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Overwatch Game Director Aaron Keller talked about canceled Hero Missions and the future of the game.
On May 16, Blizzard announced they're canceling Hero Missions for Overwatch 2. The ambitious mode first unveiled at BlizzCon 2019 involved upgrading Heroes through talents.
Game Director Aaron Keller now confirmed Story Missions are still on the table for Season 6, but with Hero Missions, the team faced various challenges and lost focus along the way. The result was a difficult choice that disappointed both players and developers, considering the years of work and emotional investment involved.
Hey all. It's been an emotional week in the world of Overwatch. A few days ago, we talked about our change in approach to PvE in Overwatch 2 and released a high-level roadmap for the year. We're really excited for everything we’ll be launching soon, but much of the discussion this week has been about how we’re cancelling PvE outright, which isn’t accurate, so I want to take some time to discuss some of that with you here.
When we announced Overwatch 2 in 2019, the idea for the game was centered around the PvP game we released last October, and on the PvE side, Story Missions and Hero Missions.
Story Missions focus on fast-paced, co-op gameplay, as well as story, cinematics, and cutscenes that expand the world of Overwatch. Story Missions tell a linear narrative about the heroes of Overwatch reuniting and battling the new Null Sector threat, pushing the story of Overwatch forward for the first time since our original game released. These missions take place on huge maps with new enemies and new cinematics. We will begin to release them in Season 6. The work done here is amazing, leaps and bounds above what we’ve built for PvE previously in our game, and I can't wait for our players to get their hands on them. We’ll be sharing more details there in the coming weeks.
Hero Missions (or Hero Mode), on the other hand, encompassed an in-development game mode that allowed players to upgrade individual heroes through talent trees, providing a deeply replayable version of PvE in Overwatch 2. It was a really exciting concept, something that not only resonated with players, but that the team was passionate about and really dedicated to. This is the mode we’re no longer moving forward with.
To give you some context for this change, I'd like to talk about the past and the origins of Team 4. The Overwatch team was founded in the wake of a cancelled game at Blizzard called Project Titan. That game had many facets, but at its heart, it was an FPS MMO. The Overwatch team, especially at its inception, considered itself an MMO development team. As we transitioned away from that original concept and started creating Overwatch, we included plans to one day return to that scope. We had a crawl, walk, runplan. Overwatch was the crawl, a dedicated version of PvE was the walk, and an MMO was the run. It was built into the DNA of the team early on, and some of us considered that final game a true realization of the original vision of Project Titan.
When we launched Overwatch in 2016, we quickly started talking about what that next iteration could be. Looking back at that moment, it's now obvious that we weren’t as focused as we should have been on a game that was a runaway hit. Instead, we stayed focused on a plan that was years old. Work began on the PvE portion of the game and we steadily continued shifting more and more of the team to work on those features.
Things rarely go as planned in game development. We struggled to find our footing with the Hero Mission experience early on. Scope grew. We were trying to do too many things at once and we lost focus. The team built some really great things, including hero talents, new enemy units and early versions of missions, but we were never able to bring together all of the elements needed to ship a polished, cohesive experience.
We had an exciting but gargantuan vision and we were continuously pulling resources away from the live game in an attempt to realize it. I can't help but look back on our original ambitions for Overwatch and feel like we used the slogan of "crawl, walk, run" to continue to march forward with a strategy that just wasn't working.
We had announced something audacious. Our players had high expectations for it, but we no longer felt like we could deliver it. We needed to make an incredibly difficult decision, one we knew would disappoint our players, the team, and everyone looking forward to Hero Missions. The Overwatch team understands this deeply - this represented years of work and emotional investment. They are wonderful, incredibly talented people and truly have a passion for our game and the work that they do.
Lastly, people have wondered why this announcement came at this time. After Overwatch 2 had launched, we started refining our plans for future seasons. As those plans grew, we tried to find ways to make all of our ambitions fit together in a plan that we believed in.
We couldn't. And we also knew that we couldn't go back to pulling people away from the live game in service of that original vision again. So, we made the difficult decision to cut Hero Missions and started planning for the future.
