Happy 5th Anniversary, Overwatch! In honor of the 5th annviersary, May 24, a few Blizzard devs took to Reddit to do an AMA.
The below are all the compiled answers to questions they answered. I’ve tried my best to organize them, but sometimes a question may have fit into multiple categories, or is only vaguely related to my heading. Fair warning: there is a lot of text here with pictures only to break up sections.
If you use any content here for your content, tell them Sabriel at Overbuff sent you and provide a link to this post. Thank you!
The people who answered are as follows:
- Game Director – Aaron Keller
- Principal Game Designer – Scott Mercer
- Lead Hero Designer – Geoff Goodman
- Technical Director – John Lafleur
- Lead Software Engineer – Bill Warnecke
- Character Art Director – Arnold Tsang
- Senior Concept Artist – David Kang
- Overwatch League Vice President – Jon Spector
Will 2/2/2 Role Queue and Open Queue stay in the game as an option?
2/2/2 Role Queue will become 1/2/2 Role Queue due to the move to 5v5, and we’ll probably still have Open Queue but that’s not set in stone yet since hero balance will be quite different in OW2.
We might have an Arcade card that still has 6 player teams in the future, we’ll honestly have to evaluate all of them with an eye towards how they work with the new hero balance. (Mercer)
Will there be other game modes that are 6v6 for those who prefer it, and if it’s possible to say, which game modes?
Honestly we’re not sure yet. We’d like to have it exist in some form, but I’d say balancing the game for both 5v5 (1 tank) and 6v6 (2 tanks) is unlikely, so the 6v6 mode would most likely be an arcade mode or something like that if we can do it at all. (Goodman)
As an off-tank player in a 6-stack team, playing mostly scrims, small tournaments and ranked, what can I legitimately expect for my Ow2 experience?
I would say a lot about OW2 is going to be different. The tank play will certainly change, but if you’re an experienced off-tank player im sure you’ll find great success with those same heroes in OW2 as a solo tank. (Goodman)
What is one common misconception about the game (OW1, OW2, or anything else) that you hear all the time from the community that you’d like to clear up?
For me, in the short term, I’d say the biggest misconception I see about 5v5 and 1 Tank being that off-tanks are being removed, changed, etc. But really, many off-tank heroes are getting tankier, and many main tank heroes are getting less tanky and more damage/options, so really the new Tanks are somewhere in-between MTs and OTs.
If anything, I would guess that off-tanks would have an easier time adjusting to OW2’s new Tank role than main-tank players. (Goodman)
Follow-up: Does that reflect a shift in the team’s focus toward a product that competes more directly with other traditional FPS games?
I would say overall, yes there is a shift towards at least slightly more of a raw FPS game. However, Tanks and Support (and even some dps like Doomfist) have always been more about abilities than just aimskill/shooting. This isn’t going to change. I feel like this is core to what makes Overwatch what it is, reflecting many different playstyles and empowering many different types of skilled players in different ways. Its always been a balancing act for us, but for a while during OW1’s new hero additions it was really starting to feel like we were pushing maybe a little too far away from our FPS roots. (Goodman)
What will we ever do about the missing spawn interactions between tanks now that 5v5 is a thing?
The tank spawn interactions are great. While they would still be available in modes that allowed more than 1 tank, we’ve talked about it and haven’t really come up with a way to preserve them in 5v5 modes. (Keller)
I think most reason why people get upset on the 5v5 change is because of the tank synergy we have right now. Has the team thought about forgiving that in any way, by idk changing dps maybe?
One of the core goals of Overwatch hero design is to create these fun synergies and combos throughout the entire roster. It certainly sucks to lose some of these combos, but a lot of game design is making a call to decide if what you are gaining is worth what you are losing. In this case, after significant playtesting, we think its more than worth it for the benefits we gain out of 5v5. (Goodman)
Should we expect loads of changes from what we have been shown on the stream in terms of tanks?
I think we want to make sure we offer a lot of different options for different playstyles, as always. As a broad answer, yes tanks will be getting more brawly. But looking at heroes like D.Va, she is gaining much more matrix meter and she isn’t losing her flight knockback or anything else (at the moment anyway), so she’ll be even better at peeling than before. Even our current Zarya iteration allows her to potentially use 2 of her barriers back to back on an ally instead of shielding herself, which actually significantly increases her peeling potential as well. (Goodman)
I am worried people will flame tanks even more for every match that they are not playing the perceived meta tanks, is this something you have in mind when designing for 5v5?
Talking about tanks in 5v5, it’s unfortunate that tanks can often get the brunt of team negativity simply because they’re in front leading the charge and their actions are easier to see by other members of the team. That spotlight is one of the reasons we often hear from people about not wanting to play a tank. When a damage player has a bad game (and hey, it happens to everybody!) it’s often harder to notice. You’re losing team fights, but you’re not sure why.
