Maybe because the weekend is almost upon us, or maybe because the pressure of revealing Doomfist is finally off: Whatever the reason, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan has taken to the forums to share, in great detail, his thoughts on getting and keeping the game in balance, and how Blizzard can and should (or shouldn't) mess with the "meta." First and foremost—and also, he predicted, most controversial—is that he believes the game is actually balanced as it stands right now.
"What I mean is that I don’t feel like there are any heroes who are way too strong to the point of breaking balance. That doesn’t mean that I personally don’t think there are some problems with heroes," he wrote. "While I believe moving Roadhog away from a 1 shot combo was a necessary thing we had to do, I’m not entirely satisfied with where he’s at right now. I also think we need to do some brainstorming when it comes to Mercy’s resurrect, for example. The ability is extremely powerful in a very unfun way for both Mercy and everyone playing against that Mercy. But it’s not doomsday."
Furthermore, he continued, "the perception of balance is more powerful than balance itself." The real issue, he believes, is that the relatively static pro scene has led players to believe that the meta isn't shifting enough. But while Blizzard could do something to change it, Kaplan said that he doesn't believe the game should be changed simply to "shift people off the meta."
"The game team should be constantly evaluating balance and making changes that are actually needed because a hero is unbalanced. But making changes to a hero because their pick rate is too high or too low is not my idea of responsible game balance," he explained. "Balancing heroes who are unbalanced is good, balancing heroes just to make them picked more or picked less is not good (in my humble opinion)."
Kaplan acknowledged that players want all 25 Overwatch heroes to be viable at any time in every match, but said that's just not going to work out that way at the professional level—which, again, is what informs perceptions of the meta at the non-pro level. The majority of Overwatch players play Quick Play, but that meta is actually different than Competitive. The top-picked hero among "elite players" over the past month has been Ana, for example, who doesn't actually feature in the Quick Play meta at all.
He also addressed, and to an extent dismissed, complaints about the "dive" meta, in which a fairly rigid group of heroes—Tracer, Genji, Winston, and D.Va most commonly—launch fast, all-out attacks on high priority targets. Kaplan said it's actually "fun to play and watch," because it features "super-high-skill heroes doing very OW things," which is really what it's all about.
"I don’t think dive comp is bad but I think what players want is to see more comps in addition to dive comp. I too would love for this to happen. But in a non-forced, non-damaging way. I don’t think we should just throw a balance grenade at the heroes to change pick rates," he said. As for a possible MOBA-style ban system, he added, "I don’t think long-term for the game it’s good to start imposing restrictions on you as to what hero you’re allowed or not allowed to play."
He concluded by saying that the dive meta will go away eventually, but Blizzard isn't going to force it. "We are going to make balance changes to heroes when they need it—and we do this more frequently than you give us credit for," he said. "3 months from now there will be a new meta. If you’re the type of person who feels like the meta should shift every 2 weeks, then you’ll probably be sick of that meta and wishing it was back in the good ol’ dive comp days."