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Role Queues in Overwatch – a Match Made in Heaven?

With the Yeti Hunter arcade brawl that graced Overwatch’s Winter Wonderland event this year (which has players starting the match by selecting their preference between being part of a team of five Mei’s vs. an overpowered ‘yeti’ Winston), conversation has once again piqued on the Blizzard forums:

Is this a subtle indication that the Overwatch dev team may be bringing a role queue to the game at large?

Many are hoping so, with the belief that this will greatly increase the game’s lifecycle by better balancing the matchmaking system, while also possibly cutting down queue times.

With this discussion, however, the increased talk of a role queue has caused a considerable amount of pushback from those who feel that this could have negative impacts on the game: either by limiting player choice (by locking players into a specific role for the entirety of a match) or by having the greater competitive meta be forced by the role queue (i.e. the devteam) rather than developing organically.

So, while a role queue could have a hugely positive outcome on the game by increasing the consistency of team comps (thereby creating more engaging matches and less incompatible teams), lets discuss some of the challenges and complications involved:

The current character classes suck

Right now, Overwatch has four character classes: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. While these classes sound nice in theory, the application thus far has so little cohesion that these categories are completely useless for the purpose of a role queue. For example, Symmetra, a character that is used primarily for defensive purposes, is a ‘support’ character rather than a ‘defense’ character. Sombra is considered an ‘offensive’ character despite the fact that her damage output (which should be the primary purpose of an ‘offensive’ character) is mediocre, while her utility abilities lend her more to a ‘support’ role.

So, what’s the solution? Overhaul the class system completely. At the moment, the current system haphazardly shoehorns characters into roles rather than providing any meaningful or systematic way of sorting or comparing the similarities/differences between characters. Perhaps rather than having classes at all, rating each character on their ability in certain categories (such as Attack, Tank, Healing and Utility) might give players more insight on how characters can fit together in a team while also providing better variables for how a role queue could select players for a match, based upon their preference for certain qualities.

TL:DR; The character classes (as they currently exist) suck and would be worthless for a role queue selection; fixing them would provide a design opportunity to increase game quality while also making a role queue more comprehensive, sensical, and fluid.

Create a role queue that integrates (and encourages) flex play

Good flex players are key in a game that purposefully allows for switching up team composition in order to respond to threats on the fly, so a role queue that integrates and supports this mechanic is crucial.

For example, rather than picking just a single category (like one of the current classes or even a modified Attack/Tank/Healer/No Preference), selecting character qualities in a tiered system of “I prefer to play an attack-based hero first, utility-based second, tank-based third, healer last” etc., not only would create a mechanic that benefits flex players – but would also be broader design choice that encourages (and assumes) flexibility in the entire player-base. Particularly considering how Overwatch’s new reporting system has made it abundantly clear that one-shoting hero picks is not part of how the design team intends for the game to be played, implementing a role queue in such a dynamic way would alleviate many of the community’s concerns while also supporting these recent design choices.

TL:DR; Overwatch is by its intrinsic nature a game of being able to switch-up team rosters on the fly – a successful role queue would have to support this mechanic in an elegant and organic way.

So, long story short: Overwatch team, please bring us a role queue, just make it a good one.

Written by
January 08, 2018
Published in Editorial

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