’s attempts to diminish her impact, the composition remained too strong, and thus, Role Queue has now killed it off in one swift strike. Huzzah.
“That’s all well and good, but what about the average Gold & Silver Orisa mains, like me?”
I hear you. When looking at the bell curve of rank distribution across all platforms, with the average SR sitting between 2000-2499, for the most part, these compositions seem less common. For most players, having too many Tanks and Supports has never been the problem. In the average game, for Support players such as myself, the main issue comes from the restraint required not to scream at the instalock Widowmaker on your team who tow the classic party line of “if i don’t get pick, i switch”. With regards to Role Queue and these situations, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that there’s still a possibility for the bad Widowmakers and suicidal Genjis to make an appearance in your games. However, the good news is that you’re going to have a maximum of two on your team.
“But I’m a DPS main, what can I expect for this? Why am I being punished?”
You’re not being punished. There lies an undoubted truth in that, whilst Overwatch does differentiate itself from other games within the FPS genre in its focus upon the more non-lethal roles, DPS remains the task with the most pressure. Specifically, it’s the role with the easiest flaws to isolate and criticise. Whilst excerpts from this article may have read like the ramblings of a frustrated Support player forged from the pent-up rage towards his useless DPS teammates, it’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the skill involved.
In terms of the implementation of Role Queue, this will not limit the time you can play your favoured role. Generally, there’s two perspectives; some would argue it encourages players to seek uncharted territory, others would argue it just reinforces the concept of ‘mains’ and allows players to fall into easy habits of only playing what they know. Both are true, and neither is necessarily a bad thing. By having individual SR ratings for each category, for those who want to flex into new roles, Role Queue provides ample opportunity to play something different without the risk of negating the hard work you’ve put into your current SR. Furthermore, by reducing the number of placement matches down from ten to five, jumping into games in a new role becomes much more rewarding at a much faster rate.
To conclude, amidst the current climate of criticism thrown towards the Overwatch development team and the future of the game, it was clear that the game had been in dire need of rejuvenation for a long time. Role Queue is not an entirely new concept, though; if you traipsed through and calculated the mean subject of every YouTube channel with Overwatch related content over the last two years, I’d bet my left lung that Role Queue or Role Lock would place at number one. But it couldn’t have come at a better time; Role Queue is the thousands of Rohirrim at the Battle of Pelennor fields, Role Queue is Dr. Strange’s Portals opening behind a broken Captain America, Role Queue is those weird bird things that appear at the end of Avatar to maintain the unobtanium’s unobtainable-ness. Regardless, Blizzard’s laissez-faire approach to the direction of competitive play is no more. From the highest tiers in the Overwatch league through down to the lowest of Bronze players, the feature’s implementation should mean the lottery aspect of games is now less detrimental to their results. But, more importantly, by allowing players to preselect the roles they wish to play, it ensures that everyone is going into every match satisfied with their choice. This is the ultimate success of Role Queue. It’s difficult to say how profound the changes will be, but given the current state of competitive play, the only way is up.