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Blizzard's Overwatch Is A Team Based FPS

The Blizzcon reveal panel has now finished, liveblog and all the footage below.

To kick off the 2014 version of fan convention Blizzcon, Blizzard have announced Overwatch, a new game not set in any of their established universes. It’s in the future of Earth, featuring a number of superhero-styled characters battling it out for control points in 6v6 multiplayer FPS battles. The Team Fortress 2 inspiration is clear, both in the art style and how it plays out. Some more details below and I’ll add in the Pixar-quality announcement trailer once it goes live.

It’s all very Blizzard. Much like with Hearthstone and World of Warcraft, they’ve seen something popular and realised they can put their spin and polish on it. The characters are caricatured, the colours bright, everything with the tinge of humour to it. We saw a robot that could turn into a turret, an angel-winged woman flying around playing Medic.

It’s not the most original of ideas – it looks a bit like Battleborn, Gearbox’s multiplayer shooter, so these ideas are in the air at the moment. There’s also reason to suspect the game is made from the remnants of ideas originally conceived for Titan, Blizzard’s recently cancelled MMO.

As for looking forward, there’s a playable build on the show floor, but it won’t be heading into a public beta until next year.

The trailer and a lot more information are available on the official site. It should still be accessible by checking the archives on the Blizzcon stream.

20:30: The reveal panel is now live at Blizzcon, prepare yourself for live blog action. Lore-man Christ Metzen and Lead Designer Jeff Kaplan on stage getting the easy pops from the Blizzcon crowd.

20:35: Metzen’s talking about the universe. It’s set 60 years in the future. 30 years before that point there was a robot rebellion of sorts, for which the heroes of the game were needed. They were sourced from all over the world as various nations faced the “Omnics Crisis”

These folks are the absolute best of the best and beat back the robots, destroying “whatever it was” that caused the problem. They became global treasures, representing humanity’s best.

Naturally, it all started to fall apart. “No-one knows why” but it all started to go wrong about five years before the game’s timeframe. The world’s now in bad shape again and needs its heroes back. Enter, one would assume, you.

20:38: Kaplan on the mic now, talking about how new this is to them as a company. Says it’s similar to 2002 when nobody thought they could make an MMO and they have a similar approach. Community influence is a big part of their strategy for making it a better game so they’re interested to hear what people think.

20:40: The giant talking gorilla is apparently from the moon, because of course it is.

20:41: Kaplan talking about how they’re great at doing multiplayer, so it’s more of a natural step. Metzen now showing off the world and saying they’re intending for it to be brighter than their other universes. Wants to have a lot of emotional connection to the world, make it “something worth saving.” “This game is all about heroes.”

20:45: Speaking now about needing “non-twitch options” – things to do other than being the best at clicking on heads. Speaking about how in WoW there are people that love to just play certain roles, so why not have the same thing? “Mercy” is the angelic Medic-ish character I mentioned earlier, and an example of this. Tjornbyorn (thanks Blizzard that’s super easy to spell in a rush) is more like an Engineer, with a focus on strategy and helping out his team by moving them around.

20:48: The other key point here is making the game “less lethal” compared to the modern military norm of one-shot, one-kill. This is similar to how Heroes of the Storm operates in comparison to Dota 2. You’ll rotate around the map a lot, seeking out healers or new objectives rather than just dying and respawning. Metzen explains that more up-time means more interaction with other players.

20:50: Kaplan explains the choice of 6v6. Larger meant that there were fewer interactions between individuals. Less than 6 meant players were “too important” to their teams, meaning an off-day (to be nice) meant you were screwing over other players. There’s no Deathmatch mode either, everything being objective based. A slide flashes up “payload” as a game mode, Team Fortress 2’s best mode. There’s also attack/defend style capture points and maps can transition between these modes as they go.

20:52: “A game about heroes, not classes” says the next slide. Metzen explains that this feels like the essence of Blizzard, making characters that people care about and are larger than life. It’s all gone a bit meta, talking about how the real world is a dark place that could “always use more heroes” as the end of the trailer says.

20:55: Introducing “Tracer”, one of the twelve characters available on the show floor. They’re showing a video of her origin story. She was a fighter pilot hired to test a figher with a prototype teleportation device. It malfunctioned, giving her the capability to speed up or slow down her personal timestream, even reversing it. Now she runs around with a pair of very fetching orange goggles, able to effectively teleport in and out of fights.

Her abilities are controlled by “energy” which recharges overtime to a maximum of three charges. This allows her to use “Blink”, one of her abilities, semi-regularly or in a burst to cross a lot of distance. Her weapons are a pair of pistols which do a lot of damage close up, with a very high fire rate. “Recall” allows her to move backward in time by 3 seconds, including healing her and resetting her energy.

