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The Role-Locking Debate in "Overwatch": Can It Be the Flex Main's Saving Grace?

A 28-year-old nerd who loves writing, history and just learning as much as possible Works part-time as an SAT-Prep Teacher at Huntington

Flex Main forced into running Support be like . . .

Flex Main forced into running Support be like . . .

In Overwatch, the ability to choose your hero based on a situation was something I liked because it made the concept of teamwork all the more important. That said, I'm going to highlight that while that's true, you're only going to find that in a perfect world.

Now, I'm not a god in Overwatch by any means. With only 107 hours total put into the game and with Season 16 being my first real step into Comp, I'm very casual. But, in my 107 hours, I've been trying to train myself into being a Flex Main. Flex Mains are basically those who can fill in each of the roles if the situation calls for it. And the reason why I chose this path is something that we can all relate to:

No one likes to play Support.


Ever get into a QP match and before you can go to pick your character, you watch as everyone picks Soldier, McCree, Genji, Junkrat, and Hanzo? And then you're sitting there, the little hint thing highlighted red in big caps—NO TANK and NO HEALER—and no one budging? And then you have to decide what to do. More often than not, one of those five will crack and back off a DPS hero, but when they don't, you're the sole healer trying your hardest to keep every one of them alive while the enemy team steamrolls you because their players are competent.

And then you have one of those DPS picks cycle through characters like a carousel, and when we lose, all of those DPS teammates you have are gone before the results are posted. At least in Comp, it's much more bearable because everyone is watching everyone else to see what they pick so they can find a compliment to them.

But I digress.

Heroes in "Overwatch."

Heroes in "Overwatch."

The Role-Lock Debate

Talks about Role-Locking, enforcing the overall balance in the comp scene, have been circulating in the community and sparking a huge debate. The current Metagame is what's called GOATS, a strategy involving three tanks and three supports backing them. The heroes of this meta are a combination of Reinhardt, Zarya, and D.Va as Tanks, and Lucio, Zenyatta, and Brigitte as Supports.

Why This Combo Dominates

The site highlights the synergy Reinhardt shares with the latter two supports. Reinhardt has a massive shield that takes about 2k of damage and is wide enough to protect anyone behind it. Zen and Brigitte are behind healing and armoring him with their respected abilities to keep him as an impregnable wall.

Zarya uses her bubble shields to soak up inflicted damage, which makes her stronger, protecting the supports. Plus her ultimate, a black hole, synergizes with other strong DPS heroes or even D.Va's massive self-destruct ultimate as the black hole traps anyone caught in its pull and binds them together in a group. Lucio has healing abilities as well and is a speed booster, which gives the slower tanks more pep in their step.

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Role-Locking Ruins the Concept

This is one of several combinations that dominated the meta for 2 seasons straight in Comp and is very popular in OWL. Role-Locking would totally do away with this concept and enforce a 2 DPS, 2 Tank, and 2 Support lineup regardless. So this gave me the impression that Pro Players are most likely against the Role-Locking idea. As it turns out, that's not entirely the case.

OWL Pros

OWL Pros

What the OWL Pros Think

The YouTube Channel Akshon ESports managed to get the opinions from professional OWL players to get their thoughts on the idea of Role-Locking. While players from the Huston Outlaws, Dallas Fuel, and Washington Justice seem to overall be in favor of it, in regards to game balance and fixing the aforementioned issue of an oversaturation of one specified role *cough* DPS *cough*, Players from Atlanta Reign, London Spitfire, and Guangzhou Charge, are on the opposite spectrum as it limits the creative freedom and restricts players more severely than is initially implied by this change. The link to the full interview is below.

What the Community Thinks

Checking out the forums of Blizzard's website, the debate and overall division is pretty much similar if anything. One user, TylerG, makes a good point: that this is a complicated matter—which it is, really. Forcing players to play roles they don't know how can be detrimental to the team. On one end, players in favor of it, are those who don't want to be stuck on teams because everyone wants to play DPS. On the other hand, players who are against it, don't want to be locked into roles they have no experience in, and this includes support and tank mains who don't play DPS whatsoever.

And while LFG is an option as some like to point out, LFG is arguably a universally despised option because those actually looking for players are toxic individuals, or it's vice versa, you end up getting toxic individuals that feel like you wasted their "time." It's like this no matter what game you play.

Mystery Heroes

Mystery Heroes

What I Think

Since the talk about it surfaced, I've thought about it myself and compared the arguments to my experience. Mystery Heroes is one of those modes that I have a huge love/hate relationship with within the Arcade. It's because of this game mode I get to use heroes I never used before, allowing me to experiment.

This is how me, being one who cycles through Lucio, Sombra, Reinhardt, and Pharah, got to learn Zarya, Widowmaker, Ana, Moira (current main in Comp) and other heroes that I despise going up against greatly. Now I feel much more comfortable with some of these heroes and am willing to break off from my Elite Four picks and address the situations in QP.

On top of that, being forced to use new characters (and finding a hidden talent with them) revitalizes my love of the game and gives me a new perspective, making me a better player. The new Hero Gauntlet mode does wonders as well in this regard, as well as training modes and custom games against the computer.

TL/DR: Play Mystery Heroes, you Role-Locking DPS people. And widen out your playstyle.

It Probably Won't Happen Soon

Overall, Role-Locking is probably not going to happen anytime soon, at least not in a restrictive manner we're looking at it as. Maybe Blizzard will find a compromise between their development team and the community, but we'll just have to see how they do as we enter Year 4 of the franchise. In the meantime, I'll keep supporting my teammates to the best of my abilities, be it shielding them with Reinhardt, or coming at them with Lucio and Moira.

Because someone has to, right?

© 2019 Nolan Johnson

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