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Overwatch Hero Pools Being Refined, and Map Pools Being Retired for Competitive and Professional

The changes take place April 14th, 2020

Blizzard has revealed the next round of changes for Overwatch, and they're coming soon. Check out full details on what's being tweaked and removed in the near future below.

Since the introduction of Map Pools late last year and Hero Pools in early March, we’ve heard a lot of great feedback from players on both of these systems, including what they like about them and what they find confusing or unclear. Based on that, we’ll be making some changes to both systems starting next week. Here’s what’s in store.

Unifying the Hero Pools

We’ve received a lot of helpful feedback since Hero Pools came to Competitive Play that the system was achieving our goal of shaking up the meta from week to week—but we’ve also heard that some aspects of the system are confusing or unclear, including why certain heroes or roles are rotated each week, or why the exact number of heroes available is inconsistent from week to week. In addition, having separate Hero Pools for Competitive Play and the Overwatch League in the same week led to a confusing or disjointed experience for players who follow the League.

Starting April 13, we intend to address this by having a single, unified Hero Pool, allowing both the Overwatch League and Competitive Play to mirror each other as closely as possible and making a more consistent viewing and play experience. Here’s how this will work:

To determine a week’s Hero Pool, we'll compile hero play rates from high-level Competitive Play matches from the preceding two weeks. Heroes with play rates above a certain threshold will be eligible to be removed; the higher their play rate, the more likely they are to be removed. Based on that, one Tank, two Damage, and one Support will be randomly removed from play. (Note that heroes will not be removed two weeks in a row.)

At the end of each Sunday’s Overwatch League matches, we’ll announce the Hero Pool that will be used that upcoming week for both live Competitive Play and the Overwatch League. That pool will go into effect in the game Monday morning.

This process will occur every week of the Overwatch League regular season; during weeks that there are no Overwatch League matches, the same data will still be used to determine the Hero Pool and you will find out Monday morning.

Retiring Map Pools

In the months and competitive seasons since we introduced Map Pools in Competitive Play, we’ve been reading and listening to a ton of the feedback from the community about the system. We initially implemented Map Pools to accomplish two major goals:

In the short-term, greatly reduce the number of matches played on Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony. We’ve seen a lot of good feedback that these two maps could use some changes, and we want to improve them in future game updates. To that end, we’re taking a look at Paris first with an eye toward updating the map’s layout and making it more fun to play.

More broadly, give each competitive season a bit more flavor and differentiation, to give them more distinct identities.

However, we saw a lot of feedback asking for Map Pools to vary more often than every two months at the start of a competitive season. Some suggested one month, others two weeks, and some even one-week rotation periods. However, if the Map Pool were to rotate more frequently, it would stop providing the competitive season with the “identity” we were going for. In addition, if we change the Map Pool faster, you might not even notice that maps were missing or back from one cycle to the next.

To simplify the competitive experience, we are going to no longer have rotating Map Pools starting April 14. Instead, Competitive Play will include all of the maps, with the exception of Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony. When we make updates to those two maps to improve their play in the future, we’ll add them back into the pool at that time.

We’re always listening to the community on how we can improve your Overwatch experience; please continue to reach out and let us know how you feel. These changes are coming very soon to live play, and we’re excited to hear what you think.

Overwatch heroes are wearing googly eyes for April Fools' Day

You looking at ME?!

While there's a lot of craziness going on in the world, the gang over at Blizzard hasn't forgotten about regular traditions. That's why they've added googly eyes to all the heroes in Overwatch. April Fools' Day is just hours away, and this "prank" is just a harmless bit of fun to make players smile. I always appreciate April Fools Day jokes that make you laugh over ones that raise false hope or are mean-spirited, so this gets a thumbs up from me.

Blizzard shares details on what's coming to Overwatch this year

Another year full of content

While Overwatch fans are certainly looking forward to the launch of Overwatch 2, there's still plenty to do in the original Overwatch. In an interview with PCgamesn, game director Jeff Kaplan outlined what fans can expect this year.

I think we’ve delivered some cool things. Experimental card is a great example and something we had been working on for some time. And it’s always fun when you’re working on something and then players start suggesting it and you’re biting your lip. You’re like, that’s an awesome idea – we should totally do that.

Releasing Echo will be fantastic. I think she’s gonna add so much life and creativity to the game. We also have interesting twists to some of our seasonal events coming up. The Archives event won’t have a new mission, like Uprising, Retribution, Storm Rising. I told everybody at BlizzCon because we wanted to be very transparent, and manage expectations. We didn’t make a new PvE mission but we did do some really cool twists on the old missions, adding challenges to them so they work in new ways.

One of them is Molten Cores (we’re obsessed with that name). When you kill any enemy, they turn into a pool of lava. It persists so the more enemies that you’re killing, the more dangerous the area’s becoming. You’re still playing Uprising but in a totally different way now.

We’re actually working on some Summer Games stuff right now. Again, we’re not adding a new sport – there won’t be a new Lucio Ball (or Lucio hockey is what everyone really wants). We won’t be adding that, but we’re putting some cool twists on the existing content and trying to keep the game fresh.