21:00: All characters also have “ultimate abilities” (Kaplan mentioned it was the “most original and awesome name ever”) that build over the course of a match. Pulse Bomb is Tracer’s, which is an AoE attack that does a lot of damage and is designed to be used followed by a Recall to immediately escape. It’s all very MOBA, but without any of the levelling it seems. They’re showing off the Tracer training video, which you can see over on the official site, along with the two trailers I’ve embedded below.

21:04: A hiccup in timing means we get a quick preview of a shoutcast of a “pro” match for the game that’ll be displayed, presumably at the end of the panel. Meanwhile Metzen’s going through all the characters currently in the game. It’s an eclectic cast, as you’d expect – robots with rocket hammers, people called “Reaper” because that’s scary. You can see the list over on the Overwatch site.

21:08: After finishing up detailing the 12 currently available, Metzen mentions that there are “many more to come.”

21:10: Kaplan now talking about hero “roles.” He says they’re loosely defined and characters are interchangeable, rather than being strict rules as you might expect coming from MMOs or MOBAs. Offense is the first, being able to move fast (Tracer fits into this role, as does the rocket-pack equipped Pharah) and scout points/kill defenders. They aren’t so great at capturing or holding those points as they have little survivability. He’s now mentioning that the team is staying late to play the game and has already started to develop their own metagame and understand what these roles are for. They’ve discovered that these heroes are very good at breaking up enemy pushes via harrassment, by jumping in behind enemy players when they’re moving as a team.

21:12: Unsurprisingly, defense is next. They’re either hardy or able to deal a lot of damage. Our engineer is there, as is the sniper Widowmaker.

21:13: Now there’s Tanks. They can protect teammates and have very high survivability. Each of the examples (Winston the moon gorilla and Reinhardt the giant robot) have a shield abilty that can be shot through by teammates and block enemy shots. Winston’s is a globe he can drop while Reinhardt has a wall. They also have a distruption role, such as Winston’s rage which lets him jump into combat and knock players about.

21:15: Support is last, including Mercy. These are the characters who are most different from standard multiplayer shooters. Mercy can both heal allies, boost their damage and bring her entire team back to life with her ultimate, while cyber-monk Zenyatta is about debuffing enemies to take more damage. There’s also a character with a personal teleport, allowing her team to move to her location.

21:17: Kaplan’s chatting maps and game modes now. They’re focusing on simplicity for these at first, because they’ve found the heroes provide enough complexity. The maps encourage manoeuvrability, with different routes to move through and varying degrees of height. Metzen’s chatting about how the real world setting, a first for Blizzard, has allowed them to create maps inspired by real world locations. The first was an ancient Egyptian tomb, the second a japanese temple that’s the homeland of one of the game’s heroes.

21:20: Metzen’s chatting story. It’s not “inherent in the gameplay” i.e. individual matches won’t have plots. They want to tell the story of the world outside of the game, through cinematics like what’s above and other options. He admits it’s an experiment and they aren’t sure where it will go.

21:22: King’s Row now, a London-based payload map. Set in an underground cavern in which a robot population is living. The attacking team is sending an EMP down there to kill them all. Basts.

21:23: They’re moving on to the shoutcast now. May my prayers be answered for standable commentary. It’s between Blizzard developers, since only about 70 people knew about the game 3 hours ago. Casted by a couple of programmers. Oh no.

21:24: Kaplan’s noting that it’s not about sticking to one hero, you’re meant to switch out a lot. That’s not what they’re doing in the shoutcast video, since they had one hero per player in their 6v6 game. I was hoping the game itself would be a highlander format, but it sounds like you’ll be able to have multiples of a character on a team.

21:25: I will try to keep up with this but I don’t see it happening.

21:26: They mention you can put Tjornborn’s (I’m still spelling this wrong and apologise profusely) on the payload.

There’s a lot of visual cues on the map that show where enemies are likely to come from, to give new players a hand. There’s loads of alternate routes of course, but it’s a general indicator. The defending team gets a little bit of time to set up.

21:28: Reaper jumps in to attack Mercy as she heals up the walking turret but is fended off, disappearing into the shadows. He comes back with his ultimate, less than a minute into the game, and kills 3 people solo. Ouch.

21:30: Symmetra’s on the defending team and has set up a massive web of short range turrets that Tracer can’t manage to get through. She’s dead.

21:something: Back to the Future reference on commentary.

Attacking team has managed to get onto the point they’re headed for, which they have to sit on for a certain amount of time before the doors unlock and they can get to the payload. I think. Symmetra’s teleporter is keeping the defenders in it, until the attacking team get a turret set up managing to fend them off again and opening the door. I was right! There’s a bomb.

Now it’s a payload game. It works just like TF2 – moves forward when they’re on it, back when they’re not after a short delay.

