BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Unveiled Panel Transcript

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Metzen: Killer. So one thing we learned is that certain zones in WoW like Shadowmoon Valley or Netherstorm– They are really beautiful; I love the vision of those places. But after you spend hours and hours in those locations you start kind of to quirking out a little bit.

It becomes really oppressive. It becomes a little too heavy. We are really taking those lessons so hard overtime that if an area is too intense or too dark it’s not a space you want to stay in.

The world of Overwatch is — it’s dark point, stark gritty areas. You will see a few of them as we go. We really wanted to build a future worth fighting for. A world of colour and sound and light, and just kind of thematically really stirring place that you want to keep coming back to.

And then, ultimately, you might even have an emotional connection to protect. You want to be invested in. I think that also goes for the characters that ultimately we are building for this game.

It’s all about heroes, and often we want to get really exotic with the hero ideas and how about a robot monk from Tibet? How about a super intelligent ape that totally wigs out and goes mutant with the lightning gun from the moon who invents all of our best stuff?

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We want to get pretty weird with characters, but at the end of the day, it is that balance between keeping them very accessible. Sometimes the accessibility is their immediate look: “Ohh, I think I get it. I think I understand what that person does.”

It could be a mix of the sounds, the character expression and everything; but ultimately, the accessibility is one of our most deeply held values as we shape this thing.

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Kaplan: Yep, and we carried it over into the gameplay. Something that we focused a lot on and I hope you guys experience today or tomorrow is– these non-twitch options that we have. It’s funny we were rehearsing this earlier for the team and we have a very diverse team of developers that are working on this game. I noticed like this sort of age moment where somebody is like: “Do they notice that twitch doesn’t mean streaming?” … and… I don’t know.

(Audience laughs)

Kaplan: What we talk about when we are discussing things like non-twitch options is giving you other things to do besides put crosshairs over targets. We know not everybody is great at that, and that’s what drives people out of a lot of the other shooters.

So okay when it’s not on your team…

(Audience laughs)

Metzen: He’s going to pay for that on Monday.

Kaplan: …but we want to welcome everybody into this universe in a lot of different ways; and one of the ways is making sure that we have playstyles represented. I have always noticed that there is people in WoW, who always: “I always want to play healer, doesn’t matter which healer it is.. “Druid,” “Priest,” whatever, yeah.

It’s awesome. So why can’t we give you that in our game? Why can’t we have things like that? So you can see Mercy is up there; and Mercy travels the battlefield like– sure she can do a little bit of damage if she needs to. But really, the right way to play Mercy is following your team around, healing them and timing your abilities to the best of your ability.

It’s more about being in the right place at the right time. We have also got Torbjörn. Hopefully, you guys like playing building classes, because that is what Torbjörn is. He builds a turret. This guy is awesome. He is got a lot of character.

I wait to hear his voice and listen to him as you play. But playing Torbjörn is not about how skilled are you with a rifle and you know, can you take somebody out at 100 meters across the battlefield.

Torbjörn is really about: “I know the map really well, and I know that I want to lock down a certain area and I’m making very strategic decisions that are going to help my team without me having to be the best, you know like… maybe I’m not in the WoW arena finals right now today.”

I had another engagement, but otherwise I would have been there. The other thing that we wanted to do because we felt we had a lot of players on the team who at first were nervous about a shooter, you know: “OMG! I just die and die over and over again. I never get anyone killed or ever help the team out.”

Well, we want to get the game less lethal. So this is kind of tricky to talk about because every time that we have mentioned it somebody would be talking around Blizzard: “Hey, we are making a shooter and I’m really excited about it”– because as we are going to try and make it less lethal and so they sit down and play the game and the first time they die they would be like: “Jeff, you said the game was less lethal and I just died” (giggles). So, you will die in the game. It’s designed that that is a part of the game. We are just hoping that you die less frequently than in current, modern military shooters.

Those games are great, we love them, we play a ton of them; and they are tuned very deliberately to deliver that realism and experience. Well, we have this fantasy universe that we are creating here, and we want to have more up time so players can get in there and rumble in fire fights back and forth, maybe seek out Mercy to get a heal. Or Zenyatta is going to toss his healing orb on you. Get out of the battle a little bit.