From there, we needed to update the vision for the game, gain confidence in our new direction and roll out the changes to the team. The decision was the start of a long process, not the final piece of it.
This has been hard for us, but as the director on this project, I have to do my best to make decisions that put the game and the community first, even when those decisions are disappointing. In this case, I had trouble pivoting away from a vision that just wasn’t working. And for that I would like to apologize to our players and to our team. I’m sorry.
We are focusing our efforts and our passion into making this game an ever-evolving experience. We are still committed to building many of the elements we talked about at BlizzCon 2019, including the Story Missions that delve into the next chapter of the Overwatch universe, new types of co-op content we haven’t yet shared, and new stories that we’re planning to tell both in and out of the game. We’re excited about this direction and we can’t wait for you to finally get to experience what we’ve been building.
Overwatch was born from the ashes of Project Titan. It was a moment of metamorphosis for the team and the project… and something beautiful came out of it. This is another moment of change. And the future of Overwatch will be born out of it.
Overwatch 2 developers revealed in a Gamespot interview they're scrapping the Hero PvE mode introduced at BlizzCon 2019.
If you've been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Overwatch 2 PvE mode, we've got some bad news for you. The mode has been scrapped and won't go live at all. However, some PvE elements from Hero Mode may be implemented into the game, according to Overwatch 2 developers.
Gamespot talked to Game Director Aaron Keller and Executive Producer Jared Neuss who confirmed their are "definitely not doing Hero Mode and the talents and the power progression system because it's taking away resources from the game's live version".
In 2019, they had a large portion of the team working on the PvE side of the game and players felt it in the live version of the game because they eventually stopped making content for it, reaching a point where it took two and a half years to launch a new Hero.
Keller: Yeah. I think the scope of the Hero Missions was really, really large, and what it was going to take to finish it was going to be a pretty remarkable, massive lift. You think about making a game that is supposed to be almost its own standalone co-op experience that people are going to be able to play as a main game, and not just how do you put all of the content into that to finish it? Even just a small piece of it, the talent trees: 40 to 50 talents per Hero, over 35 plus Heroes. You're looking at thousands of talents to make everything just to get the game out the door, plus all of the content and the missions you'd be playing to do that, and it is a pretty gargantuan ask for a team. And then, on top of that, you need to run that as a live game, so content has to continually come out for that side of the game.
In reality, what we were looking at was running two separate games at the same time with a set of Heroes as the piece that is shared between two of them. And as we started to get further and further into it--obviously our players could realize that we were pulling focus away from the live game--but it just didn't look like there was a definitive end date in sight where we would finally be able to put that stamp on [it], or that end date was years away and it no longer felt like we could be doing that to our players, or we could be doing that to the live game that we were running. And that's when we took the moment to shift strategy and put everything into the live game.
You can check out the full inteview on Gamespot.
There's a new Hero coming to Overwatch 2, as Lifeweaver and his flower based support powers arrives very soon.
He’s witty, kind, and always looking to lift those in need—sometimes literally.
Hailing from Thailand, Lifeweaver is characterized by his love and respect for nature as well as his advanced biolight technology. This groundbreaking technology is woven throughout his abilities, and it plays a pivotal role in the healing and utility aspects of his kit.
Lifeweaver has a unique playstyle that introduces a few new mechanics into the game, so let’s take a walk through his kit and how he was developed. His final look is the result of a culmination of many different teams, including various concept art, hero design, and narrative. One of these pieces features an older physician who drew healing energy into his hands and blasted it into his allies, a bit like Moira’s Coalescence.
We ideated further based on these concepts and landed on something that offers an all-new playstyle to the game while also expanding our support class.
Healing Blossom is Lifeweaver’s first primary fire (more on that in a bit). With this weapon, he charges a luminescent flower and sends it to his allies. The longer he charges the blossom, the more healing it provides.
Healing Blossom was the starting point for this kit, and from there, we built out his other abilities. Our goal with Lifeweaver was to create an accessible support hero who is viable in many different scenarios and skill levels. Healing Blossom is soft target-based, like Brigitte’s Armor Packs, and we feel this ability enables players across the board to find value in his kit and playstyle.
