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BlizzCon Overwatch Unveiled liveblog

Alex Ziebart
11.07.14
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We finally know what's over in Hall A: Overwatch Unveiled, a panel detailing Blizzard's new team-based shooter franchise. We'll be liveblogging it right here.

Updates will be in reverse-chronological order, with newest updates at the top of the page. If you only want the latest update, you can stay near the top. If you missed the beginning of the panel, scroll to the bottom.


2:00PM And the panel is complete! Thank you for reading along, everyone. We'll be liveblogging the Warcraft movie panel as well, so keep an eye on our front page.

2:00PM Q: Would team compositions devalue particular heroes' characters? For example, why would there be two Tracers, or Tracer alongside Widowmaker?
A: They made the choice to let gameplay trump all. It may not make narrative sense, but they need to let players play what they want. Metzen says that's a reason the fiction of the world will be outside of the game. Tracer and Widowmaker won't be friends in the narrative, but friends should be able to play them together.

1:58PM Q: Again they ask, will there be voicechat in-game?
A: Kaplan says players tend to like using their own voice chat options, so they're seeking outside options for that. Players like sticking to their personal platforms.

1:57PM Q: Achievements or similar systems?
A: Not implemented right now, but they'd love to see it in Overwatch. Kaplan was a big fan of implementing WoW's achievement system.

1:56PM Q: What communication mechanism is in place during gameplay? Voice chat, etc?
A: Chat is totally disabled at BlizzCon, but there's team chat, party chat, and they're working on a way to communicate with emotes and voicework.

1:55PM Q: What about customizing skins? Is a boy Tracer or a girl Reaper possible?
A: Kaplan says that sounds like a "super killer idea." Nothing to show off, but they dig it.

1:54PM Q: With so many characters, what will stop people from being all heals, all tanks, etc?
A: Kaplan mentions the Fourbjorn and the Quinston. Four Torbjorns and five Winstons they experimented with internally. He says they find that playing too many of the same characters often results in a team that isn't viable, but their balance team keeps an eye out. "We have faith they can balance the game."

1:52PM Q: What are the system requirements? Should we go buy a new PC right now?
A: The vendors would love that, but it's too early to talk system requirements. They haven't even done system optimizations yet. Kaplan points out Blizzard tries to aim for a broad range of machines, so a brand new computer may not be necessary.

1:51PM Q: Consoles?
A: Kaplan: "That sounds awesome." All they're announcing today is a PC release, no word on any other platforms today.

1:51PM Q: Can these spells be upgraded in Overwatch like in Warcraft 3, or any customization?
A: No customization right now. They planned customization early on, but with so many heroes, keeping track of what was happening or what was coming in a match became overwhelming. With Overwatch's frenetic gameplay, too much customization resulted in people having no idea what anyone was doing.

1:49PM Q: Will there be a Brann Bronzebeard skinn for Tolbjorn?
A: That would be an awesome idea, says Kaplan.

1:48PM Q: If there are no plans for a campaign, how would they do story in gameplay?
A: Metzen says he already said there will be no story in gameplay, but they have plans for out-of-game material. Kaplan does mention that the gameworld hints at what's happening in the world through small map details and the interactions between characters. Comparisons to the throne room in Lordaeron in WoW with the blood spatter from Warcraft 3. Maps will include story details like those. Environmental storytelling.

1:46PM Q: Was this Titan? If not, how much of it was influenced by Titan?
A: Metzen says Titan was put to bed a long time ago. Titan was trying to do a lot of things. Internally, they decided to go a different way. Overwatch is very different from what they originally planned to build. There are elements to Overwatch that have some spiritual continuity. Titan was Earth-based. Ideas were used for Overwatch. But "it would be hard to explain how different they are." In short: they're pretty different, Overwatch is its own thing, but they carried over the good ideas for inspiration.

1:43PM Q: Will it be free-to-play or one time purchase?
A: Not ready to discuss the business model. Kaplan also says her and Metzen are not the people to ask about that. "Smarter men than us are figuring that out right now."

1:43PM Q: Will the characters have dialogue with one another like Heroes of the Storm and Left 4 Dead?
A: Kaplan says yes. They've worked with the voice actors on that. Their first instinct was to go 3rd-person so you could see the characters and get a feel for them, but that will come through the voicework instead. Characters will be chatty.

1:41PM Q: Story being told outside of the game. Outside of the gameplay, or outside of the game interface? Blog posts?
A: Metzen says definitely outside of the game and in different ways. Won't say much about methods. They liked the animation method of the trailers, however.

1:40PM Brief Q&A portion coming up.

1:40PM Beta has been confirmed for 2015. When in 2015? They didn't say. But Metzen did say "nearer than you think" during the opening ceremonies.

1:39PM Match has ended. It's flashy, that's for sure. Once Blizzard puts this online, I highly recommend watching it to get a feel for the game.

1:37PM Torbjorn has put a turret on top of the payload, fortifying the mobile objective. Kaplan referred to this as the "killdozer" earlier in the panel.

