Image source: OWL

After a long offseason, the details of the 2021 season of the Overwatch League were finally released. 

The season will officially begin on 16 April with a match between the Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel. The league schedule will follow a series of four-week tournament cycles, with weeks off between the two.

Teams will be divided into two divisions, East and West, and will play four qualifying games per round of the tournament. Wins accrued during the qualifying period will count towards the final ranking in the form of League Points, with extra points awarded to teams that are highly ranked in the playoffs of the tournament.

Image source: OWL

The four tournaments—the May Brawl, the June Joust, the Summer Showdown, and the Countdown Cup—return to the 2020 season. 2020 wasn’t initially designed with tournament play in mind, but with the shift to online play, the league put in place tournaments to make regular season games more exciting. Though it started out as a necessity, the fans ended up embracing the new one.

“We’ve had a long off-season to think about the things we’ve done right and the things we’ve been going through for the 2020 season,” said Senior Competition Operations Manager Adam Mierzejewski.

“We had to make a huge change in the middle of the season, but there were a lot of big wins coming out of it. Listening to our community and taking the time during the off-season to really tune and craft an exciting 2021, we wanted to have tournaments in our season. They’re producing such fantastic stories and anticipation moments in the regular season.”

Something else that the league has brought back from the 2020 season is the hero pools system. Hero pools remove certain characters from play in order to ensure more variety in team composition. At the beginning of 2020, the league used a weekly rotation of playable heroes.

The system was designed in a way that considered weekly relocations to be too intensive and eventually phased out during the season. The system was structured and rejected. This year’s hero pools, which remain constant during these competitions, were included in two of the four tournament cycles — June Joust and Countdown Cup.

“Hero Pools was originally designed to maximize the variety that is so beautiful in Overwatch, and all the different heroes that can be played,” said senior manager Sean Miller. “But at the same time, there is a balance that we found last year that needs to happen. It adds some work and effort, and we don’t want to place too much pressure on the teams to plan for a bunch of different hero pools. We believe that now, with these month-long pools of heroes, the pressure on players and coaches is minimizing. It will also help give fans the variety while providing a good, clear target for the entire tournament cycle.”

Game updates are going to meet a similar schedule. The new Overwatch updates will only be enforced between the tournament cycles in the Overwatch League. Patches will eventually have an effect on the Meta and Hero Pools, but league staff are actively collaborating with Overwatch developers to ensure that teams are well educated ahead of time.

“Patches create some unknowns,” said Mierzejewski. “We work very closely with the developer team on all of these issues—hero pools, game updates, map pools—and we want to make sure that we give the teams ample notice of what the patches are going to be. At the end of the first tournament, for example, they’re going to know their patch and their Hero Pool, and they’re going to have a week off between the tournaments so they can practice. I think we’re giving them a lot of time and transparency on how these things are going to happen.”

Source: Daily Esports


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