His alternate primary fire is called Thorn Volley. With this weapon, he fires biolight thorns at enemies in a scattered pattern. While mainly intended as a form of defense, Lifeweaver can deal a decent amount of damage with Thorn Volley as well.
You’ll get the most value out of Lifeweaver by healing your team, but his weapon has relatively high damage for a support hero. Keep in mind, you will be unable to heal your allies while using Thorn Volley, so be aware of your surroundings and manage these two primary fires wisely!
For those playing against Lifeweaver, don’t underestimate Thorn Volley when rushing him. As Lifeweaver says: “Thorns in the face are an inconvenience.” He isn’t wrong.
Petal Platform and Rejuvenating Dash
Petal Platform is Lifeweaver’s secondary-fire ability. He throws a pod that blooms into a flower-like platform upon landing. Whether ally or enemy, anyone stepping on the platform causes it to elevate, and it will remain airborne for a certain amount of time.
Anyone using the platform can launch themselves high into the air by timing a jump right as the platform reaches maximum height. It won’t quite be as tall as Baptiste’s Exo Boots, but enemies and allies alike can use the platform for a well-timed super jump thrust into the air!
Petal Platform was the most challenging ability to lock down in development, and it was iterated many times. We landed on the platform mechanic because it adds something to the support lineup that we’ve only ever seen with Mei’s Ice Wall, adding a new verticality consideration for players beyond map design or heroes that can launch themselves into the air.
Use Petal Platform to get away from enemies, or to enable your allies. If you have a Bastion who wants to post up somewhere, Petal Platform can get him there quick! Or maybe you want to lift your ulting Cassidy with the hope of getting more Deadeye kills.
Lifeweaver is a team player who loves collaboration. There are so many ways to support and enable your team with this ability, and we’re excited to see how players use Petal Platform in creative ways!
Rejuvenating Dash lunges Lifeweaver in his traveling direction while lightly healing himself. This ability will look and feel like Hanzo’s dash, so we baked it into his kit to give him mobility and self-sustain.
A well-timed jump at the apex of his Petal Platform will launch you into the air. Pair this ability with Rejuvenating Dash to cover a fair amount of distance both horizontally and vertically.
Life Grip envelops an ally in protective biolight and pulls them to Lifeweaver’s position. While an ally is within Life Grip, they are invulnerable to all damage.
The inspiration for this mechanic came from many places, as we’re sure some of you have been on the unhappy end of an enemy Roadhog hook, but we wanted to ideate on a friendly pull between allies. Our challenge was to conceptualize what an ability like this would look like in Overwatch. We tried it out in our internal playtests, and the team had a lot of fun with it.
Before you ask, we’ll clear this up now: you can’t disrupt an utling ally with Life Grip!
This ability speaks to him as a protector and healer, but it also lends some insight into his personality and perspective. Lifeweaver is cool, confident, and he has the best intentions for anyone he encounters. Even though he’s doing the right thing in his mind, there can be consequences to pulling your teammate out of position. Use Life Grip (carefully!) to save teammates and enable them to stay in the fight.
Tree of Life
For his ultimate ability, Lifeweaver places a large biolight tree that pulses with healing energy. This tree provides cover for your team, meaning you can’t shoot, be shot, or pass through it. The developer responsible for the concept describes it as, “Healing Bob meets Mei’s Ice Wall.”
How a hero is developed can vary—sometimes their look and feel inspire their abilities, and sometimes it’s the other way around. In Lifeweaver’s case, his ability kit was built out before his personality, lore, and aesthetic. Tree of Life is what shaped his character into the nature-loving supporting hero you will meet in-game.
Lifeweaver’s ultimate filtered through a few iterations, including a healing Earthshatter-like ability— which was super cool, but not super useful. We also tried a healing totem, but it wasn’t quite right for him.
It was around Arbor Day when his ultimate started to come together. Trees were already on the team’s mind. The original Tree of Life gave its life to allies, withering over time. It was incredibly poetic but not very intuitive or clear on the battlefield. This ability, however, morphed into the final Tree of Life that’s currently in-game.
”Look at us. We’re amazing.”
