Today appears to be a special holiday in the gaming world with the release of Blizzard's highly anticipated shooter Overwatch going live this evening. In part of celebrating that and discussing some of the community stuff, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan and Dash here appeared on their Facebook page video wise to answer community questions that had been posted. While there were far more questions there than could be reasonably answered from when they asked for them, some of the bigger and more popular topics of speculation came up.
Perhaps the most significant piece of news from the event is that Kaplan said that they are not locked into keeping the console and PC versions the same. While they've already implemented some minor changes, like putting aim-assist in console versions, they are willing to make further changes as needed. Kaplan provided an example of one thing they are looking at is Symmetra's turrets which are perfectly fine on PC, but on consoles, they are keeping an eye on for adjusting it for how to handle the aim assist and not making it too powerful. Throughout the closed and open beta period how much the shot would veer towards the turret or opposing player was tweaked with so that they could see how it was, and the feedback for it was helpful. There are things other than adjusting aim assist they might do like tweaking slow time, or how much damage they do to make sure that each platform has the best experience for that platform.
The other big bit is the long awaited competitive mode, and that is something fans are going to have to wait on. The video was light on details, but Jeff explained that the version of competitive play they used in the closed beta was given heavy feedback, much of it critical that led to them going back to the drawing board. Several things were explained for what they were looking at in vague terms with the season length going to be more likely around two and a half to three months with a couple of weeks down period after user feedback on the one-month season length. Another point they are looking at is minimizing Sudden Death and trying to make it resolve in the game mode you were playing already. Jeff cited it as the most important thing to add, the competitive mode will be Overwatch's first big content update. While there's no exact date he did give a window for it being towards the middle or end of June and that they have an internal build of it that they are testing.
Gameplay and balancing also got a bit more highlights although there wasn't a ton of info there - no, they didn't announce another hero. Instead, Kaplan outlines how they looked at adding new modes and discussed how they often prototype them and enjoy doing so. There are three main ways they do so:
- An entirely new mode like Control was during the beta that can be added to the Quick Play,
- Novelty ideas that don't work so well being permanent but do well with Weekly Brawl, and
- Adding new elements to maps to change up parts even in traditional modes and make it play differently
Kaplan cited the Weekly Brawl as something that will be invaluable to them in testing and experimenting with ideas as it provides a place they try them out with relatively low risk. If an idea doesn't work, there is no real long term consequences, but if it does seem to be popular, they can try to flesh it out and make it a full mode. When discussing that and character balancing, Kaplan outlined the three pillars they use for gathering and addressing feedback. First is the player response on topics which often brings it up as a potential problem. Second is the developers draw on their experience and talk within the studio as everyone plays Overwatch there and they have a variety of skilled players from highly skilled to low skilled players. Lastly, they utilize stats and metrics they collect on the heroes and how they are used, selected and other things. These pillars help them sort out what needs to be addressed, and what doesn't while avoiding the potential issue of being overly insular or just bowing to everything. An example where the developers feelings on it trumped fan feedback is almost certainly Bastion.
One of the things that has helped Overwatch stand out among shooters is its fantastic l ore and well-produced comics and animated shorts. Players have been asking for more information and also about the idea of playing a campaign structure in the world, as well as what will be happening with the lore updates going forward. Well, for single player it is not in the cards right now, but they have thought about potentially doing a co-op campaign in the future. That would be a long ways down and is more something they've spitballed lightly then anything anyone should expect to see anytime soon.
As for more general lore updates that will be continuing as they enjoy doing the storytelling and view it as something important. They have their graphic novel First Strike coming out in the future for those who are looking forward to it. As for animated shorts, yesterday's Hero ended this season, but there will be more in the future as they like making them, although there was no timetable provided on that. Jeff said they are planning on doing more comics and are looking at doing more with them going forward, though what his plan is there for the webcomics is tough to say. Another point is they are considering how they could integrate some more into the game as right now much of the lore is told outside the game along with a handful of taunts and environmental design that players are speeding through on their way to shoot someone. How to do so they aren't sure, but it is something we could see in the future. Lastly in this area, for those who were curious the lore will continue to evolve as the game goes on and a lot of what they did up to now was things they felt they had to have out there to have the story arcs set or finished to continue with where they are.
Overall while there wasn't a ton of concrete information there was a lot of little interesting tidbits, and they are clearly excited for launch. So if you want to see it, as well as find out how Overwatch got its name take a gander at the video (hint: it was a name from Titan for an organization). And if you want to prepare for the launch check out our launch day tips and our countering guide for Overwatch!