Over the past few months, the Overwatch community has discussed “Role Lock” quite a bit. Will Blizzard actually implement such a feature? What would this mean for Overwatch in both the present and the future?
What is Role Lock
Role Lock refers to the idea of restricting the sorts of team compositions that teams can play. Most often, this means that teams will be forced into a two tank, two healer, two DPS composition. Many in the community have argued that restricting the compositions that teams can run will solve a number of problems in the game. The following article will describe some of the arguments for and against Role Lock.
Role Lock in Casual Play
People advocating for Role Lock claim it will benefit the game on both the casual and competitive levels. For casual players, the benefits of Role Lock are pretty obvious. Everyone has been in a game where four of your teammates instantly lock a DPS player, refuse to switch off, and proceed to fight over voice chat about whose fault the loss is. By having players select their role before queuing and then being matched into a 2-2-2 team composition, these sorts of toxic games will be less common. Most of the frustration voiced by the community doesn’t come from the game itself, but from dealing with frustrating teammates. Forcing teams into specific compositions will help alleviate some of this frustration.
There are a number of drawbacks, even for casual players, that such a change could have. The most obvious of these has to do with queue times. Anyone who has played a game with similar role-specific queues has experienced first hand how this type of system impacts queue times. People playing more sought after roles, such as DPS often have much longer queue times than Healers or Tanks. This could potentially have the benefit of forcing players to diversify the roles they want to play if they want shorter queue times. However, there is already plenty of complaints about queue times as is, especially at the highest levels. Any changes that increase queue times for players will not be looked at fondly.
Role Lock would not just change the game for casual players. It would also have a major impact on the Overwatch League. The 2019 season of the Overwatch League has been dominated by the GOATS-meta, a composition using three tanks and three supports. Despite balance changes aimed to try to kill GOATS, it is still by far the most used team comp in the Overwatch League. Furthermore, many viewers find it rather boring to watch a tank-healer fight, rather than watching flashy DPS players showcase their skill. By implementing a forced 2-2-2 team composition in the Overwatch League, Blizzard would kill the GOATS-meta overnight.
However, many players have voiced concerns about being forced into specific team compositions. One of the biggest selling points for Overwatch is the flexibility that teams have in switching team compositions in the middle of the game. Forcing a Role Lock will severely limit the flexibility of teams to switch compositions to try to counter their opponents. Furthermore, it doesn’t solve the root problem, that GOATS is imbalanced. If 2-2-2 was implemented, there is no guarantee that a new composition would become just as overused as GOATS. The main problem with the current meta is balancing GOATS. Forcing teams into a 2-2-2 composition surely fixes that problem, but it does not solve the underlying issues with balance.
While it may appear to be an overly-simple way to destroy GOATS, balance is probably the biggest benefit of introducing Role Lock. Right now, balancing champions is a headache because you need to consider both the champion’s abilities, as well as how it interacts with every other champion in the game. However, if Blizzard did implement Role Lock, they would have a much more manageable set of variables to consider when balancing. Tanks, healers, and DPS can all be balanced around the notion that there will be exactly two of each role on each team.
However, there is one major concern about balancing around Role Lock. Every champion does not fit perfectly into the tank, supports, or DPS roles. There are plenty of flex champions. For instance, supports like Brigitte do not have the healing output of other supports. She is only viable in the current meta because she can rely on two other healers to pick up her slack. However, in a world where 2-2-2 is a reality, she would not be viable.
Role Lock has not yet been confirmed. Despite this, the community has still been talking about it quite a bit. Lead Game Designer Jeff Kaplan has even come out and said he supports the idea. Blizzard has also hinted on major changes on the horizon for Overwatch, and nothing would be bigger than implementing a Role Lock into the game. We will just need to wait and see how Blizzard plans to implement it, and what impacts it has on all levels of play.