Blizzard has had to respond to some controversy over the last few days. Recent events left many players wondering “Is Overwatch banning one-trick off-meta players?”, and the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no.
So, one-trick Overwatch players are those who try to only choose one character from the selection of 26. In the case which ignited the community, it was known Youtuber and Twitch streamer Fuey500, and the fact he likes to almost always play as Torbjorn.
And that character is what is termed ‘off-meta’. As a first person shooter inspired by the MOBA genre, the constant tweaks and changes required to keep everything balanced across all the heroes leads to a meta game of selection. It’s an element that really separates Overwatch, as you’ll want to work to pick a team that will not only operate well together, but counter your opposition. And you might well have to switch your choices and team composition (team comp) during a match.
So when Fuey500 apparently picked up a 24 hour ban for being reported by other players as having poor teamwork, it was easy to see it as Overwatch started to ban players who were one-tricking. And off-meta characters are generally the easiest people to blame for any losses, especially in Competitive matches.
So Is Overwatch Banning One-Trick Off-Meta Players?
The answer should be pretty simple. Blizzard has stated in the past, you should not be reported or banned for playing as a single character. And in the actual in-game reporting system, it reminds people that Poor Teamwork doesn’t mean someone picking a hero that you don’t like.
And obviously if you want to just play one character without any worries, then you can enjoy the various Arcade modes and Quick Play.
The problem, and some confusion, comes in Competitive play, particularly as you rise up the league tiers from Bronze to GrandMaster.
At low levels, most players would rather you one-trick a player you’re good with, as that will generally help more than filling a gap in your team with a hero you’ve never tried before. But as you move up, team work and composition becomes ever more important. So if your choice isn’t working, either your team has to adjust, or they might ask you to swap.
And it’s this refusal to swap which seems to have resulted in the ban for Fuey500 and a clarification from Blizzard about the situation. You’re not being banned for picking a particular character – but you can be banned for multiple reports if your choice is seen to be a problem and you refuse to change. And that means you’re displaying poor teamwork.
There have been other cases published online, which have generally been revealed as people either responding in a toxic way when asked to change or intentionally throwing games (by hiding in the spawn, for example). In Fuey500’s case, it’s slightly different as he has reached the top GrandMaster rank, and has a reasonable win rate, so it’s harder to argue that his player choice is dooming teams to failure. So should he be getting blamed for a poor team performance and any losses?
The Problem With Overwatch Teams And Metas:
The big difference between Overwatch and almost all other FPS games is how important the hero choices and team make-up becomes. If you’re coming over from Call of Duty and Battlefield, you’re used to picking whatever set-up you have the best performance or most fun with. Even though Battlefield might encourage Medics and Support classes, you can play and win without them.
Overwatch is vastly different in that regard. If a team counters your choices, even good players can struggle to have an impact against a ‘lower-skilled’ team. And your choice has (or should have) an effect on what your team-mates pick.
Take tha Torbjorn example. In the game of Overwatch Meta Top Trumps, the opposing team can quickly counter by picking a Pharah to destroy an Torbjorn gun emplacements with rockets. Or by picking a ‘dive’ comp which will rush through to take out his defence. So your team then either has to compliment him by having another player switch to a hero with a shield (Orissa or Reinhardt) and protecting his turret the whole time. Or by asking you to switch from Torbjorn.
So although it might seem unfair that a player has to switch from their favourite or best character – if they don’t, other players have to make the sacrifice instead.
That’s why most good one-tricks will have at least 1 or 2 other characters they’ve played enough to be decent using, generally in other classes.
So far, so good?
Then we come to the Meta, and the SR rank which determines your ranking in Competitive Matches. The way the score is calculated is a mixture of arcane wins and performance records. But it’s always reward players who tend to play unpopular characters most of the time. The reason is that you’re partly ranked against the performance of everyone else playing the same character. So if you’re playing Torbjorn, being a good Torbjorn from a smaller group of players will be slightly easier than being one of the top 500 Soldier:76 players from a much larger pool of rivals.
In that way Blizzard has encouraged people to potentially specialise in someone more unusual.
