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BlizzCon 2015 Wrap Report with Michael Chu & Jeremy Craig

Jean Prior Posted:
Interviews 0

On day 2 of BlizzCon, we sat down with the devs of Overwatch to discuss the highly-anticipated shooter.  We spoke to Senior Game Designer Michael Chu (story and worldbuilding) and Senior Designer Jeremy Craig (system design and user experience).  We asked if there was any chance at all to have a PVE campaign in the game, and Chu replied that they were focused on the PVP shooter aspects of the game but intended to jam as much story content into that as possible. When asked how they intend to accomplish this, Chu answered that they were using small details such as posters in the gamespaces, character dialogue.  He added outside of the game itself, they’re publishing a graphic novel and have been posting things online to explore the backstories of various characters such as Soldier:76.  Some new skins will also be available, and Chu said that when they decided to create skins for the Origins edition, that was the perfect time to cram more story in just by their very appearances. 

We next turned to the support characters and how they’re rarely ending up as the top characters of a game.  Craig acknowledged that it was a 1.0 iteration but that they wanted characters who healed or folks like Symmetra to rise to the top as well.  He added that they were looking at ways to ensure that their internal scores were properly reflected versus other players’ contributions.

In terms of matchmaking, we asked whether match lengths and the amount of time players spend in queue were good.  Craig noted that queue times were definitely impacted by the relatively tiny sample size, but they were really happy with match times.  He had no information on when more players would be invited to help with the queues but added that they planned on stress test weekends, one of which would be before the end of the year. 

Our next question involved player progression.  Craig said they had a couple of iterations and had actually yanked their latest version just days before beta went live, because it wasn’t doing what they wanted it to be.  He continued by stating that their goal with Overwatch is to have players switch out heroes, not to laser-focus on one hero all the time, and having progression would tend to cause that sort of focus they didn’t want.  He said that team composition and balance was a huge issue and players should seek to enhance their team. 

Last year, Chris Metzen set the stage for the Overwatch world, and we asked Chu how that affects current events.  He said they wanted players to wonder about some of these tidbits and question some of the things they’ve seen, with the biggest question being: is the world better off with Overwatch coming back?  We asked whether there was a gameplay reason or a lore reason why Soldier:76 was used for the tutorial experience, and Chu replied that part of it was indeed gameplay with Soldier:76 being easier to pick up and play, but added that since he was so central to the story of Overwatch, it also made sense from a lore perspective. 

Returning to the notion of progression, Craig confirmed that they love achievements but that they’re still trying to find the right idea for progression, probably going to be focusing more on player progression rather than hero progression.  When asked about the skirmish mode and whether it could give rewards, Craig said it was their means of keeping players from having to stare at a menu while they wait in queue, so it’s not something they were looking at giving rewards for.  He continued by saying that it was a great way to test unused heroes and not have to stress about the actual match. 

When it comes to esports, Craig stated that it wasn’t an ultimate goal of the game, but it was a reasonably natural fit.  He added that they have some plans in mind for esports, with a few hints of it in beta, but they’re still exploring options.  We then asked about the use of keyboard/mouse in console play, even though there will be no cross-platform gaming, but Craig could not answer whether that would be considered unfair gameplay. 

Finally, Chu said they have a few things coming out soon to help with the game’s story, but didn’t cite any specifics.


Jean Prior