Hero Pool feature now playable on PTR. Workshop receives large feature update, too.

08:00, 05 Feb 2020

The much-discussed addition of Hero Pools, a new feature which aims to rotate a yet undefined amount of heroes in and out of the available hero selection on a weekly basis, has been deployed on the Public Test Realm. The patch notes once again make a point of stating that this new feature is currently being tested for the 21st season of the competitive ladder and might not see a return in the next one. Furthermore, the developers reserved the possibility of changing the frequency at which heroes would be barred from selection in competitive play. The patch notes didn’t specify how many heroes would be deactivated at any given time.

In last week’s developer update, head developer Jeff Kaplan had explained that the selection of heroes that would be banned would be truly random for ranked play, while bans for the Overwatch League would be determined by a random selection of only the most played heroes during the match week. The change had been met with criticism by several members of the competitive community, citing difficulties to allow for adequate practice given the straining travel schedule in the third season and the subsequent lack of practice opportunities. According to San Francisco Shock’s main tank Matthew "super" DeLisi, Overwatch League players have entered a dialogue with the development team. Though DeLisi couldn’t specify the topics discussed in what he called a “Q&A session […] with the developers”, hero pools are presumed have been a major talking point.

New Workshop features & maps

The patch also adds a multitude of options and quality of life changes for creators in the Workshop, Blizzard’s version of mod support for Overwatch, and as well as three new maps which creators will be able to toy with. In an article on the official Overwatch website, the developers in charge of the Workshop Dan Reed and Zach Metcalf elaborated on the additions to the Workshop, expressing that they hoped to have provided powerful features that would allow creators to tinker around more with their tools and create more elaborate game modes with fewer hoops to jump through.

Blizzard Entertainment had introduced the Workshop in April of last year, delivering on a long history of mod support for their games, reaching back to the Starcraft and Warcraft series. The map editors for those games are considered the cradle for Defense of the Ancients (DotA) and multiple Tower Defense games, which had transformed the gaming landscape significantly in the last decade.

Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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