Whether you’re playing as, against, or with Lifeweaver, he brings something new and exciting to the game through his mechanics, playstyles, and perspectives. Whether he’s raising his teammates up with his Petal Platform, pulling them to safety with Life Grip, or sustaining their health with Healing Blossom—Lifeweaver is a well-rounded support who adds massive sustainability and utility to his team.
We look forward to seeing how you combine his abilities with those of other heroes, and the ways he will save teammates from the brink of death.
Lifeweaver saunters into the support line up on April 11 at the beginning of Season 4. Grab your Premium Battle Pass to unlock him instantly or try him out in the training room, custom games, and the limited-time game mode, B.O.B. and Weave.
The official Xbox site had a big preview with all the new features, gameplay and origin trailers:
Lifeweaver is the newest Overwatch hero, a support class with abilities that help his team both with healing and movement. We can exclusively reveal his Origin Trailer, and spoke to Lead Narrative Designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie to find out more about this new character’s story. You’ll be able to play as Lifeweaver from April 11, and he’ll be free to use for a limited time.
Xbox can exclusively reveal the Origin Trailer for Lifeweaver, the newest hero coming to Overwatch 2. This new support hero will arrive as part of Season 4 on April 11, and offers some very new options to players looking to assist their team – and a brand new thread to the Overwatch storyline.
Niran ‘Bua’ PruksaManee is a Thai scientist who combines nature and technology to offer new ways to heal, move and damage, both for himself and his team. As with all of Overwatch’s heroes, he also comes with a rich backstory, which you can check out in the new trailer below:
All of Lifeweaver’s abilities stem from his background as a naturalist. Brought up wealthy in the sheltered world of Chiang Mai, Lifeweaver grew to love the natural world but, upon leaving home, he saw the devastation being wreaked on the environment outside of his home. He developed a new technology, bio-light, which uses the hard light wielded by the likes of fellow heroes Symmetra but fuses it with living plants. Refusing to let his parents or the Vishkar corporation use his technology for nefarious purposes, he fled home, determined to use his creation only for good.
To learn more about the creation of this unique new hero, we spoke to Overwatch 2’s Lead Narrative Designer Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie. He explains that, as with all of Overwatch’s heroes, Lifeweaver began life as a series of gameplay ideas that needed a story created around them:
“He was design first and, from there, the story developed. What really struck the Narrative team is we knew we were going to do a plant hero, then we had to figure out how this person has plant powers. Then we saw the early prototypes and realized it doesn’t look like plants, but more like hard light, which led to his story being developed. It really highlights how the Overwatch team develops heroes, it’s very collaborative.”
The solution was to create the idea of bio-light, a new iteration of Overwatch’s existing hard light technology – already wielded by the likes of Symmetra and Lúcio. Lifeweaver created it to heal wounds and damaged plants, and wanted it to become free to use across the world – but his invention was claimed by the Vishkar corporation, a company most closely linked to Symmetra among the existing heroes.
It means that Lifeweaver’s story offers more to learn about Symmetra by association. “She was pretty much the one person at school who he understood and who understood him,” says Jurgens-Fyhrie, “and there is a lot there to explore. We can’t share too much about what is to come, but Vishkar is an important of the story, particularly for Symmetra and Lifeweaver.”
At the time of his introduction, Lifeweaver isn’t part of the in-universe Overwatch team, but Jurgens-Fyhrie says he’s known them while living as a fugitive, and is “loosely tied” to them in the same way Torbjörn is. Jurgens-Fyhrie won’t say if his story will become a part of the upcoming PvE story for the game, but we know that, “at the time of this announcement, Lifeweaver is living in the Atlantic Arcology, trying to find a way to cure diseases and heal the world.”
You’ll be able to play as Lifeweaver for free for a limited time from April 11, and an in-game event celebrating his addition to the roster will run until April 24. The event, also celebrating Thai New Year, will add an arcade mode, B.O.B. and Weave (which will allow players to play only as Lifeweaver), and by participating you can earn Lifeweaver’s Cassia skin (based on the national flower of Thailand, the Ratchaphruek).
The Overwatch development team has posted a blog with more details about post-launch updates on gameplay, maps, and competitive.