As far cosmetic items go, there are two types of players in Overwatch. There are the types who only care about gameplay. And there are the types of players who care about the cosmetic content. And those who care about the cosmetic content, care about it a lot. That’s not changing at all for this year, there’s going to be amazing stuff. I was just looking over the shoulder of the concept artists at some of the skins and I know that our players are going to lose their mind when they see those.

Then we have fun stuff for later in the year. Nothing that we can announce right now but in the way that Ashe’s Mardi Gras event was a surprise there’s some more things like that on the way. I think they’re pretty cool with some themes and other content that I don’t think people are expecting. Should be good.

IGN Video - An Overwatch Pro's Guide to New Hero Echo

A Pro Overwatch player/Coach "Hidan Da Silva" breaks down Echo from his perspective giving advice on how to play her as well as how to play against her. Also providing general knowledge about the hero and how best to utilize her in the new meta that will come with her once she has been released from the PTR.

Doomfist Thunder skin heading to Overwatch on March 26th, 2020

Here comes the Doom

Back in Sept. 2019, the San Francisco Shock took out the Vancouver Titans in the Grand Finals of the Overwatch League Season 2 championships. To celebrate that victory, Blizzard is releasing a new Doomfist Thunder skin that was designed alongside the San Francisco Shock team. This skin will be available March 26th to April 9th, 2020.

Check out the full gameplay rundown, profile, screens, and concept art for Ovewatch's Echo

All you could want to know

WHO IS ECHO?

Echo was the creation of Singaporean scientist Dr. Mina Liao, who was one of the earliest members of Overwatch. Prior to joining the organization, Dr. Liao was widely considered one of the prominent experts in robotics and artificial intelligence.

Dr. Liao dreamed of improving upon the original omnic designs, which became the basis for the Echo project. She created a multirole, adaptive robot that could be programmed to learn different functions – anything from medical support to construction – but with serious limits to independent decision making. Although Overwatch was wary of just how often and where they used Echo, Liao had actually programmed Echo with a powerful, general artificial intelligence that learned by observation. As a result, much of Liao’s behaviors – including her speech – were adopted by Echo.

ABILITIES

Tri-Shot (Primary Fire)

Echo fires 3 shots at once, in a triangle pattern.

Sticky Bombs (Secondary Fire)

Echo fires a volley of sticky bombs that detonate after a delay.

Flight (Shift)

Echo surges forward quickly, then can fly freely.

Focusing Beam (E)

Echo channels a beam for a few seconds, dealing very high damage to targets with less than half health.

Duplicate (Ultimate)

Echo duplicates a targeted enemy hero and gains use of their abilities

Glide (Passive)

Echo can glide while falling.

Blizzard says development on Overwatch 2 is "going great"

Coming into its own

While Blizzard might be bringing a new hero to Overwatch, the team is also toiling away on Overwatch 2. It hasn't been all that long since the sequel was revealed, but how are things going for the game? In an interview with Polygon, game director Jeff Kaplan seemed quite pleased where things are at.

“development is going great. The team’s having tons of fun making the game, I feel like we’re starting to understand it even more.”

Blizzard talks about finding the right balance with Overwatch's Echo

The importance of balance

Echo is the latest hero making her way to Overwatch, and she's quite the powerhouse. She packs in a offensive features, but she's quite weak when it comes to defense. In an interview with Polygon, game director Jeff Kaplan talks about trying to strike the right balance for Echo.

"I think the balance challenges revolve around making sure she’s not too dominant in any one situation, and that she has some vulnerabilities."

Producer Gary Fonville said that when it comes to balance, sometimes it's the players who show Blizzard the way.

"Sometimes the community teaches us how to play the hero. I think Overwatch League will see some really great moments and strategies that we may have not encountered internally, and how best to use her.”

Check out Overwatch gameplay footage featuring Echo


After first teasing Echo in the "Zero Hour" announcement trailer for Overwatch 2 at BlizzCon 2019, Blizzard has made it official: Echo is the 32nd hero to come to its multiplayer shooter. We got a look at what Echo will offer teams when she joins the fight as a new Damage hero. Check out Echo in action in the video above.

As we saw in the "Zero Hour" cinematic, Echo can fly and shoots powerful blue lasers from her hands. Her abilities include Sticky Bombs that cling to surfaces and other players, and a Focusing Beam, which deals intense damage to enemies who are already below half health. For her ultimate ability, Echo can duplicate enemy heroes by targeting them, essentially becoming another copy of that character. She also gets speedier ultimate charging while duplicated, potentially allowing her to use several ultimates before the duplication wears off.

Ahead of showing off Echo in action, Blizzard revealed some of her character lore with an origin story trailer. In it, we learned that Echo was created by Dr. Mina Liao, a scientist who helped create the dreaded robot Omnics, and later joined Overwatch to help fight them.

Overwatch 'Echo' character introduction trailer

Introducing Echo. An evolutionary robot programmed with a rapidly adapting artificial intelligence, Echo represents the cutting edge of technology.

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