Jeff Kaplan Leaves Blizzard Entertainment

This week, Overwatch Game Director and Blizzard Vice President, Jeff Kaplan announced that he’s leaving the company after 19 years.

In a post on the Overwatch website, Jeff said:

i am leaving Blizzard Entertainment after 19 amazing years.

it was truly the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to create worlds and heroes for such a passionate audience. i want to express my deep appreciation to everyone at blizzard who supported our games, our game teams and our players. but i want to say a special thanks to the wonderful game developers that shared in the journey of creation with me.

never accept the world as it appears to be. always dare to see it for what it could be. i hope you do the same.

gg,

jeffrey kaplan

Kaplan also posted to Reddit, home to two of the largest Overwatch communities, saying:

the communities on r/overwatch and r/Competitiveoverwatch have meant so much to me. i just wanted to sign off one last time and thank you for all of your inspiration, shared stories and highlights, feedback, criticism and comradery.

whenever i think about the reddit communities, i always think of r/Overwatch as “timmy” (aka punch kid): bright-eyed, optimistic and r/Competitiveoverwatch as “brian” the slightly jaded older brother who realizes in the end that he actually loves overwatch but just kind of forgets it along the way sometimes…

either way, you’re amazing and you made my career better. you made me a better designer and game director.

please take care of the overwatch team. they are wonderful, caring, brilliant people and they need you right now.

<3 jeffrey

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What’s Next for Overwatch?

Taking over the role of Game Director is Aaron Keller, one of the co-founding members of Overwatch with Jeff Kaplan. During BlizzConline, he joked with the panel that he is known as the one who accidentally leaks things. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him speak at BlizzCon and in my opinion Aaron will step into the role nicely.

Reponse to Kaplan leaving has been, for a large part, a bunch of doomsaying: from thinking Overwatch 2 is now not coming out, to unfounded rumors saying he is the reason it was delayed, and worse. Overwatch and its sequel are going to be fine without Jeff. The Overwatch team may have taken a hit to their morale, but the games will live on because while he may have been director, the game’s heart is a collection of all the people on Team 4 put into it.

What Jeff’s Departure Means

In my opinion, Jeff’s departure is indicative of at least two things, a culture change at Blizzard and I bet Jeff also wanted a creative change. I would like the emphasize that the next two paragraphs are purely my speculation.

The culture at Blizzard has changed a lot in the past few years. A lot of goodwill the company had has been damaged by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and the company has come under fire at least once a year for the past few years for things they’ve done. Under Kotick’s leadership, Blizzard has faced massive layoffs around the world while he pockets more and more money. As vice president of the company, Kaplan probably had to deal with a lot of what Kotick was doing and, I’m guessing, fight as hard as he could against that kind of leadership affecting Blizzard.

As a creative myself who has her hands in lots of different projects, I can say that 19 years on two or three projects is A LOT of time. During his tenure, Kaplan was involved with Warcraft III, worked on World of Warcraft as a quest designer (“Green Hills of Stranglethorn” was his fault), went on to become Game Director of WoW for Wrath of the Lich King (my favorite expansion), and went on to become Game Director for Overwatch. With only three games under his belt at Blizzard, I’m sure he wanted to spread his wings a bit try something else.

What Next for Jeff?

Other former Blizzard juggernaughts have moved on to a new video game company co-created by former Blizzard CEO, Michael Morhaime, called Dreamhaven. Chris Metzen, former lead writer for Warcraft and the look of Soldier: 76 which helped inspire Overwatch, is making a Dungeons and Dragons 5e setting (Auroboros: Coils of the Serpent). So where will Jeff wind up? My money is in gaming, quite possibly Dreamhaven. A lot of people from Blizzard have recently moved to Riot as well so that’s a possibility. MMOs are where Jeff got his start, and Riot does have a new League of Legends-based MMO in the works, so maybe he would want to share his insights into that game. In short, a bunch of his old Blizzard alum are working on new projects and I can see that being quite enticing creatively.

If you wanat to read more about Jeff Kaplan’s career at Blizzard, Matt Purslow at IGN did an excellent write-up.

I had a few interactions with Jeff over the years, but some of my favorites were at BlizzCon where, when mentioning I was with Overbuff, he said he loved the site, and I got to talk to him a bit. And later during the event we happened to run across each other again and he was the one to instigate a very brief, but kind interaction.

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Latest Experimental Goes Live

Last week’s experimental patch that made changes to 8 different heroes was released this week to the live servers with few changes. Only Sombra’s changes differ from the experimental patch.

Baptiste

  • Healing from his heal projectiles has been lowered from 60 to 50, but direct impacts restore an additional 20 health, rewarding accuracy.

  • Immortality Field now protects allied health to a minimum of 10% HP instead of 20% HP.

D.Va

  • Call Mech damage increased from 50 to 250. SQUISH!

Echo

  • When Duplicate ends, Echo’s health returns to either where it was when she activated the ability OR 100 hit points, whichever is higher.

Moira

  • Biotic Orb cooldown reduced from 10 seconds to 8 seconds.

Orisa

  • Halt! cooldown reduced from 8 seconds to 6 seconds.

Reinhardt

  • Armor reduced from 250 to 200, giving him 500 effective hit points instead of 550.

Roadhog

  • Damage from each pellet of his shotgun increased to 6.6, up from 6.

Sombra

  • Movement speed increase while Stealthed up to 65%, up from 50%. (In the experimental patch, Sombra also entered and exited out of Stealth faster, and the speed increase was only to 60%.)

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Miscellaneous

  • Overwatch Contenders (NA & EU) updated its schedule to prevent an overlap with the OWL broadcast. The Losers Round 3 & Winners Finals will shift from Thursday, April 29 to Monday, May 3. The Losers Finals & Grand Finals will move from Friday, April 30 to Tuesday, May 4. April’s viewer rewards will be extended into these broadcasts. (Twitter)
  • OWL Mic Check is back! (YouTube)
  • My favorite meme to come out of opening week of OWL was, pinpointing the exact moment Super’s heart rips in half in the match the Shock lost to the Outlaws. (Streamable)
  • The official highlights channel for the Overwatch League is still going, though they’re more appropriately named “abridged” versions of the matches than highlights. (YouTube)
  • The Archives event ends on Tuesday so get the items while you can!