BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Unveiled Panel Transcript

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Kaplan: We got more. It was important to us when trying to create that team dynamic, that we have hero roles; but I wanted to talk about these roles a little bit before getting into the specifics.

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It is important to note that a lot of you guys play World Warcraft (so you know what I’m talking about). World Warcraft has very rigid roles when it comes to wanting to do a dungeon or a raid, its often referred to as a holy trinity: you need a tank, a healer and DPS.

The roles in Overwatch are very loosely defined at best so when I talk about the offense role or the defense role, really these characters are interchangeable and can play in other roles.

The roles kind of exist and will more help you as a player as we identify what type of character or what type of playerstyle I’m in or if you are not sure and let say you’re in an attack/defend map; and it is your job to defend, then you will pick one of defense guys. It might help you out.

So anyways lets us talk about the offense roles a little bit. These guys are usually really high mobility. Usually great damage dealers. They are out there scouting. They are the tip of the spear. They are usually the first ones to get to team objectives. They are not always the best ones to take the team objectives on their own, because they don’t usually have high survivability, but they like to get there fast.

Some of the most amazing movement abilities like– just look at the four that are behind me. You got Tracer (I already talked about her blink), Pharah has got a rocket suit, and she can fly around the map. Reaper has an ability called “shadow walk” where he can teleport all over the map (it’s a lot of fun). It’s more of an out-of-combat teleport. It’s more like that tactical, you know, they are not looking over there, and ambush.

Then Hanzo– you saw in the gameplay movie earlier, he can run up walls. So if he sees a cool perch on the ledge or wherever, he can actually run and get right up there.

These guys just evolve. We play a lot of Overwatch around Blizzard, and there is a lot of Overwatch playing hot and just staying late just to play the game because we have so much fun doing it. We have actually started doing tournament just on the team which is a lot of fun.

One thing that we noticed is a sort of team strategy that is revolving is that the offense characters provided this role that we came to know as the harrass, and what that mean is, you have a team trying to do something you know very strategically together, you know Reinhardt and a bunch of his teammates are moving in with him, like sort of his very organized group because you are going to do pressive objectives. When you get somebody like Tracer or Reaper in behind that group and it is very easy for them to get back there. They start bleeding the enemy out.

Metzen: It’s the great cohesion of the push, right?

Kaplan: Yea, it’s like the sickly gazelle syndrome. So that’s the offense guys.

On defense, these are the guys who like to lock things down. They like control chokepoints. Control the objectives and prevent the objectives from being taken. Now they can set up some static defences so if you take somebody like Bastion or Torbjörn — both of them can have-in in place a defensive area; but you will find that they are willing to do that near a chokepoint or near the objective itself; because the game has such high mobility there are so many ways to move around the map that if you try to lock down an area that is not a chokepoint or not an objective someone else is just going to zip pass you real quickly.

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You also have somebody like Widowmaker — in this role, she is the sniper from afar or she has this grappling hook that lets her to get anywhere she wants on the map a really high fun sniper perched all over the place.

And like I said before, these guys are equally effective if you want to play them on offense on that King’s Row map that we mentioned earlier, where you have that EMP moving through the map one of the coolest things we have seen is when a Torbjörn character tries to build the turret on top of the EMP (which you can do), and then it moves through the map, and the team is affectionately nicknamed that the killdozer.

Metzen: Bad news.

Kaplan: And try to– Be nice to your fellow BlizzCon attendees. You don’t have to be the guy who builds the killdozer here at BlizzCon. Or at least like just build it for a little bit then take it down.

Metzen: Yea, right. That’s going to be (???).

Kaplan: [50,000 Killdozers later… yea]

Metzen: Why don’t you call the game: KILLDOZER.

Kaplan: KILLDOZER! Then we have the tanks, and these guys are awesome. The tanks that we brought with us to the show today are Reinhardt and Winston. They have really high survivability so not only all their hit point pool pretty large but they both also have armor which– armor mitigates damage by 50%.

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So that is a nice boost for them, give them high survivability. These are the guys that you want to follow in. If you see Reinhardt, he has got that big energy shield up. Well, you as a teammate can shoot through that shield while enemy bullets are not going to come through as Reinhardt is going to absorb those. Well, you see Reinheardt pushing the objectives often.