Lots of melee combat occuring around the EMP between both teams support classes. Defenders have another teleporter, plus an AoE heal from another hero’s ult.

21:33: Despite the claims of less lethality, Widowmaker’s sniper rifle is perfectly capable of one-shotting people around the bomb.

Robot suited Pharah’s rocket barrage and ability to leap over buildings is my favourite so far. Massive AoE damage and great maneuvarability.

Widowmaker respawned and one-shotted some more people. Can’t wait for there to be three on every team all the time.

21:35: A few seconds in first-person shows just how easy it is to move around as Tracer. She blinks around the place, recalls behind enemies to confuse them and eventually takes out the teleporter with her ult.

They’re in overtime, which works just as in TF2 as well. They reach a checkpoint which gives them some more time. The bomb is now moments from the explosion point, but the attacking team is dead.

21:38: Mercy uses her ultimate to resurrect her entire team just after they all die inches from the point. It’s not enough and the defending team manages to fend them off again. Defending team wins, which seems to be mostly robots.

Cool.

21:40: Q&A coming up now. The crowd liked it. It was very slick and while a lot of it is clearly similar to TF2, as an overall package it looks about as similar as LoL and Dota were a few years ago. The much larger number of “classes” that’s intended will likely help with that too. I want to play it, for sure. 2015 is reiterated as the time we’ll get our hands on it. No word on pricing structure yet.

21:41: First question is about what they meant by “outside of the game” with the storytelling. They’re unsure exactly what they’ll do, but the majority will definitely be through animation like the above and stories written outside the game itself, rather than just outside of matches.

21:42: Second question references Left 4 Dead and Hereoes of the Storm and how they manage to have strong characters despite being multiplayer games. Kaplan says characters will chat during the game and they’re putting as much effort as possible into making them individual and memorable with whatever tools they can.

21:44: They dodge a question on pricing structure, saying they don’t know yet.

21:45: Someone asks how much of this was Titan or was influenced by Titan. Effectively this is an offshoot of it. Metzen says Titan was maybe going to be Earth based but also it was very, very different from Overwatch.

21:47: Since there’s no campaign, is there any in-game story? Metzen says not really, the individual stories of matches won’t be a larger narrative. Kaplan says the characters will show some amount of backstory in game through their chatter. While what happens on them won’t be, maps themselves will be part of the story and reference events in the world.

21:50: It’d be cool to crossover with other games, nothing to announce.

Someone asks about customisation and levelling. They don’t have a system at the moment and, due to the number of characters and the fast pace of the game, they don’t think one would fit. This also rules out any sort of levelling system in-match, it seems. They were worried about people not having any idea what was going on.

21:51: “Consoles?” “That’d be awesome, but right now we’re only announcing for PC”

21:52:  Too early to be talking about system specs. “Something to note though, Blizzard has a pretty good track record of running on a broad range of machines” – Kaplan. He’s not wrong, a PC from 1999 could run WoW.

21:53: An absolute hero asks about the problem I was referring to earlier, where people will all pick one class. Kaplan says this has been something they’ve done internally, but the balance currently and their aim are for two of a hero to be the maximum that’s viable. Doesn’t sound like they’re going to actually put a limit on it though. Their balance team has “48 years of game design experience” so they should be alright.

21:55: Another customisation question, this time regarding cosmetics and skins. Another “that’d be cool, yeah” answer (these, generally, mean “yeah, eventually” for those unfamiliar with Blizzardese)

21:56: Question about communication systems within the game. There’s chat at the moment, both in and out of game and between groups of friends who can play together. They’re also working on in-game voice stuff with emotes. More to come as they move forward.

21:57: Re: a meta-levelling system where match wins or some such will contribute to a long-term goal it’s something they’re planning but, again, have nothing with them at the moment. Kaplan says he worked on the achievement system in WoW and would like something similar over here.

21:58: Contrary to what I just edited out of something I said earlier, they’re unsure on implementing an in-game VOIP, as they see people mostly using outside software.

21:59: Last question, thank goodness. Dude points out that having multiples of a character will dilute the believability of the universe. They agree, but thought “gameplay first” meaning mortal enemies can be side-by-side on a team. Metzen points out that this is another reason why they’ve moved the continuity outside the game.

They’re done and so are my fingers. Overwatch isn’t what I would have called the big announcement being coming in, but it certainly seems to fit Blizzard’s ideas. There are about fifty things you could say about the game and finish with “y’know, like TF2.” That’s no bad thing, that game’s pretty popular and ate time like no other a few years ago. Showing in what way they’re different will be vital of course, to stop general cynicism getting in the way of people checking it out.

I’ll update this post with the shoutcasted match when it’s uploaded.

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