Back in March, Blizzard introduced hero pools to Overwatch, a rotating list of heroes that would be banned from competitive play. The idea was to shake up the game and keep any one character or team composition from becoming dominant. Now, the developer is making some changes that it says are aimed at making the feature more straightforward and easier to understand.
“We’ve received a lot of helpful feedback since hero pools came to competitive play that the system was achieving our goal of shaking up the meta from week to week — but we’ve also heard that some aspects of the system are confusing or unclear, including why certain heroes or roles are rotated each week, or why the exact number of heroes available is inconsistent from week to week,” the developer said in a blog post. “In addition, having separate hero pools for competitive play and the Overwatch League in the same week led to a confusing or disjointed experience for players who follow the league.”
To rectify this, starting on April 13th, Overwatch will feature one single hero pool that covers both the standard competitive mode and the Overwatch League. It will also always consist of four banned heroes, as opposed to past weeks that removed as many as six characters from the pool. Here’s how the selection process works, according to Blizzard:
To determine a week’s hero pool, we’ll compile hero play rates from high-level competitive play matches from the preceding two weeks. Heroes with play rates above a certain threshold will be eligible to be removed; the higher their play rate, the more likely they are to be removed. Based on that, one tank, two damage, and one support will be randomly removed from play. (Note that heroes will not be removed two weeks in a row.)
Hero pools will be announced on Sundays, following the day’s Overwatch League matches, and will then be implemented the following Monday.
In addition to the new unified hero pools, there’s another major change coming to competitive Overwatch. Blizzard says that, starting on April 14th, the concept of map pools — a rotating list of available maps in competitive play — will be retired completely. Again, the reasoning is to add more variety to the game. “We saw a lot of feedback asking for map pools to vary more often than every two months at the start of a competitive season,” Blizzard says.
Instead, the competitive mode will now include every map, with two exceptions: Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony, both of which are being redesigned. “When we make updates to those two maps to improve their play in the future, we’ll add them back into the pool at that time,” the developer says.
These changes are part of a major push from Blizzard over the past year or so to keep Overwatch fresh; so far, that has included a creative mode, the introduction of role queue, and experimental gameplay modes. Meanwhile, a wild new hero named Echo is also coming to the game on April 14th. Of course, this is all leading up to the eventual launch of Overwatch 2.