So we’re looking to give players some better tools in OW2 to look at game performance, including match history. We also looking at further ways to celebrate positive plays made in a fight. I don’t think we have a silver bullet to address every negative aspect of human behavior around competitive play, but we’ll certainly try and help. (Mercer)
How is [reduced CC for DPS] going to effect someone like Doomfist and to lesser extent Wrecking Ball?
This is something we’re actually in the middle of testing right now. The idea is to reduce crowd control (especially stun) effects on non-tank heroes.
This doesn’t mean that tanks will gain more CC, or that they will lose damage and focus on CC more. Its more that by removing some CC effects on existing non-tank heroes, it means that the the current tank lineup would retain the majority of the CC effects as part of their role. This not only gives Tanks something unique and interesting about their role, but it significantly reduces the amount of CC effects in the game as a whole, especially in a world where there is only 1 tank per team.
This isn’t a hard rule either. Currently we’re pretty happy with Ana’s sleep dart, for example, so I don’t think we’d change it just to fit within this new paradigm.
As for Doomfist/Hammond, well Hammond is a tank so its ok that he has more CC effects. Doomfist is a hero we’d need to look at though, for other reasons as well (he can be frustrating to play against for other reasons).
I’d say the more pressing matter, for us, is how powerful Doomfist/Hammond and other high-mobility heroes such as Tracer can be in a world where there is a lot less CC to control/stop them. (Goodman)
Is there a chance for Mei to become a tank so she can keep her freeze mechanic in some way?
Possibly, that’s still on the list to play around with. For what it’s worth, she can still freeze with her ultimate. I would say freezing with her primary in PvE is a minimum of what you’ll see. We have so many crazy ideas for talents for every hero, I can’t wait to show you guys more as we get closer. (Goodman)
Are you happy with Lucio’s boop?
Yea we feel like this is pretty core to Lucio so we’re not likely to change this. Also Tanks have a role passive to have reduced knockback effects against them now, so that helps Tanks players quite a bit. (Goodman)
So you mentioned in this news blog that Bastion is going to be reworked “from the ground up”. Are you able to share some things you are trying with Bastion?
When re-approching Bastion the biggest starting point is like, “what is the core of this hero that feels like we should make sure to preserve”. Our answer to that is he is a transforming robot, with huge damage potential when he is using his various modes well. We want to make sure Bastion isn’t purely about aim-skill, but he also has a big focus on situational awareness and timing/positioning.
We’re looking at pushing his recon form’s range out by changing his recon weapon. This helps him generally be more useful, but also helps create separation between his other forms, especially sentry. For sentry form, the cost of reducing his mobility to gain huge damage is still interesting and its the heart of what makes him work. However, completely removing his mobility has proved to be too harsh of a penalty, and frankly its not realistically possible to balance him with this downside in mind (especially between different skill levels). So right now we’re testing allowing him to move in Sentry form, but just more slowly than normal. This comes with new tuning for his Sentry weapon, of course, so it isn’t quite as deadly as it is in OW1.
There is more to talk about with him down the road, but we’re still in the middle of reworking him so hopefully we’ll be able show him off in more detail down the road! (Goodman)
Have you considered moving some of the more CC focused DPS heroes into the tank role?
I think the common one that comes up here is Mei, which is something we’ve talked about in the past, but we haven’t run the “mei tank” experiment internally yet. I feel like she would have to change quite a bit to fit the tank role, so its a bit more of a rework to have her fit well into that role. That doesn’t mean its off the table, just that its not a trivial change to throw in and try out.
If we did try it, im sure we’d try the ice slide that everyone loves to think about :) It certainly feels more acceptable on a Tank, which would allow her to engage in front of her team etc.
Doomfist I think requires a bit more thought than even Mei. He is extremely unique, even amongst the Overwatch roster, but he essentially requires CC to control him, and he throws out a bit too much CC himself, even if her were a tank. We haven’t started digging into him yet, as we’re still figuring out how some of these CC changes are going to play out, but hes on my list to look at as soon as we can. Ideally i’d love to keep his high mobility ability-based gameplay in tact, but be less frustrating to play against. (Goodman)
Can you share anything about some ideas you’ve went through when it comes to Sombra’s kit for OW2?
For OW2, I’ve done some iteration on her in regards to how she might work in a world where there is less crowd control effects for Damage heroes. Recently we’ve run two different playtest ideas for her:
- She couldn’t hack players at all anymore, but instead she gained a +50% damage bonus when shooting an enemy in the back.
- She could hack players again, but a hack on an enemy just meant your allies could see that player through walls instead of silencing them. She could also hack while invisible (she was visible while hacking, but invis wasn’t broken). Then, she gained a +30% damage bonus against hacked targets.
These were interesting tests, but each had their own share of big problems.
