Since Upcomer reported on the news of the 2-2-2 role lock coming to the Overwatch League in stage 4, fans have taken to social media to discuss the topic. The most common opinion seems to be the audience isn’t generally opposed to the rule change, but think it’s a bad time to implement it. Let’s explore this perspective fully and consider whether it’s the right time for role lock.
Having already played three stages on a patch that allowed teams to play GOATS, it doesn’t seem fair to switch the rules up on teams that put effort into perfecting the current meta. Many teams have also built their rosters for this specific composition, which is further exacerbated by the fact that teams were only told about this change six weeks before stage 4 and the season’s roster lock.
Memories of the Boston Uprising’s significant drop-off last year come to mind. The team had honed their dive composition to the point of achieving the perfect stage (10-0), only to drop off a cliff in stage 4 after a balance patch hit the league, resulting in a disappointing 4-6 record.
This point of view argues that worse teams will get an unnatural reset button, allowing them to get back in shape rather than go through the process of learning 3-3. Teams like the Toronto Defiant or the Boston Uprising sneaking into the playoffs based on what would essentially be a completely different game and potentially winning it all would leave a sour taste in the mouth of some fans. And while a comeback story is something most fans can appreciate, one facilitated by a massive rule change would dull the experience in a major way.
Still, one has to wonder if those who think this way feel the same about the London Spitfire’s title from last year. After all, the team underwent a massive improvement after an underwhelming mid-season thanks to the balance patch. While London’s Stage 1 title helped fans accept them as worthy champions, isn’t adaptation also a core requirement of esports excellence? Even if the upcoming rule change is drastic, the best teams should theoretically be able to adapt.
Some point toward the recent meta shift that occurred naturally thanks to the extra practice time from the mid-season break, instead of from a balance patch. Since fans appreciate patches because they allow teams to use new options, if that’s happening on its own, there’s no need for one. The same goal is accomplished without a patch.
Teams are using more DPS heroes than ever before this season, and some fans believe a meta change brought about by the developers is inherently less interesting than teams evolving on their own. Figuring out that a year old meta still has room to innovate is exciting.
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Despite this, teams knowing about the incoming 2-2-2 lock muddies the waters a bit. There’s always the chance teams are trying to preemptively adapt to their new situation by practicing more DPS heroes. After all, more GOATs practice won’t help them.
A rarer argument against the 2-2-2 lock is they could significantly increase the chance of frustratingly uncompetitive playoff games. While we’ve spent all of the regular season figuring out which teams can play GOATs well enough to make the playoffs, it’s impossible to know whether those same teams will still look like playoff contenders after the meta change.
The chances of seeing complete shutouts would be much higher. Take, for example, the Vancouver Titans, who at this point have clinched at least the play-ins, but will most likely also make the season playoffs even if they lost every game during Stage 4 (the worst possible match score they can achieve at this point is a safe 19-9). While it’s unlikely the Titans would have such a steep drop in performance, if that did happen, the role lock would guarantee a bad team in the playoffs. Likewise, if the Washington Justice became the best team in the league on the new 2-2-2 patch, their inability to even make the play-in tournament would be disappointing.
This already happened last season with the NYXL and the Boston Uprising. Both were top tier competitors in the dive meta, but then couldn’t live up to their previous standard in the playoffs. Both lost their first matches and were eliminated.
It’s hard to argue against the timing being “unlucky.” While it’s important to acknowledge the realities of quality game development and the time that it takes, a change during the mid-season break would’ve alleviated or solved most of the aforementioned issues.
Getting half a season to adapt to a new style of Overwatch is much more fair than getting a single stage. It doesn’t help that the end of Stage 2 was when fans felt something like a role lock was most necessary. At the time, GOATs looked like an impenetrable bulwark of hero synergy that was not going to change unless the developers stepped in to help. Now fans know that isn’t necessarily the case.
Plus, from a selection point of view, a patch that only runs for the first half of the season does significantly less harm to the quality of the playoffs than one that runs three-fourths of it.
With all that said, the 2-2-2 role lock begs the question of whether the Overwatch League should delay the patch until the season is over. If it’s unfair to teams, isn’t necessary since teams are adapting on their own, could make for boring playoff matches, and is coming too late, a delay might be better in the long run.