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Hero bans work for some games but aren't a fit for  Overwatch , argues Jeff Kaplan

Hero bans work for some games but aren't a fit for Overwatch, argues Jeff Kaplan

January 24, 2020 | By Alissa McAloon

“Sometimes the right design decision for one game, is a terrible decision for another game – even if the two games are very similar.”

- Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan explains why the desire for a ban system hints at other changes needed to Overwatch’s balance.

While some competitive games have implemented a ban system that allows players to rule certain characters off limit on a per-match basis, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan says that kind of system would do Overwatch more harm than good.

Kaplan dove into the team’s reasoning for opposing a ban system in a reply over in the Overwatch forums, suggesting a better solution to the community’s complains is out there (and currently in the works).

His comments offer a bit of a peek at the conversations required when helming a live competitive game like Overwatch, and how community perception of things like balance and prevalent tactics (or meta) are considered when changes like a potential ban system are discussed.

In the post, Kaplan notes that the community’s desire to see Overwatch adopt a ban system usually comes from one of three complaints: a stagnated meta, frustration over balance, or dislike for playing against a particular hero.

“As a team, we agree with and understand that players want the meta to be more fluid and move more frequently […] but just implementing hero bans does not mean the meta will move,” explains Kaplan. “Studying other games, the end result is usually a ‘ban meta’. The downside of a ban meta, is that players are often at odds with each other when someone on their team bans an ‘off-ban-meta’ hero.”

“The same frustrations that players experience with the meta exist in a ban meta. Hero bans are not a silver bullet solution to making the meta move. If the problem we are trying to solve is that the meta needs to change more, hero bans might actually make the problem worse, not better.“

Outside the realm of balance and meta changes, Kaplan says a ban system would detract from other key focuses the dev team has tried to put first and foremost in Overwatch by slowing down rounds with an additional menu phase.

“There is also a huge development cost to adding the feature as well (the time commitment would be significant). This last reason is not the one that’s driving our decision making,” writes Kaplan. “If we thought it was right for the game (like with Role Queue) we would absolutely make the investment.”

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