QOL: Roles, Role Icons, and Micro-Portraits

Overwatch10 - QOL: Roles, Role Icons, and Micro-Portraits

Oh hey, I got an idea! I figured I'd share it. At best, the thread gets a little more traction than a Dodge Caravan on ten year old tires. At worst, someone on the Internet figures out where I live, and I get murdered IRL for posting this.

So! You know how it goes. Hop in a game, nobody chooses anything. 2 seconds before the selection phase is over, 4 people lock DPS. Then they all volunteer to flex to tank. Or your team spends well over a minute talking about who plays what. And that's if your team speaks in the first place. Or someone in the middle of the match yells "Someone play Soldier to counter this damned Pharah!" unaware that no one in the team has more than 30 minutes of playtime on Soldier.

And somewhere among all of this, somebody squeaks, "Can we get a Reeeeiiiiiiiiiinnnnnn?"

Meanwhile, I've been playing in PUGs, and these PUGs had devised a system: before coming in, set your player icon to something from a pre-defined list so as to indicate what you want to play. Shanghai Dragons = DPS. LA Gladiators = Main Tank. Houston Outlaws = Off-Tank. Florida Mayhem = Support. London Spitfire = Flex.

Then, somebody else thought this wasn't enough, so we also ended up with Seoul Dynasty = Anything Except Main Tank. And then LA Valiant = Anything Except DPS. And another icon or two probably popped up as I was typing this. And the team captain is going "Wait, what did the LA Valiant icon mean again?" And 12+ people answered simultaneously and cacophonically.

Things got confusing real quick.

Making PUGs A Little Bit Easier

Idea #1: Role-oriented player icons. Putting myself into a Blizz dev's shoes, that's a quick win, since all that this takes is a handful of graphics files cobbled up from existing sources. These icons are available from the get-go to all players new and old, and they can use these in PUGs to define what they want to play.

ntrpBTZ - QOL: Roles, Role Icons, and Micro-Portraits

A mockup of possible player icons for the task

SoloQ Me Up

All great and good, but if you want to hop into a game in the greater wide world, or join an LFG, you'll still want to express yourself through the player icons that already exist, right? Or else, everyone's using role-icons in their normal play, rendering countless existing player icons useless and/or breeding toxicity because, oh, whoops, George didn't set his icon to one of the role-icons, so nobody knows what he likes to play.

Idea #2: A small spot beneath each player's portrait, where their role icon is displayed. The icon is shown only to teammates and/or within the premade group prior to going into a match. It is never displayed to the enemy, on the career profile, or anywhere else that's publicly accessible – therefore, the opposing team cannot try and guess the composition you'll use before you've even gotten out of the spawn room.

KLA0NIu - QOL: Roles, Role Icons, and Micro-Portraits

A mockup of what the role icons may look like in the game's TAB display
  • We see that Alice doesn't play tank. She's chosen a main healer.

  • Billy is a full-flex player, and something in the game has made him believe a Junkrat is best suited for the job at hand.

  • Chuck plays DPS, and has instalocked Widowmaker.

  • Daniel plays off-tank, and has let Ethan know he's comfortable with Zarya.

  • Ethan is a DPS player but since there wasn't any main tank player in the team, he volunteered to play Rein after Daniel said that he'd look out for him.

  • Frank plays off-healer, and sure enough, has chosen Lucio for the match.


The advantage is that, again, the design of the icons themselves can simply take near-direct inspiration from the commonly known icons we've come to see in OWL regarding damage, tank, support, and flex. The required effort is, however, significantly heavier in designing and programming the interface needed for a player to choose their role-icon, and see the role-icon of their teammates.


Coming back to the previous mock-up, one's tempted to wonder what happened. Billy's a flex player, right? Then why didn't he pick Rein? Why would the DPS play tank when obviously he's better suited to playing to his strengths? What happened?

It's hard to tell with nothing but role-icons to go on. Yes, a person can play DPS, but he obviously can't play all the DPS heroes. Everyone inevitably specializes into a core skill-set, a preference, or a comfort zone. That much we've seen back when the hover-menu displayed the most-played heroes of a player, and where a gigantic Mercy playtime indicated a full-flex player. The execution was terrible, but the idea was good: there was a drive to indicate what sort of heroes your teammates played so that you could more easily fashion your comp without a lengthy song-and-dance over chat.

Building up on the previous idea:

Idea #3: Micro-portraits shown beneath a player's portrait, in the same fashion as the role-icons from Idea 2. Here, a player chooses a certain number of heroes (up to 5?) to display so as to tell his teammates at a glance, "I like to play this" or "I think I'm good at this". Hell, why not on two rows such that the top one indicates heavy preference, and the bottom row being "I can also play this/these, just not as well". Food for thought. Bon appétit.

e5BvCQi - QOL: Roles, Role Icons, and Micro-Portraits

Let's then look at our TAB-menu again with this tweak, and see how it gives insight into the previous situation.
  • Alice enjoys playing long-range heroes and being a bit removed from the main fight: Ana, Widow, and Ashe. She's the only one to have a main healer among her micro-portraits, so she proposed herself as main healer.

  • Billy is indeed a full-flex player, and has indicated so by showing his preferred hero in each role: Zenyatta, Roadhog, and Pharah. He's ended up choosing Junkrat because he noticed something in the enemy team as he was preparing in the spawn room, and believes he can capitalize on that hero choice to exploit weaknesses in the enemy.

  • Chuck is a Widow one-trick. It would be ill-advised to make him play anything else.

  • Daniel specialized in off-tanks, primarily D.Va and Zarya. It was only natural for him to choose one of these.

  • Ethan is heavily into close-ranged DPS heroes: he mains Doomfist and Reaper both, and often flexes to Genji, Tracer, or Sombra to perform flanking maneuvers. Because no one in the team had a main tank micro-portrait, he volunteered to main-tank after a short discussion with Daniel: Daniel, being an experienced off-tank, will ensure Ethan's safety, and guide Ethan on where to go and what to do.

  • Frank has an affinity for crowd control. He feels best at Brigitte and Lucio, but he's not above playing Mei to disrupt the enemy and break their momentum. While Daniel and Ethan were talking, he locked in Lucio to further support the tank line.

Arguably the feature with the longest and most complex development time of the three, with the benefit of being the most "complete" one in that a single glance is all it takes for a team to know what kind of composition they best use, and how they'll synergize with each other.

Well, that's the bunch of ideas I got. Now they're on the Internet for you to read. Fun times!

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