For #1, it felt weird/bad to just never be able to hack enemies. She’s supposed to be this hacker but her hack was relegated to health packs mostly. This is potentially solvable if we added a lot more things she could hack, such as objectives and barriers etc, but I’m not sure its worth chasing at this point.
For #2, it was super fun to hack people while invis and play more of the cat/mouse game more often, but her ult was terrible in this version without further changes to it. I’m unsure about this direction as well, as it sort of downplays her hacking in general.
This is just an example of stuff we try when iterating on a hero, and playtesting new ideas. Both of these ideas were in the camp of “what if she was more deadly, but we downplayed her hacking a bit”, but there are other directions we could try as well. (Goodman)
Will the green overhealth still be removed by EMP? How do Brigitte and Torbjorn’s temporary armor factor into that?
Currently, no EMP does not remove over-health. But, hopefully as evidence from some of my other answers, things are very heavily in flux right now, especially in regards to CC and Sombra, so its possible we’ll make it work on all over-health.
Brig and Torb gain over-health instead of over-armor now, but it acts like normal health and so doesn’t have any innate damage reduction built into it anymore. We’ll have to compensate for that as needed, probably by giving more health for them.
Though I will go one step further and ask, “should armor even work the same way it does in OW1?” Its fairly complex and if you ask an average player how exactly armor works most of them will just say something like “oh i dont know, it reduces damage taken somehow”. We haven’t changed anything with it yet, but its on my list to look at and maybe simplify into something like, “armor health takes -X% damage”.
It has further implications if we do that, like bigger hits no longer feel like they are armor-piercing, such as a widow shot or a Pharah rocket.. but maybe its worth the trade off? I’m not sure yet! (Goodman)
How many OW character redesigns you guys do at the time?
Assuming you mean the visual redesigns for OW2, we work on multiple at a time and have concepted most of the cast at this point. (Tsang)
Would giving DPS the role passive of dealing more damage to barriers work?
That’s an interesting idea, and how players interact with barriers is something we’re always looking at closely. This might not as be required with the new 5v5 teams that only have one tank, and therefore less barriers on the field. We’ll keep an eye on it as we continue to work on hero and gameplay balance. (Goodman)
Will we ever be able to use custom assets in workshop mode? Custom maps would go far, but also custom models for making your own hero.
Aaron would love it if we could get this in! Unfortunately, that’s a really complicated problem for us given how our asset system works. We’ve tried, and will continue to try, to expand workshop as much as we can to extend custom creation as far as possible. But custom assets is a massive challenge. It’s been something we’ve wanted to give to the community for years, but up to now we just haven’t found the right way to deliver it without an unrealistic investment of resources. (Lafleur)
Any new workshop content in the works? Customizable maps, spawnable shields, spawnable turrets
We ARE working on something super cool in this space, not exactly what you called out, but I’m pretty excited about it. We’re not ready to announce it yet, but I thought I’d drop a reply here and let you know that yes.. more workshop related things are still coming :) (Warnecke)
How will OW2 impact the workshop? I’m sure it’ll come with great technical difficulties but do you plan to keep the workshop for OW2 or even improve it?
We don’t have any plans to remove it. If anything, we’d like it to be able to leverage some of our improved and new features to make it even better. We don’t have a full picture of Workshop for launch, at the moment, though. (Fleur)
Are you going to make more/better pre-made A.I.s for the workshop in OW2 or are you just going to remove the pre-made A.I.s?
We’ve been doing a substantial amount of work in the areas of AI for Overwatch 2… which is probably obvious given that we’ll have PvE. :) Much of those improvements should apply across the game, workshop included. But Workshop plans for OW2 are still quite fluid. (Tsang)
Are there more Greek (or others) mythology themed skins coming up?
Mythology themed skins are one of my favorite themes also.. O.O!!! (Kang)
Over the years you have released many skins that were only available for a limited time through the league store, weekly challenges or collaborations with charities. Are there any plans or thoughts on giving us another chance to earn these skins?
On the League store side of things, we are considering bringing back some of the Overwatch League skins from years past. Personally I’m missing the Atlantic All-Star Mercy skin and want that :) (Spector)
Have you ever considered a “Random skin” option similiar to the “Random” option for highlight intros?
We have looked at this. If we were to do it, it likely wouldn’t be completely random, because we’re not sure that’s exactly what players want. Did I just say that?!? What I meant to say was that players might want the ability to just pick from a certain subset of skins (Such as all their legendaries or their 4 favorites). It also wouldn’t change each time a player spawned for technical reasons.
Why does Funky Baptiste’s belt buckle say Gravy?
HAHA It says GRVY and it’s supposed to mean GROOVY (Kang)
Artistically and technically, what has been the most challenging skin to make so far?