And then there are the Meta choices. Most notably at the moment is Mercy, with her ability to resurrect dead players. Which has meant that for the current Competitive Season, Mercy is basically seen as a necessity for most teams. So if you’re a Mercy main, or a Mercy one-trick, you’re not going to get into problems of Poor Teamwork unless you do a really bad job. And the same is generally true of other characters seen as the ‘correct’ choices, like Soldier:76 and D.Va.
So if you want to rise up the ranks, you will potentially do it more quickly by playing as an off-meta one-trick, but you’ll then potentially risk being reported if it’s the wrong hero choice, or your team isn’t willing to accommodate it. Which seems fairly simple. But there’s one last thing.
Judging Poor Teamwork?:
There are some things which are easy for Blizzard to rule on. If you attempt to hack Overwatch and get caught, then the evidence is there to issue a ban straight away.
And generally reporting systems should do a reasonable job of flagging those people consistently acting in a poor way. You’re not going to get a lifetime ban if the odd person occasionally reports you.
The problem comes from the grey area in the middle, and how much history is actually looked at across an account. So, for example, you may be one-tricking an off-meta character. We’ll stick with the Torbjorn example.
If your team is doing badly, quite often people will want to blame someone. And they generally won’t blame themselves. So the easiest scapegoat will be the person picking the off-meta choice. Which can then lead to a pile-on effect. It’s annoying enough to have someone spamming the team choice screening by hammering select on a Support character to get you to choose it while they stick with playing Hanzo again. And it’s more irritating to then get constant voice chat complaining. Especially when the real issue might be that they, or other players, aren’t performing well.
And getting that across multiple matches can be something which can really build the frustration. I’ll happily play as a Support, but being blamed for a loss after picking Mercy and watching your team split into 5 random solo directions more than once in an evening does make you want to respond in a toxic way. Which is guaranteed to be the response which gets reported and potentially banned despite the fact it’s a response to hours of stupidity sometimes.
It’s also putting the entire weight of Blizzards ‘Play nice, play fair’ on the players themselves. There’s no forced team selection to ensure any type of balance – just messages saying you don’t have a healer, or might have too many snipers. So if you have 4 or 5 people all intent on playing DPS heroes, you’ll generally struggle no matter which Support, Tank or Defense character you choose. And there’s nothing to stop them all doing it. Again and again. And it’s a lot less likely that they’ll get a report for constantly picking Soldier: 76 or Genji.
Blizzard could make picking a set number of characters from each class essential, which would cure the problem of overloading the game with DPS heroes. But it would limit the ways you’re able to set up a team to surprise the enemy. So there’s no easy solution.
So What’s The Answer?:
So if you want to play Overwatch with just one character, it might be best to stick to Quick Play. Especially if it’s an off-meta choice. Then you can enjoy being an ‘Attack Torb’ or ‘Attack Symmetra’.
If you’re going into Competitive Matches as a Solo player, then you’re going to have to be prepared to change if and when required. Sometimes you just have to shrug and switch to a Tank or Support class. Just make sure you’ve practised first so you can do a decent job with them. Competitive isn’t the time to try out a new character, or constantly be switching between them without making any impact.
Good teamchat and communication also helps. Sadly many games are still played in near silence, but ideally as you rise up the ranks, you should find people do speak more to co-ordinate. And if you explain your hero choice or if you make a bad decision etc, then people are less likely to get annoyed with your playing style.
And finally there’s the choice to build up your own team of 6 players who know and understand which members will generally one-trick. That’s obviously the easiest way to ensure you’re not getting reported – and to also build up co-ordination. Within the players I team with on Overwatch, we know who tends to play mainly as a Support, who often plays best as a Tank, and who likes to occasionally make a complete mess of maining D.VA (That would be me!).
There may be ways Blizzard can introduce more help into the game to avoid these situations, but it doesn’t seem to have a quick and easy answer.
If you do have a suggestion, fire it into the comments. And it’d be great to find out whether you agree or disagree with the bans – whether you’re a one-trick Torbs or not…