Hero Bans in Overwatch

written by clubfrills

 

Hero bans have become a hot topic recently in the Overwatch community, particularly on the /r/competitiveoverwatch subreddit, with coaches and pro players chiming in on the matter. The system of hero bans has been implemented in other games with positive reception. Recently, the Reforged Overwatch group has also experimented with hero bans in our weekly pick up games. I thought this would be a great opportunity to look at how hero bans might work, and why we may welcome them into both competitive and casual play.

Many have taken to Twitter or Twitch to voice their opinions on the matter. Let’s start with Canada World Cup coach, and assistant coach to the Dallas Fuel, Jayne. Jayne was arguably one of the first to experiment with this idea in Overwatch and has run his own PUGS trying out the concept. You can watch a full discussion with Your Overwatch here. I will outline Jayne’s general thoughts as:

  • Before all of the new heroes, Overwatch would be virtually unplayable if certain heroes got banned, like both main tanks. Jayne believes hero bans will be viable in the future when Overwatch has more hero variety.
  • Hero bans should be global, where both teams lose the option to use that hero.
  • Hero bans may need to be limited one per role to avoid banning multiple supports, etc. Another mechanic may be to add a “protect” system where a team can prevent a hero from being banned.
  • Bans would create new narratives to add some excitement to competitive overwatch discussion both for fans and commentators.

 

Global bans are a must if this system is to work properly. In R6 Siege, you lose the ability to use the hero your team has banned. Similarly to Jayne’s proposed limit on banning a particular class, R6 Siege only allows a team to ban a single attacking and defending operator.

Dallas Fuel DPS player Taimou has also voiced his frustrations with the current meta, essentially saying that while hero bans may not feel “competitive” in a sense, they are necessary to just make the game fun to play again. Taimou’s thoughts are that it is impossible to actually balance the game at this point based on the design of heroes that have been introduced. He says, “Sure, you’re going to have wacky and overpowered comps” but “you can’t balance the game, just make the game fun”.

While it is arguable that a series of reworks or heavy nerf/buffs could bring more balance to the game just the same, I don’t believe Taimou’s thoughts are terrible design philosophy. Players could choose to opt into a hero ban system or not. This unfortunately further divides the player base at a time when many players already complain about long queue times (~3 minutes) even in a rank comprised of 30% of the player base such as gold or plat rank.

These qualms bring me to another example of “fun versus balance” with Destiny 2 as an example, where Bungie hoped to make competitive PvP an eSport. Their initial design philosophy catered to long team-oriented gun fights that occurred due to how weapon and ability balancing were changed in the initial launch. Players were forced to run two primary weapons (not fun) and cooldowns on grenades and class abilities exceeded an entire minute at times. Most players hated these changes, and with the Forsaken DLC, players are now able to equip any weapon in any slot. Movement speed and ability cooldowns were buffed across the board.

Is Destiny PvP balanced in any way? Absolutely not. It’s actually a nightmare, but more players find it fun to play because the game revolves around a power fantasy; something that Overwatch does not need to worry about. I do believe overall that having too many “CC abilities” does create frustration for players who are constantly being denied from using their tool kits. Perhaps a hero ban system could mitigate this problem.

Former Houston Outlaws DPS and OWL commentator Jake took to Twitter to add that hero bans would not make Overwatch less competitive:

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 11.29.30 AM

One could imagine OWL implementing a hero ban by constricting repeat bans during a series, where a team may only ban a specific hero on a single map. This would avoid the issue of constantly banning overpowered heroes *cough D.VA cough*. Jake has been known in the past to post insightful commentary on his personal blog, and I hope he details further points on why he feels this way in the future.

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 11.31.20 AM

Gunba’s point is well taken, but this brings us back to the Destiny 2 debacle — what would a game of Overwatch feel like with 50% less ultimates? Is that a game that casual players would enjoy? Personally, I don’t find constant ultimate usage to be fun in any regard, and wouldn’t be opposed to nerfing ultimate charge times across the board as another fix instead of a hero ban.

DC assistant coach Avalla has also chimed in on the matter:

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 11.29.08 AM

Echoing Jayne’s thoughts, hero bans should be global. However, Avalla does not seem worried by the idea that multiple bans in a single class might be problematic. I’m unsure myself, if the bans are mirrored, if this would be an issue in competitive play.

In theory, if Overwatch introduced more “echo heroes”, or heroes with variations on the same theme/toolkit, bans would not completely break certain strategies from occurring. In R6 Siege, multiple operators can “hard breach” by destroying a fortified wall. Banning Thermite, a classic hard breacher, does not completely remove the possibility of a breach occurring. In Overwatch, most heroes are novel in their tool kits, where there isn’t another hero similar enough to fill a role. Perhaps “echo heroes”, like a variation on Reinhardt that moves faster but has a slower shield charge rate (I’m just spit balling here) would keep certain strategies from being unplayable. On the other hand, maybe the fun of a hero ban system would be forcing players to adopt entirely different strategies on the fly. It certainly calls into question what is truly a “competitive” or “professional” player; one who one tricks Tracer, or one who can actually play a variety of roles in every meta.

Head coach Aero for the Dallas Fuel has also reinforced Jayne’s thoughts on the matter:

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 12.16.10 PM

It seems that prominent OWL figures and the community as a whole are open to the idea of a hero ban system, but theories on how it would be implemented differ. Blizzard has not officially commented on the matter as of this writing. As this is controversial to Overwatch’s core design philosophy, it is debatable whether the development team will consider hero bans in the future. For casual and competitive players alike, it seems valuable to at least experiment with this idea further in Pick Up Games and amateur tournaments. I’d like to encourage players to test the concept out in their own PUGs and express their thoughts with the Reforged community. Should we have dedicated hero ban pugs in the future?

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