There are certain expectations and demands upheld for first-person shooters that don't necessarily apply to real-time strategy and MMOs. Blizzard are learning those the hard way with Overwatch, their first venture into the genre.
But during a trip to the Blizzard offices, game director Jeff Kaplan confirmed that while Blizzard are still staying true to their online-only formula, they will be upholding some standards fans come to expect of their competitive shooters.
In an interview with Jeff Kaplan and Geoff Goodman, Overwatch's principal game designer, the pair confirmed that while Overwatch would remain entirely within the Battle.net ecosystem — no LAN play, in other words — PC fans would not have to endure the misery of player-hosted lobbies, as was the case in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, although players would not be able to hire their own private servers (like you can with Team Fortress 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive).
"Overwatch will run completely on Blizzard servers. With that said, and when we do matchmaking it will be in a Blizzard pool, we are looking at regions and IPs and doing the best to minimise any sort of ping issues," Kaplan explained.
He added that "we definitely are going to have a custom game option", directly referencing competitive players' desire to run around and practice timings, angles and maps more broadly.
"We’ll allow you to set up some of those things that traditional dedicated servers allow you to do. Basically give you a safe place to go play a match to play with your friends and not go into the big matchmaking pool, we’ll have a setup that will allow for that as well."
Kaplan added that a spectator mode is being built for the game and a rudimentary version of that will be visible when Overwatch's beta launches. "In fact, you can see the seeds of it when you go back and play — there’s the kill-cam and if you press escape or space you can get out of the killcam and that will put you in a spectating mode," he said.
"The way you guys were playing the game was in what we call Show Mode, which is setup for Gamescom or Blizzcon, where you don’t have a friends list, you don’t have all the show features. But in the beta if someone has someone on their friends list and they just want to watch their friend play, they can go in and spectate if the spectate slot is open for them."
The author travelled to the Blizzard offices in Irvine, California, as a guest of Blizzard.