Twitter Spaces Recap
Greetings heroes, last week, our lead hero designer, Alec Dawson joined Matt Morelo from the Overwatch League on Twitter Spaces to talk about our upcoming balance updates, which are now being played in the Overwatch League Playoffs and will be coming in a future patch. In case you missed it, here is the recap of everything that Matt and many of you asked Alec on Twitter.
Matt Morelo: What is the new balance philosophy with Overwatch 2 now being a live seasonal model?
Alec Dawson: So this is our first balance patch since Overwatch 2 has been out, and the way we’re approaching balancing the game is a minor and major cadence of patches. This upcoming patch would be considered one of those minor ones, and those are going to be usually in the mid-cycle patches. They’re going to be reactive, looking at the first two weeks of a meta, seeing what’s performing at the top, and seeing how we can make some adjustments along those lines. Any of these changes are going to be slight nerfs, tuning numbers tweaks, and not a lot of reworks or anything like that in there.
Then for major balance updates, there’s going to be many more changes. I think we will be entering a lot more seasons, where you may see a lot more buffs associated with heroes, something that changes sort of their rhythm, their gameplay loops, things of that nature, and possibly even some reworks down the line. If we’re doing four changes here for a minor balance patch, a major one will have around ten, and many of those will be proactive. Those are going to be things that are being worked on, not just in the short term reacting to the meta, but there is be some changes for things we see down the road of how we want to maybe change some of the ways a hero may feel. One of the ones we’ve been talking about for a while is Brigitte and her ultimate. Is that something we want to keep around for the long term? Maybe that’s something we do in one of those major patches.
Matt: I think that’s an awesome approach to everything and the fact that, you are looking at things like, is it balanced, but is this how we want this hero to play and make those adjustments to make the hero feel as intended? So the new blog went out this morning on some of those adjustments, and I guess this would be kind of like what we would expect for a mid-season update, right?
Matt: Okay! I’d love to dive into a little bit of those changes to give people a little bit more context on some of the stuff changing in this update.
Alec: Yeah, sounds good.
Matt: Yeah. So Sombra, the hack ability lockout duration gets reduced from 1.75 seconds to 1.5 seconds, hacked enemies are no longer valid targets for hacking for the duration of the effect, and then the hacked damage multiplier is reduced from 40 to 25. So that’s pretty steep. What were you seeing with Sombra that led to some of these changes?
Alec: Yeah. So Sombra can be pretty touchy. She can show up in different metas at times, but I think one of the things here is she had so much effectiveness getting into your backline, picking off one of your supports. I think right now we’re pretty sensitive to some of that gameplay where the supports may feel a little helpless against Sombra. It was one of the big reasons that people were feeling that way, and her damage efficiency was a little bit higher than we would like in her gameplay. I think overall, one of the key changes here, just in terms of that feel, is that chain hacking. We wanted to prevent some of that if you’re playing D.Va or some other tanks that Sombra could just continuously hack over and over again. So I think for Sombra it’s yes, it’s about balance, but also a lot of sentiment, a lot of feel there that we want to reduce some of that crowd control and smooth her out just a little bit.
Matt: Yeah, because the fantasy of the character is awesome. She is this stealth hacker, but just as you mentioned, I just think of playing D.Va, and you’re like mid-flight, you get hacked and turn to the Sombra, and then you turn around, and then you get hacked again, and you’re like this kind of doesn’t really feel awesome. I also think people underestimate how much the 40% damage increase is a lot with the hack, but how easy she’s able to get into the backline and finish players off with that.
Alec: Yeah and you know with Sombra in Overwatch 2, I think we’re still trying to find exactly her sweet spot. I think we don’t want to be in that world of Overwatch 1 gameplay where we’re not really interacting with heroes at all until someone uses their Ultimate. Then in the beta we thought that the hack was too small. It didn’t feel like it was meaningful. So we’re still finding that middle ground for her, but if anything is a little too harsh, we’ll re-evaluate in the future as well.
Matt: Yeah, I definitely agree, though, with better direction with how Sombra used to be played. Before the betas, it’s hard to think about that at this point, really just farming towards EMP and not just playing around that ultimate and hacking, not playing in like a damage role but like a supportive damage type of character. We’re now leaning way more heavily into the damage dealing, but all Support players across, rejoice with that change.
