Olivia R. August 1, 2020
Game director Jeff Kaplan and some other Overwatch developers took part in a very open and honest AMA on Reddit yesterday.
With Overwatch 2 and its new heroes on fans' minds, one Overwatch player decided to ask developers what the "biggest current priority in terms of game design." Kaplan decided to answer that question candidly, telling them that their "immediate priority" is balancing the current meta.
"The most immediate priority is a balance patch aimed at the double shield meta," Kaplan said. "This will show up on the experimental card in the next few weeks."
While Kaplan stated there are no hero reworks in the near future, it seems there will definitely be some changes to Orisa and Sigma, or to heroes that counter them, ready to test sometime in August.
Overwatch has long been plagued by dominating metas that homogenize the entire competitive scene. The double barrier meta is the latest example of this, thanks to the addition of the game's newest tank hero, Sigma. This has rendered many DPS heroes useless, something made even more frustrating during 2-2-2 role lock.
While Genji has been changing up the Overwatch League meta, competitive players have still been continuously frustrated with double barrier's domination of the Overwatch League. It's unclear how Blizzard will go about handling this change and Kaplan hasn't said anything further on the topic.
Overwatch lore, cancelled heroes discussed in developer AMA
Double barrier wasn't the only thing discussed during the tell-all Reddit AMA. A lot of fans were curious about the lore and the Overwatch universe. One fan asked if they planned to expand the Overwatch world to other mediums other than gaming and comics. This wouldn't be too much of a stretch, since Overwatch published a book called "Hero of Numbani" last year.
"We are very excited to explore the Overwatch universe in a number of mediums. Nothing to announce at this time but we would like this very much," Kaplan said.
According to Kaplan, there's "many years" of lore planned for the Overwatch universe, making it even more likely for them to expand into other mediums. He told fans that there are individual character arcs and "far-reaching plot lines" that they are "excited" to explore.
Another topic that was discussed was heroes that didn't actually come to pass in Overwatch. Lead hero designer Geoff Goodman also noted that there are many hero concepts that wound up getting axed, as well as abilities.
"Oftentimes we'll end up using an older cut idea on a new concept. For example, Orisa's first ult was an idea where she could 'teleport away' and then 'drop' anywhere else on the map via drop pod or something similar. This was back when she was extremely early and we didn't have a character yet, so I was sort of imaging a character more like Dutch from Predator, hence the mini-gun," Goodman revealed.
He noted that it didn't end up really working for gameplay, but the concept was later used for Doomfist's ultimate.
A technical director at Overwatch, John Lafleur, also told fans that the hardest ability to implement was Echo's ultimate, where she duplicates another hero.
"Her ability to duplicate an opposing hero brought a ton of challenges and bugs. In most areas of Overwatch, our ideas for what we would like to do are ever-expanding in complexity. But we need to make it work with assumptions that we made years ago. Sometimes they don't mesh well," Lafleur said.
Symmetra's wall ultimate was another difficult ability to implement, said Goodman. He admitted the wall was hard to have a "giant effect cutting through your entire screen." They had to try a lot of different visual effects to make the wall work while still not crashing players' frame rate.
"We ended up getting to a good place, but there was still a lingering fear about 6v6 Symmtras, all using ults at the same time. This is why there is a concession in place where each team is only allowed one wall at a time. If a second Symm on your team uses an ult while yours is still running, yours will be removed when her's is created," Goodman said.
Another common issue is the community's overall disdain for the tank role. One player asked the developers their thoughts on this issue.
Goodman said that they've been talking about tanks a lot recently. He explained that they've been pondering what it would be like if they made all "main tanks" become "off tanks" instead. This would make tanks like Reinhardt less about protection and give them a chance to also do some brawling.
"Barriers would be less prevalent, damage overall would be higher, which is kind of scary potentially. We've already been experimenting on this front and so far it's been pretty fun, though the game does feel significantly different. Players have to play the map angles a lot more aggressively as you can't just rely on your tank and barrier for cover," Goodman noted.
One Overwatch fan also asked how the developers felt if a hero is labeled "bad." Kaplan stated that he just assumes that's the way gamers communicate.
"As a culture, meaning gamers, we use a lot of 'mean' language. Broken, lazy, cancer, etc. I've just learned to filter that type of communication and focus on whether or not there is an issue. I can get sensitive and hurt...or I can just, you know, do my job," Kaplan said.
When asked if Kaplan would be a playable hero in Overwatch 2, he admitted that he does envision himself as a grappling character.