In a developer update released today, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan outlined the near future of the game. Most what's planned is to be expected, with new heroes, new maps, and more seasonal events coming to the game as Blizzard completes them. According to Kaplan, Blizzard always has more content in development than players will actually ever see.
"We're working on multiple new heroes. I always like to give the disclaimer that we tend to work on more content than we release. Because we prototype stuff, and sometimes it fails or we don't like it and we go back to the drawing board," explained Kaplan.
Kaplan used Genji as an example of prototypes that may or may not reach live servers. Genji's abilities were original a part of Hanzo, before being split out into their own hero. Kaplan said Genji was in development for "almost a year and a half" before Blizzard finally released him. There is apparently one hero further along than the others though.
"We have one hero that I think is very promising. In fact, we've started to move it through our art pipeline which means we have a higher level of confidence in that than some of our other heroes. But we have some really fun prototypes also. So, I hope those see the light of day in 2017 and you guys get to get your hands on them."
Kaplan also said that Blizzard is also overflowing with content ideas for new maps and game modes. Like the heroes, the developer is playing with experimental maps and modes before ultimately adding that content to the game. One new map, Oasis, is on track for a release early in the New Year.
"We have other maps beyond Oasis that we're experimenting with," he said. "And like the heroes, they're at different stages. So, some are further along in the pipeline. We have one map that we have a pretty good level of confidence in that's a traditional game mode. That one is looking good, and we're feeling pretty good about that. And then we have a bunch of experimental maps that we're having a lot of fun with. I don't know if they'll see the light of day or not, but we are trying new things with the maps."
Blizzard seems to have found a hit with Seasonal events. There is the current Winter Wonderland, but there were also the previous Summer Games and Halloween events. During these events, Blizzard offers themed lootboxes and limited-time costumes, sprays, logos, and more. The costumes are a hit with the community.
"These are one of the things that not only have you guys responded to, but the team loves working on," said Kaplan. "We have some cool ideas for some events you might guess are coming and some events that you don't have any idea we're working on. There will be some surprises there as well."
During these events, costumes are the big win, but Kaplan says Blizzard is adding customization options that will make sprays, emotes, and voice lines more desirable. The communication wheel will soon have room for up to four emotes and four voice lines. There will also be a spray wheel for multiple sprays.
"If you've been unlocking voice lines and emotes and wanted to play one after the other, you'll soon be able to do that," said Kaplan. "Likewise, for sprays, we'll also have the ability to have a spray wheel come up. You can still only have one spray out in the environment at one time. We think by adding this customization, even if it's a small thing, it'll make a lot of voice lines, sprays and emotes feel more valuable. I don't know about you guys, but I tend to have my favorite spray on a hero and once I have that locked in, I'm not as excited about future sprays. But I think about a world where I care about four sprays and they become more interesting to me."
Finally, Overwatch recently introduced Sombra to the game, but Blizzard has been slow to tweak and balance the character. According to Kaplan, that's a response to how Blizzard handled Ana.
"It's really interesting watching you guys play Ana and Sombra," he said. "Early on, there was a perception of Ana being kinda weak. I think it was taking people a little while to master her. We made a few small tweaks to her balance and next thing you know she was overpowered. Now we're balancing her down."
"A lot of people were asking about Sombra changes, the reason we're being so slow it because we think there's that mastery curve happening again. We're starting to see a lot of high-level Sombra play. We're being slow and patient so we don't have Ana version 2.0."
Expect Blizzard to continue pumping new content into OVerwatch across the entirety of 2017.
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