Overwatch

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This article is about the game. For the titular organization, see Overwatch (group).
Overwatch
Origins Edition.jpg

Developer
Blizzard Entertainment
Team 4[1]
Publisher
Blizzard Entertainment
Release date
May 24, 2016
Platforms
Xbox One, Playstation 4, Windows

Overwatch is a multiplayer team-based first-person shooter developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. It was released on May 24, 2016, for Windows, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.[2]

The game is available for both physical and digital purchase. There are two special editions, Origins Edition and Collector's Edition.[3]

As of January 2017, the game has over 25 million registered players.[4]

Story[edit | edit source]

The world could always use more heroes.

Overwatch takes place on a near-future Earth, some time in the mid 2070s.[5] Some thirty years before, robots turned against humanity in what became known as the Omnic Crisis. This eventually led to the formation of an elite strike team, who finally brought an end to the war. This team was the beginning of Overwatch, an international task force which tried to maintain global stability for two decades, until corruption tore it apart. Though Overwatch was disbanded, new crises are looming, and the world still needs heroes.

Overwatch's story is revealed through supplementary material, such as cinematic shorts, comics, and news articles. Interactions between characters and certain details on maps also help flesh out the setting and its inhabitants. Eventually, Overwatch's lore is planned to be on par with Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft.[6]

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Overwatch is an objective-based game, where two teams of six players compete. Servers are hosted by Blizzard. There are five modes of play: Quick Play, Competitive Play, vs AI, Weekly Brawl, and Custom Games, as well as a practice range and tutorial. There is a leveling system which gives user portraits and loot boxes.

There are currently 22 heroes and 13 maps, with more in development. All heroes and maps will be added at no extra cost.[7]

Beta[edit | edit source]

Main article: Overwatch beta

During development, Overwatch had a closed beta, which began on October 27, 2015.[8][9]

Two weeks before its release, an open beta was held from May 5 to 9.[10]

Development[edit | edit source]

The Project Titan logo

Overwatch started development in Summer 2013, as development on Titan was winding down.[1] Titan, a next-generation MMO that Team 4 was in charge of, was publicly cancelled in September 2014,[11] with work having begun in 2007 with the intent of developing a successor to World of Warcraft.[12] Team 4's confidence was shaken, and many members of the team were transferred, leaving only a core group to brainstorm what Blizzard's next game would be.[13] Specifically, at the time of its cancelation, 140 people were working on Titan. After it was shut down, 80 were permanantly assigned to other projects at Blizzard, and 20 more were temporarily relocated to other teams for anywhere from six months to two years. The remaining staff were given six weeks to come up with a new direction for the project.[14] The six weeks were divided into one block of four weeks, the other a block of two weeks. The first four weeks were pitching ideas for an MMO in one of the pre-existing Blizzard universes, the next two were on developing a new IP MMO. It was in the latter phase that the concept of Overwatch emerged, effectively as a side-project during the brainstorm session.

While some character concepts from Titan found their way into Overwatch, Overwatch was built from scratch.[15][16] The team looked to Hearthstone for inspiration on making a smaller, self-contained game.

From the beginning, Team 4 worked closely with the cinematic department on character design.[17] The Temple of Anubis was the game's first milestone, in the phase of development Jeff Kaplan has called "finding the fun." The initial goal was to have one complete map, complete with level design and environmental art. Pharah, Widowmaker, Tracer, and Reaper were the first heroes play-tested. This was in March, 2014.[18]

A map editor may be released in the future. However, as of September 2016, there are no plans to do so, as the game is built on a new engine for Blizzard.[19]

Setting[edit | edit source]

Conception[edit | edit source]

When work on Overwatch began, it was decided that the game had to take place in a new setting, and one would be inviting for players.[15] Chris Metzen had specifically sought to create a superhero universe for years prior to the game.[20] There was a desire to set the game on Earth, as up to this point, Blizzard's primary universes had been in fantasy and sci-fi settings far removed from the modern day/setting. The developers looked at how other games were treating Earth for inspiration. One sub-genre that was avoided was post-apocalypse—according to Jeff Kaplan, "there wasn't a lot of breathing space" in the genre in order to "make a statement." Similarly, realistic settings were avoided,[12] as the developers wanted to move away from FPS settings of the past decade, which were predominantly modern military or near future.[21] The decision was made to go back to the "world worth fighting for" concept that had been present in Titan, which would have also taken place on Earth and expressed this theme.[12] When designing the game, Blizzard wanted the world presented to be as fantastical as possible while still being relatable to modern-day Earth.[17]

They wanted the setting of Overwatch to be a mix of the "dark and gritty," while also being "a world of color and sound and light." It was intended to be a setting that players would want to keep coming back to and be invested in,[22]

Worldbuilding[edit | edit source]

Although it was known that Overwatch would focus on multiplayer, it was also decided to embark in worldbuilding. The first reason was that this would follow in the footsteps of the Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft settings, all of which had detailed universes. The second reason was to not impose limits on the nature of the universe. By engaging in worldbuilding, there would be material for other projects to draw off (the game's animated shorts are a result of this). Likewise, if a separate Overwatch game was made, the developers could draw off pre-existing material.[18]

It was decided that the setting shouldn't be binary, as, among other reasons, Warcraft had been defined by the Alliance-Horde dichotomy.[20] Effort was made to distinguish it from Warcraft, which has a more ominous atmosphere (in the words of the developers, "oppressiveness causes fatigue").[23]

