Blizzard is launching a new mode for Overwatch today called “Experimental Mode,” and with it the studio is attempting to test out major changes to the team-based shooter to see how the game and community at large is affected by them.
The first experiment is going to be a change to the Role Queue system. In the live game, Role Queue requires each team to be made up of two tank, two damage, and two support heroes, Experimental Mode will be testing out a new composition comprised of one tank, three damage, and two support. In a developer update, Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan explained that this is meant to target damage role queue times, which, as we’ve noted, can last as long as five to ten minutes, anywhere from twice as long to five times as long as the typical tank or support queue time. This is because the damage role is the most popular one in Overwatch, so with so many people lining up to fill those two slots in any given match, you’ll spend more time waiting at the home screen than playing if you exclusively fill that role.
Kaplan makes a point in the video to tell fans that something appearing in the Experimental Mode doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be put into the live game, it just means that Blizzard is gathering data on how these possible changes affect the game on a granular level. This change in particular would require significant changes to characters as they exist in the live game to work, as tank characters have seen significant changes over the past few months that would make them near useless if they were the only character of their kind in a team. Most notably, there have been major nerfs to defensive abilities and barriers from characters like Orisa, Reinhardt, and Sigma. Kaplan says that when the Experimental Mode goes live that there will be changes to several characters within the mode to accomodate for these new compositions, but what those changes are remains to be seen.
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As a damage player myself, I’m excited at the prospect of smaller queue times for me to play as Soldier: 76. However, I’m not particularly thrilled at the idea of moving away from the 2-2-2 team composition, as I’ve found it to be an ideal model to keep Overwatch matches balanced at more casual levels of play. I’m not sure what the solution to this is beyond a more foundational change to how Overwatch plays, but at least the Experimental Mode gives Blizzard and players a chance to mess around with the game without having to drag everyone around as it figures things out.
Also in the video, Kaplan hints that a new Overwatch event is happening soon that could coincide with the launch of Experimental Mode. If recent leaks are to be believed, he may be referring to a Mardi Gras event starring Ashe.