Technically, it’s always a challenge to make skins for our more complex heroes (D.Va, Bastion, Wrecking Ball, Ashe). Penguin Mei was also really hard, we had to do a lot to make her head work. Artistically, there are tons of examples but a recent one that comes to mind is Polyanitsa Zarya. The inspiration for that skin is the Russian bogatyr warriors, who wear a very specifically onion shaped helmet. We explored helmeted and non-helmeted versions, but ultimately chose the one we found more appealing. Choosing between appeal and accuracy to the reference is constantly a struggle and can be very subjective, but I like how the skin turned out! (Tsang)
The most challenging skin for me was Echo’s MVP Fleta skin. We don’t usually make skins that are super Asymmetrical due to tech and art constraints. That was one of the biggest hurdle that we have to go thought in making that skin but I think it turned out great. (Kang)
What was your favorite skin to design?
I loved working on Toxic Roadhog. It was a collaboration with one of our senior character modelers, Niles Doubleday. It was fun to see his vision for the skin and translate it to a concept. Making the floating skull head work was difficult, but worth it! As character art director, I don’t have as much time as I used to to work on skins, but that’s one from recent memory that I enjoyed a lot. (Tsang)
Do you take gold guns into consideration when designing new skins? Is there any chance of getting more skins for my girl where she isn’t wearing sleeves?
For every hero, we have certain guidelines we follow for which parts of their look to keep and which to change. Certain things like Moira’s sleeve are things that we try to keep as much as possible to maintain her silhouette. Another example of this is Reaper’s trenchcoat, I think we’ve only removed that shape a couple of times.
That being said, I hear you on the desire to see your golden guns more, and will consider it more going forward! (Tsang)
Will [the new hero looks] come out as THE default look of the characters in Overwatch 1 or they will be like an exclusive skin for the look of Overwatch 1 players?
The new look of the heroes will be the default look in Overwatch 2. Your skins from Overwatch 1 will carry over and the new looks won’t affect them. (Tsang)
On behalf of all Symmetra players why has she been getting ignored in terms of legendary event skins?
I promise you an awesome Symetra skin is on its way! (Kang)
Any chance to get a Symmetra victory pose to show her golden gun? She doesn’t have any.
We’re on it. (Tsang)
What piece of concept art do you like the most and what character was the most fun to try and design? Thank you and happy birthday Overwatch!
Thank you so much! I really enjoyed working on the Roadhog Overwatch League SF Shock Championship skin. I thought that it came out great with all the fire special effects and the molten metal chains for his hook. My favorite skin so far is the next widow maker skin that will be out in the near future.. Happy aniversary also =) (Kang)
Maybe a Pachimari Bastion?
I’d love to make a silly Pachimari skin for every hero if they allow me! (Kang)
YOU are the creator of Pachimari??? :0 I LOVE PACHIMARI PACHIMARI IS THE BEST THANK YOU FOR BRINGING MORE LIGHT INTO THIS WORLD
Thank you, glad you like them! It means a lot to me. Please spare some love for Yachemon! That weird Sausage thingamagiggggg (Kang)
Are we gonna get the Deadlock novel skin for Ashe in the future?
Sounds like a good idea! (Tsang)
How much money do I have to give you to let us see the full design now?
A lot! Joking aside though, stay tuned… we’ll have something to show soon. (Tsang)
Are you planning to revamp the endorsements system where the decay doesn’t trigger simply because you’re on a losing streak and get no votes?
We are planning to do an update on the endorsements system in the future, so it’s great hearing your feedback on this. To clarify one element on the system, you won’t really decay if you don’t play for a week or so. You naturally decay a certain amount when you play a game based on your current endorsement level, with higher endorsement levels decaying faster and requiring you to earn more endorsements per game. That’s what makes higher endorsement levels harder to get. (Mercer)
Aaron said recently that they were looking to announce something big for OW1. What is a rough estimate on when we can hear news about this new feature?
We have several exciting things coming to Overwatch. As far as rough estimates go - one large feature will be announced somewhere in the timeframe between soon and really soon. (Keller)
Have you considered adding a ping like system into the game?
We’ve definitely considered this. In fact we have a protoype of it running internally right now. We don’t make a habit of promising things to players until they are actually announced and I’m not going to break that tradition right now (I’m sure I’ll blow it at some other point in this AMA), but it is something that we are excited about as a team and are working through issues currently. (Keller)
Any alternative ways to getting golden guns like points for wins in QP (even some 2-3 per win) or a currency price (like 30k currency for a gun)?
We have no plans for providing them as rewards outside of earning them in competitive play. (Mercer)
Matchmaking is always a weighting of queue time vs MMR range/ team balancing. Would it be possible for users to put their own preference of this balance for themselves?
we’re unlikely to ever add this. My instincts were that this would add a lot of complexity and probably not be as helpful as one would hope. I spoke a bit with with an engineer on the team who the most knowledgeable about our matchmaking system, he noted that there are a lot of factors that contribute to matchmaking that are outside of a single person’s control. For example in role queue the amount of roles in queue are the dominant factor for matchmaking time. Also the time of day and how active your particular region is at that time plays a big part in what matches can be made.