Events such as the Omnic Crisis were made up as the lore was developed rather than being pre-planned. It was decided to have the game's setting post-both the Omnic Crisis and the golden age that followed, in order to leave it open ended, and allow creation of new heroes that weren't part of Overwatch, but were inspired by it.[20] Unlike the Warcraft and StarCraft universes, the team wanted the world building to be done in a minimalistic way, kept at the same level as the characters, rather than world building being done for its own sake.[20]

Aesthetics[edit | edit source]

Inspiration was taken from World of Warcraft in regards to the game's color variation. A number of zones in WoW rely on color (among other things) to convey mood, and are thus distinguishable. Overwatch follows this philosophy.[12]

The cast was designed to reflect the "real" earth, where people aren't all one race, athletes aren't always lean and youthful, and people aren't just stereotypes based on their ethnicity.[24]

The team aimed for the game's art style to remain "Blizzardy", approachable with exaggerated proportions and an emphasis on color, while still pushing its visuals forward.[25]

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

During development, the developers experimented with team sizes, trying large teams like 8v8 and 12v12, as well as small teams like 3v3 and 4v4. Both had problems: Either 6v6 was decided to be the sweet spot, in order to make every player feel important, but not to the extent that blame could be easily assigned.[22]

There were concerns that players not being able to see their own hero would run counter to Overwatch's theme as a character-based game. A large amount of time was spent with the voice actors to cultivate the characters' personalities to offset this.[26]

When designing the game's maps, the editors of Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty were looked at, to get a sense of map design, and how it could be applied.[27]

Progression Systems[edit | edit source]

Overwatch went through two progression systems while in development before settling on the current system. It was decided that the progression system should not be a focus of the game.

The first system featured a talent system that let players customize their heroes mechanically, where leveling up a hero would unlock new abilities for them. However, with Overwatch's need for fast reaction speeds and the ability to switch heroes mid-match, having so many iterations of a single hero was deemed too confusing. Additionally, a player's power increasing as more time was invested seemed like a poor fit with the competitive nature of the game.

The second system was more in line with the current system, rewarding players with cosmetics. Each hero had a level, and the more a player leveled up, the more cosmetic options would be unlocked for that hero. The unintended result of this system was that players were discouraged from switching between heroes because they wanted to level up, which negatively affected team composition.[28]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 2015-05-27, BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Origins Panel Transcript, p5, Blizzplanet.
  2. 2016-05-23, The Future Is Now – Overwatch Is Live!, Play Overwatch.
  3. Page listing editions of Overwatch, Play Overwatch.
  4. 2017-01-26, The world needs heroes, and over 25 MILLION have answered the call!. Twitter, accessed on 2017-01-27
  5. "The game takes place around 60 years in the future. The Omnic Crisis was about 25 years before that. (Give or take a few years.)" Michael Chu, Overwatch Forums.
  6. 2015-03-06, PAX East 2015 Blizzard Panel | Blizzplanet (1/2). YouTube, accessed on 2015-03-20
  7. 2015-12-07, Developer Update | Popular Community Topics, Youtube.
  8. 2015-10-15, Overwatch Beta Coming Soon, Play Overwatch.
  9. 2015-10-27, Overwatch Closed Beta Now Live, Play Overwatch.
  10. 2016-05-01, Play Overwatch® FREE May 5–9 During the Open Beta, Play Overwatch.
  11. 2014-09-24, Blizzard cancels its next-gen MMO Titan after seven years, Polygon.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 2017-02-23, D.I.C.E Summit 2017 | Overwatch | Jeff Caplan (Stream with chat). YouTube, accessed on 2017-03-07
  13. 2016-04-21, The Story of Overwatch: The Fall of Titan, Youtube.
  14. 2017-02-22, DICE 2017: BLIZZARD DETAILS THE ROAD FROM TITAN TO OVERWATCH. IGN, accessed on 2017-02-23
  15. 15.0 15.1 2015-03-20, Overwatch: How Blizzard turned its biggest failure into its next great hope. Polygon, accessed on 2015-03-21
  16. Possible concept art from Titan. The "Jumper" has what looks like Tracer's chronal accelerator. (How it was found.). Imgur and Reddit.
  17. 17.0 17.1 2015-05-27, BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Origins Panel Transcript, p3. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2015-05-29
  18. 18.0 18.1 Game Informer #81: Designing Overwatch: From Titan to Torbjörn
  19. 2016-09-21, Jeff Kaplan on Overwatch Map Editor & Custom Games Matchmaking System. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2016-10-04
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 2015-12-10, How Blizzard is making up Overwatch's story as it goes. PC Gamer, accessed on 2015-12-24
  21. 2016-04-22, The Story of Overwatch: Return of the 90s Shooter. YouTube, accessed on 2016-09-08
  22. 22.0 22.1 2014-11-24, BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Unveiled Panel Transcript, p2. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2015-03-06
  23. 2017-02-22, DICE Summit 2017: Jeff Kaplan Overwatch Opening Keynote. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2017-03-05
  24. 2016-09-17, Overwatch: A World Fans Built. IGN, accessed on 2016-09-18
  25. 2015-05-27, BlizzCon 2014 – Overwatch Origins Panel Transcript, p2, Blizzplanet.
  26. 2015-09-29, Overwatch Could Be Blizzard's Next Warcraft, Kotaku.
  27. 2016-04-22, The Story of Overwatch: Return of the 90s Shooter. YouTube, accessed on 2016-09-08
  28. 2015-12-16, Developer Update | Evolution of Progression | Overwatch, Youtube.
  29. 2015-10-16, Overwatch Pre-Beta Livestream Recap. Overpwn, accessed on 2015-10-17
  30. 2016-11-06, BlizzCon 2016: Did Blizzard Subtly Tease Overwatch Animated TV Series?. Blizzplanet, accessed on 2016-11-16

External Links[edit | edit source]