BlizzCon 2018 Overwatch: What’s Next Panel Transcript

Cinematics and Character Creation

Jason: Awesome. Thanks Michael. So yeah, again my name is Jason Hill. I’m part of story and franchise development, and for those of you who don’t know what story and franchise development is within Blizzard, we’re the department that does the novels, and the comic books, and the statues.

 

We also do the 2D pieces like the Origins piece, some of the in-game cinematics; but we also do the the higher pre-rendered cinematics like the episodes that you saw today with McCree. So this is story and franchise development.

So let us actually talk about kind of how this character came to be, and how she grew; and really, it started way back in the beforetime and the long, long ago when I was approached and said: “Hey, do you want to direct a Western?

 

At which point you say “yes,” because who doesn’t want to direct a Western? And at that point you also know “Hey, you know what? That means McCree.” So “Yes please where do I sign?” But what really kind of intrigued me about this piece when we first started to talk about (before there was a script, or anything like that), it’s… was McCree; and the train was going to crash; and there’s a payload at the end; and the Deadlock Gang.

That’s kind of all we knew at that point; and so what really appealed to me was the fact that we could explore the Deadlock Gang, and for when I’m watching a TV show, or a movie, or reading a comic, or whatever like that; and there is a group of individuals there — whether they are bounty hunters, or pirates, or cowboys, or outlaws — if they’re all very unique, you want to know their backstory, you want to know more about them, but we may not be able to tell the entire story.

 

And so that was really what I wanted to get out of the Deadlock Gang is just hopefully everybody, when you guys watch it, you go: “I just wanted more about them.” In the perfect world, that would have been great; because at that point didn’t have an idea that she was going to be a hero, we had not even had those conversations.

So I actually had one of our storyboard artists Mio– I did the pitch, I’m like a big omnic bodyguard. We’ve seen the normal Omnics kind of human-shaped, we’ve seen the Bastion-style ones who we haven’t seen anything else — like “They should be able to come in all shapes and sizes;” and the leader… should just be the female with this big brim hat, and this this long duster, and a lever-action rifle, and then we should just throw out other members of the gang we can explore.

And so Mio went off and drew and this is probably the first image of Ashe ever drawn; and when he brought it to me I’m like “Yes, that’s it, that’s it. This invoked the feeling that I wanted.

 

There was this woman like kind of front and center, it was like I’m not going to mess with her, she looks powerful, she’s definitely– she has got a commanding presence, got this giant Omnic at the back that has a mustache. Come on! We cannot go wrong with that.

And so the other members of the gang, we kind of explored a lot of different things with, and we can definitely talk about that; but then, as we started the storyboard process, this is more about McCree was just going to face off against the gang.

And as we started the storyboard process a little bit more, it really became clear that Ashe kept coming to the foreground super-fast. She was very compelling even in the storyboards, like we want to know more about her. Who is she? What does she sound like? What is she saying? What is– no, I can’t wait to see this character animated.

So we knew there was something kind of special about her; and so after all sort of works were done, and we had a script, then it was time to actually start doing some concepts for her. We had the basic concept of the storyboard, but we definitely needed to flesh it out more for the 3D models for the cinematic, and eventually for the gameplay.

 

So JungAh Lee, she’s one of our concept artists, she’s phenomenal. This is actually from the very, very, very first designs of Ashe; and they are awesome. They came in, we were like “Wow, that was exactly what we said: big hat, hair, rifle, all the stuff;” but she’s not an Overwatch character.

 

She didn’t have that like special sauce. It wasn’t something about her that were like yes, that’s just around the gate, that’s perfect; and the other thing is the more we look at her we were like: “She’s kind of has more of a gothic look and you would expect her to be hunting vampires or werewolves, or something like that”.

It wasn’t quite right. Again, super cool, not probably right; but there was one bigger problem when we started to kind of step back and do the squint test where you’re kind of like.. errgh, how does this look? And we realized– shh… so you guys see it? I don’t have to spell it.

 

Okay. Silhouette and color palette were a little too similar to Reaper, and for both in Cinematic and in the game, we definitely want a very clear character read. As you run through the frame, as you are like scoping in on them, you want to know who you are going after, or who you are seeing super-fast.

So at this point we knew we had to continue to explore the space, we had to continue to try more design. So I asked JungAh Lee, I’m like “just go… just run with it” and this is the first one that she came back with.

Again, super cool. Really just like this is a great design, but the same problem with Reaper. It was a little too much like McCree… same color palette, cowboy boots. We did not want a female McCree. We wanted a character who could stand on her own, have her own identity, and just be really strong. So yes, let’s keep pushing that a little bit.

Next one a little too punk rock, cool; but definitely a little punk rock there. This third one, I love this… like this– I’m going to put this in design in my back-pocket, and maybe it’ll show up later in something else; but it’s super, but the problem was that the keyword is super. She looks like a superhero here, not the leader of a gang. We want to get her back to kind of that biker gang vibe.

And so we were like “Okay, kind of let’s steer the ship back.” I’ll start going back to the the hatter, the black hat, and stuff like that. This is the one of the next ones getting closer, a little too youthful, didn’t have kind of that commanding presence that we’re kind of looking for. Super cool, but we’re starting to see pieces of Ashe there.

 

Another one kind of a little steampunk, kinda mobsters in the 20s-30s vibe in there. Again super, super cool; but what we kind of realized as we started to look at all of these, we were able to pull different parts from them; and ultimately, we arrived here… and this was the approved design for Ashe.

 

And she had a strong silhouette, and everybody is like “Yes. She’s awesome. This is cool. This is great. What a great-looking character.” We did have to make one final modification. Ashe needed a haircut for… largely for production reasons in both the game and in the cinematics.

Simulating big flowing hair, like we had in the concepts, it’s really, really difficult. So we were like “let’s experiment some haircuts.” So we gave her this kind of offset bob, no pun intended… no pun intended; but we found that it actually gave her a better silhouette.

 

It gives her a sharper, edgier look and made her even cooler. So like we really couldn’t go wrong.

Michael: What I like most about Ashe’s design, what you and JungAh really did well was just mixing that biker theme with the Western kind of cowboy theme; and I really think you guys really married those elements together, and it really shows during the final–

Jason: That was something that you know in talking with all the gentleman here, we just didn’t want another cowgirl; but also at the same time just a biker wasn’t enough. It’s like what’s that special thing?… and I feel like we really hit the nail on the head. She’s fantastic.

NEXT: B.O.B.

BlizzCon 2018 Overwatch: What's Next panel transcript
1. Story2. Cinematics3. B.O.B.4. Abilities
5. Concept Art6. Skins

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