Another one I’m sure they’ll be happy about is Genji. So max ammo reduction from 30 to 24, and then the shuriken damage from 29 to 27. With Genji obviously extremely strong, with not a lot of CC, was the idea to take a little bit of that core damage away?
Alec: Yeah, I mean overall, if we look at sort of the benefits like Genji has and a 5v5 world, he was performing very well. According to all of our data across all the ranks from bottom to top Genji was just doing very well. Genji players are very vocal but coming back to some of our sensitivity around the support role and protecting those players a little bit here. Genji just had a little bit too much burst damage. We want to bring them in line with the other flankers. I think these numbers should be able to do that. Bring him more in line with Reaper, and then we’ll see from there how Genji performs in the next season.
Matt: Yeah, I felt like he started to dominate that flanker role. Between Dragonblade being super strong and then just his regular damage output, I like how you compared to heroes like Tracer and Reaper; you just felt like he was able to just burst targets down instantly at times. So I think this will definitely be a welcomed change.
Alec: Yeah, and it was really interesting. Even in some of our data, we saw an uptick in a ton of different heroes as ways to feel better about playing against Genji. Moira players took off, so you know that we’ve seen a lot of reactions, not just from how players feel and how they’ve been giving feedback but even their hero selection to avoid some of those encounters they’ve had with Genji.
Matt: Yeah, I know. Somebody was asking me, like, why is Moira in every one of my games? And I’m like, because Genji probably is, and she can just evade and easily kill from somewhat of a distance. It would be good to see some of the more historical Genji counters come through, maybe like with a patch after this, like Cassidy or whatnot.
Let’s move on and talk about some of the tanks because I think, at least for me, tank has been the most fun role to play where I’m traditionally a DPS player. But a reason I think because Zarya became like a raid boss, and she was like my favorite tank in Overwatch 1. I think I’m sad, but I agree where barrier duration goes from 2 1/2 to 2 seconds, and then the cooldown gets increased from 10 to 11 seconds. I think this is probably because she feels she can do just about everything right now?
Alec: Yeah, I mean the barrier, particularly with that duration, I think, was one thing where we’ve improved it. It was at 2 seconds earlier, and we went with 2.5, but I think what we found in terms of the gameplay a lot is that players just didn’t know what to do. A lot of times, they watched the barrier. They weren’t sure when it was going to end. So it got into this ground where they felt like there weren’t any windows of opportunity as the enemy team. You really didn’t know when to start attacking Zarya. You’re like, wait, when do I do it? How long is it going to be up? So hopefully, this creates that cadence a bit more and also puts a little bit more pressure on the Zarya players to be more thoughtful. Not to meme too much, but walking forward with double barrier, that is something people did in a lot of different places, right? We want it to be a little bit more about conscious choice there, about when you’re putting up and managing your cooldowns. So hopefully, this change will bring Zarya back in line.
Matt: Yeah. I think, as you mentioned, the barrier just felt, especially when you were in a tank duel or whatnot, and you were not the Zarya, going against one felt like there was like not really an opportunity to attack. You were like, all right, if I attack, she’s going to kill me faster, but if I don’t attack, I’m just going to die. I think this probably leads to, you know, a healthier playstyle, and just like a reminder to the Zarya players out there, you can also bubble teammates. I’ve seen so many Zaryas, I think just because of how strong she is, just using the bubble strictly on herself.
Alec: Yeah, that’s definitely been the case in a few places, and hopefully, some more effective counters rise up as well. I think we saw a lot of players not really knowing what to do when Zarya was doing so well and being this efficient and not really having ways to strategize against her. So hopefully, this brings her in line, and there are a lot more opportunities for those windows of attack and for efficient counters as well.
Matt: I think the next adjustment and tank that goes along with that is D.Va, and I think some people may question like, well, why D.Va? It’s like, well, D.Va is actually super strong right now. I think people just play so much Zaria that you may not realize it, where the booster impact damage goes from 25 to 15, and then the fusion cannon spread gets increased from 3.5 to 3.75. I assume you’re also seeing really strong things with D.Va outside of the Zarya matchups?
Alec: Yeah, D.Va is also performing quite well. I think one thing here was in some of the betas, we didn’t feel like D.Va was nearly effective enough. That was what we were seeing in our data, that was some of the feedback we were getting, so we went a little high on that booster impact damage in particular. I think there is something really core and fun that’s brought up, but the damage is a little bit too high there. Then the cannon spread, making sure we touch up on there as well. I think D.Va is just a little overtuned, so these changes will bring her back. So it’s a partial revert to some of the things we made in adjustments in beta.
