First up is Moira, an ex-Blackwatch scientist and geneticist who has allied with the evil organization Talon to further her weird science. On a lighter note, the Overwatch team also announced Blizzard World, a new map set in a fictional theme park that's dedicated to all things Blizzard.
I sat down with Overwatch lead writer Michael Chu and technical artist Hak Lee to talk about the new hero and map, and maybe find out weird little lore tidbits. Namely: what are the Overwatch heroes' favorite Blizzard games?
Congratulations on launching another new character and new map.
Hak Lee: Thank you.
It's been a little over a year since Overwatch first came out. What are some of the highlights that you've come to learn from the community in terms of what they like about the story or lore?
Michael Chu: I'd say the main thing is it seems like [fans] definitely want more. That's great because for us when we add something [new], to have people so interested in everything is great.
And it's kind of funny. Moira is the [first] hero where I've forgotten what number she is. I used to joke that at some point in my life I'd forget how old I was [laughs] and people start asking you [and you say,] "Ahhh, I've got to think about it." I think we just hit the point where I forgot the hero numbers. But it's amazing that whatever number we're on now people are still excited and want to play and find out more.
Okay, let's let's talk about Moira for a bit. So she's an evil scientist.
MC: I don't know if we should say "evil."
She's a scientist?
HL: She is, like, very calculated.
MC: She has a looser sense of morality than most people.
HL: She puts science and knowledge before humanity.
Okay, but she was never a part of the old Overwatch team. She was a member of Blackwatch.
MC: So technically she's within the Overwatch umbrella. But the idea is that she was working for Blackwatch and people didn't know. Like people in Blackwatch knew, but [Gabriel Reyes a.k.a. Reaper] didn't allow that information to bubble up because he knew that it would cause trouble at some point.
It comes out though. Because obviously [Moira] had some interactions with Mercy, and so they kept her kept quiet for a while and then I think there was some point where [Overwatch was] like, "Oh, you hired her?"
So there's a little history between between her and everyone's favorite doctor?
MC: Of course. You know, they're both scientists. They've clearly researched similar things. I think that as a person who's so interested in science, Moira would clearly have a relationship with some of these other scientists in Overwatch.
Let's talk about her design for a bit. I caught the design panel where you and the other developers were showing off some of Moira's concept designs, but aside from a few gadget changes, her overall design was relatively unchanged. I mean, she did have tentacles at one point.
HL: That's true. We have so many different ideations of the sketches at that point. And I think the look she has now—with a black, dark outfit and a lot of science gadgets—I think that explains her characteristics well. I think that's why we [chose] that design.
She's got a very androgynous look. Twitter already started comparing her to David Bowie, but then you all showed off that Glam alt-costume, which feels like a direct callout. Was Bowie an influence on the character?
MC: Actually one of the things that I think about a lot is that [Moira] has like that Mage feeling.
HL: Yeah like with the long sleeves.
MC: I think we even talked about it in development. I mean we have Symmetra and she had some Mage-y characteristic. But with [Moira] I was feeling like that this is probably as close to like a Warlock or something.
You can see we play into it because she's got all the hand motions and she's just throwing balls of energy around. I think another thing was like we really wanted a character that had a feeling of otherworldliness. That was important to me. Like [even from her] voice, I want to hear this voice and just be like, "Oh she sounds super cool."
And Arnold Tsang, our assistant art director, he did that first drawing of Moira and that's pretty much [it].
HL: Yeah. Everyone [was] really happy and excited about that design... except me! [laughs] I was really happy about the design. But at the same time I was watching the sleeve [and] as a technical artist I have to solve that issue and make the sleeve look like real cloth.
So you mentioned her voice and she's Irish, but I don't think I heard an accent in the trailer?
MC: She has actually a specifically Dublin Irish accent. The voice actress is Genevieve O'Reilly and she has a very placed accent. Actually in the game she does Irish Gaelic lines too, so her [Ultimate] will be—I mean I can't do it [laughs] but she actually has quite a few.
We tried really hard to get the authenticity there. When we found Genevieve, the fact that she had this amazing voice and that she also was Irish was, like, amazing.
All right let's move on to Blizzard World, the new map. I was sitting in the opening ceremony when it was announced and I was actually confused for a moment. I didn't make the connection that this was an Overwatch map until the end. What inspired you to design something kind of meta like this?
HL: I think we've been thinking about this kind of Blizzard World, [an] imaginary theme park, even before Overwatch. We all love Blizzard games and [we're] always talking about this theme park, [an] imaginary place [where] all the cool stuff from each game [is placed] together.
MC: Yeah it's funny because, [and] I love telling this story, [Blizzard World] had existed as like a fun idea when we were talking about levels. It was two years ago at BlizzCon, [when] someone asked about like, "Hey would you consider doing like a Blizzard theme park?"
And I remember it so clearly. Chris Metzen, Creative Director, leans over to me and is like, "Do you think we should tell them about Blizzard World?" And I'm like, "No, it's not time Chris." So he's like "Okay."
But then he's like, "Are you sure? Maybe we should tell them?" and I'm like, "I don't think it's the time." And he's like "Okay, no, you're right."
So he's like, "Okay guys so, not promising anything. But we have this idea of Blizzard World."
So this also came from the Overwatch panel but I remember you saying that in Blizzard World, Overwatch itself isn't a property. There is no Overwatch game.
MC: Yes, Blizzard is not the developer of the Overwatch game.
But StarCraft, WarCraft, and other Blizzard games do exist in the Overwatch world.
Then do you know what the Overwatch heroes' favorite Blizzard games are in-universe?
MC: [Laughs] Okay, so I never—okay, I think that Reinhardt is a gigantic World of WarCraft fan, because who knows in 60 years what he's playing. But I think he is a giant WarCraft fan. I imagine that he loves paladins. Like he is down with the paladin characters so I think that's that is definitely a thing.
Who else might have some? You know I think D.VA actually talks about playing StarCraft with her dad.
MC: So I think she's probably played some of those retro games a little bit every once in awhile.
Dustin Blackwell (our Blizzard PR liaison): Wasn't she a professional StarCraft player?
MC: No, but she's played it before.
HL: Maybe Tracer can be a good StarCraft player because she can type really fast.
MC: Or like Orisa is just like plug [into StarCraft] and it's like Deep Mind.
Like one of those ultra advanced AI gaming computers. Thank you so much for your time.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.