OVERWATCH HERO META REPORT #3: ARE WE BALANCED YET?
Psst...click to enlarge
Look at this Infographic, isn't it pretty? If you don't think so, let me know exactly why in the comments of the Reddit thread
What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present Overwatch Hero Meta Report #3: Are We Balanced Yet? This week’s Report comes after the announcement from Blizzard’s Dev team of yet another round of Hero Balance changes, conveniently occurring right before this weekend’s Tournaments. For some of the more important changes, see below:
To the surprise of few, our favorite Cyborg Ninja, Genji, two-time Hero Meta Report S-Tier winner, Lucio, and the scourge of Widowmakers everywhere, Winston, have received some much-needed nerfs. If you check my Historical Infographic above, you will notice that while these changes did manage to knock Lucio and Winston down a notch, it actually had little effect on Genji’s popularity in particular. In fact, nerfing Genji’s health pool had cascading effects which dragged some other Heroes up a Tier so that they could better help Genji do his thing...but that’s a topic for later.
Mei, on the other hand, received some pretty significant buffs that I’m trying very hard not to take credit for after exposing her extreme lack of usage in my previous two Hero Meta Reports. Sadly, this was not enough to save her from the Tier D doldrums, even though I did witness some Teams picking her unironically in this weekend’s Tournaments. Want to learn more about this Patch affected the Meta of Competitive Overwatch? Let’s dive in!
Week 3's Tiering Results (for the extensive Map-by-map, Offense/Defense/KotH Raw data, Click HERE)
ARE WE BALANCED YET?
This is the question that all developers of competitive games seek to answer. Oftentimes, this answer is as fleeting as a speed-boosted Genji because of how quickly the Meta evolves thanks to top players and teams attempting to outwit each other. This most recent Patch, however, seems to have gotten extremely close to a well-balanced Overwatch. In my Meta Report Changelog (see at the end of this article), I explain that I have implemented specific cutoffs for each Tier, providing a way to historically track Heroes and their popularity as the Meta changes. With this new tool in hand, we can try to answer the question of "Are We Balanced Yet?" for our lovely Developer team.
In an “balanced” game, Developers may hope to have a relatively similar popularity of play between the 21 Heroes of Overwatch -- with some Heroes being more or less popular due to their specific strengths (Mei vs. Soldier 76, for example). For my Reports, this is tends to be represented by the B Tier. The B tier has a wide range representing 15%-60% chance to for a Hero to be picked, so Heroes that fall into this Tier can be highly specialized, but well-balanced Heroes like Symmetra all the way to effective, not-quite-overpowered Heroes like Reaper.
Looking at this week’s inaugural Historical Chart at the top of the page as well as this week's Tiering breakdown, we can see the direct results of Blizzard’s Balance patch: an extremely crowded B Tier. I have to give praise where it’s due: the Devs seem to have struck gold this time with their Nerfbat. Winston and Lucio both regressed to the suitably-balanced zone, joining Genji whose nerf did not affect his popularity much at all. Nerfing Genji instead had the interesting effect of indirectly increasing the viability of other Heroes with the ability to buff him. Sadly, the only strike against the Balance team is Mei -- despite strong buffs, she’s still stuck in Tier D. This could simply be due to Teams’ reluctance to try her out without sufficient practice, so we’ll have to stay tuned for upward movement in Mei’s popularity in the future.
THE GENJI PHENOMENON
I learned a valuable lesson compiling this Report: Overwatch players will find any way they can to fit Genji in their lineups. When Blizzard nerfed Genji’s health from 200 to 150, many initial reactions were proclaiming Genji’s death -- jumping to the conclusion that he’d be far too vulnerable to Widowmaker’s sniping, among other things. Their fear was misplaced however, as teams rushed to fit Genji into their lineups anyway. This lead directly into the rise of interesting lineups including Offensive Symmetras and triple-support Defenses.
As we move forward in the Meta, nerfing Genji may end up being the best thing that ever happened to Symmetra and Torbjorn, the two Heroes currently being used to make Genji great again. While Symmetra stayed in the B Tier, she was used in much more varied situations than simply as King’s Row Defense and Torbjorn’s ability to give Armor to his Genji teammates boosted his popularity enough to finally vault him out of Tier D. Interestingly enough, Zarya fell in popularity following Genji’s nerf despite also being able to grant Shields -- demonstrating that it’s much easier to break into lineups as a DPS than a Tank. Time will tell if Zarya will also find her way back into certain compositions, but while Reinhardt continues to dominate the Tank slot with Winston as a preferred second things seem unlikely at best.