Overwatch 2 developer blog: Post-launch updates on gameplay, maps, and competitive
Today, we want to look back at our first week in this brand-new chapter for Overwatch and share with you our team’s current thinking on hero balance and gameplay.
Since the launch of Overwatch 2, we’ve welcomed millions of both new and returning heroes to the game. While most of our updates so far have been about our efforts to address game servers and stability, we also know players are eager to hear about what we are working on for gameplay and other topics. We’ve seen Sojourn, Junker Queen, and Kiriko completely rock the landscape of the game, blasting and slicing their way into many victories on the battlefield. Today, we want to look back at the first week of this brand-new chapter for Overwatch and share with you our team’s current thinking on hero balance and gameplay.
While some heroes are performing better than others, and there are differences across player skill levels, we have been happy to see that no hero’s overall power level is far out of line with our goals. Every hero on the roster has a win-rate between 45% and 55%, and we are not planning any immediate balance changes based on what we are seeing, with the exception of a targeted adjustment to Zarya in Total Mayhem which should go live with our next major patch on October 25. Instead, our team is planning to make a series of balance changes for Season Two that are in line with our design goal of ensuring the overall game feels balanced and fair while giving each season a more distinct identity. While we’ll continue looking at hero performance and listening to player feedback prior to finalizing any specific changes to balance for Season Two, we want to share more about what we are seeing so far.
Tanks fighting on the front lines
Since shifting to a 5v5 format, we see many players focusing more on the tank role given the heightened importance of a single tank in role queue modes. One of the most talked about heroes on the roster right now is D.Va. With buffs after the last Beta to her Defense Matrix and Micro Missiles, she can put up a fight longer than she could before the launch of Overwatch 2. Despite many players saying she’s one of the best tanks in the game, Reinhardt, Sigma, and Zarya actually currently lead up the competition with an average 53% unmirrored win rate. Zarya’s new ability to choose where to place each of her two Particle Barriers often allows her to build up to high energy quickly, which is something we’re currently keeping a close eye on for potential changes next season.
Junker Queen was a dominant force during the last beta playtest. Because of that, we applied changes to her Commanding Shout to reduced how dominant the brawly, “death ball” team compositions were at the highest skill levels, including the Overwatch League Summer Showdown. We’ll keep an eye on her performance in the upcoming weeks to ensure she’s an effective tank and fun to play.
The team is also monitoring Doomfist’s performance and play rate compared to other tanks. As we look to Season Two, we think it makes sense to evaluate his overall tanking ability and potentially make improvements to Power Block and Meteor Strike.
Slicing through the competition
The damage role has seen many hero combinations across all ranks, but we’ve noticed some popular picks among our players. Genji and Sojourn started as the most popular heroes when Overwatch 2 launched, but they’ve since leveled out to the rest of the damage roster. Genji started off with a dominating win-rate, and although it’s lowered slightly since launch (currently at 52%), we want to make sure he’s not dominating the playing field. We’ll watch Genji carefully throughout the season to ensure he doesn’t slice up the competition too much and may make adjustments in Season Two. One way we are considering doing this is through an adjustment to the damage role passive, which has particularly benefited heroes like Genji.
Sombra is also hacking her way through the back lines in many games. We adjusted her damage potential to be optimal on targets that she hacks. However, we want to ensure her targets have a reasonable time to fight back, so we’ll continue to look to balance her hack ability-lockout duration when we approach Season Two. We’ve also heard feedback that tanks feel oppressed when a Sombra is focusing them with hacks, which will also be something we will look to control next season.
Symmetra and Torbjorn are two other damage heroes that we are keeping a close eye on now. Over the course of the first week, their win rates have been gradually increasing, and they are showing the highest win rates now at some ranks. Both heroes can be effective counters to Genji and may be enjoying their success due to his popularity. When we look at potentially making changes to them we need to keep in mind the landscape of the rest of the hero roster. For example if Genji is tweaked and possibly played less these heroes might see less success and not need adjustments themselves.
