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Director’s Take – Retrospective from BlizzCon 2023

Director’s Take – Retrospective from BlizzCon 2023

A little event happened two weeks ago, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it… and all of you were too. BlizzCon isn't just for those who attend the show in person, it's also a time when we get to connect with fans around the world and show off more of the game than we normally do, and this year we even ran an event in-game with a playable version of our just announced hero, Mauga. I'd like to run through the show - this is partially a recap, a correction to misunderstandings around announcements we made, and a bit of a sentimental journey. If you're not into that and just want the deets on Mauga changes, skip to paragraph 3 (don’t worry, I won't mind).

Let's start with Clash. We announced our next new game mode as well as one of the maps, Hanaoka, which will be part of its debut. Watching through some of the videos that people made off of our introduction to the mode, it was clear that I talked waaaaay too long about 2CP, but it also felt like there was some confusion over match length. This has been one of the most difficult parts of the mode to solve. Traditionally 5CP game modes had edge cases where there was never a clear winner. Some games use a phase, like Sudden Death, in order to reign in the game's length. We don't want to have matches that can go this long, so we've been experimenting with a scoring system (which we alluded to at BlizzCon) as well as an alternate where the match ends after a set amount of time with the winner being decided by whoever is controlling more points on the map. We’re still iterating here, but our goal is to have a game mode that moves back and forth across the map and also enforces a clear time limit.

Let's talk Mauga! This hero is so cool. We heard so much love for his art, his over-the-top personality, and his gameplay kit. After the trial, we also heard feedback that he felt pretty weak. Our stats show him a bit on the average to weak side, with him underperforming even more at higher-skill tiers. We would like Mauga to feel strong at launch, so we'll be implementing a set of changes to his tuning at the start of Season 8. The goal will be to increase his survivability, make his damage against smaller targets a little more reliable, and reduce his damage output vs large characters, like tanks. We're still a few weeks away from launch, so it's not that useful for me to go over exact numbers, but here are the changes we're looking at so far.

  • Replace a chunk of his health with armor. We're experimenting with 150 internally.
  • Reduce the size of his head's hit volume.
  • Increase the damage reduction on Overrun. Originally it was at 30%, we're testing it at 50%. Also, this can no longer be interrupted by Hack.
  • Increase the lifesteal on Cardiac Overdrive.
  • There are quite a few changes in flight for his weapons. We're testing different spreads and firing rates when using both guns simultaneously, as well as different damage, ammo, and falloff numbers. We'll have more details on those as they solidify.

The Mauga event was the first time we released a hero as a trial. We think it was successful for a lot of reasons: we got a lot of great feedback from players, good data on the hero, and have enough time in advance to make a serious set of changes, as well as a really fun event for the game. We think that this could be a great template going forward, not only for heroes but possibly for some of our other large pieces of content!

During BlizzCon, we talked about our clarity of vision for the future of Overwatch. (Did you feel that downshift? Heads up. That's this piece getting a little more philosophical… before it gets a little more sentimental.) Overwatch is an intense and competitive multiplayer shooter. We have millions of players in our game every day enjoying it. And we'd like to not just provide more of that experience to them but also improve it. When I use the term competitive, I don't just mean playing Ranked, even Quick Play is demanding and sweaty. That intensity and fast pace are inherent to most modes in our game, and we love that! At BlizzCon, we talked about an overhaul to our competitive system coming in Season 9, with other updates, such as wider grouping restrictions, coming in subsequent seasons.

We are also working on updates to improve the experience in other parts of the game. For example, we're looking at ways of reducing the number of people leaving or sabotaging matches, since the start of Season 7, the leaver rate in QP is down almost 20% in some game modes. We’re also working on the way we backfill matches so players no longer enter a game with a few seconds left. Additionally, we’re continually making improvements to our matchmaker, anti-toxicity, and anti-cheat efforts. We're also excited about running some experiments aimed at making the game more enjoyable to play. For instance, what would happen if spawn times were drastically reduced? Look for those to start in Season 8.

At BlizzCon, our big announcements focused on the core of our game. This isn’t to say that we aren’t working to bring fun and novel modes and events to all of you. For example, we announced Hero Mastery: Gauntlet at the show, and we also celebrated our K-pop event during BlizzCon. We have so much more of this in the works, some centered around PvP, some around PvE, some both, and some that might be a little harder to categorize. We’re excited for these modes and events but didn’t talk about them much. I don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea here – we are still committed to events like this – but we want these to be a ‘surprise and delight’ moment for our players.

One of the most emotionally satisfying parts of BlizzCon is talking to fans from around the world. A lot of you really love Overwatch, as well as other Blizzard games, and we all gather together in Anaheim to celebrate that passion. Talking to all of you and hearing your stories puts so much of what we do in perspective. It's easy to get lost in the details of game development or the partially anonymous feedback we get online, but listening to a story about how two people met in Overwatch, got married, and are now expecting their first child is a different thing altogether. A mother who has never played our game flew in from Texas to bring her son to the convention. A couple who bonded through Overwatch got engaged at BlizzCon! This show left me and so many others on the Overwatch team recharged, re-energized, and ready to dive back into the game and the universe that we love. It is a little ironic, but to me, it makes total sense that a show where we felt the love of our community is also the same show that reminded me of why I make games in the first place. I'm so grateful to all of you, and I can only hope that the energy and passion that we put into our game can be enough of a thank you.

Thanks for reading, and we'll see you in game!

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