Overwatch 2 Director Aaron Keller on The Battles For Balance and What Lies Ahead

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I’ll be honest with you: I’m still trying to get my charm back,” laughs Aaron Keller, game director of Blizzard’s competitive Overwatch 2 shooter. He’s referring to the horror he feels when Overwatch 2 distributes damage. – the role of DPS in his team, but you can find a small parallel with the game itself, which suffered from long delays before launching in October.

A few months later, Keller and Blizzard learned a lot about the game they created. However, even before the shooter could be played, the studio was faced with a difficult decision regarding the game campaign: the single-player mode was originally supposed to be launched together with the Overwatch 2 multiplayer mode, but was transferred to the update after launch a few months before the release of the game. came out.

Keller says that while the decision to split the game was “really difficult,” it was “the right choice.” “We found ourselves in a situation where we couldn’t release all the content we were creating for Overwatch 2 until the campaign was completed,” recalls Keller, who says that the development of the campaign “was slower than we wanted. .

“We couldn’t release all the content we were creating for Overwatch 2 until the campaign was completed […] We found ourselves saying, “We will continue to hide content from our players so that we can release everything together with our original content.” strategy—campaign—or we’ll have to change the way we think about releasing the game.”

As a result, the Overwatch 2 campaign will be released gradually starting later this year, and Blizzard is “still finalizing” how its content will be deployed. Being able to talk about Overwatch’s “big overarching narrative” is something that particularly thrilled Keller, as he notes that it’s “not something you can really do in the middle of a multiplayer game.”

“We can delve not only into the characters of the universe, but also into all the big events that take place inside it — this is what the team is incredibly passionate about,” says Keller, adding that Overwatch’s “Bright, hopeful, inspiring Future” is a setting that the developer seeks to explore further.

In the meantime, Keller is busy with the segment of Overwatch that the players have — a competitive multiplayer mode. “It’s hard for me to find ways to get enough time to play the game while at the same time trying to launch my game,” laments the director, who says learning better time management has been one of his biggest takeaways over the past few months.

As for Blizzard, Keller says her lessons were more extensive. The director admits that the studio still has “a lot of work to do” to respond to feedback about the reward system and progression in the game, and recalls that Blizzard realized in the first season of Overwatch 2 that their initial plan was to release one major balance update per season. – it will be “not enough” to stay on top of the fast-paced meta shooter.

For players of any multiplayer game, balance can seem like an exhausting game of “kill the mole”, since the same patch that throws back one super-powerful monster can just as easily raise two more in its place. Right now, the monster of Overwatch 2 is a Turboswine: an enhanced tank that can kill with a single shot, possessing a huge amount of health. Keller has bad news for the Turboswine network—his damage is on Blizzard’s chopping board—but this muscular boy is a good example of how difficult balancing Overwatch can be. As Keller notes, Turboswin has never been modified to become so strong: he is superior to the other heroes because they were modified, which allowed him to “move to where he is now.”

“It would be very easy for us to change him so much that he would become unplayable, or weaken him so much that people would think he was a throwback,” he explains, referring to heroes that the community considers weak enough to guarantee defeat if they are matched. “We’d like to avoid that, so we’re trying to be careful, but at the same time we want to make our changes meaningful enough to really have a real impact on him and on the game.”

Keller adds that since the community will always try to find the strongest heroes to increase their chances of winning matches, Blizzard has to combine a “hands-on approach” to balance with allowing the community to form its own meta.

“A lot of nuances are balanced,” explains Keller. “It may seem that there are certain heroes who are allowed to be strong or popular, and others, when they become really strong, cause quite a negative reaction from the community. I think it’s very natural. One of the things we talked about inside is… what happens when heroes whose mechanics can be frustrating or difficult to play with become really powerful?”

The director notes that the same topic can be applied to the current discussions around Turboswine, which opponents may find suffocating because of his ability to kill more fragile heroes with one shot, but it is still difficult to kill him. “When such heroes become really powerful, the community can react quite strongly to this — while there are others, such as Orisa, who is also quite strong, [but] her set seems fairer or more stable,” Keller notes. “I think the community will look at such a hero, and if he becomes the new dominant tank, he will be more accepted.”

This is a discussion that Blizzard is “struggling” with at the moment. “We don’t want all the heroes to feel the same, we don’t want the pace of every fight in the game to be the same every month,” says Keller, adding that while the team enjoys the variety of abilities and mechanics in Overwatch 2, they are “well aware that many of them can be pushed too far.” far away — there is a sense and a lot of nuances in how we do it.”

When he’s not chasing naughty pigs, Keller looks ahead. He has a lot to unpack, and he feels dizzy discussing it: in addition to the campaign, according to the director, several heroes and “many” maps are planned for 2023, as well as “much more” events, such as the ongoing Battle for the Olympus Event in the game. Keller is also teasing several new and returning game modes, including a brand new one that he’s “so excited” to announce, and a mysterious Season 3 skin that he thinks the community will go crazy over.

Keller says that in the near future, the team will focus on refining the list of Overwatch 2 support heroes, who, he admits, offer “the least choice” compared to tanks or damage-causing roles. “Right now we’re really focused on support — the next two heroes we’re going to release are support heroes,” says Keller, teasing that “they bring some things to the game that we haven’t seen before — some new mechanics and really exciting ways to interact with your own team.”

Given all this, it’s likely that Keller will test his newfound time management skills. “I could talk about the future all day,” he smiles. Keller may still be finding his charm on the battlefield, but the picture he paints of the future of Overwatch 2 suggests that the game has found its own — and what awaits fans will be a busy year that will not be dominated by Turboswine. Sorry, Turboswine.

Overwatch 2 is available on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC.

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