Director’s Take - Lifeweaver’s Growth and Balance
Lifeweaver came out last week and landed with quite a splash. There was a lot of conversation about his abilities, his background, and let's be honest here, his… hotness. Let's go into detail about where we think he's at, what we're going to do with him going forward, and his effect on our philosophy on heroes and how we release them.
Currently, Lifeweaver is performing in multiple variations in Quickplay while players are learning the new hero. We saw Lifeweaver's win rate climb faster than other heroes when they launched, perhaps due to the surprising piece of data that his win rate is much higher for low-skill players than it is for high-skill players. Lifeweaver is a complex hero, and he has an amazing kit with abilities that can have a high impact in a match. However, these factors can make it harder to balance a hero at launch. Could there be aspects of his kit, like the slow while charging heal, that punish high-skill players? Could the auto-aim on his heal have a much higher benefit for low-skill players?
We've also heard from players that his control scheme feels awkward, with weapon swapping between damage and healing and Petal Platform on alternate fire cited the most. We'll be changing these, but I wanted to give a little context into how we ended up with this scheme. When we first began working on Lifeweaver, the idea was to create a support hero that spent most of their time healing, need little aiming skill to heal, and brought transformational abilities to the battlefield. Take, for instance, the weapon swap. Early in development, his weapon was a lot less effective than it is today, but steadily over time, it was tweaked in a number of ways that ultimately led to the Thorn Volley that you see today. We learned to play Lifeweaver in a certain state and, as his kit evolved, we weren't responsive in evolving his control scheme as well.
So, what are we going to do to him? In next week's patch, we'll be making some changes to his control scheme. Going forward, his new default control scheme will be:
- Thorn Volley will be moved to alternate fire.
- Petal Platform will be moved to Ability slot 1.
- Rejuvenating Dash will be activated with double jump.
- Petal Platform will be cancelable by pressing the button again.
- The passive reload will be slowed for the weapon that Lifeweaver isn't currently using.
Players will still have the option to use his original control scheme if they prefer.
We’re also making changes to some of Lifeweaver’s abilities.
- The slow effect on Lifeweaver’s heal will only be applied a short time after it’s charged. We’re currently testing it at 1 second. This was originally designed to discourage players from permanently holding a healing charge, but the current implementation is too strict.
- Tree of Life will receive a health buff and do more healing per pulse.
- Parting Gift will be removed.
Lifeweaver has given us a lot to think about for hero development. Specifically, the complexity of heroes, the amount of new and unique abilities, and the balance of heroes at launch. Lifeweaver has a few abilities that don't have a precedent in Overwatch, and when they are combined with the extra effort around the weapon swap, it can get a little overwhelming. We think that streamlining the kit by reworking the weapon swap and removing Parting Gift, along with a more fluid control scheme, will make Lifeweaver a little easier to pick up and understand, and elevate him into a much better position.
The number of unique/high-impact abilities on Lifeweaver can be seen as a bit of a departure for Overwatch hero design. In the past, we might have spread these abilities among more than one hero - this is how Genji and Hanzo were created. However, there's so much to dive into with the hero, and the learning process of how to play him is fun in and of itself. There’s such a big range of possibilities of what he can potentially do in a match. There are two sides to this coin, and there has been a lot of player excitement around his kit. While we won't make every Overwatch hero this complex, we think there's room to make more heroes like Lifeweaver in the future.
Regarding new hero balance, we're not exactly shifting our philosophy, but we do think that both Lifeweaver and Ramattra landed a little softer than we would have liked. We recognize that a hero's win rate will climb after they launch, but we also want those same heroes to feel exciting for players on day one. Our goal is for new heroes to feel balanced at launch - not overpowered, but definitely not underpowered either. When we don't hit the mark, we'll make adjustments based on your feedback and the data that we see.
I hope you're all enjoying Lifeweaver. I can't wait for you to see what else is coming in Season 4 and beyond. See you in game!