Matt: Yeah, I think it’s also awesome to see because I think when we talked about Genji and people playing Moira, it’s like sometimes I feel like in my games, people forget like Winston exists with how strong he can be. I think this may actually put both of those tanks that are a little bit more agile to where they can access the high ground a little bit more on even footing.
Alec: Totally. So, I think overall, we’re looking at these changes. This is sort of what to expect from one of our minor patches. It’s going to be all these numbers, bringing some heroes back in line. I think one of the themes here is not just, you know, efficiency and power, but also looking at the support role and how maybe some of the flanking and maybe some of the diving is a little too efficient currently in today’s meta.
Matt: Yeah, the really fast-paced aggro playstyle just kind of runs teams down. It definitely leaves some supports like Zenyatta out in the dust a little bit when he’s got so much coming at him.
One more change was actually Kiriko. So swift step invulnerability duration goes from .4 to .25 seconds. I guess this was a this is something players may not like realize as much with how swift step works, where she does get a brief window of invulnerability. Was that too powerful, or was it just something that players were a little bit confused by? Like, hey, I just saw this Kiriko teleport, I’m shooting at her, but nothing’s happening.
Alec: Something more on the confusion side of it, for why we made the change. I think there are things like Kiriko teleported into Reaper’s death blossom and then didn’t die. And it’s like, wait, what happened there? So there was some confusion, but you know it’s there to prevent you from dying instantly and just feel bad about it. But we’re shrinking that window a little bit. Kiriko is doing really well, but this isn’t something like a super hard balance change, but more of a gameplay feel thing.
Matt: Yeah, I don’t think this like impacts her playability in terms of like the meta. I think her damage in the right players’ hands is still extremely strong, and then a one thing I’ve been like pleasantly surprised by is like her healing output. I actually think it’s better than some people may have expected. And then I’m sure you guys have seen some crazy plays and whatnot with the ultimate as well.
Alec: Oh yeah, Kitsune Rush do can do some ridiculous things. I think right now we’re looking at her for season 2, seeing where she ends up. I think a lot of players are starting to catch on to the idea of teleporting aggressively as well, which is very powerful. So there are a few things we are working out with her, but this change right now is more of a gameplay feel thing, and hopefully, we can alleviate some of those confusing points.
Matt: I’m excited to see how this looks for the playoffs for Overwatch League and then for live, it says the current goal is for the 15th of November. Is this kind of like the actual cadence we can expect, like when a mid-season update would typically arrive around this time or earlier in future seasons?
Alec: Typically, you’re going to see about halfway through the season, so usually about four weeks after the season will start. This one is slightly later, but usually, you’ll see it about four weeks in. Actually, I think one thing was we wanted to get this patch in even earlier at some point, but this would be four weeks in mid-season, and then the season start; that’s when you’re going to see the major patches as well.
Matt: Gotcha. I got just a few other questions. Are there other heroes on the team’s radar going in towards Season 2?
Alec: Yeah, of course, we hear a lot of feedback about Doomfist in particular. I think we are trying to find more a straight identity for Doomfist. One of the things that Doomfist lost in the beta was that slow effect and we are trying to find something that can help alleviate some of this weaknesses. So we are looking the block and the empowered punch and is there a way to get more empowered punches out of a match and can that be more of his loop and being able to enable to enable Doomfist
Also, Sojourn. We hear a lot about Sojourn. It’s really interesting from a data standpoint, and from a sentiment standpoint, I think Sojourn becomes a very strong character around masters and up. Before that though, Sojourn is not doing well in some of the lower ranks. So when we think about changes for characters with these really polarizing win rate differentials, we want to make changes that affect some of that potency at those high but not make the character even work at lower ranks in particular.
Matt: But we all think we are masters players at heart, right?
Alex: Yeah, we definitely do but you know thinking about her it’s it’s more about those one shot moments from long range and 200 HP characters, so we’re looking at some ways to make that a little bit smoother but still retain her identity. You know that is her right click is a big portion for identity and making sure we can keep that around by and also not make it so that you are playing Zenyatta in the back and she headshots you from across the map and you don’t die instantly right?