1:36PM Tracer's POV is being shown. She can use Recall quite frequently. Her HP is really low, but she's moving all over the place. Opponents having trouble tracking her.

1:33PM Widowmaker is wreaking havoc from a sniper's nest. She took out Hanzo, but Mercy resurrected him immediately afterwards. Very cool to see the offensive heroes moving around the map. Hanzo running up walls, etc. The gameplay seems to have a very real vertical element.

1:32PM Pharah's ultimate appears to be a rocket barrage. She flew high with her jetpack and essentially carpetbombed a portion of the map.

1:30PM It's mentioned that Symmetra's teleporter is her ultimate. Hanzo just busted out some ridiculous double dragon thing. Watching this is madness. Things are happening everywhere.

1:29PM They're playing on the Payload map mode. Reaper pulled off a 5-player kill streak, which was pretty sweet. Hopefully this match will be on YouTube after the panel.

1:25PM They're about to show a shoutcasted match. Sorry, there's no way I'm transcribing a shoutcaster on the fly! Let's see how this goes. Kaplan jokingly calls it Overwatch World Finals 2014. All developers playing.

1:22PM Another map shown. King's Row in England. Underground and aboveground city. Robots had theirs underground, humans above.

1:21PM "Is there narrative flow to the gameplay?" Metzen says Overwatch has a lot of story, but ultimately the narrative is not inherent in the gameplay. They're experimenting with having the story outside of the game altogether. Let the gameplay focus on the gameplay. Not much room for narrative in competitive matches.

1:19PM Hanamura, map set in Japan. Part of it is a suburban downtown, part of it is a temple ground. Homeland of the disgraced Hanzo. Metzen says it's a favorite of theirs.

1:18PM Temple of Anubis map art is being shown. Egypt, obviously. Again, this is a very stylized version of Earth. The Temple is based near a technological pyramid. New, not ancient.

1:17PM Maps and Game Modes slide: Exotic locations, simple objectives, encourage hero mobility, team-focused encounters. No messing around with "widgets and foozles" meaning no carrying items all over the place necessarily. Simple objectives with a focus on the heroes and hero gameplay.

1:16PM Kaplan says they've found good Support players are more often the hero of a match than the offensive heroes when making big plays.

1:15PM Hero role: Support. Heal, buff, utility. Pictured: Zenyatta, Mercy, Symmetra. May be appealing to people who don't typically play shooters. Mercy can buff or heal. Zenyatta can heal or debuff. Symmetra is the one who summons constructs.

1:14PM Winston has a Primal Rage ability that knocks people around. Tanks excellent and disrupting fortifications.

1:14PM Hero role: Tank. Protectors, high survivability, disruption, leading the charge. Winston and Reinhardt pictured. They have armor which mitigates damage by 50%. Reinhardt looks like Full Metal Alchemists's Alphonse, I say.

1:12PM Moved over to defensive. Guard locations, create shock points, establish a front. Heroes pictured are Widowmaker, Torbjorn, Bastion. Fortifying a single location won't necessarily stop an offensive, they need to keep an eye out. Turrets can be built on moving parts of the map.

1:11PM Kaplan says while playing internally, they discovered their offensive heroes are great at flanking, picking apart a strategic push by their opponents circling around and attacking from behind.

1:09PM Phara has a rocket suit, by the way. She looks badass.

1:09PM They're going to talk about hero roles now. Kaplan says WoW has very rigid roles, but the roles in Overwatch are more loosely defined. Offense and Defense. Offensive jobs listed on the slide: scout, harass, press the objective, and high damage. Offense tends to be high mobility. Pharah, Reaper, Tracer, and Hanzo are listed as offensive heroes.

1:08PM That's all of the characters they're showing off right now. Phew!

1:07PM Zenyatta: Tibetan robot monk trying to create a better society between humans and robots.

1:07PM Winston: Super-intelligent gorilla. Is definitely not X-Men's Beast.

1:06PM Widowmaker: "Was a very nice girl at one point" but is now one of the world's deadliest assassins. She's the sniper from the cinematic.

1:06PM Torbjorn: Has an umlaut over the second O. A world-famous engineer. Is totally a Warcraft dwarf regardless of what Blizzard says.

1:05PM Symmetra: "Hard light technology." She weaves light into physical objects. Turrets, teleporters.

1:05PM Reinhardt: One of the original Overwatch Strike Force members. Rocket hammer, huge armor. Like Don Quixote, he's not all there.

1:05PM Reaper: "Just a bad man." That's Metzen's description. His hellfire shotguns are feared throughout the world, causes chaos.

1:04PM Pharah: Former security office. Missed joining Overwatch. Her mom was a part of it. Overwatch fell apart by the time she got out of the academy.

1:04PM Mercy: Battlefield medic angel girl.

1:04PM Hanzo: Driven from his ninja clan years ago, seeks vengeance.

1:03PM Bastion: A robot from the crisis. Peaceloving guy but destroys things when he gets mad. Has a bird.

