There's big changes on the way to Overwatch with new hero pools and experimental cards

By Heidi Nicholas,
It seems Blizzard has been listening to player feedback. In their latest development video, Game Director Jeff Kaplan introduces the idea of experimental cards and hero pools; new features to be added into Overwatch: Origins Edition in a few weeks with Season 21, in a bid to improve balancing and meta and avoid stagnation.

Once these changes have been implemented, each week will see a selection of heroes removed from the hero pool. They won't be available for play for the entirety of that week, which Kaplan hopes will force players to have to adapt new strategies. He says they've been taking feedback on board, and understand that players want to see improvements to balancing and the meta. They themselves want to avoid stagnation in gameplay. These hero pools are open to change; Kaplan says they could be modified to last longer, move faster, or change with every match. With Season 21 in March, however, they'll be starting as weekly events. We don't yet have any info on which heroes will be the first to go, but Kaplan's example uses Moira, Mei, Orisa and Sigma as the first week's heroes to be removed from the pool.

In addition to this, Blizzard are introducing new experimental cards, in an effort to get more players (particularly the console crowd) involved in testing. It'll take a few weeks for the first one to appear, he says, but when it does, players will see it pop up on the Play screen. It's not all to do with balancing, either, although Kaplan says that's the topic they most regularly get feedback for. Along with balancing, the cards might have to do with adjustments such as buffing heroes or changing game modes. All players will be able to use them and unlike previous testing, these cards won't be separate from the main game. Players can still level up and get rewards, as wins in experimental cards will count. The point of the cards, Kaplan says, is not about stability or bug testing, but gameplay changes and how players react to them. He adds that Blizzard's philosophy is also changing; they used to balance with stability in mind, but now, going forwards, they're targeting meta and balancing, and they'll be addressing these more frequently and more aggressively. He adds that the effects of the cards might change a few weeks later and, just because a change is shown on the experimental cards, does not mean it will be permanent to the main game.

Lunar New Year

Meanwhile, the Lunar New Year celebrations are still underway in Overwatch, and don't end until next week, February 5th, so there's still a few days left to take part. Looking ahead to the future, the hero pools and experimental cards that Kaplan has outlined will begin to be implemented with season 21. Blizzard seem committed to trialling new things for the game, but they're also ready to remove or modify them following player feedback and reaction. We'll keep you updated when they reveal more details.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've just finished studying a Masters in English Literature, but I've been obsessed with gaming since long before then. I began on the PS2 with Spyro, before graduating to the Xbox 360 and disappearing into Skyrim. I'm now a loyal RPG fan, but I still like to explore other genres — when I'm not playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or being lured back into Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3!