Dec 21 2016 - 9:37 pm

Blizzard teases new maps and heroes for Overwatch in 2017

Chat wheel customization is coming, too
Overwatch Staff Reporter
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Image via Blizzard

Overwatch developer Blizzard Entertainment is already working on new heroes and maps it's hoping to release in the new year.

Oasis—the new map currently in the game's public test realm—will likely be the first piece of content to be released in 2017, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan said in a developer update posted to YouTube. Following that, the developer intends to introduce plenty of smaller quality of life features, along with more seasonal events.

Some of the seasonal events will be expected from Blizzard, Kaplan said, but fans will certainly be surprised by others—although he wouldn't say what they were.

As for the smaller features, Blizzard is looking to add customization options to Overwatch's in-game communication wheel, which currently allows players access to one emote, one voice line, and a few call outs to friendly heroes. ("I need healing," in particular, is one you're probably all familiar with.)

Coming sometime in 2017, players will be able to customize their control scheme allowing access to up to four emotes and four voice lines, as well as custom bindings for triggering them. Additionally, Blizzard will add a spray wheel adding access to up to four sprays, giving players options in regards to situational sprays. Players will still only be allowed one spray out in the environment at a time, however.


Kaplan also mentioned the community's request for forcing teams out of group chat and into team chat; but for those of you who've been clamoring for it, it's not going to happen. Instead, Blizzard will add a new button—much like the "stay as group" icon—to encourage players to move over to team chat.

New heroes and new maps are also being worked on by Blizzard, though Kaplan was hesitant to make any promises as to when they'll be released. However, he is hopeful that some will come in 2017.

"I want to disclaimer that we work on more content than we release because we prototype stuff, and it fails or we don't like it and we want to go back to the drawing board," Kaplan said.

There is, however, one "very promising hero" that's moving through the developer's art pipeline—Kaplan explains there's "high confidence" in the hero, meaning it's less likely to get scrapped. The same goes for maps. Blizzard is currently playing with maps beyond Oasis, one of which is a traditional game mode that the developer has "a pretty good level of confidence" in. Other more experimental maps are being worked on, too.

Spectator features in these maps, and the current maps, are something Blizzard is also looking to improve, especially as the Overwatch League draws closer. The developer has been in constant communication with the folks that have run Overwatch tournaments, compiling a list of features that would make life easier on the production end.

Lastly, Overwatch's custom game functionality will get an overhaul, with Blizzard introducing a server browser to allow players to search for and join custom games. It's a feature that's prevalent in other competitive shooter games, and something fans have been begging Blizzard for, Kaplan said. The first iteration of the server browser will be introduced in early 2017, with an expanded version coming later in the year.

2017 is looking to be a promising year for Overwatch as a game and as an esport. Blizzard is demonstrating its ability to work with, and for, the community, which is something that is likely to keep the game alive for years to come.

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