ESTNN's Malik Shelp gives his thoughts on the 2-2-2 role lock.
At the end of Stage 2, the Vancouver Titans suffered their biggest defeat yet when the San Fransisco Shock took them down in a six-map Stage Finals bout. While the “Golden Stage” SF Shock were busy fighting against the undefeated Titans, however, another very exciting Overwatch match was going on.
On the Contenders side of Overwatch, Element Mystic was busy dismantling O2 Blast during the OW Contenders Korea Grand Finals. I get it, a lot of people aren’t big fans of Contenders, but there are reasons to watch. In fact, we often see new meta and superstars rising from these matches. While on its own this is not huge news, the plot thickens when you take into account all of the talk of 2-2-2 role lock in the past weeks.
Kaplan, Droppin' Hints
If you’re not familiar with the latest Overwatch news, Jeff Kaplan hinted at the potential of locking roles in competitive play, specifically in a 2-2-2 format, in the past months. In other words, there is a chance that Blizzard will start to force all teams into a composition that must have 2 healers, 2 tanks, and 2 DPS heroes on each team.
We are going to break down the 2-2-2 role lock and its implications in both professional and casual play (It is worth noting that Element Mystic won Overwatch Contenders Korea by playing a 2-2-2 with Doomfist, Sombra, Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, and Zarya).
2-2-2 In the Overwatch League
We’ve seen the Boston Uprising have success with RCK flexing over to the Sombra, and the Chengdu Hunters always mix it up by playing a variety of compositions that feature DPS heroes. Another large concern is the disparity between professional and casual play. You’re not going to see GOATS played (at least not well) in the Silver, Gold, and Platinum ranks. It requires heavy communication between teammates and the game sense to track cooldowns. Additionally, in lower ranked games we often see the insta-lock DPS, where few people are willing or able to play tanks or support to round out the compositions.
Let’s talk about the idea of damage heroes flexing over to support or tank roles, though. In the professional scene, players such as Rascal and Agilities will flex to Brigitte or Zarya. In a 2-2-2 role lock, players wouldn’t need to flex. They could specialize in their roles. This lock would provide structure to the Overwatch League. In American football, you don’t see quarterbacks playing as a linebacker, and it would be much simpler when drafting players and building teams. While it would technically limit the number of heroes a professional player could play in the scene, it would allow them to focus solely on their role and improve across heroes within their role, rather than outside of it.
2-2-2 In Casual Competitive Play
Unfortunately, 2-2-2 isn’t the end-all, be-all solution. Hero balancing is critical to the health of Overwatch. For example, Jeff Kaplan explained in his interview how Brigitte is a hybrid hero that requires two other support heroes to be truly effective. If Blizzard increased her healing, it would cause her to be majorly overpowered. In a 2-2-2 role lock scenario though, she would be less viable without a buff.
In his interview with Unit Lost, Jeff Kaplan talked about how if role locks were introduced right now, damage players would have a 20- to 30-minute queue time for a match. Sure, players may stick around for one or two games, but definitely no prolonged sessions. Sure, they could flex over to a tank or support to get into a game faster, but it becomes mentality issue at that point. If someone who plays primarily damage heroes slots into a tank role to get into the game faster, players are more likely to see a Roadhog or Zarya played, not as a tank, but as a damage hero.
2-2-2 Helps with Smurfing and Multiple Accounts
If someone did want to practice their tank or support in competitive play, 2-2-2 role locking could solve the multiple accounts problem. I myself have 2 Overwatch accounts. I use one for the tank role and one for the support role. With role locking, Blizzard could give you three different skill ratings, one for each category of character. This is something that other games have tried.
For example, League of Legends tried a separate “off role” ranking, wherein playing types of champions outside of your normal role would help your ranking in your main role. Many people choose a role and stick to it because it can be difficult to practice different roles in competitive play without a set group. There has been a lot of talk about how a role lock will affect Overwatch as a whole, but hindsight is always 20-20. We won't know until it happens.
In fact, what we think now about the state of the game will be extremely different this time next year.
Image VIA: Blizzard Entertainment
Video VIA: Unit Lost