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How does the 2/2/2 lock effect Overwatch?

Volamel 2019-06-25 04:16:47
  It was reported that the Overwatch League will be enforcing a 2/2/2 lock coming in Stage 4 of the 2019 season. This is presumably in response to stagnant viewership numbers, declining active users, and general dissatisfaction with the tank-centric metagame in the Overwatch League. While many will herald the coming of the role limitation, as with everything, there are pros and cons. Here is what the proposed 2/2/2 lock effects with regards to Overwatch, the game, and the Overwatch League.  

The heroes

  With 2/2/2 should come a reimagining and rebalancing what every role needs to bring to the game. This means that certain characters may need tweaking. With this retooling in mind, many of the hurdles lie with a lot of hybrid characters. What role does Roadhog fit? It depends on the definition of what it means to be a “tank.” What role does Brigitte fit? It depends on the definition of what it means to be a “support.” These definitions need to be set in place before this can really start to help remedy the situation.  As of writing this article, there has been no official announcement of Blizzard revisiting hero balance with in regards to the 2/2/2 lock.  

The fans

  Having a streamlined experience from the ladder to the stage is important, even though I’ve been public in talking about how futile it is, but having something that is completely different isn’t good for anyone. When the average player goes on the ladder they are seeing a hard lock onto these tank based compositions.  They’ve got 3 DPS mains and a Torbjorn one-trick-pony that doesn’t have a mic. Obviously, we can fix the specifics, but what Blizzard can do, and are doing with the 2/2/2 lock is creating an experience that mimics professional play to drive players to actually play the game. This also helps overall in the players’ understanding of the game. When you look at a professional team and how they play the game, and it resembles what your ladder experience looks like to a degree, the average viewer would be able to spot patterns and actually learn things from higher level players.   

The format

  We’ve got a problem not only with how we value each “stage” versus a “season” in the Overwatch League but how Blizzard patches the game. If stages were valued more and happened less often, I could see the argument to have massive changes to the game mid-season because that end of season title isn’t the only thing that matters. Currently, the only thing that people really put their focus on is the championship.  Look at how the Florida Mayhem have approached this season, look at how the Los Angeles Valiant have approached this season. Hell, look at how the season one iteration of the San Fransisco Shock approached their first two stages. Some of the best aspects of their roster were ineligible to play because of their age. It’s all about the long game and teams are willing to take a loss now for success later. And if we are placing all of the focus on the championship, we can’t then change the game fundamentally in the middle of the season.  If the league lowered the number of stages and marketed them as their own prestigious events, then I think it would be more palatable to make large sweeping changes to the game. Now, this isn’t the only solution, another great solution is to make your big, sweeping changes and tie them to a “season” and tie that to the Overwatch League season. It's not that you're inherently balancing for the Overwatch League but you're placing the patches so that it doesn’t influence the league but still changes the game and adds novelty.  

The players

  My heart breaks for the professional players that were asked to study and grind this incredibly specific aspect of the game to have it completely ripped from under their feet with a mere six weeks to adapt. We’ve gone from a metagame that incentivizes fielding actual DPS players that play heroes like Tracer and Widowmaker, to now where we are with a near mandatory demand to play multiple flex tanks. And now we’re stepping back to the DPS players with this proposed 2/2/2 lock. On one hand Blizzard and the Overwatch League can talk about having player wellness in mind, but then they surprise them with a fundamental change to the way the game is played.  This isn’t a simple balance patch that tinkers with certain heroes and their damage output, this changes the whole game. I’m sure the extended and added breaks that the Overwatch League has provided are well appreciated. It allows players to unwind and escape for a bit, but that isn’t always the case, and it especially isn’t the case when they now have a brand new game to learn.  Moves like this are in the best interest of the viewers and casual fans, which is fine, but we have to keep in mind that the players make the league. If we don’t have professional players, we don’t have a league. We cannot keep flipping the table when things go sour. Novelty is one thing, but we don’t have an identity and it’s patently obvious.  Overwatch has moved from no hero limit to hero limiting in 2016. They then revamped ultimates so they occur less often in 2017. Then Brigitte and the GOATS metagame strangled the game in 2018. Now towards the end of 2019, we’re changing the fundamentals once again with the roles being locked.  Overwatch needs an identity and it needs one soon.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel. Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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