Metzen: The thinking is with more uptime you will be able to actually interact more, with all these really unique heroes with this special abilities. You are actually able to get things off and actually come to the aid of your teammates. You just get into a more interesting tactical situation. Then just the madness of just bullets flying everywhere you feel like you have no context. So, longer up time more survivability means more interaction with the people you are playing with.

Kaplan: Yeah, and Chris really hit the nail on the head when you said the team-play comment, because the other way that we are hoping to make this super approachable and very much a Blizzard shooter is by focusing on that 6v6 team-play.

So we spent a lot of time looking into which of the team size can be used for this game and we tried larger team sizes: 8v8, 12v12– that sort of thing.

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What we found on the team was the more we play in these larger teams sizes the less important we felt or the more inconsequential everything felt. It was kind of chaotic, so, let’s say Chris and I were on an opposing teams and we were having this cool skirmish.

He is Reaper and I’m Tracer and: “Oh, he is going to win.” Well, all of a sudden like this freight train of four other players will come from the side and just kind of ruin the whole thing. We felt like that wasn’t a really good team size. The other thing we talked a lot about was trying smaller team sizes, maybe 4v4, 3v3 or something like that; but our worry there and the thing that we didn’t like about those team sizes were– you were actually too important to your team. You were so critical that maybe you were having an off day and suddenly your team hated you and they were yelling at you and: “OMG.”

So we really found that 6v6 was sort of a magical number for us and we would love your feedback on it over this weekend. We would love to hear what you guys have to say; but at 6v6 we felt like if you were a really strong dynamic player and you are doing a lot of awesome things for your team, you could totally change the tide of battle.

You could win it for your team, but it was also a team size where if you were having that off-day, and just kind of fumbling, falling out of the side of the world doing those things that tend to happen sometimes to all of us.

You weren’t so important that the team was mad at you. You could still win with someone who was not really performing well on your team. So that is how we got to that team size. The other thing that we want to focus the game around when it came to that team-play to achieve that approachability was that every single map is objective focus. So you will see some attack defend maps, we have two of those here today:Hanamura (Japan) and the Temple of Anubis.

And then we also have the hybrid map that we call King’s Row, which the first point you are doing an attack defend; and then for the second point you are escorting an EMP into this robot city. So everything that you are doing in the game is with a team focus. There is no deathmatch in Overwatch. Overwatch does not work with deathmatch. It isn’t a game about how many kills can I get as an individual. It is a game about how great is our team together, when we sorta bond together and try to accomplish something.

Metzen: Actually, I love that point Jeff, when we set out to build a shooter, we thought a lot about who are we? We are Blizzard, and I think people expect certain things from us. We have a long legacy of developing multiplayer games; and it kind of came down to like is it really possible to build a shooter that doesn’t feel cynical, that doesn’t feel cruel, or that doesn’t feel nasty. Can you build one that really promotes teamwork and relationship and having fun with your friends and not getting killed with a thrown knife from half way across the map as soon as you jump into the match. So you know. We are trying to build this thing in such a way that, it feels evocative, fun and inclusive.

Kaplan: I think this next slide says it all.

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Metzen: Ultimately, it is about heroes. I love this about Blizzard for all of our kind of fictional game worlds, and all that stuff. We have always been fortunate to have developed heroes that people seem to care about. We want Overwatch to absolutely uphold that tradition. We want to fill it with characters that we hope people will care about and have a lot of fun playing and just resonate with.

Kaplan: I love when Tracer in the announced trailer say the world could always use more heroes when we were talking about that line. Obviously she is talking to kids but we felt like that was us talking to you guys inviting you into the world.

Metzen: It is us talking to ourselves. Twenty-something years we have been doing this, and building video games and the world can often look like a damn mess. You know– we are a part of the solution or we are a part of the problem; and so I love the idea that we push ourselves to just embrace that heroic ideal throughout our fiction, through our design and this game really wants to embody that and be a little more hopeful I think a little more heroic.

Kaplan: Why don’t you tell them about Tracer?

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Metzen: Based on the intro [that totally just happened]. Based on the trailer you saw the introduction of Tracer, she is super fun, she is a character that we are crazily in love with. She just got this great personality. We kind of want to use her right now as an illustration of how we approach these characters for Overwatch.

This weekend I believe we brought twelve playable characters this weekend. There are many many more to come. But for purposes of the illustration we just talked about, Tracer. We want to create characters that have a very strong personality and a very strong backstory, so you may understand like why they do what they do, and how they get their abilities, technologies and kind of what make them tick. I want to play a little video the team put together for this panel. Just to give you a little insight into Tracer.

