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OverwatchJan 30, 2018 4:00 pm CT

Jeff Kaplan wants to fix the “one-trick” issue in Overwatch

High-end Overwatch players have grown increasingly frustrated with a “one-trick” problem among its playerbase. “One-tricking” describes players who only play one hero in the game — sometimes refusing to play any other heroes at all. In a team-based game built around the ability to quickly and easily switch heroes to adapt to any given situation, this can be a real problem. When a team needs another tank or support, or simply a different type of DPS, and the person who one-tricks Genji won’t switch, it can be detrimental to the entire team.

Over the weekend, Hwang “EFFECT” Hyeon, player for the Overwatch League‘s Dallas Fuel, aired his one-tricking grievances in a spoken letter to Overwatch Game Director Jeff Kaplan. And, in a post on reddit, Jeff Kaplan responded:

I don’t envy the developers when it comes to fixing his particular problem. “One-trick” players might be detrimental in some situations, but the fact that they’re reaching the highest level of play means they’re exceptionally skilled on the hero they play. If the best Genji in the world only plays Genji to the detriment of their team, they’re still the best Genji in the world. Punishing that player, or outright preventing them from climbing the ranks, neither changes their bullheaded enjoyment of that hero or their skill level with it. What such a change would do, more than anything else, is hold that Genji in a stomping grounds where they can pick on everybody else.

It’s possible encouraging grouping up to play the game would help — but it’s just as possible it won’t. What’s to say this theoretical Genji wants to play with a group? And tethering one’s self to a group carries a number of other issues. Logistically, can you guarantee that Genji’s group will always be online when they want to play? If their group isn’t around, they’ll jump into solo queue, reintroducing the same issue.

Group play introduces matchmaking difficulties, too. Even in a perfect world where enough people are playing as a group to keep team queue times reasonable (which is not currently the case in any of Blizzard’s competitive games), skill levels make it complicated. This theoretical Genji very well might have five close friends who always want to play together, thus enabling that Genji to be Genji as often as they’d like, because their friends are okay with that.

But what happens when this best-Genji-ever is friends with a below average support player? Is it fun for anyone if this team is consistently losing games, and being matched against other below average teams, with the best Genji in the world in those matches? If their skill rating is being averaged out and that support player is still out of their depth, this Genji isn’t running rampant in Masters anymore, but they’re dragging their friend into a situation that ruins their enjoyment, instead. Is that a solution?

And encouraging group play aside, one big issue remains: sometimes you want to play games by yourself. Sometimes you want to be a cyborg ninja and slash people up with the freedom to stop and start whenever you want, without worrying about abandoning the people in your group or being tethered to someone else’s schedule. Overwatch (and Heroes of the Storm) heavily encourage ranked play while accepting Quick Play game modes are a Wild West where anything goes. Even one-trick players will naturally gravitate toward ranked play because it’s the “correct” way to play. If their skill at that hero causes them to climb the ranks to the point they’re matched with people like Effect, that isn’t their fault, is it?

It’s hard to imagine a solution to this problem beyond telling one-trick players they’re not welcome in Overwatch and excluding them from game modes. And that’s an extreme measure.

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