Winston can throw a shield down. This is actually a shield generator that forms a bubble and the teammates can shoot from inside the bubble out but not the other way around.

The cool part about Winston is that he doesn’t have to stick around for it. He can throw it down on Torbjörn– who is guarding a point, and then leap off somewhere on the map.

These guys are also really good at disrupting things. So when Winston goes into his primal rage he knocks people around, so sometimes you need someone to disrupt the existing defences, so that is what the tanks are all about.

Lastly, is the support role, and this is probably the role that I’m most excited about for Overwatch, because I feel like this is a role that is going to speak to a lot of people who are not normally into the shooting genre or is sort of turned off by it.

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So the support role– they do a lot of things. They are not just relegated to being healers. I mean, sure we have some that can do healing. Mercy can do healing, Zenyatta can do healing; but they have other things that they do as well.

Mercy has a choice. She is either has her healing-stream engaged on somebody or it turns into a damage boost. So it’s a really fun mini-game when you are playing Mercy, deciding am I playing healing or am I boosting my team’s damage?

Zenyatta can also debuff the enemy. So he can put the orb of discord on the enemy, and when that orb is on them, they take a lot of extra damage (and those stack by the way, so be careful).

Also, there is utility options. So Symmetra is one of the funnest characters to play. She can build little mini-turrets. She can have up to six of them out at any time, and she can stick them to the walls, ceilings, all over the place. But what is really fun about Symmetra she can get a teleporter out there, and then her entire team can teleport to her location.

What is interesting is that when you introduce people to Overwatch and you talk about these characters– and you see someone like Reaper or Reinhardt or Widowmaker, they are like oh those guys must be devastating. Those must be the heroes that Overwatch is really all about. They are probably the ones winning all the matches getting all the glory and what we found on the team, is that perfectly timed Mercy’s resurrection (which is her ultimate ability to bring the entire team back to life), or the perfectly timed Symmetra’s teleporter in a location that the enemy doesn’t notice close to one of the objectives… those are usually actually the turning points in the game.

The support roles get to be the hero often in our game, which I think is pretty awesome.

But we also have a lot of maps and game modes that come into play as well. So something we are trying to do with the maps was build these areas is the areas in the playgrounds for the heroes; and we know that this is primarily a game about heroes; and we had a lot of brainstorming sessions about what game modes do we want in this game, and a lot them will get very convoluted and complex.

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Oh, you first you get the fusel and then you have to bring it to the widget, and then once there is a widget, you bring it to the other fusel.

Things that sound really kool but we found when all is said and done you weren’t paying attention to what the heroes do. You really haven’t seen a shooter game with this many heroes in it at once; and you guys will realize that it takes some time to learn. Who is that guy coming out at me, and what do they do? We want you to be focused on “Ok, it is Tracer and I need to focus on what she is doing,” and be less concerned about, overly complex maps and modes.

So we are perfectly fine when the game launches only having a few maps and game modes that really work with the game rather than trying to force the issue of “Oh something good about this game is dozens and dozens of different modes.”

But let’s talk a little bit about the maps and let’s talk a little bit about these locations and what they mean for the world of Overwatch.

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Metzen: Well, it is interesting because when we were developing the hooks behind a lot of our maps, like Jeff said, a lot of onus put on keeping the map gameplaying-flow very simple and very learnable. But we love the opportunity that it presented to kind of paint more of the pallets of the world. For instance, one of our first maps is the Template of Anubis, which is set again in our future fictionalized Earth; and the (???) at the base of this huge technological pyramid. That is (some believe) creepy AI experiments are being performed within this thing that might spill out and endanger the world.

So we thought it would be a super fun environment to run around in and blast each other to smithereens; and it was a super fun area to kind of conceptualize, because we have these really good strong world hooks that inform the kind of flow, the space and the vibe of the space and this is a really-really interesting way of approach developing the gameplay spaces.

Hanamura is one of our very favourite locations. Hanamura is really fun because it is actually the hometown (when you see the map)… part of it is this suburban downtown area. Towards the northern extremity of the map, there is this really beautiful temple grounds, in this ancient castle; and it is actually the hometown of the character: Hanzo– who left home many years ago in disgrace traveling the world to regain his honor.