Matt: You’re just walking around a corner, and all of a sudden, you’re just gone, and you don’t know why. Yeah.
Alec: Yeah. It makes for some good highlights, though, doesn’t it?
Matt: Oh, it does. I haven’t recorded any because I’m typically the Sojourn that misses or the support in the back. But yeah, I agree. I think she’s such a strong hero in the right players’ hands. I remember before the first beta thinking like, I don’t know like how strong she’s gonna be, and how good players we play with like on the internal alpha, but then seeing like the pro players get their hands on Sojourn and I was like this is what it looks like.
I think it’s awesome that you are looking at characters like Doomfist and others who are looking for their niche in the meta as well. How do you get more empowered punches? Like how do you make the loop of the character feel impactful? And then also, you know, have a spot in the game that going back to talking about Genji. What do you do when Genji’s on the other side? Everyone goes Moira, but maybe there is a clear place where those tanks can be and can fill some of those slots.
Alec: Definitely, yeah. Appeal for your supports, please everyone. That’s kind of the thing I think that will help people be successful as well.
Matt: Please turn around, tanks. There’s people behind you, not just in front of you.
Aftewards, Alec took time to answer many questions from our players on Twitter.
Q. How do you guys feel about Tank diversity, particularly in terms of tanks who share composition style (Rein/JQ/Zarya/Orisa all brawl, for example)? How much of improving goes into hero design versus balance and map design?
Alec: Plays a significant role! At the outset of a new Hero, we establish what archetype they fit into for game needs. The goal here is to have more diversity for different Tank playstyles and finding new spaces for the role in general.
Q. Any Symmetra beam change updates?
Alec: Shooting barriers will be good for you again
Q. Can we expect Sojourn nerfs? I’ve seen her in almost every Competitive game I’ve played this season, and her kit is just too strong compared to other DPS.
Alec: She’s top of mind for Season 2 changes. Particularly looking at her one-shot capability without losing her hero identity too much.
Q. Can we expect any buffs to Mercy? Her movement feels great, but it seems like she lacks the playmaking impact that other supports have.
Alec: Overall, players are still learning and adjusting to her new movement capabilities. We want to give that a little bit of time and see how those learnings translate to winrate. May see some small tweaks through that timeframe, though.
Q. How do you go about balancing Overwatch 2? Do you listen more to the top levels of play, or do you mostly just look at general win rates and balance off of that?
Alec: Would love to cover this in a blog post, as I have lots to say. But in short, it’s a combination of Intuition, Feedback, and Data. We try to look at changes that account for how that character is being played across ranks (that can differ greatly!) and retain character identity.
Q. Are there any plans to buff the weaker tanks? Wrecking ball, Doom fist, and Junker Queen all feel very weak and impossible to play in a one-tank format.
Alec: For sure! We just hinted at the changes to Doomfist in Season 2 (enabling more empowered punches).
Alec: We are actively looking at Junker Queen and Wrecking Ball. Junker Queen buffs would look at her self-efficiency vs. providing sustainability for the whole team. Wrecking Ball is a bit trickier, as he is knife’s edge for balance.
Q. Hi! Do you have plans on reworking Symmetra or Moira? I think you guys mentioned it in the past, but we haven’t heard about that for a while now.
Alec: We mentioned in a few spots, but some small tweaks to Symmetra are coming in Season 2.
For Moira, we want to make sure we get it right. Tons of people love her playstyle, so we want any added utility to not break her flow and approachability. Have some ideas, but down the road a bit.
Q. Hello, and thank you for the opportunity! With the current state that Bastion is in, are there any tweaks or reworks in the pipeline at the moment? Bastion feels significantly weaker compared to the rest of the Damage role and performs worse than the original version for the hero.
Alec: So the recent bug with unlimited artillery fire was actually quite eye-opening. Players still avoided it!
A few changes are in mind, but we want to shorten the window before the projectile drops so players can feel more effective during Configuration Artillery.
Q. What are your thoughts about Tracer at the moment? She feels weak because she can no longer go all out on her target and recall since she lacks the damage to do so. Should Tracer players find a better way to utilize the hero, or is she underperforming overall?
Alec: She’s been overshadowed by some of the other flankers in the hero lineup so far (due to meta and other hero strengths). Believe she will find a home/composition with these changes and others coming. If she doesn’t, we’ll be taking a closer look at her.