1:03PM Hero rundown!

1:02PM Blink appears to actually be bound to Shift, which is typically the Sprint button in shooters. Seems they're pretty confident in the lack of sprinting in Overwatch.

1:01PM Kaplan gives a gameplay example: Tracer moves up to a fortified chokepoint, tosses her bomb into the enemy ranks, then Blinks three times in a row to safety.

1:01PM Every hero has an Ultimate. "Most original, best name ever" says Kaplan. Tracer's is Pulse Bomb. It's a short-range, thrown sticky bomb. It can stick to players or the terrain. Devastating damage in a small radius.

12:59PM Blink moves Tracer ten yards forward. Recall rewinds time by three seconds -- she returns to where she was three seconds ago, her health pool returns to what it was three seconds ago, so forth. Anyone who plays a WoW mage will be familiar.

12:59PM Her Pulse Pistols are excellent at medium range, awful at long range. Small clip. Comparisons to shotguns are made.

12:58PM Tracer's abilities are: Pulse Pistols, Blink, Recal, Pulse Bomb. Tracer's resource system is Energy. She has 3 points of Energy that regenerate over time. You can save them up and blink 3 times in a row, or use it once in awhile. The game currently does not have a Sprint feature while they see how movement abilities impact gameplay.

12:56PM One of the developers handling hero design was a designer of WoW raid bosses such as C'thun and the Lich King. I missed the name, unfortunately. I'm guessing it's Daelo.

12:56PM One of her listed abilities is, in fact, called Blink. That spell seems to appear in every Blizzard game ever.

12:55PM Tracer was given an opportunity to test experimental teleportation technology. It went wrong. "Nobody knew where, or when, I went." She faded in and out of existence for hours/days at a time. Winston (the gorilla?) helped her gain control of her condition. She has limited control over space and time, explaining the way she could blink around the map in the gameplay trailer and cinematic. Totally a superhero origin story.

12:53PM They're talking about the hero Tracer from the cinematic. Using her as an example for how they approach heroes, 12 of which are playable at BlizzCon with "many more to come." Character video playing now.

12:52PM Chris Metzen has said about a thousand times now, "the game is about heroes." Current slide says clearly the game is about heroes, not classes. Again, that's in line with the MOBA approach. Tons of characters that can fit into various roles (support, carry, so forth), but aren't treated as classes exactly.

12:50PM Objective examples are payload and capture point. Slide specifically states no Deathmatch -- that's in line with Blizzard's approach in other titles. They always shy away from deathmatch.

12:49PM Overwatch is 6v6 gameplay. They experimented with other sizes, but settled on 6v6. It's small enough that one person can shine, but if you're having an off-day, you won't totally drag your team down. Success is still possible.

12:48PM Similar to Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch will be objective-driven.

12:46PM They're aware there are players who are afraid to play shooters and aimed for that less-lethal gameplay. You will still die, but hopefully less frequently than modern military shooters. "More uptime" so players, even players who aren't the best at shooters, will actually spend some time alive. More interaction.

12:44PM Kaplan talking about non-twitch gameplay options. Making sure there are playstyle represented that aren't as simple as putting the crosshairs in the right place for an instakill headshot. Characters who can do damage, but are mostly about healing or utility. Referring to the turret classes and Ms. Angel Who Has a Name I Can't Remember.

12:42PM Metzen is discussing how locations that are too dark and oppressive start to weigh on players after awhile, so while Overwatch has some dark points, it's bright and colorful. From a narrative perspective, visually a world worth saving. Game is big on having diverse, accessible heroes. Blizzard's comic book fandom is showing.

12:40PM Blizzard feels they do PVP games well and their players like their competitive PVP games, so Overwatch is another competitive game. Metzen stresses their aim for approachability.

12:39PM There's some artwork shown; Kaplan emphasizes the craziness going on. Jetpacks and lasers and madness.

12:39PM Chris Metzen: "I've been banned from doing any voices in the game."


12:37PM The hook of the story is the world is beginning to darken again and needs new heroes. Can Overwatch save the day again?

12:36PM The Overwatch strike team saved the world and became an institution. Continued adding new members over the years. However, Overwatch began to fall apart roughly 5 years before the start of the game. No one knows why.

12:35PM "If the present day of Overwatch is 60 years in the future, then 30 years before that, there was a global crisis." Rough quote. Robots went "totally crazy" and attacked cities all over the world. The nations of the world sent their best soldiers and tech to deal with the crisis. The individual nations couldn't accomplish much, but they pooled resources to form an Overwatch Strike Team.

12:33PM Metzen is talking about the world. Overwatch is set in a "highly fictionalized version of future Earth." They wanted to do something fresh vs. high sci-fi or Starcraft or high fantasy of Warcraft. Far enough in the future to be able to have flying cars and ray guns, but not so far it's TOO exotic. It's still recognizable as Earth.

12:32PM Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen have just taken to the stage. Generally discussing the Overwatch announcement.
12:27PM Just a few more minutes until we get started!

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