The prospect of Blizzard making a first-person shooter is already exciting enough, but the Overwatch developers are thinking bigger than that. They don't just want Overwatch to be a huge FPS -- they want it to be the next big Blizzard universe.
Jeff Kaplan and Geoff Goodman, the game director and principal game designer for Overwatch, were warm and friendly when I sat down to talk to them about Overwatch. It's easy to see their passion and excitement -- some of which is perhaps borne out after years of struggling to make Project Titan come together.
But Kaplan's vision isn't limited to Overwatch. As the former World of Warcraft game director, former executive director of game design and one of the company's vice presidents, he specialises in thinking big.
So when Kaplan told me that he wanted people to fall in love with the Overwatch universe, a red flag went up. Just exactly how broad is Blizzard's vision for their Pixar-esque team shooter? He wouldn't outline exactly what was on the drawing board, but it was pretty evident that Blizzard knows they're onto a winner, and they're not going to stop with just a multiplayer-centric shooter.
"I mentioned when you were sitting down to play, I asked you to put the headphones on. I know some people don’t like to play with the headphones on, but I really wanted you to hear the voice acting," Kaplan began. "People were concerned that [Overwatch] was going to be a character-based game, but I can’t see my character -- how are you going to bring that out? So working with the voice actors and cultivating the personalities of each of the characters has been so much fun."
"I think the personality, for us, it’s absolutely crucial to bonding the player to the hero and giving the game that lasting experience that goes beyond, “Hey that was a cool PvP match we just had.” We really want to build a deep, rich universe that we can explore for many years to come, which we think as great as a team-based PvP shooter is we’d like to leave the door open for what’s beyond that."
Anyone at this point would follow up, so I asked directly: is Team 4 already looking at crafting co-op missions (as is the case with Star Wars: Battlefront) or single-player content for Overwatch? The answer was no, but Kaplan's reply left no doubt as to where Blizzard thinks Overwatch is going.
"We’d love to explore ideas like that. Right now our goal for Overwatch is to keep it as a competitive team-based shooter and that’s really the game we’re making. But Chris Metzen said this at Blizzcon when we announced the game that in a lot of ways this is like Warcraft 1, where you’re trying to just establish hopefully both with the company and the player base, establish a universe that people love and want to see more of. And that leaves the door open to a lot of exploration in the future."
The author travelled for the interview to Blizzard's offices at Irvine, California, as a guest of the developer, where Kaplan and Goodman spoke about Overwatch's multiplayer features and the issues with an ever-expanding roster of heroes.