Adding a feature like this is also unpredictable, there are likely to be knock-on effects that we’d have to work through. It’s tricky if many players set the slider to “match quickly”, maybe the “prefer quality” players would never get a match, and if we decide to eventually pull them in that would be a poor experience since it wouldn’t match your expectations based on the slider.
A key rule to matchmaking is when you introduce constraints in any way, even if they’re meant to be helpful, you generally increase matchmaking time. The matchmaker is by far one of the most complex systems we maintain, we really appreciate ideas and feedback, even if we don’t directly go with a particular suggestion.
Special thanks to Alex from our server team for helping me get some detail into this answer. (Warnecke)
Will there ever be a free model viewing system where we can zoom in and out on characters to appreciate the fine detail on our skins?
I assume you mean free “camera” system. That’s a cool idea!
Why no backfilling or pauses in Competitive?
There’s no backfilling because we’re pretty sure no one would want to do it. If you ever backfill in a game and lose shortly afterwards, you’re not happy. If we allowed players to backfill without consequences to their SR, its giving them a license to throw or act negatively. There’s simply not a lot of great options there.
As far as pauses, and I think you’re asking about pauses due to disconnect/leaves, we have to consider cases where players might abuse the rules in an attempt to harass someone or waste people’s time. The best way to try and minimize leaves is to not provide any kind of outside motivation for them to occur. We’re never going to be completely leave free, due to internet outages, personal emergencies, random acts of chaos by cat, we just want to make sure and minimize them as much as possible. (Mercer)
Is there a reason for the “minimum draw” scenario on Assault and Hybrid maps?
Yes, its because a lot of players would not think it would be fair for a team to complete an Assault map with 5 minutes left, and a team that completes it with 0 time left, to have a result where the team that had 0 time left can go on to win. We had to draw a line somewhere, and we drew it at a minute because that felt like the minimum time required to have a decent shot at taking 33% of the first control point.
The rules also exist as they are to try and avoid “anti-dramatic” or “what happened?” endings that aren’t understood. If we handled escort in the same way, in the same scenario we’d be asking a team to defend the payload for 5 minutes and prevent it from moving AT ALL (or come up with a 33% minimum mark on payload, which could creates ties, which we also want to avoid.) So we increase each team’s time up to a minimum of 1 minute, which is again a good amount of time to allow for a decent team fight and movement of the payload. This then creates a dramatic and fair ending to the game. (Mercer)
Is there some sort of PVP arcade mode that will allow players to use all the hero talent tree abilities?
This could be really fun and I’d love to do it, but none of the talents are being designed with PvP balance in mind so it could get a little out of control. If we were to introduce a mode that included these in the arcade it wouldn’t focus on the competitive nature of the game. Also, talents in Tiny OW games would be amazing! (Keller)
Are you planning on taking steps to reduce the number of smurfs?
We’re definitely looking to combat what I will refer to as “abusive” alt accounts, ie players who repeatedly create new accounts just so they can play against lesser skilled opponents. Part of this is improving the matchmaker’s ability to determine your skill even faster, detecting those that repeatedly abuse alt accounts and taking action against them, and looking at ways to limit access to additional accounts. We can’t go into all the details here, but it’s something that’s being actively worked on.
Do remember that many “smurfs” are just friends who want to play together but aren’t of the same skill. The matchmaker doesn’t just simply average their SR together when considering how to matchmake them, and it’s also good to remember that the other player might not be a smurf at all. They might just have gotten a lucky streak of head shots. Skill is not a static thing, it ebbs and flows, and we all have our moments we feel like gods of Overwatch and other moments I can’t hit a player to save my life.
There’s also legitimate reasons to have alternate accounts, many people have them for different social circles, etc. So we have to be careful here. (Mercer)
Will there be a Beta?
Almost certainly, yes. If I knew when, I couldn’t tell you. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. But Aaron Keller is our resident secret-leaker, so you might give him a try! :) (Fleur)
Any major changes to the game engine, visual rendering, texturing as thus far?
Yes, we’ve had a lot of changes to the game engine. Many optimizations, better lighting, and many new features have been added. PvE has also allowed us to look much more at how our environments tell our story, so we’ve added many features that help with that. In addition, since the hardware landscape has changed a lot since Overwatch was launched, we’re taking the opportunity (both on the artist side and the technical side) to beef up our high end features and assets. (Fleur)
Any hopes for 120 tick servers in the future?
We do use 120 tick for the Overwatch League but right now we’re not seriously considering them for the main live game. We find the most significant benefit of playing on 120 tick comes only when combined with all players in a match having excellent network quality and extremely low latency.
I’ll never say never, it could happen, but not currently planned. (Warnecke)
What are the PvP map types for Gothenberg and India?
