Overwatch, the Overwatch League, and the Feasibility of the 2/2/2 Role Lock

Published: Monday, July 8, 2019 - 14:00 | By: Anson Chan

For the past year, the 3/3 team composition (or GOATS) has been the talk of the town in Overwatch. While there have been a few variations of the 3/3 comp since its inception, the basic idea of the comp is to have three tanks and three supports. More specifically, it combines Reinhardt, Zarya, and Brigitte's enormous health and shield pools with Lucio's speed boost to let teams charge onto objectives. In spite of its lack of DPS Heroes, 3/3 has proven to be very effective. So effective in fact that Overwatch League teams have been more or less exclusively running 3/3. Needless to say, this has created a rather boring viewing experience. While recent balancing patches have nerfed 3/3 into oblivion for normal players, this hasn't been the case in the League. It's gotten to the point that there is serious discussion about implementing a hard 2/2/2 role lock.

While such a role lock would undoubtedly be a quick and dirty solution, it's not exactly a no brainer. Granted, it would free the Overwatch League's DPS players from Brigitte prison, which would be great. On the other hand, a huge component of 3/3 is the intense amount of coordination that it requires to be run properly. You can't exactly nerf player skill, so they're inevitably going to go to the next "cheesy" team comp.


Which is, as many fear and speculate, probably going to be some kind of bunker comp. If you thought watching two giant beefy teams slug it out for a year is boring, just wait until teams revolve around Bastion. Or Sombra. Because nothing is more fun than seeing a permanently invisible character do nothing of value 90% of the time. When she actually does something, it's basically a guaranteed win because of how much power her Ult has.

Obviously, it's all pure speculation at this point. Overwatch League teams have the game down to a science, so for all we know there's a Torb meta coming soon. Still, it seems doubtful that the days of dive or double sniper are coming back. There's just way too many defensive abilities for that, as 3/3 demonstrated. A Hero ban system would have to be implemented to truly force teams into using all kinds of team comps. However, that would open another can of worms since the vast majority of non-DPS Heroes don't have an analogous Hero. No one can speed boost like Lucio, no one can create space like Reinhardt, no one can cleanse like Zarya, and so on and so forth.

overwatch jeff kaplan yule log
The face of a man when he realizes that someone's been using a monkey's paw in the balancing department

There's also the issue of whether or not a 2/2/2 role lock would or should make its way to regular Overwatch. For all intents and purposes, 3/3 is not viable in regular play anymore. A role lock/queue would literally do nothing to improve the average playing experience in this regard. That's not even taking into consideration wait times or role pretenders. And there is no way that a role lock would be able to account for sub-roles. Having two guaranteed tanks sounds great until you realize they're both off-tank specialists. A triple-DPS stack that doesn't do DPS sounds bad enough. Forcing them onto a role that is arguably even more vital for that slim chance of success is going to be even worse. After all, throwers are going to throw. Trying to change human nature is like trying to win in fisticuffs against the ocean, it's not going to happen.

On the other hand, purely anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that people are forming themselves into 2/2/2 comps anyways, so a role lock isn't going to negatively change the game. Plus, a queue would guarantee that everyone has at least some idea of what they're doing. You wouldn't have a healer main play Rein because your team somehow ended up with five healer mains for example.

Who knows, a role lock might preempt some other busted comp that hasn't been created yet. Plus it could make game balancing easier for Blizzard. Theoretically. Not that Blizzard's game balancing record has been particularly spotless or fast. To be fair, pure 3/3 has been on the decline in the Overwatch League as well (presumably) thanks to balancing changes. Not that switching out D.Va for Sombra is a huge change that's going to lead to the return of DPS Heroes in the League, but still.

In any case, a 2/2/2 lock is truly one of those features that can go either way. There's good, genuine arguments for both sides of the issue. Fortunately, this is one of the few moments where trickle down feature balancing/implementation could work. After all, if it affects the top 0.1% the most, then why not start there and see if it's worth the effort to implement something that might not affect everyone else?

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Staff Writer

Hi everybody! I've been playing all kinds of games for decades now, from FPSes to city builders to the occasional platformer, and if nothing else, it's taught me that games are the ultimate form of art.