OWCS Asia announces historic rule change to offer "fresher, more diverse gameplay"

OWCS Asia announces historic rule change to offer "fresher, more diverse gameplay"
Image via OWCS Asia

Written by 

Sascha Heinisch

Published 

18th Mar 2024 17:25

OWCS Asia has announced a major rule change to the way maps will be selected by competitors, allowing Overwatch teams in the Korean and Japanese regions to pick maps as well as game modes.

A version of said rule had not been used in professional Overwatch at the top level since before the Overwatch League was established.

The rule change

Starting with the Seeding Decider and applying to the LCQ and Playoffs, both OWCS Korea and Japan will use a new map selection model, going a step further than the first changes the OWCS had announced in allowing teams to veto maps prior to the series.

Instead, the higher-seeded team in any given match will now be allowed to pick the game mode and the map for the first game. Every following map will then be chosen by the loser of the prior map. However, no game mode may be picked again until all remaining options have been exhausted.

Previously and throughout all six seasons of the Overwatch League, teams had no agency over the game mode they would be facing their opponent on, limiting their choices to only the maps within each respective game mode, with the Overwatch League mandating a set rotation of these at any given time.

Before the introduction of new game modes such as Push and Flashpoint, Control had instead been forced to be played twice during a best-of-5 series.

The map pool and game mode rotation were first enforced in 2017 during the Overwatch TakeOver 2 event, presumably to test the rule for later application in the Overwatch League. Before the developer mandated the rule to tournament organisers, teams were still allowed to pick back-to-back game modes, leading teams to favour Hybrid and Escort maps.

Solving 3-Overwatch?

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Throughout its entire history, matches in the Overwatch League ended in a 3-0 sweep, amounting to 50% of the results during its six-season run. For OWCS, the pattern reemerged even stronger, with 75% of matches in the EMEA and NA group stage and 78% in Korea, resulting in a one-sided map score.

While it could be argued that the wider competitive landscape in the OWCS has caused disparity within respective teams as former professional players congregate in the few salaried organisations, the circumstances have led to a vast number of matches becoming predictable.

In theory, the new rule change may give teams more agency to play to their strengths, given the importance of map archetypes to the choice of hero compositions in many meta states. "It is our objective to offer audiences fresher, more diverse gameplay and strategy," the official Overwatch Esports Asia account argued, leaving the door open to revert the change given fan and team feedback.

In other competitive FPS titles, map choice has become a staple of each competition, often made part of the broadcast experience to highlight the strategic decisions of each team before their meeting on the server. The first seeding decider matches are likely to put the new ruleset to the test, fielding the two unbeaten squads, WAC and Team Falcons, against each other. A date of said matches has not been shared yet.

Sascha "Yiska" Heinisch is a Senior Esports Journalist at GGRecon. He's been creating content in esports for over 10 years, starting with Warcraft 3.

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