Lucio dominated Hero popularity for two weeks in a row, accounting for nearly 15% of all picks in Week 2 and featuring prominently in many Meta-defining lineups. This week, he returned to earth thanks to Blizzard’s health nerf identical to Genji’s: reducing Lucio’s 200 health to 150. Zenyatta may have taken this week’s S Tier title from Lucio, but if you look closer at Offensive and Defensive usage, the S Tier ranking was far from unanimous. Zenyatta was a clear favorite on Offense, but on Defense the Robot Monk was out-chosen handily by Reinhardt.
This parity in top-level popularity is a good sign for Overwatch. While there will always be a Hero who is picked most often to occupy the S Tier, in a well-balanced game this spot will swap its occupants on a daily basis. Blizzard -- with their much more extensive datasets I’m sure -- noticed Lucio’s shadow over the Meta growing too large and responded appropriately, demonstrating that they’re well-tuned-in to the happenings in the scene. Nerfing his health and making Lucio’s lineup position less set in stone reduced his popularity just enough for other Heroes to be considered for his spot. This weekend we even saw triple Support lineups featuring Zenyatta, Symmetra, and Torbjorn on Defense with not a single Lucio to be seen. Once again, I’m excited that Blizzard has made what appears to be a great Balance decision here; it has opened up the Meta for healthy experimentation, and I can’t wait to see what more comes of it.
6 THINGS I LIKE AND DON’T LIKE MOVING FORWARD
- Overwatch has a release date, and an Open Beta coming! It was announced recently that Overwatch finally has a release date! And an Open Beta! Everything ever OnlyWatcher could want is finally happening: we know when the wait is over, we get rewarded with early access for pre-ordering, and Tournaments will suddenly become a lot more competitive!
- Blizzard isn’t afraid to make changes: This week saw some pretty significant changes to Overwatch: Genji, Lucio, and Winston were all nerfed while Mei finally got some well-deserved buffs. These changes had immediate, and ultimately healthy results to the scene but I enjoyed the fact that the Devs are not afraid to swing the Nerfbat and understand where it’s actually needed.
- NA needs more teams: Each week that I compile this Report, I noticed less and less NA teams entering Tournaments, despite NA’s supposed dominance in the scene thanks in most part to the juggernaut of Team EnVyUs. I enjoy recording stats from all sorts of regions (maybe Asia in the future?), and it makes me sad to see NA tournaments filled mostly with EU teams.
- Mei still isn’t Bae: The flip side of Blizzard’s mostly-successful Balance Patch was Mei’s buffs, and the unfortunate lack of improvement in her popularity in the Competitive Scene. My personal theory is that Teams simply haven’t practiced enough with Mei yet to bring her to Tournaments, and I hope that she sees an increase in popularity next week.
- There still isn’t an in-game Stopwatch Mode for scrims: Without an in-game Stopwatch mode, I rely on the Tournament streams and their admins to provide accurate stopwatch data, however this gets tedious very quickly. Please Blizzard, the community wants this!
- Very few King of the Hill maps were drafted this week: I don’t know what to make of this. Did teams just get tired of playing Nepal and Lijiang Tower? Or was this just a fluke? It’s a shame that this happened just after I increased the King of the Hill map breakdown in my ubersheet.
If I had my way, Blizzard would release a Balance Patch every week, just to make writing these Reports this much fun. When changes abound, the Meta goes nuts and when the Meta goes nuts, there’s always plenty to talk about. I’m also quite hyped but also nervous to present the Historical chart to you all for ease of tracking trends from Report to Report and community feedback. As always, if you do have any comments or feedback, please let me know in my Reddit thread which accompanies each report! Finally, please keep submitting your Plays of the Game for my future Top 5 POTG series featuring you, the community! Submissions must be sent to my email, firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line POTG and recommendations for social media shoutouts.
Until next time,
-Introducing the Historical Meta Report Infographic
This was asked for by the community and I’m proud to present my Meta Report Infographic detailing the week-by-week change in Hero Tier for all 21 Heroes. This Infographic will be a work in progress subject to community feedback and my slowly increasing skill in using GIMP. I will probably only present up to 5 or 6 prior Week’s worth of data once I build up to it for clarity’s sake, however I can probably keep the raw data forever as long as Google Sheets doesn’t crash.
-Added point-by-point breakdown for King of the Hill maps
After receiving community feedback asking for this, I’ve split out each capture point for King of the Hill maps for Hero tracking. This makes sense given the extreme changes in capture point map setup.
-Automated Tiering, and hard cutoffs for Tiers
To ease my work, and to provide a blueprint for the Infographic, I implemented automation of Tiering Heroes on the backend of my ubersheet, and set cutoffs for each Tier. These cutoffs are open to suggestion, but would be kind of annoying to change so unless there’s significant feedback asking me to change them I’ll probably leave them where they are. The cutoffs are as follows:
S Tier: Most Popular Hero
A Tier: >60% chance to be picked
B Tier: 15%<, <60% chance to be picked
C Tier: 2%<, <15% chance to be picked
D Tier: <2% chance to be picked
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