Tracer: So, you want to hear my story. It all started a few years ago. Overwatch was looking for a hotshot pilot to test their next-generation teleporting fighter: The Slipstream.

Enter: Lena Oxton (call sign: “Tracer”). [giggles] That’s me! It was the opportunity I had trained for my whole life. But on my first flight, the teleportion matrix malfunctioned; and I disappeared.

I was missing for months; and I didn’t know where or when I had gone. By the time Overwatch find me, I was little more than a ghost. The doctors called my condition chronal disassociation.

I faded in and out of existence. Disappearing for hours and days at a time. And even when I was there, I couldn’t touch anything.

But my friend Winston would not give up. He got at it day and night until he invented the chronal harness that keeps me anchored to the present.

I was myself again. Even better, he turned my condition into something great. I had control of my own time, and I could speed it up or slow it down at will.

My career as a pilot was over, but my life as an Overwatch agent had begun.

(Beep, beep, beep)

Sounds like someone needs me. But don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time for stories later. (giggles) Chase!

Metzen: So that give you at least a very brief look at Lena Oxton “Tracer,” and in that way we are working on the kind of stories and mythologies behind all of these characters. To me this is the funniest part of the whole process. We will share more of that with all of the characters as we go. I mean, not this panel today, but as we go.

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Kaplan: We wanted to give you the backstory of every hero on the panel, but we have twelve heroes. So we would spend most of the panel doing that. One thing that is pretty cool is that if you guys go to “playOverwatch.com”, there are backstories of all the heroes already. You can also watch the training videos that are out there on the showfloor.

Using Tracer as an example so you could get an idea of what all the heroes of Overwatch will be like. We wanted to talk about the gameplay a little bit.

We were really excited to design these heroes. We have a great lead designer who is handling the hero design his name is Geoff Goodman. He is the guy who designed things like Onyxia, C’thun and the Lich King… like one of our greatest designers at Blizzard.

He is the guy leading the charge on the hero design, and he has an awesome philosophy when it comes to these heroes. Where he wants to deliver abilities that are extremely simple in and of themselves and really fun to do in and of themselves and super useful in the maps. But when you put them together you can use them in really interesting deep ways to create great combinations.

I’m going to walk you through what is on tracer so you can get an idea what in Overwatch you’re going to do. So the most important thing about Tracer is her ability called “blink”. Blink is a short-range teleport that moves in whatever direction you are currently moving. So, you’re moving forward or you’re strafing to the side, you’re going backwards. Tracer will blink instantly 10 meters in that direction.

Well, the ability is regulated by a very simple resource system we call “Energy.” If you’re playing her she has got three little ticks near her radical; and those indicate how much energy she has. So what is fun about that, is that you can chose to blink very cautiously every once in a while, or if you want to throw three blinks out in a heartbeat and blink 30 meters across the map, have about it, that is a lot of fun to do.

It is funny that one of the instant pieces of feedback we are going to get as people are playing out there is how comes there isn’t “Sprint” on shift. We feel like there is a lot of space in our Overwatch character to explore a lot of different abilities.

Sprint just being one of them that eventually maybe we would get to; but we just don’t want to put sprint on everyone. That allows us to have room for things like Blink on Tracer.

So check that out today and see how she moves. The other thing that she has going on is a very simple set of weapons. They are called the “pulse pistols”. They are basically machine pistols that are hugely affected at short-range because they have got a really high-rate of fire, but a very small clip. So it goes pretty quickly.

They are almost like a shotgun blast that is how quickly she can unload her guns. They are decent at medium range. You can still do some damage there; and they are pretty mediocre to useless at long-range; but that is how she is designed. Use those blinks, get in there and do damage.

Her other ability that she is got going on is called “recall.” This ability sounds confusing at first, but when you really get into it, it does and when you really play her it is extremely simple. What recall does is it takes Tracer back in time to wherever she was 3 seconds ago, and what is super awesome about that is that it also restores her health pool to wherever it was three seconds ago.

So if Tracer gets in there and takes some damage, she will press her recall button and comes out. She will be fine right back where she was. It is almost like getting a free heal if you do it within three seconds. The other cool thing about that is that it absolutely confuses the daylight out of anybody you are fighting.

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Metzen: Which is kool.

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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.

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