I've been playing Competitive mode for a few weeks now and I’ve noticed a trend in hero selection. Besides the occasional hard-headed Hanzo, offensive Symmetra and trolly Mei players, it seems the large majority of players in the EU Overwatch queue prefer to play DPS heroes. I understand getting a quick multikill with a barrage, a team wipe with Genji or a pulse bomb kill on a tank is great fun but if nobody ends up picking a support or tank hero, you still end up losing every game you play.
The Overwatch matchmaking system works on an algorithm. The game looks at your skill rating, the skill rating of your group mates and the amount of people you’re queued with. If you’re queued with 6 people, you’ll mostly run into other stacks of 6 and I’m happy that’s the way it works. It creates exciting, tactical games. However, solo queue and duo queue are absolute disasters a large majority of the time, and it’s affecting the largest section of players most; the mid-level players trying to rank up. At the time of writing, most players prefer to play the DPS role, which is completely understandable. The DPS role allows a player to have the most obvious impact on the game. You kill a player or even an entire team and you’re able to take a point or pull the payload to its eventual destination. Maybe you get a flashy multikill and end up getting the Play of The Game. All cool stuff but all of it is impossible without a good tank or support player to make sure the opponent’s DPS players don’t mess you up. How good is it if Justice rains from above without a Zarya shield when the enemy McCree looks at his watch and decides it’s High Noon?
Currently, Overwatch doesn’t take into account which heroes a player is most likely to play. This means that it’s not unlikely to match 6 DPS players in a group, leaving nobody to play support or tank. The 2 DPS players most interested in winning will eventually switch to roles that complete the composition and the game can be played. Unfortunately, those 2 players will end up playing tank or support for most of their games as they’re the only ones willing to switch. Blizzard could look at which heroes a player has played most in competitive and adjust their matchmaking system for that variable, but that means that people who switched to tank or support in their placement games are now stuck with that choice forever. Fortunately, Blizzard already has the answer to this problem and it’s worked out wonderfully in their MMORPG, World of Warcraft.
See, World of Warcraft has a “Looking for Group” system that allows you to select the role you’d like to play and it automatically matches you with players who play the other roles required, making sure that whatever happens, you always end up with a functioning team composition. It doesn’t guarantee that the other players are any good or that you’re going to have fun but at least you don’t have to defeat a boss, trying to heal as a DPS class. Overwatch could do something similar. Combining the WoW role selection system with the Overwatch matchmaking algorithm would mean that you can find players on your skill level who play roles you don’t play. You can create functioning compositions so everyone ends up playing exactly what they want to play, without making one team disastrously stronger than the other.
Let’s look at the pros and cons here. With a role-selection system, the DPS players would have much longer queues, meaning more down time. Tank and support players would have nearly no downtime so it would be incredibly attractive for a DPS player to group up with a tank or support player in order to lower their queue times. This result, alongside possibly rewarding tank and support players better by accurately giving them a skill rating from the start and by possibly giving them more experience or a currency bonus for playing a role most people deem less fun, will motivate more players to fill these roles, fixing queue times in the long run.
Of course it’s not necessarily true that every team needs a single tank and a single support player. In fact, most professional teams play with multiple tanks and multiple support players, making it much harder to automatically match the correct roles with each other. That’s why this queue concept is a work in progress and merely a start. Being able to find at least one tank and one support player solves the largest issue I think most of us Flex players face in Matchmaking. Plus, this system is easily adjustable for meta. If the meta asks for 2 tank players, make it work as such. Is there room for 1 or 2 flex players, then have 1 or 2 spots be wildcard spots which can be filled by any role.
Do I want to play the tank role sometimes? Absolutely. Do I want to heal sometimes? You betcha. But I also want to be able to practice my McCree, my Soldier and my Widowmaker against people my level who take the game at least a little seriously. Overwatch is one of the few games that make it fun to play tank and support heroes, which is something Blizzard has done ridiculously well. Not a single hero plays the same and that’s something beautiful. However, not everyone sees it this way yet. And while that’s the case, Blizzard needs to cater to those mid-level players who want to improve at every hero in a much more significant way.
I’d like to see Overwatch grow beyond what anyone thought it could be. Unfortunately, we’re currently left without an API to create matches from outside the game, without replays to analyze our and pro teams’ games and without a non-hacky way of retrieving stats about players. As a wise man once said, you can’t always get what you want but if you try some time, you might find, you get what you need. This role-based matchmaking system would be a huge step towards improving the user experience in Overwatch and its attractiveness to non-professional competitive gamers. This is something we need.