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Overwatch Dev Update Announces Hero Pools, Changes in Balance Philosophy

Hero pools and a new balance philosophy drive Overwatch Patch 1.45
Hero pools and a new balance philosophy drive Overwatch Patch 1.45 | Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard described a change in its balance philosophy in a developer update released Thursday.

The developer will make more frequent and directed balance changes moving forward, actively looking to push the Overwatch meta game forward, according to game director Jeff Kaplan. This approach, one players have clamored for, is a reversal of Blizzard's previous wait-and-see process that allowed the community time to explore the meta game before introducing topdown change.

Overwatch Patch 1.44, pushed to live servers Tuesday, is one of the first to directly address the meta game. It presaged Blizzard's now-official approach to balance.

In Patch 1.45, Blizzard will introduce the Experimental Card. Players will be able to test major changes to the game that may never reach standard game modes. Unlike the Public Test Region, where such testing previously took place, the Experimental Card won't be used for bug testing.

Content tested on the Experimental Card won't necessarily reach standard game modes, but Blizzard will also be more lenient about rolling back changes than it was in the past.

Hero Pools, a new feature coming in Overwatch Competitive Season 21, will disable certain heroes each week, creating a rotation of available heroes. Playable heroes will be handpicked by developers rather than chosen algorithmically. The system may not persist past Season 21, and its effect on Overwatch League rules will be discussed in a forthcoming Blizzard blog post.

Anti-cheat improvements and Workshop quality of life improvements round out Overwatch Patch 1.45, which is set to arrive in early February.