BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Origins Panel Transcript

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Tsang: One of the biggest challenges we had on developing the Overwatch art style was just trying to stay within Blizzard’s visual legacy while pushing this game and its visuals to a new generation; how do we make something that still feels Blizzard but it’s something fresh? I think Blizzard’s exaggerated proportions, dynamic epic heroes — all that stuff, those are some of the biggest things for us and it was really exciting working with these guys.

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Kaplan: Awesome! You guys are mentioning the cinematic and I heard Chris talking a lot about we are kind of blazing into new territory, obviously that cinematic that we debuted yesterday in the opening was a real reach for Blizzard, a real sort of statement of something different; I’d love to hear your thoughts Jeff on kinda what got us to this place? I’ll put you on the spot in front of everybody right here.

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Chamberlain: No problem, when we first started talking to the game team about what they wanted to do (and like I said we knew it was kind of a blank slate for us and it was pretty exciting), as a studio we are always trying to push as much story as we can; and we really thought this might be a great opportunity for that.

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Funny thing is we get into the peak-off meeting (I guess you would call it) and Jeff here tells us everything about the World and we start following on these ideas that are kind of within our normal wheel-house, which is like (excuse me) mighty and epic; and just heavy and kick-ass and then Arn comes in and he was “Hey, I think we should center it around some kids” and of course my first reaction is… I mean it’s a great idea, but my first reaction was like: “ugh?”

That’s just not the way I think or the way I thought for many years at Blizzard; and somehow I can remember someone said: “Do you like The Goonies?”

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Chamberlain: I was like: “Yeah, I love The Goonies. It’s a great movie.” “Well do you like Stand by Me, or E.T.?” and I was like: “Yeah, I love these movies.”

So then, OK I was onboard. The funny thing is– oh!… So we started talking about all these different ideas and we got to this idea of these kids being in this museum and so on and so forth; so I took those ideas back to the game team and we started developing the storyboards you see behind us and the same thing happened.

I said: “We are going to do kids in a museum,” and somebody was like: “Kids?” I said: “Well, do you like Goonies?”… and they are like: “Yeah, we love Goonies,” and so that was the thing that got everybody out of their normal thought-process and really made it exciting for us to work on something a little bit different than we normally do.

I really feel like everybody eventually got onboard with the idea and I think it really shows in the final product. So if you guys don’t mind, just giving a hand to the cinematics team that is out in the crowd; I’m sure they are out there too.

(Crowd applauds)

Kaplan: Wooh! Yea, it was pretty amazing. I think a lot of us found it very emotional and inspiring the way that we ran it; for me one thing that was really cool is that character art that watching the older brother actually changing his world outlook, I thought it was really cool and then of course I feel like it was that moment where Tracer is speaking to all of us the viewers; she’s not just talking to the kids at the end so some really powerful moments.

Chamberlain: Yes, it’s funny actually that moment when Tracer was talking to the kid was supposed to be the moment; the moment that was really heavy at the end and then it turns out the relationship between the two kids ended up overpowering that I thought, so I think the moment for me was when the two brothers became brothers again; that was really cool at the end.

Kaplan: Awesome! So earlier Chris was touching on this a little bit and I think Arnold mentioned it as well. We are constantly talking about trying to break new ground and move on.

We love and revere all the Blizzard franchises: Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft. They are so important to us. So it’s a little nerve-racking coming out and saying we are going to put a game that we hope someday earns its spot on the convention’s center hall, out front, at future BlizzCons — next to those mega ones; and I talked a little bit about it at the panel yesterday about what we are going to do at the gameplay to make this a very Blizzard type of game but I’d love to hear from you guys about the universe, how we are going to make it a Blizzard universe and talk about the Blizzard art style and what’s important about that?

Petras: So on the art side as Arn mentioned earlier too is that when we are developing this look, there’s such a rich heritage to the Blizzard art style that exaggerates silhouettes and the color in the vibrant world; the approachability.

So for Overwatch we took all those things into mind but even above all that the basis of the art direction is really readability and how it enhances the gameplay and the experience of the players so the art in Overwatch we really want to have it vibrant and strong silhouettes.

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We still want to be edgy as well with textures and little cracks in the rocks and everything but the handcrafted feeling is what we talked about; but Readability is the key.

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You’ll notice a lot in the artwork it isn’t overdone, it doesn’t have a lot of detail in its readability, can you tell where a character should go? When Arn draws a character, it’s really clear where the character is aiming.

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So readability is really the cornerstone of the style and Chris just mentioned it too about really that handcrafted feeling in the Blizzard work where the textures, you can the breast strokes on the metals and things like that. So that on the art direction side, those are the really big points that are sort of the pillars of the art.

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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