Q. I may have missed this earlier in spaces, but why is it going to take until November 15th to implement the changes shown in the blog post? That seems like a long time for value tweaking and maybe an if/then statement or two, while also stating it will be ready in 2 days for OWL.
Alec: For full transparency, we did want this patch to come out earlier for the player base at large, but we had some issues on our side. You can expect future mid-season balance updates to happen about four weeks after a season start.
Q. Are you considering to look at the damage role passive due to how the speed boost that gets provided from it benefits certain heroes like flankers a lot more than other damage role heroes? Also, would you rebalance heroes like Genji if the damage role passive does get changed?
Alec: Yes, the damage role passive is at the top for changes in Season 2. For reasons you bring up but also the sentiment that it is hard to aim with certain Heroes.
We’d want to see how Heroes like Genji perform with the passive changes first, then evaluate from there. Open to readjusting, though.
Q. Is there a metric to track which heroes fall below the average pick rate? Does the balance team see it as a major concern if there is a certain heroes that are played at a low outlier rate? Would that be territory for a buff or a wait-and-see approach? It’s ok to have niche Heroes but it raises questions. Is the kit lacking? Are players tired of the kit?
Alec: Outside of winrate changes:
Players enjoy the hero but low pick rate means we are less likely to do something.
Players do not enjoy the hero with low pick rate means we are more likely to do something.
Q. Any plans for making new support heroes? We desperately need more heroes for the role.
Alec: Yes, it’s one of our long-term focuses. Right now, the pool is quite small for two players to choose from. We may see more new supports than other roles to bolster that pool.
Also, there’s still lots of interesting space for us to explore as designers when making support!
Q. With future heroes unlocked via the battle pass, do you have any concerns about gathering enough in-game data from players to make effective balance decisions?
Hey! No concerns, tons of feedback and data comes in immediately with a new Hero release. One of the more interesting moments for us to evaluate is when that hero enters Competitive. We see how coordinated teams take advantage of the hero’s kit, especially at a high level.
Q. Why balance patches every month and not every two weeks? Is it because of crossplay and issues with consoles requiring confirmation on updates? Or something else?
Believe this cadence is good. Allows metas to develop and gives us enough time to have changes we are confident in (gathering data, coming up with changes, playtesting changes).
I will note that these are our scheduled changes. If anything were very out of line, we’d step in asap.
Q. Can you comment on where Symmetra is in development? Is there any plans to buff or change her kit? What is her identity in Overwatch 2 since she can do a little bit of everything.
Symmetra is doing quite well across most of our ranks! In the right hands, we’ve seen players find great usage with her current kit.
She does, however, have a low pick rate, and we hear a lot of feedback about her. Expect to see some small tweaks to her kit in Season 2.
Q. So if a hero is overperforming in higher ranks but underperforming in low ranks, they don’t receive immediate nerfs? Shouldn’t the game be balanced from top down?
Alec: We mainly nerf heroes due to their performance in high elo, so yes, the game is primarily balanced from top down.
When it comes to changes, we do our best to find changes that hit that top-level efficiency without butchering the hero at lower ranks. Hard to do, but it’s the goal.
Q. I wanted to ask if the balance team or other parts of the dev team are planning on being more vocal through the Overwatch official channels moving forward? even a “we hear you” kinda thing? It was great to hear you guys officially talk about the Doomfist issues.
Alec: Yes, and you’ll find us trying that through a variety of platforms. Today went rather well. Hopefully, we can make that a scheduled chat.
From the design side, we want to share as much as possible. Will probably see some blog posts that dive into our philosophies.
Q. How do you guys feel about Roadhog right now? The common sentiment is that he’s pretty weak and I’ve had people complain when I pick him, but he’s honestly felt pretty strong, and his competition is getting nerfed too.
Alec: These recent changes could be big for Roadhog. We know he also pairs pretty well with Kiriko, as she can take care of a lot of his weaknesses.
So in the wait-and-see phase, we have tinkered with some changes to his kit. Nothing we love just yet.
Q. Will there be any buffs to the healers’ damage, just so healers can defend themselves?
Alec: Defending yourself as a support can come through in a variety of ways. We want to be careful with buffing their damage, as they’d turn into DPS Heroes with healing. Movement is a much safer option as it keeps the Support-Tank-DPS paradigm intact.