Making Mauga: Dive into the development of our latest, larger-than-life tank hero with Team 4
Hi there, I’m Kenny Hudson and I’m a hero producer on the Overwatch team. Creating a hero is one of the most satisfying and challenging things we do in Overwatch. We hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to making anything that goes into the game, and heroes like Mauga are no exception. In this post, I'll be outlining the journey we took to bring Mauga from a short story to the latest addition to the hero roster.
Ideas for new heroes can come from anywhere. Sometimes, we draw inspiration from a cool piece of concept art. Other times, it comes from an ability experiment that's been hiding in the background of our development data. And sometimes, as in Mauga's case, the inspiration comes from the appreciation of great lore in our universe. As the short story “WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND” was being written, the team knew we had to get the new character Mauga into the game.
Heroes are developed in three main phases. The first phase is Prototyping, and during this stage of development, the team comes up with abilities and overall kit, bashing them together using temporary animations, sounds, and effects.
During our first pass on Mauga, we loved the abilities we were jamming on, but they didn't really suit the personality we’d imagined for Mauga. They were more telekinetic in nature, and the team was faced with an interesting choice—do we scrap these amazing ideas and start with something new for him, or do we use these to inspire someone new?
The team decided to go with the latter, and we used those telekinetic abilities to bring Sigma to life. Through the following releases and projects, we kept iterating on possible abilities until we landed on something we felt fit Mauga’s in-your-face personality. These abilities pulled the team into the next phase of hero development—Pre-production.
Pre-production is our “heroes assemble” moment for the hero pipeline. We build a strike team of developers who specialize in disciplines necessary in bringing a hero to life. Two animators (for first- and third-person animation), two 3D modelers (character and weapon), a VFX artist, a sound designer, a concept artist, and a hero designer all team up and begin the long road together.
For Mauga, we had two goals to complete pre-production: Identify potential hurdles we'll have to jump and complete Mauga's base building blocks artistically. Hurdles can come from art requirements, technical limitations with the engine and how it works, and cultural considerations depending on where our heroes come from.
One example of a hurdle we identified during pre-production would be Mauga's tattoos. Our concept artist had created a beautiful Polynesian-inspired tattoo for him. However, when reviewing it with a cultural consultant, we were told that it wasn't authentic. The team reached out to Si'I Liafau, a master in traditional Samoan tattoos, and he worked hand in hand with Magua's character modeler and concept artist to give him something true to his background. Another challenge the team had to consider was the size of Magua's guns, Cha Cha and Gunny.
As the largest weapons in the game, we had to consider things like first-person screen space, ensuring the size wouldn't interfere with gameplay. We also had to tune VFX to ensure visuals for both weapon modes were unique but still similar, as well as making sure that they balanced correctly to the size and scale of Mauga's model. Once the hurdles are identified, visuals are blocked out, and plans of attack are made, we move into the longest phase—Production.
Production was the longest stretch for creating Mauga. During production, every aspect of the hero starts to become final. Throughout this process, the team continues to playtest, and we really start to focus on balance during our feedback sessions. Mauga's character modeler began converting the amazing tattoo designs into textures and applying them to the final mesh, while our VFX artist focused on making the gameplay visually clear while creating a super distinct vibe around Mauga’s kit, playstyle, and character.
During production, we try to keep big, sweeping changes to a minimum to keep the team moving forward. Otherwise, we just keep adding cool things indefinitely, and the hero never makes it to the players. However, the team felt there was still something missing on the gameplay side of the ultimate.
At one point, Mauga's ultimate only consisted of the barrier and chain mechanic that trapped enemies for its duration. Through iteration, design added one more critical piece of functionality that really gave Mauga the edge during cage fight battles— the unlimited ammo bonus. Adding this simple, yet critical, aspect to the ult really made teams think twice about trying to jump in and overpower him. Coupled with his passive that grants temporary health from critical damage as well as the prospect of using Cardiac Overdrive to stack it with life steal, the team felt like this was a Mauga-worthy ult.
While creating a hero is always a daunting challenge, being able to call on an experienced group of talented artists, designers, and engineers to come together and create one ensures it's always a fulfilling experience.
There's always one goal above all others: to make something fun for our players, and while it was a long road to bring Mauga to life, the team could not be happier in accomplishing that goal. Without the passion the players showed for Mauga while he was still on pages, we wouldn't have the hero we see today.
We hope you love Mauga as much as we do, and we can’t wait to show you what else the team has in store!-Kenny Hudson, Hero Producer