Not Scott but I’ll answer it all the same. I don’t think we’ve officially announced PvP maps for either of these locations…. however if we were to make maps for them I think it would be a great idea if they were built for some super exciting, as yet unnannounced game mode. (Keller)
Called out that it was showed at BlizzCon 2019
Oh shoot! You might be right. Ummmmmm…. waiting for brain to come up with something intelligent to say…. (Keller)
What’s going to happen to 2cp? Will the maps be reworked for different modes or is it getting a major readjustment?
Each OW game mode requires very different maps. Reworking the original 2CP maps into another game mode would probably be just as hard if not harder than building a whole new map from scratch with that particular art kit.
As far as its future is concerned, we’ve talked about giving it a place in the Arcade and we don’t have plans to build any future 2CP maps. (Keller)
As a renowned map designer (because we all love Kings Row) what are some key points you look at when designing a map for Overwatch and some pitfalls a new map designer might need to avoid?
Two of the biggest mistakes that people can make when designing OW maps is to make them too complicated and to make them too large.
Overwatch gameplay is really fast. People need to make decisions based off a lot of complex interactions very quickly. The busier the environment(and the rest of the game is) the harder this is to do. One of the last changes we made to King’s Row was closing one of the window’s over point A. There used to be 2 side by side. One extra opening was just enough to where a lot of players couldn’t consciously focus on dangerous areas well resulting in them feeling overwhelmed.
The community talks a lot about power creep, healing creep, etc but not many people mention size creep. I think over the years Ow maps have grown larger. Think the opening area of Junkertown. When we have too many spaces like this our core gun play begins to break down. We’re really investigating map size with OW2.
As far as what to look for. This is a little more hand wavy and gut based. An OW map just feels right when you look at it. Most of the time people wonder how we make spaces for individual heroes to feel good and we do put time and thought into this but our maps are designed with a lot of intentionality and affordances built into them. What that means is when a player turns a corner they can very quickly recognize where they are supposed to go, what the map will probably be laid out like in areas that she can’t see yet and what type of threats and gameplay they can immediately expect to engage in(a teamfight, a flank, etc).
If you’re looking for advice in how to progress as a Level Designer, my number 1 is to pick a game or games, study them and then just endlessly build maps for them. Its a skill and is something that you’ll get better at with time and practice! (Keller)
Were there any theories of making certain unreleased areas of Blizzard World (zerg area, Orgrimmar etc.) into deathmatch areas or for other plans that were later discarded?
Blizzard World was envisioned as a part of Irvine, California from its inception. The team constantly talks about making new areas of this map, because it is near and dear to our hearts. However, this was one of, if not the most, challenging map our art team has ever created. So we’ve shied away from adding onto it. (Keller)
Should we still expect Paris and Horizon maps back in Overwatch 1 or you keep them for Overwatch 2?
We were in the middle of reworking parts of both Horizon and Paris when we made the decision to move away from the Assault game mode. Those projects are currently on hold and probably won’t be restarted. (Keller)
Why does the Recall animated short play whenever we boot up Overwatch on console? Is this an oversight or intentional to hide some loading screens? Could we maybe get the option to not have it play?
The animated short will play on all versions, but on PC we only play it once. We track if it was shown in the settings and on console versions this is before the user logs in and we don’t have access to any saved setting information at that time. We intentionally show the movie this early because we’re loading core assets during this time.
We agree it’d be nice to be able to skip it, I spoke with our lead engine programmer a bit just now and it’s something we’ll look at, though I can’t promise we’ll be able to do it (because it would require moving where it plays, and reviewing asset loading times). (Warnecke)
Will there be cross-platform progression implemented into Overwatch 2 between PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch?
We’re pretty excited about the possibilities of cross-play and cross-progression, but we don’t have anything to announce, today. However, given the additional complexities of cross-progression, it would probably make most sense to tackle cross-play, first and then explore progression as a potential add-on, if we go this route.
The difficultly centers around how we track entitlements and policy concerns with platform manufacturers. There are also a lot of technical concerns, but most are manageable with a good amount of work. It’s all feasible, just a LOT more ducks to get in a row. And, unfortunately, the more groups involved, the more complicated something becomes. And cross-progression just gets more complicated, in that regard. (Lafleur)
Is the game still planned to release in the Nintendo switch, and if it is, what compromises are having to be made (I expect that they would be mainly in PvE)?
As hardware has advanced since the launch of Overwatch, we are extending the OW2 engine with more high-end features. However, we’re also working hard to make sure all of our platforms get the best experience, even in PvE. Switch is a little more challenging than some, and we’ll have to make some compromises there. For that reason, some of the higher end visual enhancements might not be visible, there. We’ll focus on making sure all of the gameplay-related features get in, first, and then accentuate with additional features as much as possible. (Fleur)
Will Overwatch 2 launch on all platforms day one? Specifically will it hit Nintendo Switch the same day as PC, Xbox and PlayStation, and will it run on both the previous gen and newer gen consoles?
