Notes from the Overwatch Q&A Session with Jeff Kaplan

Jeff Kaplan took questions from Facebook to answer during a pre-launch Q&A session event. Below you’ll find the answers in written form. Highlights include the name coming from Project Titan, competitive mode is planning to come back in late June, and a clan system is definitely in the works, along with additional game modes.

You can watch the video itself on Facebook and YouTube.

How did they come up with the Overwatch name?
A: Jeff Kaplan’s team had designed the Titan project for Blizzard, prior to developing Overwatch. In the game world of Titan, a police force group known as Overwatch was present. While Titan‘s Overwatch is different than the Overwatch game’s version, it was one of the cooler aspects of Titan they wanted to borrow from.

Q: What are the plans to keep the community active for the upcoming months and years? Online games tend to die out because of lack of communication from the developers AND the players.

A: Jeff states that the communication from his team, to the community, is the same level of attention that gamers can expect post launch. Lots of forum presence, social media involvement, and a ton of developer updates that happened during the beta are expected to continue in the weeks to come after Overwatch officially launches.

Q: When is Overwatch‘s competitive mode coming, and what changes have been made since the mode’s closed beta?

A: Currently, the competitive mode is a primary focus of the Overwatch development team. It’s seen as one of the most important additions for the game’s future, as of now. Closed beta feedback was critical of some of the competitive mode design decisions made by the team. The first big content update for Overwatch will be competitive mode. Jeff made no promises on an exact date, but he stated that towards the end of June was when he wanted to see the mode make its way in. They already have a working version of it internally. One month season lengths were seen as too short by the community, and they aim to adjust that length to about three months.

Q: Will there be a solo-campaign in Overwatch or it’s sequel? There are people who are captivated in the world that’s being created here, but not too interested in multiplayer games.

A: Jeff states Blizzard has a passion for story telling. Starcraft, Diablo, and World of Warcraft are all examples of this in action. There’s a lot of passion in the studio for doing single-player content, and in the case of Overwatch it would most likely end up being cooperative based campaigns. But for the near future, the team is more focused on releasing the game and adding on to what’s already offered as is.

Q: How is the lore going to be handled post-launch? Will it be ongoing and change over time?

A: They were heavily involved in Overwatch content pre-launch, and are expected to continue in the months to come. The animated shorts will have more seasons, for example. Other lore related content includes an upcoming Overwatch graphic novel – “First Strike”. The team wants to do more comics moving forward. But alongside that, they’re exploring ways to include more lore content in the Overwatch game itself.

Q: What different type of game modes can we expect in the future?

A: Game modes are one of the most entertaining things for the developers to work on. Their set-up allows easy prototyping of different game modes to possibly add to Overwatch. Jeff outlines three different ways game modes can be approached. The first is straightforward game modes in themselves, that would be added to quickplay. The second way is centered around ideas that “can’t stand on their own,” but have potential as a weekly brawl type of mode. The third focus of game mode development is within the maps themselves. Can they add new elements to make the map different?

Q: How does the team balance different skill levels? A strong FPS player vs average gamer can make a huge difference.

A: Jeff acknowledges there’s a difficulty when it comes to skill level balance. Some people stick to one level of consistent skill level, but others progressively go from a new player to a knowledgeable and experienced gamer that knows how to counter properly. Jeff says there’s a “triangular balance” approach. Player feedback (community and social media), which they check against the team’s personal positions, and finally looking at the game’s statistics. Balance changes come as a result of analyzing all three of those aspects.

Q: Will Blizzard balance PC and Console versions differently?
A: They agree that consoles and PC versions need to be separately looked at in regards to balance. There’s a clear distinction between mouse and keyboard, compared to the PS4 and Xbox One controller set-up. They bring up Symmetra’s turrets as a specific example of how balance is different between the two ways of play. PC has no aim assist, but console versions have that. The team considers that a “tricky” balancing point.

Q: Will we see clans and guilds in Overwatch?

A: Citing Diablo III and World of Warcraft as strong examples to go by when it comes to guild systems, and Jeff thinks clans are something that could enhance the “social fabric” of Overwatch. CEO Michael Morhaime himself thinks that social features are the thing that keeps communities strongly together over time. The idea of clans is being looked into for Overwatch, they have ideas on how to make it work.

Q: What were the hardest things to get right when developing Overwatch?

A: FPS fans are very particular on what they like. Jeff sees the thought of “this game feels like a great shooter” as being important to the success of Overwatch‘s design. They want to get the basics right, the things people only tend to notice when they’re done wrong in a game. Being respectful to the genre is one of the hardest things to get right, according to Jeff.