Earlier this month, Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch’s game director, took to the Blizzard forums to share his perspective on the balance state of Overwatch. Before going any further, it should be noted that Kaplan spent quite some time stressing that these are his thoughts, and that he is but one man in a team of many.
Kaplan starts the post off by stating that he believes the current iteration of Overwatch to be balanced, or at least in a good place. There are some outliers that he mentions: they maybe broke Roadhog a bit too much and Mercy’s ultimate isn’t fun for anyone. However, other than that, he is essentially happy with the current situation.
Moving on, Kaplan gets into the real nitty gritty of the current complaints. He states that perceived balance is actually more important than balance itself. This is a sentiment that he echoes again later, but it basically boils down to: if the community thinks/doesn’t think its broken, then it is/is not broken. He specifically used Torbjorn and Symmetra as the examples here. Because Kaplan doesn’t see any outcries for them to be nerfed, they aren’t.
Another issue on his list is that the meta is too slow to shift. This is where things get a little complicated in the post. Kaplan breaks this idea down into three separate ways that the meta can change in games: something changes with the balance, players innovate new strategies and the game forces meta change through mechanics. In the next few paragraphs, Kaplan addresses all three of these claims and how they function in Overwatch.
Kaplan starts things off by saying that he does not believe that balancing something for the sake of shaking up the meta is a good idea. Instead, he would rather the meta change in one of the other ways. The way that Kaplan tells it is that they will not be changing the balance of Overwatch to help make things different, allowing those things to come naturally instead.
The main goal, Kaplan’s ideal scenario, is to have the players come up with new strategies that change the game. He cites a time when the community begged the Overwatch team to buff D.Va, fearing that she was dead forever. Instead, the developers did nothing. Despite the no changes, D.Va is now one of the most played, most powerful characters in the meta.
Finally, Kaplan stated that the game could be changed through the systems, the one he sites here being bans. According to this post, bans will not be coming to Overwatch anytime soon. Kaplan has respect and understanding for why games like League of Legends use bans, but states that it is simply not for Overwatch.
To finish off his post, Kaplan dives into the current meta. He suggests that, while players feedback regarding not enjoying dive is helpful, it seems that very few people are actually playing that meta. Most players play Quick Play, focusing on: Genji, 76, Hanzo, McCree, Mercy and Junkrat. Competitive players focus on: Mercy, 76, D.Va, Lucio, Ana and Genji. Reinhardt finishes off the group as number seven. Even the top third of players picked Ana more than anyone else. What do these stats mean? Kaplan is saying that a majority of the players in the game don’t actual experience the thing that everyone is so mad about. Winston isn’t even on this list, and D.Va is only the third most picked in competitive.
The post ends with somewhat of a word of warning: to not yell so much about the perceived meta. Things change, but the team would rather wait for things to change naturally rather than force it. Similarly, the hive mind can loud and unreasonable. The stats point away from the dive meta, not toward it. Dive heroes are powerful, yes, but that will naturally change in time.
Kaplan’s big focus of this post is to say that the team is content with the current trajectory, and that Overwatch’s meta shifts are beholden to the players, not the dev team. If you, like me, are one of the players that wishes Overwatch would change more, it seems that Kaplan has challenged us to find creative new ways to change things ourselves.