As a live ops engineer I loved shipping Overwatch on all platforms and in all regions at the same time, it was a huge challenge and was very exciting. It’s definitely our goal to do the same for Overwatch 2, but of course I can’t promise that we wont’ hit any blockers that prevent us from doing that. (Warnecke)
Will the PS5 get a official 120 FPS patch before OW2 arrives?
We don’t have any plans to do so, at the moment. We would have to invest a non-trivial amount of time to upgrade original Overwatch to recognize and separately treat the PS5 (it involves changing the platform SDK). Instead, we’re taking that time to focus on making OW2 the best we can on the next gen consoles. (Fleur)
Is there any clarification on the family that Reaper apparently had, as mentioned by Ana in the Bastet short story? And, is this the same family that Reaper was stalking in the “Reflections” comic, which was apparently not chosen at random?
The family that Reaper is stalking in the “Reflections” comic is indeed his family and not just random people on the street. I think there’s still a lot to explore about Reaper’s story, and we’re currently working on some lore for him that I’m pretty excited about. (Tsang)
Has there ever been a plan to implement a system that could entice and better educate current, new, and returning players about the Overwatch universe?
We are looking at this from a few angles. The first is how to include more of this content inside of OW2 itself either through storytelling in the game or through other systems that could contain and deliver this lore(whether its past OW or current OW2 story. The second is looking at ways of bringing people up to speed with media outside of the game. Both are really exciting and I can’t wait for people to see it! (Keller)
Is McCree white (and just very tan) or is he mixed race or something?
McCree is white and just very tan.
We know there is a lot of sci-fi charm in Overwatch, but has it often been difficult to explain some of the game’s techniques “scientifically”? For example, if the dragons of Hanzo and Genji are not “magic”, what could they be?
Magic is a tricky word that means different things to different people. That being said, not everything in Overwatch can or needs to be explained by technology (in my opinion). (Tsang)
Can we expect the comics to come back?
We are working on more comics! (Tsang)
Art & Design
I’d love to hear from Geoff/Scott how the underlying philosophy of how OW has changed over the years and into OW2. How have (if at all) the objectives for what you want players to feel in game changed going into this next “era” of sorts for OW?
For OW1, most of the philosophy changes have been small tactical changes throughout the game’s life, rather than large sweeping changes. The biggest sweeping changes to philosophy were when we went to single hero limit, and then later to role lock.
At its heart, the game has always been about super over-the-top heroes, that are simple to understand but have a lot of depth in gameplay, especially when combined with other heroes on your team. When making new heroes, or changing old ones, its a constant fight for us internally to try and make sure the heroes are simple and focused from a gameplay perspective. This has been gotten harder over time as we add new heroes and push to keep every hero feeling unique at the same time.
For OW2, this core philosophy is still the same, but we’re looking at some of these things in somewhat of a new light. We’re still pushing hard to keep heroes simple and deep, but there are some specifics we’ve changed such as more aggressive tank play which can change how we make Tank heroes. (Goodman)
I love how real world cultures play such huge roles in the design of the game, and i wanted to know how that plays into not only making the designs of the characters, but also if it affects the way they play in the game?
I can’t really speak to if it affects the way they play, but real world cultures are indeed a big influence when designing the characters. In the early days, I used the analogy of fighting games a lot when envisioning the roster for Overwatch- how in fighting games you could always feel the flavour of the character’s culture in their appearance and fighting style, and how you travel all over the world to different cities to fight it out. Sorry, not sure if that answers your question! (Tsang)
I find it hard to relate to any of the Heroes in Overwatch, due to their age. Will there ever be a child playable character? I’d love someone like Shotaro from Gigantor.
I think we’re unlikely to put a child playable character into Overwatch given the core gameplay of the game. We really love Efi though, and it’s possible we’ll continue to see younger lore characters incorporated in the same way she is. (Warnecke)
Favorite piece of concept art for a character or map that didn’t quite make the cut and what made it special to you?
There was this piece featuring a giant, underwater, walking machine. It looked like it had a city or at least a bunch of buildings in it. I started calling it Galapagos for some reason and have wanted to build an underwater map, set in some villains lair off the coast of Galapagos ever since. I think we even had a papermap of this location early in OW development - was going to be Escort if I remember correctly. (Keller)
My favorite concept art that didn’t make the cut was the Legendary version of the Pachimari Roadhog skin. We decided to do an Epic version of the skin instead due to time constraints. As the creator of Pachimari, I’m always down to cram more Pachimari to the game! (Kang)
There’s a concept for a character called the “omniblade” that I did during early development. The hero design of it ended up becoming Hanzo, and the look of it eventually morphed into Sombra, but I still really dug the original sketch (it’s in the Sombra section of the Art of Overwatch book). (Picture) (Kang)
What’s something new that the art team is looking forward to working on with Overwatch 2? As a fellow artist, the character redesigns and new maps have me more excited than ever to see what the final game will look like!