Sly as a fox
Kiriko has been well-received by the community, with an initial play rate of over 75% in most matches when we first launched, making her an instant favorite among many players. This play rate has since balanced out compared to other support heroes, however, her win rate increased from 48% to 52% as players learned her kit and playstyle over this past week. Her healing averages in the middle when you compare it to the rest of the support roster, and her damage output right now is about even with Ana which is relatively low compared to heroes like Lucio, Moira, and Brigitte. Kiriko gets a lot of value in her evasiveness with Wall Climb and Swift Step to get out of harm’s way, allowing her to stay alive longer in team fights and making her the most survivable support hero on the roster currently. We’re keeping an eye on how she performs in the weeks ahead of the Overwatch League Playoffs next month.
Missions around the world
With new and returning maps based on locations worldwide, we want each season in Overwatch 2 to feel refreshing and exciting for new and returning players. To support that goal and also to allow our team, when we think it’s appropriate, to make adjustments to our maps, we have begun to run a map pool featuring all-new locations and many original maps. For season 1, we’re playing on the following maps for both Quick and Competitive Play:
Control Ilios - Evening Lighting Lijiang Tower - Dawn Lighting Oasis - Night Lighting Nepal - Morning Lighting Busan - Night Lighting Escort Circuit royal – Night Lighting Dorado - Evening Lighting Route 66 - Night Lighting Gibraltar - Morning Lighting Junkertown - Morning Lighting Hybrid Midtown - Morning Lighting King’s Row - Evening Lighting Eichenwalde - Evening Lighting Hollywood - Morning Lighting Paraíso - Morning Lighting Push New Queen Street - Morning Lighting Colosseo - Evening Lighting Esperança - Morning Lighting Each subsequent season, we will rotate some maps out of the map pool and bring back others that had been previously out of rotation. As we continue to rotate maps in and out, we’ll be looking at improving and tweaking them, so for example, when Rialto returns in Season Two, players will notice a few spots where we have added additional cover which should help the map play better in the 5v5 environment with reduced shields. For players who want to play maps not currently in the map rotation, hop into a custom game or the occasional arcade mode.
Climbing the ranks
Our team would like to apologize for ranking many players too low during the first week of Overwatch 2. We discovered a bug that was impacting player skill ratings, which is what contributed to many players being placed in Bronze 5 when they should have been placed higher. Our most recent patch included a fix that will help you get back to your true rank quickly, and that will be reflected the next time you receive a competitive ranking update. You will receive a boost as you continue playing to help you get up to the correct ranks. Players who haven’t yet placed in competitive won’t experience this issue after the fix goes live.
We’re also watching your feedback about how we present your skill tier and division and how you celebrate that in-game. While we don’t have any details we can share yet, expect us to make more improvements to Competitive, and we will continue to watch for your feedback.
Thank you for week one, and here’s to many more
Finally, we want to ensure games play out fairly for all players in all matches. In a future patch, we’ll fix an issue that could cause some rubber banding in-game. We also want to be certain that hit registration for shots fired is working pixel-perfectly. We have investigated reports from players about hit registration, and many reports are actually related to how our replay tool works, which does not perfectly capture the alignment of each player’s aim.
There are also misconceptions about how our controller settings on PC work, which does not affect mouse input. As an example, aim smoothing under gamepad does not impact mouse input latency or precision. However, in one report, we discovered a bug that affected the hitbox alignment of our rendered objects for Junker Queen in some specific situations, and we’re working diligently to fix this issue.
We also understand that some PC players have concerns with input responsiveness and recommend trying out these changes to improve how quickly the game responds to player input:
Make sure the in-game resolution setting matches your actual monitor’s set resolution. Set the capped frame rate to a value that matches your monitor’s maximum frame rate. If you have an NVidia graphics card, turn on NVidia Reflex + Boost. Otherwise, turn on Reduced Buffering for other GPUs. Finally, in your gameplay options, turn on Enable High Precision Mouse Input to speed up how frequently your mouse captures position in the game. Thank you to all the players who were a part of the first week of Overwatch 2. While this time has been incredibly exciting for the community and our team, it’s also come with many challenges that we're looking to address quickly. We will continue to listen to player feedback as we strive to make Overwatch 2 the best game it can be, and we are looking forward to sharing more in the coming weeks leading up to Season Two. In the meantime, we hope everyone is having a blast in the game, and we will talk again soon!