Overwatch is still a fairly important game to me, even if I tend to hurl verbal trash at it these days. I still play it with my friends whenever I can. Competitive play doesn’t really make me as salty as it does other people, but all the big changes it goes through over the years did make me uncomfortable. This planned change is perhaps the biggest one to date and it can change how the game is played, for better and for worse.
Role queue becoming the norm in standard Overwatch play can make the metagame more limited in possibilities, but Jeff Kaplan has given some reasons why it’s necessary. It does make sense if you really think about it, but it can also potentially make the game worse for those who like its more freeform nature without it.
My Reaction to Role Queue
When I first got word of this, I immediately had a knee-jerk reaction of it being desperate and ill-advised. The strict team composition of 2 tanks, 2 DPS, and 2 support heroes limits more creative strategies that go outside that box. But most of those are triple tank, GOATS, and other strategies that have become vilified by the Overwatch community.
But then, after thinking more about it, I admit it may have more benefits than drawbacks, despite my misgivings about developers directly changing how a game is played outside of buffs and nerfs to characters. Perhaps it’s me becoming a stickler for “tradition.”
The thing about role queue that made me hesitate to accept it is due to the notion of the developers actively forcing players to play a certain way through restricting choice. I thought at first that it takes away from the core concept of the game in the first place.
Since Overwatch is all about being able to switch heroes right in the middle of a game, having your role locked and team composition being put in a tightly-portioned box means you can’t do things like go for broke with a role switch when the chips are down.
I certainly can no longer do my favorite thing of switching from my usual tank role to “Panic Bastion,” which has helped me win a good bunch of games that my team and I were supposed to lose. I’m not saying I’m really good at it, but this has been my go-to desperation tactic since the game came out. Then again, perhaps it’s time I kick that habit anyway.
However, I can yield to the concept of no longer having to sacrifice playing a different role (usually healer) when no one else would fill it. There are more players out there who won’t switch roles when needed than those who do.
We Overwatch players have had our fair share of being teamed up with stubborn Genjis, Widowmakers, and Hanzos in solo queue, and maybe that frustration may be eliminated by this new feature.
How Role Queue Makes Sigma and Future Heroes Possible
While discussing the upcoming addition of Hero 31—Sigma—Overwatch lead designer Jeff Kaplan stated in popular community figure Seagull’s stream that role queue frees them up to design more heroes without trepidation over repeating what happened with Brigitte, whose inclusion in the game resulted in much gnashing of teeth over things like GOATS.
Seagull’s Sigma gameplay and talk with Jeff Kaplan starts at around 52:00.
Imagine playing against a team that throws down barriers at all directions. Reinhardt, Orisa, Winston, Brigitte, and Sigma together with their barriers up. No matter how much damage you put down range, they’ll hardly die unless they get careless.
Maybe you can say they should come up with something other than barriers to provide damage mitigation, but there are already many other abilities that do just that like Genji’s deflect, D.Va’s defense matrix, Zarya’s bubble, Baptiste’s immortality field, Sigma’s kinetic grasp, and Roadhog’s big belly being constantly refilled with healing juice.
In fact, Sigma’s kinetic grasp may just make D.Va’s defense matrix look a bit weak. (As of this writing, Sigma just got released in PTR, and that ability is already shaking things up.)
While D.Va’s defense matrix at the moment does have more versatility with its meter, Sigma’s kinetic grasp has utility in charging his barrier, thus making him a more effective tank. I’m actually quite excited for his release and will see if he can become my new main.
Without role queue, heroes like Sigma may have Overwatch collapse on itself. If you think Brigitte bringing about the GOATS composition was a dark chapter, Sigma would’ve heralded the end times for the game.
Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but with how this game sold during its launch, its current player numbers seem so dismal that Blizzard no longer reports them every month.
Never mind the slow rollout of new content for the game since that’s the problem of every competitive online game in the mainstream. You wouldn’t want content to just spew out like pus out of a popped abscess as that can break the game faster.
But the feature creep that came with newer heroes caused a fair bit of concern.
Overwatch Team’s Willingness to Admit Fault
I once disparaged the Overwatch team’s redesigns of Symmetra, Mercy, Torbjorn, and so on in my half-serious “eulogy” to the game as a show of lack of thoughtfulness in their gameplay and hero design—that they didn’t work on it intelligently enough before rolling new content out.
However, I admit that was unnecessarily harsh as it’s way better than leaving them as they were and letting them continue to rot the game. The devs were willing to admit their faults in designing those heroes, and they were willing to backtrack and workshop them further.
The best way to test these new additions and changes is to have people play it. No amount of internal testing can replace the data gathered from actual players from all around the world.
Therefore, the rollout of role queue shouldn’t have caught anyone by surprise. The Overwatch team is willing to turn their game upside down and inside out if it meant being able to solve its many problems and make it a better experience.
Wizards of the Coast did something similar to Magic: The Gathering long ago when they introduced the Type II Standard format. It did limit the decks players can construct. In that case, the format is limited to the current set. But it was successful at mitigating power creep and helped designers do their job better.
EDIT 29JUL2019@3:18PM: I should’ve added that Blizzard did the same thing with StarCraft II upon release of Legacy of the Void. They added more starting workers and dwindled down mineral fields, thus making the early game go quicker and compelling players to expand sooner. This made for a faster-paced game that sets it apart from Brood War and actually made the game more fun down the line (until Protoss came back with a vengeance, which was to my delight).
Meanwhile, I remember how sad StarCraft II’s Heart of the Swarm era was, with the game declining in popularity and metagame being infuriating. It was much like how people felt about Overwatch in late 2018 and early 2019. I myself felt the same way, and it was a familiar feeling.
Overwatch team under Jeff Kaplan is way better than the StarCraft II team when it was under David Kim.
No matter how bad they are, they don’t compare to the horribleness of the Diablo III team under Jay Wilson.
If only Riot Games were as willing, maybe I’d play League of Legends too. Too bad it’s a cesspool.
The King’s Move in Arm Wrestling
On a tangent, you should see what’s happening to competitive arm wrestling right now.
To casual audiences, arm wrestling seems like a contest of brute force, and it mostly is. But there’s also technique and strategic depth that may surprise even the most seasoned of meatheads outside the sport. And yes, it’s certainly a sport.
But right now, the trend is centered around a defensive technique called the “King’s Move,” wherein you get most of your body underneath the table and put your arm in almost full extension. This makes the arm lock out, making it nigh impossible to move and pin.
The King’s Move is a technique that has made it possible for aging and injury-addled competitors to extend their careers and even remain relevant in top level contention.
Current WAL heavyweight champion Michael Todd is infamous for employing this move, and the charismatic Devon Larratt has recently adopted the move as well, much to the fans’ chagrin.
World Armwrestling League and other organizations are being urged to update their rules to somehow remedy the situation.
Anytime you look at the comments section of a match video wherein the King’s Move makes an appearance, you’ll be inundated by a sea of negative comments.
Even if it really is a legitimate technique, the King’s Move is putting a speed bump on the recent rise in popularity of competitive arm wrestling.
But unlike Overwatch, you can’t just redesign the human body to nerf this move. Would you blame God and evolution for making the King’s Move possible then?
Whoever comes up with the rule change to prevent the King’s Move, it better be good since all it can do is restrict positions, but not change how the human arm works.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.
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