There’s something about creating a version of a place in the real world and replicating it in the Overwatch world that makes me super excited to work on. Its definitely a challenge to implement a huge city into one tiny map but I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job so far. (Kang)
How important are architectural / real world concepts when creating a fantasy universe?
Real world Architecture is SUPER important to us when creating a in game version of the world. For instance for Hollywood, we had to get specific permissions from the city to put the Hollywood sign and the Observatory in the map. This quite the same for most of our maps based on real cities. (Kang)
What were some abilities that were originally planned for heroes but had to be cut out?
We’ve tried and discarded quite a few abilities during development of our heroes, it’s a very natural part of the process. Sometimes the ideas are better fits for other heroes, sometimes they just don’t work and we chalk that up as a lesson.
Here’s one I worked on for Torbjörn:
Torbjörn had something we referred to as the “Claw Trap” that he deployed similar to Widowmaker’s Venom Mine, but instead of dealing damage the trap grabbed a hold of you and prevented the enemy from moving outside a fixed radius of the trap. You could move freely around next to the trap, but couldn’t move far away until you destroyed the base of the trap. It had some fun moments as it could do things like stop a charging Reinhardt or prevent Pharah from launching high into the sky, but it really caused a lot of confusion. After a bunch of iteration, we decided to go in a different direction. (Mercer)
How close have you been to make a really controversial change that barely didn’t make it through?
Other than a bunch of stuff we’ve thrown on the test server and pulled at the last minute (like Zen’s discord being able to target through barriers), maybe the most significant was Sombra’s hero design. For most of her development, she was a Support hero instead of a Damage hero. In this role, her main goal was to hack every enemy, while sneaking around and trying to stay alive. At that time, Hacking an enemy was a long duration debuff that reduced their healing/damage output, rather than the short duration high-impact debuff it became later.
The idea was that she was balanced so that if she successfully got enough hacks on the enemy team, your team would effectively be able to win a 5-6 (since she wasn’t very good in combat for her team), simply because the debuffs were strong enough to allow for that. This is all fine and good on paper, and it was pretty fun to play her this way, but people just hated getting debuffed in this way. In fact, every time we’ve tried to put this kind of debuff in the game (Wrecking Ball also had it in early development, instead of his shield), we get overwhelming feedback that it is the most terrible thing we could put in the game.
There is something psychologically painful about a -damage/healing output debuff, compared to just about any other debuff, it makes it hard for it to find its way into the game in any form. (Goodman)
Will we see any more animation by Michael Biancalana?
Michael is an incredible animator and game developer! He left a permanent mark on the game with the highlight intro system, as well as iconic characters like Zenyatta and countless other great things. He’s no longer with Blizzard now but I’m sure he’s off somewhere making awesome stuff. (Tsang)
What is most-challenging thing about developing OW2 and maintaining OW1?
Really the biggest thing is how different OW2 has become, and how it is constantly changing. We have to keep in mind how OW1 is currently playing and what changes we think would be best for it, without thinking about how different they already are in OW2. Its like juggling 2 different metas/environments, and its easy to mix them up in my mind and/or memory sometimes. (Goodman)
What was one of the biggest obstacles you overcame when you started working on Overwatch?
The Overwatch team was formed from the ashes of Titan, and much smaller in size. While we learned a lot during that development, it certainly was a blow to our confidence, as any set-back can be. But the one thing we knew we had from the beginning was each other and we bonded together extremely well. Getting that confidence back and making it to the success of the Overwatch announce at BlizzCon was a big hurdle to overcome. Our trust in one-another and the incredibly open and supportive atmosphere we have on the team really enabled us to get over that. (Fleur)
Who has the highest SR on the blizzard team right now, and how high is that SR?
I’m not sure what SR this person is at now but the highest I’m aware of was around ~4300. We really have a wide range of skill levels on the team, while we do many team wide playtests, we also have focused playtests for specific skill ranges when necessary. (Warnecke)
Who has been your favourite character that has been added to the game these past five years and why? Happy Anniversary!
Happy Anniversary! I love Echo’s hero design both visual and gameplay. Always wanted a hero that could clone or mirror someone else! (Kang)
What was the funniest bug behind-the-scenes?
I know this wasn’t “behind the scenes” because it was a live bug, but when I asked our QA team for a bug that stood out to them they linked me this bug. The linked pictures are nightmare fuel, but also absolutely hilarious.
One that’s more behind the scenes, when we first implemented Ashe if there were any BOBs alive at the end of the match they would vote on the end of round cards.. AI will definitely take over the world some day.
I’ll take this post as chance to thank all of our amazing QA folks, you’re all amazing. (Warnecke)