With mounting concerns from casual and professional players of Overwatch over the state of the meta balance, game director Jeff Kaplan said not to expect anything to change soon.
A post on the Overwatch forums gained traction by the title “OW update/balancing cycle is excruciatingly slow: Part 2,” and Kaplan addressed the forum as he usually does, and he said that at the current time there isn’t an urgent need to fix the meta, and that “the perception of balance is more powerful than balance itself.”
“The most controversial thing I’ll say here (hopefully) is that I believe the game is currently balanced,” he wrote. “What I mean is that I don’t feel like there are any heroes who are way too strong to the point of breaking balance. That doesn’t mean that I personally don’t think there are some problems with heroes.”
He then addressed the concerns of the current player frustration of the meta by saying that he thinks that “the real issue people are feeling is that the ‘meta’ does not shift as frequently as they would like,” and that people make the argument about the meta based on hero pick rates. Kaplan continues that the issue could be addressed in three ways, and Kaplan talked about each one.
On the possibility on buffing or nerfing based on which heroes are being picked or not, Kaplan said that isn’t his idea of balance. His argument is that if the team decides to buff a character based off of pick rates, it could lead to characters being “not balanced properly,” and as the game is balanced in his opinion, there isn’t a need to touch them needlessly.
Changing the game mechanically also seems to be at odds with his philosophy, as many MOBA games enforce variety with banning, closing out overly powerful characters from the game entirely. Although Kaplan said he understands why that is the case, he doesn’t want his players to find variety in this manner.
“I prefer to think that OW allows you to be creative, which is different than forces you to be creative,” he wrote. “I don’t want to watch the best Genji player in the world play Zarya – I want to see him/her play Genji.”
The best case scenario for Kaplan seems to be through player innovation, as professionals experiment and tryout new strategies. Although he also admitted that perhaps it’s too difficult for them to do so because of their schedules, he also said that innovation has taken place plenty of times before.
He also brings up Team Fortress 2 — a large source of inspiration for Overwatch — and baseball as examples of games with rigid structure that still managed to be fun to play and watch. Even if the professionals are indeed stuck to a structure, Kaplan argued that the majority of players play Quick Mode anyways, saying that the dive meta being predominant strategy is only in a small subset of players.
Kaplan concluded that the changes that the players think they want to see probably won’t happen until there is a real need to, and that the meta will change more probably than not.
“Three months from now there will be a new meta,” he wrote. “If you’re the type of person who feels like the meta should shift every two weeks, then you’ll probably be sick of that meta and wishing it was back in the good ol’ dive comp days,” he wrote. “I just caution against wanting change for the sake of change. The meta will shift soon enough.”
Responding to forum posts is nothing new for Kaplan, who definitely plays the part of an active game director. He previously shut down a rude forum poster and explained why underwater maps won’t be coming to Overwatch anytime soon.
Cover photo courtesy of Blizzard