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Just to say that we put a lot of time thinking about the world locations and kind of how each of the characters relates to certain of these places. They talk a lot about who the characters are. I want to take the moment– we didn’t call it out in the powerpoint that we were working of; but a lot of you may be wondering like well– “Is there a narrative flow to the gameplay?”

I guess we didn’t call that out yet. I do want to say is that Overwatch has a lot of story. I mean, well, not a metric ton. It has just enough story, but ultimately the game — 6v6, matches the narrative aspect of Overwatch is not inherent in the gameplay. It is probably obvious by now.

We are actually sorta trying a new experiment with Overwatch where the flow of the world and the storytelling that links these characters together, and kinda pushes the whole franchise forward overtime, we are actually going to try that outside of the game. So that is very different for us.

You know– Warcraft and other big games we have done over time. It is all kinda 1-to-1. And we felt this time around that trying to over-storify some of these gameplay spaces, just didn’t serve either science. So it’s kind of like the intro you guys saw earlier– our hope is that we get to do more stuff like that and ultimately push the world forward and really let you see the power of these characters as they interact.

Kaplan: Kool. Don’t you want to talk about King’s Row a little bit?

Metzen: Alright. I do indeed. So King’s Row is really fun. It is set again in a fictional version of jolly-old England. The interesting thing about King’s Row is that, thirty years ago during the OMNIC CRISIS.

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Kings Row had its own population of Omnics and interestingly they built their city beneath the streets of King’s Row. So what is really fun about this map is that there is this whole population that kind of lives beneath the ground and certain dastardly people have decided: “We are going to send them this EMP down there to take out all those robots.”

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Kaplan: Really mean.

Metzen: It’s very kool.

Kaplan: Super mean.

Metzen: I don’t know who did that. Attacking team. So if you guys play like shame on you. This weekend.

Kaplan: You can only be standing on the defending team.

Metzen: Exactly. 6v6. Yea. So it is really fun. You can see that some of the textures of the world and story are very evident in the maps.

Kaplan: So we spent a lot of time now talking about the game, we have gone into the heroes, we have gone into the abilities, we have got into the roles, maps and the modes. We try to tell you guys as much as possible; but what we realize is that there is no better way for you to get an understanding of the game than to see a match played; or better yet, when you guys go and play yourselves, that is really what we are very excited for.

However for this panel we want to have a moment where you kinda saw it all come together. So what is interesting is that we really want to see a match that we can showcast– you know, the first ever inaugural showcast of Overwatch; but then we were sitting around with about seventy of us who actually knew about the game; so I guess we have to be the pro gamers. I personally think we are pretty badass and super great, so you are going to get to see Blizzard developers playing a competitive match of Overwatch, showcast, so there are a couple of cavias that I want to through out there. One: we are not programmers; and two: our showcasters are also not pros.

We had the awesome Jeffery Brill and Tim Ford (who are programmers on our team) showcasting. They are pretty excited to do that for you guys today at Blizzcon. And then also, one just minor housekeeping note: we really encourage that when you play Overwatch to switch heroes often. Overwatch is not a game where you have to lock into a hero at the beginning of the map and then you can’t swap half of them. You can swap heroes every single life that you are out there. We actually encourage players to do that, it is actually the best and right way to play the game. But for the showcast video we had 6V6, we had 12 heroes that we are showing you guys at BlizzCon, we kind of set the developers only that we everybody play one unique hero, such that you can see them all in action. So I don’t think I can put any more disclaimers or caveats on that.

Metzen: That was a total disclaimer.

Kaplan: Total disclaimer, I should now shut up and guys should now enjoy the first ever (I should call it something different) this is the World finals at Blizzcon 2014 for Overwatch.

Note: The actual shoutcast was not posted by Blizzard into the official Overwatch YouTube. This below is at least a short video gameplay you can watch if you didn’t get to watch it before.

Special thanks to Tasha for assisting with the transcript. Proofreading/editing by Medievaldragon. Corrections can be submitted here. Tweet and share this transcript, and follow us for updates: @blizzplanetcom

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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.

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