Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan Explains Why Hero Bans Are Not a "Silver Bullet"

Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan Explains Why Hero Bans Are Not a "Silver Bullet"

"We agree on the problems. That's the important thing."

With 31 heroes in its roster, more to come, and the success of a 20-team professional league riding on whether or not the game's fun to watch, it's hard to envy Overwatch's developers when it comes to balance updates. In recent weeks, rumors spread through the Overwatch community that Blizzard would implement a hero ban system as one way of addressing balance and the competitive metagame, but in a new post to Blizzard's forums, game director Jeff Kaplan says hero bans aren't a solution the developers want to pursue.

Hero bans, a common mechanic in MOBAs that lets both teams pick a hero that neither team is allowed to play, have been a topic of consideration in the Overwatch community for quite some time. Players only recently started to suspect that Blizzard would soon add the feature, based on a rumor from Overwatch leaker Metro. After Blizzard confirmed that an update will indeed come to Overwatch soon, speculation about hero bans reached a fever pitch, prompting Kaplan's response.

"Interestingly, we don't have many people on the team vehemently arguing for [hero bans]," writes Kaplan on the Blizzard forums. "More of us, including myself, are reluctant to add hero bans to Overwatch. As I've said before, we're not of the mindset that we're opposed to the idea entirely and will never add them. But overall, there are a number of issues that make us want to proceed carefully."

"Hero bans are not a silver bullet solution to making the meta move," Kaplan continues, addressing one of the leading arguments behind adding hero bans. Kaplan promises that a new system will be added to Overwatch soon for the sake of having the meta change more frequently, but that it is not a hero ban.

The rest of Kaplan's post sheds some light on the Overwatch team's design philosophy given other arguments for hero bans. For the sake of game balance, Kaplan says they'll be pushing balance updates more frequently. Kaplan personally doesn't like the idea of dictating another team's strategy with hero bans ("Basically, it's a PvP game. You don't get to pick what the enemy team does.") nor does he like the argument against hero bans from players who only specialize in one hero.

With the update on the horizon and the Overwatch League's 2020 season kicking off in just a few weeks, casual and competitive players alike are eager to see just what this new system will be. Last year's implementation of roll queues received a mixed reaction, and any change is sure to have its critics. Still, Kaplan says the developers and the players are on the same page about the issues affecting Overwatch's competitive play. "We agree on the problems," Kaplan writes. "That's the important thing."

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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