Overwatch team working on new heroes and maps “daily” along with other features

By Stephany Nunneley, Wednesday, 15 June 2016 22:02 GMT

New Overwatch heroes and maps are being worked on “daily,” according to Blizzard, and there are various improvements and other features in the works. Might want to grab a drink before powering through this post, as there is quite a bit to take in.

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Overwatch team working on new heroes and maps “daily” along with other features

According to game director Jeff Kaplan, some of the heroes are far along, while the team is “just getting started” on others. There are also prototype heroes which may or may not be released.

A release schedule for the new heroes isn’t being discussed at present, because the team doesn’t want to “set expectations and then have something come up,” and suddenly be “backing out on a promise never really made.”

One of the maps being worked on is “officially” in in the production pipeline, and has passed through enough playtesting that Blizzard feels “confident in it.” The art department is currently working on the map as the development continues to playtest.

“We have a few other maps that are in prototype and playtest phases right now,” said Kaplan. “Some of them will become real maps and some of them will be totally scrapped, so I can’t really commit on those. For example, we tested a map yesterday that was amazing yet a total disaster at the same time.

“So maps and heroes are being worked on daily. I wish I had dates, but whatever date I gave would change and then you’d all be mad at me. The good news is, like we’ve said before, for Overwatch, we won’t be charging for those maps or heroes. Those will just be live updates that will come in a patch for free.”

Blizzard’s main focus for Overwatch right now is releasing Competitive Play which is planned for the end June. But there are more content patches coming throughout the rest of the year and into early 2017.

“Our big focus right now is Competitive Play,” said Kaplan. “We did a big push on this feature in beta and got some really amazing feedback. We’re playtesting it multiple times a day.

“We’re also looking into/debating putting up a Public Test Realm for this feature so that we can test it in a larger environment before putting it live. Even when it goes live, I anticipate our first few seasons will require iteration on the feature. I anticipate Competitive Play will require a few season’s worth of iteration before we’re in the place we want to be.”

Other features Blizzard has its eye on are improvements to the “spectator/broadcast/observer functionality” in the game. There isn’t an immediate timeframe for spectator updates, but it part of the daily conversation at the studio.

“We have a lot we want to do with Highlights and the PoTG as well. We would like to improve those features and there are a lot of cool ideas we want to see happen,” Kaplan continued.

Brawls and Custom Games are also constantly being discussed, and there are some “really cool features” the team feels it hasn’t fully scratched the surface with yet.

“We want to do a lot more with Brawls and there are some seriously awesome ideas from the team as well as the community that we want to get to,” he said. “For Custom Games, we want to improve overall functionality but figure out a way for players to play more Custom Games with their friends or with strangers.

“We’re researching what a server browser-type feature would look like in Overwatch. This is a ton of work so would not be on the immediate horizon. But in our dream world, you could play Custom Games with 11 other people with fun rules in play and gain EXP while doing it.”

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There is more that the team wants to do with the progression system in the long term such as more customization options like a random option for Poses, and possibly the ability to equip more than one spray or voice line. Such things are minor and far off, but at least Blizzard is looking into it.

Kaplan there’s “an endless list of social feature improvements” the team wants to make. One change coming soon with Competitive Play, is the ability to instigate social actions on another player any time the player has mouse control.

There are quite a few tech initiatives being worked on; constant adjustments being made to the matchmaking system; and a never ending amount of bug fixes are always on the table.

One of the fixes currently in the works for console players is the inability to leave a game as a group.

“This needs to be fixed,” said Kaplan. “Also, if a friend gets recommended to your group you get a dialogue telling you to press Y/N – which doesn’t exist on a console controller. So this needs to be fixed.

“There are and will always be things like this that need to be fixed. So that’s something we’re always addressing. There is a large anti-cheat and anti-hack effort going on, but I can’t really discuss that. Obviously, there is a lot more going on, stuff I am forgetting to mention as well as some surprises.

“I can’t stress this enough: some of this stuff might not happen. The reason developers usually don’t give insight like this is because if something changes or doesn’t happen, players get very angry at us. I would like to change that dynamic but we need to do that together.

“We’ll share more information with you guys so long as you understand none of this is a promise and things do change throughout the course of development. So when we see a ‘HOW COME WE DIDN’T GET THE HIGHLY PROMISED RANDOM POSE OPTION’ rage post two years from now, please feel free to quote this paragraph in the reply.”

That was a bit of a long read, but it should give you an idea of what the team is working, considering, and taking feedback on.

Overwatch was released earlier this month on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and has 10 million registered players.

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