The game development process is often a mystery, only shown to the public through the filter of public relations and marketing.
Earlier today, the game director for Overwatch, Jeff Kaplan, offered an uncharacteristic look into that realm when a player asked a simple question on the Battle.net forum: Where is Overwatch going?
The answer, apparently, is a lot of places. Kaplan offered a 1500 plus word account of everything his development team is working on. The items range from concrete additions that should hit the game soon to stuff on the drawing table, with the caveat that no one is allowed to “gotcha!” him in the future if some of it doesn’t actually make it into the game.
We’ve got the summary.
“Our big focus right now is competitive play”
That’s no surprise considering Blizzard has already indicated that a competitive queue mode will return to the game some time this month. Kaplan says they’ve gone through several iterations on the concept they released in the beta, so it will be interesting to see what shape it takes when it goes live, but he notes even then it will still be a work in progress.
The dev team is also considering launching a Public Test Realm to test the feature before launch.
New Heroes and new maps
Some new heroes are “very far along,” as Kaplan puts it, while some are now may never leave the testing phase.
One new map is in the official production pipeline, meaning that once the art team builds it out and more playtesting ensures gameplay remains the same after the art, it could go live. Other maps, including one that’s “very unique,” are in the testing phases, and depending on how the gameplay goes could go into the game eventually.
That’s no surprise. It was inevitable Blizzard would add to the content already in-game. The most important point is that, as Blizzard stated when it first announced Overwatch, the new heroes and maps will be free for everyone who owns the game. The way Blizzard introduced that new content was a topic of much speculation, but Kaplan made it sound like heroes and maps will reach players simply through patching the game.
Spectator, Play of the Game, Highlights
Improvements on spectator mode are in the works, and Blizzard is using feedback from the plethora of tournaments to get it right. Updates to spectator mode may improve Play of the Game and the upcoming Highlights feature, which would allow players to save clips of their best gameplay moments automatically in-game. But Kaplan notes these phases are in the planning phase.
Brawls, custom games, and a server browser
Lots of new Brawl ideas, both from the dev team and fans, are on the drawing board. But more interesting is the possibility of a server browser for Custom Games. The idea would be to let strangers join in on interesting and wacky game modes created using the massive amount of in-game settings, possibly even allowing players to gain experience while playing those modes.
Progression system improvements
The team wants to give players more customization options, like, for example allowing players to equip more than one spray or voice line, but that’s more “long term.” Expect more content like skins and avatars to hit the game as they are created, though.
The team plans to continually add social features as they are developed. In this month’s patch for Competitive Play, players will now be able to initiate social functions whenever they can right-click on a player’s name, like during Hero Select, which is currently not possible.
The server update rate was a big topic of discussion during the beta, and Blizzard responded to feedback by implementing a 60 tic rate mode for Custom Games. The problem was it was too buggy to actually use. A recent patch fixed some of those issues, and Blizzard plans to continue updating that technology, potentially building it out further. There’s also more architecture changes on the way, and ongoing updates to matchmaking,
Kaplan specifically noted some console bugs, like an issue with leaving games disbanding your party. There’s also a dialogue with a Y/N query, but a console controller has no way to input a “yes” or a “no.”
Another hot topic during the later stages of the beta, anti-cheat is one issue Blizzard has been largely silent on throughout the Overwatch development process. Kaplan says there’s a “large anti-cheat and anti-hack effort” underway, but won’t give any details about it. Blizzard doesn’t want potential hackers to have any info.
Overwatch is already a hit with 10 million people playing the game since its release two weeks ago. The development team seems committed to keeping those people playing. While Kaplan didn’t offer much in the way of concrete future updates, insight into just what his development team is working on should give fans a bit more confidence that Overwatch‘s future is in good hands.